3 truths teens need to hear 

3 truths teens need to hear 

If you were asked to fill in the blank, “Sometimes, I feel like I’m not ___________ enough,” what would you say?

What would your 15-year-old say?

A few weeks ago, I asked 50 or so high school women just that. Here’s some of what they told me:

Sometimes, I feel like I’m not

Pretty

Smart

Strong

Popular

Involved

Interesting

Fun

Friendly

In-shape

Normal

Good

Worth

enough.

They also talked of how they struggle to have enough time, energy, confidence, and friends to make it through their days.

Continue reading “3 truths teens need to hear “

how my “life verse” got fresh legs: dream team, part ii

how my “life verse” got fresh legs: dream team, part ii

Welcome back! This month we’re zeroing in on passages from Philippians and praising God for the “dream teams” He puts together.  Spurred by Paul’s words, I thank my God every time I remember you, we’ve reflected on the fellow faith-warriors, encouragers, I’ve-got-your-back kind of people who, when monsters loom large, remind us God has a larger dream and bolder plan at work.

This week as I’ve jotted more notes, I have a silly confession: I actually do not know how to spell “Philippians.” I habitually use two L’s and one P or spell it like the Philippine islands. Even if I manage to spell it correctly, I doubt myself every time. My recourse is to rely on Spellcheck or simply abbreviate “Phil” and let the chips fall where they may. I chuckle that it irks me so much (yes, that recovering perfectionist in me still rears her head on occasion), but really, it should stick by now.

That’s because Phillipians-Philippines-Phil has been my favorite New Testament book since I was a 12-year-old at Maranook summer camp hearing it preached with fervor and learning to study the Bible for herself. You’d think I’d simply know.

One thing I do know, however, is the memory verse I learned that week at camp:

For I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6 NASB

Except I can do more than say it: I can still sing the camp song version complete with handclaps and thrilling shouts of ¡Arriba! (I’ll give you a taste of my impressive rendition at the end of this post.)

That verse was a lifeline to an awkward middle-schooler who was learning that God had a game plan for her life and could be trusted to bring it to completion.

Funny thing is, though, even 30 years later, I’m still learning new things from a simple memory verse I mastered while climbing ropes courses and paddling canoes. That’s the mystery of the inspired, living word of God: The more we open our hearts and minds to it, the more we see new treasures. The Holy Spirit draws us to different aspects, awakening us to God’s kingdom purposes at work right now.

What He’s awakening in me right now is this: that “in you” part of the verse isn’t just about the individual, though that was the encouragement God brought to my heart so many years ago. As I’ve looked at the verse in its larger context, I see a bigger theme unfolding. Look at it in the context of last week’s verses:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my  every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:3-6 NASB

Paul was not just thanking and rejoicing over his friends, but he was also reminding them  they were part of something bigger. They weren’t only part of his personal dream team, but they were part of a much bigger community. These men and women had opened their hearts to the dream of the gospel, not only for themselves, but for the broken world around them. In fact, we find out in Phil 4:10-20 that they were even helping the growth of local churches elsewhere through their financial gifts.

God begins good works in us– yes, you and me individually– and we can take confidence in His ability to perfect His plans from now until Jesus returns. However, He wants us to also have confidence that our individual lives are working together with s larger team of believers all over the earth, that we matter to His plan to reconcile the world to Himself.

And so, 30 years after memorizing a verse that is perhaps as close to a life verse for me as any other, I am more confident than ever of this:

God plants dreams within us, glimpses of His larger good work, but not one of us who steps out into restoring this broken world— from the mama teaching her baby that Jesus loves her to veterans like Beth Moore preaching to a packed arena — has to  go it alone. He will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19), including our need for a dream team to run beside us on the journey.

And THAT is something to keep singing about!

 

 

in good times or bad, who’s your dream team?  

in good times or bad, who’s your dream team?  

Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and now, mass violence. Shocked and reeling, we cry and pray, but truthfully, we also doubt and rage. Once again, we’re united with all others in the suffering that goes on throughout the world and has been since the first murder of an innocent person (Abel) by his enraged brother (Cain).

A few weeks ago, in the midst of Houston’s great flood I commented on the soul-level impact of tragedy even when we are on the outskirts. I think it bears repeating:

I discovered I was almost afraid to take significant time out to read my Bible and write in my journal. Maybe I was hiding from my conflicted feelings, not ready to bring my doubts and fears before God. I’m not exactly sure. Probably I was just completely overwhelmed like everyone else. Whatever the reason, that fear of taking time out to read, reflect, pray, and worship was something that needed to be addressed. That was the need of the day. I found Christ still there waiting for me and more than willing to restore my soul.

Psalm 116:7 would call this returning to the soul’s resting place. We draw close to Jesus and let His presence become bigger than our need to have all the answers. As we do so, we also find ourselves able to lift our heads and look for others. Yes, for those we can help in tangible, practical ways, but also for those who comprise our dream teams.

I’ve begun calling my group of fellow faith-warriors, encouragers, I’ve-got-your-back kind of people the dream team because we are the ones who, when monsters loom large, remind each other that God has a larger dream and bolder plan at work. After all that is good and right seems to have gone down in flames, we point each other back to Jesus who came to “destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). When one of us is too weak to stand, we show up to let her know we will be there holding her up.

We refuse to let each other quit on the dreams God births within us, not so we can all reach some kind of “self-actualization” but because those dreams bring God’s kingdom from heaven to earth. Dream teams are the ones we charge into battle alongside as we set out to change our world.

I want to look at some passages in Philippians together this month, but I’d like us to keep that dream team concept in our thoughts.  Perhaps like me, you can begin thinking about the people who’ve encouraged you as you’ve grown in faith and pursued your calling. The apostle Paul certainly knew who his dream team was, and he counted them among the people who gave him the greatest joy on earth.

However, they weren’t only the heavy hitters that traveled with him or became preachers and leaders themselves. Yes, his dream team included people like Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Lydia, Aquila and Priscilla, but they were also a host of everyday-kinds-of-saints. These were fellow believers who lived ordinary lives, buying and selling at the market, raising their kids, helping their neighbors.

Of them Paul says this:

I thank my God every time I remember you. I always pray with joy in my every prayer for all of you because of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. Phil 1:3-5 NET

That and the passages that follow recently jolted me. In no other letter does Paul so effusively rejoice over a group of people. And he’s rejoicing at a time when light-weights like me would probably be prompted to give up. He’s in prison with execution looming as a very real monster on the horizon. He was put there for spreading the gospel, and some people, out of spite and jealousy, were dragging his reputation through the mud to make a name for themselves. Yet he was still able to thank God for the indwelling Spirit of Christ and for the joy-givers in his life.

So here’s what I journaled:

Who are the joy givers in my life? When was the last time I made a list of all the people that have supported me or supported the ministries that I care about and just spent time being thankful and praying with joy for them? Here is a man who has devoted his life to the spread of the gospel and is now in prison for it. We know from chapter four that the joy of the Lord is his strength, that he rejoices in the Lord, and calls us to do the same thing. But one of the reasons that he rejoices in the Lord is because of the joy he feels over these generous, gracious sisters and brothers in Christ. He can’t stop thanking God and praying for them!

Who’s on your dream team? Who can you thank for their role in your life? I’m thinking my list is going to be pretty long so I better get started.

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