Devotionals

5 New Year’s Resolutions That Won’t Go Out Of Style

One of my favorite quotes right now is,

There’s nothing special about January.

-Lara Casey

It gives us permission that January doesn’t have to be the only time where we evaluate where we are and identify where we want to be and put good things in place to help get us there.

The hype is there in January…we are excited when the ball drops and confetti explodes and it feels like a fresh start is right at our fingertips begging us to just say “yes”.

This year, for the first time in a long time, I said “yes” to making a New Year’s resolution, and I actually vowed to quit something.

I know a lot of friends that were doing this. Quitting social media, eating junk food, watching The Office for the fifteenth time…they were quitting something in order to make space for something else.

But did you know that according to Forbes that only 8 % of the population keeps their New Year’s resolutions?

So that means, whether we are quitting something or adding something on or revamping something that already exists to make this year bigger and better than the last,

the likelihood of us abandoning our resolutions heavily outweighs the probability that we will KEEP our resolutions.

Whomp, whomp.

But don’t lose hope.

There’s nothing special about January…imagine how much we are missing out on if we rely on January to be the start and end date for everything we want to do. Also- don’t feel the pressure that whatever resolutions or goals you set have to be things that you only get one shot at, that have to happen right away, that are all or nothing. Some of the best resolutions are things that we have to keep working at, that we may fail at, and we will wake up tomorrow with a fresh start.

There are five resolutions we’ve come up with that will never go out of style and that can be implemented and re-implemented at any time.

 

  • Be Kind- Ephesians 4:32

Kindness is cool, didn’t ya know? But in all seriousness, it’s never too late to make kindness a priority. We aren’t always going to get it right, but we can always get better. And when we are told to be kind and compassionate, it is important to breathe that in and exhale it deeply because we never know how our prioritization of kind over “cool” is going to exemplify Jesus in a brand new way!

 

  • Be Patient- Romans 12:12

Do you feel like someone paid us to put this on the list? We promise, they didn’t. But maybe it feels like that because you’ve already been thinking this needs to be something you address with yourself. Patience is easy when it comes to talking the talk, but so difficult when it comes to walking the walk. Work on your strut, because working on this will serve you well in the long run!

 

  • Be Generous- 2 Corinthians 9:11

I’m not just talking with money, even though that’s good too. What would it look like if we were generous on EVERY occasion? That means every area that we have something to give, we give it. Freely and without reserve.

Your time, resources, gifts and talents…

Your friendship, influence, leadership abilities…

Don’t underestimate yourself. You were made for this and for so much more.

 

  • Be Present- 1 Corinthians 15:58

Quite frankly, this one can be so hard. Especially when we see something more exciting on the horizon. Maybe you feel a tug when you read “Be Present” towards your school or your sport or your family…maybe you’re a senior getting ready to go off to college and you just can’t wait. Don’t forget, while all of what’s new and fresh is exciting and probably so well deserved, you have a current dwelling place. A current season that needs your attention. A friend that needs your eyes and your ears. It may be too early to disengage, but it is never too late to re-engage.

 

  • Love God, Love People– Matthew 22:37-40

This one should really go at the top of the list, because according to Jesus this is the greatest commandment. It’s never too late to start using our time better to spend more time with the One who authors our stories, completely and without neglect, He is in every detail and to love Him is to know Him. Coupled with that, our deep desire should be all the people we know and love and haven’t met yet should be aware and reminded of God’s extravagant for them as well.

Now, don’t go taking these all on at once and jumping ship on your other goals like learning a musical instrument or another language or reading 100 books in a year. You are SO capable and gifted and equipped to do all of these things.

Just remember, “there’s nothing special about January.” It’s never too late to start, finish or re-evaluate. You really can make 2018 the best year yet…

Devotionals

The Work Out Filter | Youth Ministry Devotions

Youth Ministry Devotions

“The Work Out Filter”

Think about what your eyes are drawn to, for just a minute.

Have you ever seen a product that is so well marketed…even just marketed well on an Instagram story…that then you purchase?

The anticipation builds…you wait for it in the mail…but then your heart sinks a little bit when you get it, open it, and then it’s not what you expected.

You feel like it’s discolored, it’s the wrong size, or it’s cheap quality.

It’s not how you thought it was going to be.

However sometimes the opposite is true as well. Sometimes we take a risk on a product that doesn’t have a stellar presentation and we are pleasantly surprised.

But what we have to acknowledge as the reality is that

people will pass up a great product because of a bad presentation.

What we could say is true for a pair of shoes, a shirt, or an iPhone case we could also say (unfortunately) is true for Jesus.

Sometimes the way the “product” of Jesus is presented can be hypocritical, judgmental, and legalistic when the hope is that following Him and even Himself would be depicted as loving, gracious and kind.

Guess what, friends…

YOU are the presentation of Jesus.

YOU are as close to the human form of the invisible God that we can get in this day and age because HE lives in you.

YOU are someone else’s Jesus Filter.

Way to lay on the pressure…

I can hear you saying it through your screen because I am saying it to myself.

How can I measure up to that?

How am I going to pull that off?

Am I even good enough for that? To live up to JESUS?

Sometimes we don’t understand how God is trying to display Jesus to the world.

Sometimes we place the pressure on ourselves and think that we have to be perfect, pristine, pure and because of our own humanity we think that we aren’t enough.

There’s no way we could possibly be enough.

I think that’s what we forget…this is way bigger than ourselves.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,

for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Philippians 2:12-13 NIV

Y’all did you read that!?!

Don’t get tripped up…

Continue to work out your salvation…

For it is God who works in you…

Be encouraged because He isn’t asking you to do this alone or to look perfect doing it.

Be excited about what God is doing, where He’s doing it, and how YOU get to be a part of an incredible story that is much bigger than yourself.

Put it on display and work it out…have you ever thought that while you are working it out is while God is doing His best work? And that people get to see Jesus through what He is doing in you?

It is God that works in you…in order to fulfill His good purpose.

He dials. — before we even get to our part HE STARTS

We answer.

He gives us what we need to fulfill His good purpose. — HE FINISHES

He is the everlasting to everlasting. The God of all creation where everything is going to begin and end with Him and Him alone so don’t think for a second that you have to take on the weight of the world.

God has a product plan…I’m working in you so that you can put it on display, so that you can go and put it on the shelf, so that you can go and work it out and give Jesus all the glory.

People are trying to figure out Jesus by looking at you.

Work out what He is working in.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Philippians 2:14-16

What do people see when the look at you?

Have you forgotten since sitting in these seats with sand in your toes?

Have you forgotten to work out what God’s working in?

It’s not too late…

To learn to see how Jesus sees

To see them through Him

To fight the good fight

To do the wise thing

To fall in love with the Father

To surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you

To let the Light of the World shine in you and through you…

Someone needs you to be Jesus to them.

A family member needs you to show them a different version of religion, a free version of religion.

A stranger needs your smile.

A friend needs you to be Jesus to them again.

Your life is saying something about Him.

This is about a Savior…

IN JESUS NAME…

The “Work Out” Filter Application

Prayer: Pray for God to reveal the people to you that you need to be the filter of Jesus to.

Scripture: Philippians 2:12-16

Say It To Yourself: Your life is saying something about Him.

Journal: Read back in your journal from BigStuf 2017, from your camp book, or just start on a fresh page. Write down or re-write how you think that you are working out what God is working in.

Devotionals

Iconic Christmas | Youth Ministry Devotions

Youth Ministry Devotions

“Iconic Christmas”

As a child, my favorite movie (not just Christmas movie) was White Christmas.

It is a musical/romantic comedy that was released in 1954 starring Bing Crosby.

If the year 1954 makes you say “ew” and you don’t know who Bing Crosby is then just think of Elf in the year 2066. The comparison is probably minimal, but you get the point.

White Christmas is a favorite because it is everything nostalgic, magical, and lovely about the Christmas season.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Baking Christmas cookies.

Decorating the tree while drinking hot chocolate.

The ones you love are around, happy and getting along.

We are singing along to songs that only come on once a year, but if you’re honest you know Bieber’s “Mistletoe” is an everyday favorite…

For most of us, this year, the Christmas season brought the whimsy of snow.

It’s like everything stops. In the silence and the weight of uniquely formulated ice crystals we are mesmerized that our hearts can feel something so majestic. So much like a real life Narnia.

When I think about how my heart stops in the midst of settled snow, glimmering and glistening, I think about how the Magi must have felt when the caught sight of the star.

It’s an iconic Christmas, a Christmas miracle.

But what happens when Christmas doesn’t feel like something so widely recognizable or whimsical at all?

Sometimes our Christmas cookies turn out more like a #PinterestFail.

It’s too soon to laugh, but we will laugh some day when the memory pops up on Facebook.

Maybe that’s is the least of our worries because the people we love aren’t happy and getting along.

Maybe Christmas songs drive us nutty because we feel like it’s a fairy tale dream stained with grief, unmet expectations, and falsified realities.

If you take a moment, like the pause in the snow or looking up to see the bright star in the sky, do you remember how beautiful it is that the King of kings came to us in the most intimate, vulnerable and simplistic way?

He was a gift greater than the gold, frankincense or myrrh.

A gift that we still receive as the greatest gift we could ever ask for,

that can’t be put under the tree.

Today is Christmas, friends, and whether or not you are running around nearly crying tears of joy at the site of a strand of Christmas lights like Buddy the Elf or you are flat out disappointed I think it’s important for us to strip away the garland and

remember the true meaning of Christmas.

When we look at it, it wasn’t really all that magical to begin with.

The magic came with something else…something unexpected but so desperately needed.

The miracle outshined the mess.

So much so, the “mess” didn’t really even seem like a mess at all.

So let’s remember, together…

First of all when Mary figured out that she was pregnant,

her and Joseph weren’t even married.

Joseph was planning on divorcing Mary quietly until he received confirmation that it was ok. Her pregnancy was a miracle of God, an intentional plan, even though it didn’t come in the most conventional way. (Matthew 1:18-19)

Amongst shocking news, an angel relayed the message to Joseph that

His son would be a Savior. Joseph accepted Jesus as his Son.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,

because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

Joseph and Mary had to register for the census.

Then Joseph willingly took Mary ALL OVER the place from Nazareth to Judea to Bethlehem while she was pregnant and ready to birth a child. Which in turn, kept them out of danger in relation to a threatened king. (Luke 2:4, Matthew 2:13)

Mary gave birth to a Son.

Lowly and humble our Savior came.

Finally when Jesus came into the world, there was no place for Mary and Joseph to go. There was no Airbnb, no beautifully decorated Marriott.

So Mary wrapped Him, her miracle child who would soon take the place of us all, in strips of cloth and placed Him in a manger. (Luke 2:6-7)

Yet Mary didn’t know that her first acts of motherhood would become

distinguishable characteristics for those traveling to hear of and worship the coming King.

With her devotion, sensitivity and willingness she created a gathering place,

to meet the One they had all been waiting for.

The Magi followed the brightest star.

They followed it to the Messiah, the one who was called Immanuel.

He who was now God with us.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. (Matthew 2:10)

The shepherds told others about this child, born unto us, and they were amazed.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:19-20

Heaven swept low and the coming King came to join us.

He meets us here.

He was and still is the miracle in our mess.

He was and is and is to come.

He is the Hope of the world.

The magic of Christmas is in the Miracle.

Who was given as the most perfect Gift to the rebel race in need of a Savior, born in a manger.  

Christmas is here, and regardless of how picturesque or not, our Savior has come.

Internship

Joseph Sojourner speaks on the BigStuf Christian Summer Camp Internship

BigStuf Summer Camp Internship

We had a chance to sit down with our good friend, Joseph Sojourner (Sojo), and ask him a few questions regarding the BigStuf internship.

BigStuf Camps: What’s your favorite part of the BigStuf Summer Camp internship?

Joseph Sojourner: My favorite part is getting to know each intern and discovering the endless gifts God has placed inside each of them. Family dinners and weekend-off shenanigans are a close second! haha

Describe the BigStuf internship in your own words.

A two month commitment that allows you to experience ministry from every angle alongside friends that quickly begin to feel like family.

What’s your favorite memory involving BigStuf interns?

Too many to count. Most of them are one-on-one moments.

With you being involved for so long, how have you seen the BigStuf internship shape the culture of BigStuf Christian Summer Camps?

The internship just gets richer every year. The interns have become the engine that powers the overall summer experience for attendees and who create many of the laughs and ideas for staff, band, and speakers.

How have you seen the BigStuf internship grow, challenge, and change interns each year?

The interns that start the summer with us are not the same interns that end the summer with us. I’ve seen quite individuals find the courage to lead team devotionals. I’ve seen natural rockstars discover areas that they aren’t so natural at. I’ve seen people with only a few friends walk away with 15 life long friends they can call family. Most importantly, I see interns realize that God can use them in many different capacities to help create moments for students to understand God more clearly. In just two months, you’ll realize we all have a part to play in the BIG story God is telling not just for the summer…but rather every day.

This interview has been edited by BigStuf Camps.

We’re so grateful for the impact Joseph has on BigStuf, and more specifically our BigStuf interns.

Apply to be a 2018 BigStuf intern here(Applications close on December 31st, 2017)

Learn more about Joseph here.

Internship

Joseph Sojourner speaks on the BigStuf Internship

We had a chance to sit down with our good friend, Joseph Sojourner (Sojo), and ask him a few questions regarding the BigStuf internship.

BigStuf Camps: Whats your favorite part of the BigStuf internship?

Joseph Sojourner: My favorite part is getting to know each intern and discovering the endless gifts God has placed inside each of them. Family dinners and weekend-off shenanigans are a close second! haha

Describe the BigStuf internship in your own words.

A two month commitment that allows you to experience ministry from every angle alongside friends that quickly begin to feel like family.

Whats your favorite memory involving BigStuf interns?

Too many to count. Most of them are one-on-one moments.

With you being involved for so long, how have you seen the BigStuf internship shape the culture of BigStuf Camps?

The internship just gets richer every year. The interns have become the engine that powers the overall summer experience for attendees and who create many of the laughs and ideas for staff, band, and speakers.

How have you seen the BigStuf internship grow, challenge, and change interns each year?

The interns that start the summer with us are not the same interns that end the summer with us. I’ve seen quite individuals find the courage to lead team devotionals. I’ve seen natural rockstars discover areas that they aren’t so natural at. I’ve seen people with only a few friends walk away with 15 life long friends they can call family. Most importantly, I see interns realize that God can use them in many different capacities to help create moments for students to understand God more clearly. In just two months, you’ll realize we all have a part to play in the BIG story God is telling not just for the summer…but rather every day.

This interview has been edited by BigStuf Camps.

We’re so grateful for the impact Joseph has on BigStuf, and more specifically our BigStuf interns.

Apply to be a 2018 BigStuf intern here.(Applications close on December 31st, 2017)

Learn more about Josephhere.

Devotionals

The Date Filter

This is the one that everyone is looking for…so if youre late to the party and hopping on the train late you NEED to go read parts 1-5 of this devotional series. The reality is that all of the content leading up to this relates to what we are about to talk about…the dating game.

Except its not a game at all. First and foremost, if we think about it like a game then we are thinking about it in the wrong way. Second, its not just confined to dating…what we are going to be talking about relates to friendships too.

 

If dating is a game(or friendship is a game)

  1. We arent valuing the person on the other side.
  2. We arent valuing ourselves.

 

But maybe dating isnt a game for you. Maybe you really want to find your person but you are running in circles of confusion and pressure.

Or maybe you really want to have meaningful friendships and good influences who you spend the majority of your time with but you feel torn.

I dont blame you. I know, I feel it.

 

Theres the confusion of everyones opinion playing in your ear. The the confusion of all our own emotions, the husband/wife that youve prayed for or desire but that seems impossible to find. The the noise of everyone else asking if youre dating anyone, or why wont you date so-and-so, and then when you end up dating someone it feels like youre settling.

Maybe it doesnt feel like it in the moment, but then a few steps in you realize that you are…

only hanging out with someone for excitement

or to not feel lonely anymore

or to be relieved of the pressure of finding your future or having friends.

You may realize this isnt going to give you what you want or what God wants for you.

 

Who you date is way more powerful than you think.

 

You could even say it this way if you arent dating right now, but maybe you are feeling similar pressures related to who you hang out with. The reality is that those we spend time with influence our lives.

 

Who you hang around is way more powerful than you think.

 

King Soloman was the wisest of the wise. He was gifted from God and also had a thing or two to say about love. In the book of Proverbs he writes this

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.Proverbs 13:20

Dating is powerful because walking with someone and doing life with them influences you, whether its for better or for worse, it influences you.

Even when you arent dating someone, but just hanging out with a friend.

Who you hang out with influences who you will become.

 

Ultimately, our filter for dating (and friendships) needs to be about whats best. If we know God always has our best interest in mind then this principle will still apply.

 

If they do not bring out the best in you, they are not the best for you.

 

The best of you comes in two parts. It comes in how you view yourself, and how you view others. Even if you arent dating right now, or dont feel the pressure to date right now, how you view yourself, how you view others, and how you view dating and friendships is going to impact your life.

 

When we think about OTHERS

Are we seeing them for WHO they are and who God created them to be?

Or do we see them for what they are or what they can offer us?

If something is more appealing to you than that persons love for God, their love for people, or how they make you a better version of yourself then you should probably think twice about why you are with them in the first place.

Reverse this for yourself too! They should be seeing YOU the exact same way.

 

Are we intentionally guarding THEIR heart as well as our own?

Dating someone doesnt mean we are marrying someone. Yet we want to date with him or her in mind. Date with the mind and the heart that someone is going to be your future someone. It may or may not be the person you are dating now, or that you will date next. Until theres a ring on it and wedding bells chime HONOR THEM like they are someones future someone.

Whether they are yours or not.

 

When we think about OURSELVES

Am I being wise about who I date or hang out with?

Be wise, be strategic, be intentional and be considerate of who takes up the space in your heart while youre dating them because they will impact you. You will rub off on each other. Is the person youre dating, or considering dating, someone who is going to be able to run with you? Can they run WITH you after Gods heart and after what you want out of life?

 

Are you asking others that know you?

ASK YOURSELF, and ASK OTHERS…do they bring out the best in me?

do they encourage me? Do they breathe life into me, make me go further faster?

do they challenge me? If I am about to go off the path do they bring me back on?

do I get closer or further to Jesus the more time I spend with this person?

 

Am I thinking about him or her?

Are you guarding it? Are you protecting yourself and guarding yourself for that person that God has designed and crafted for you? Are you thinking about them when you are thinking about dating? Even if you cant identify them yet, keep them in find. Protect them and your future relationship because it is sacred and special. Date with THEM in mind.

Dating can be confusing…it can be hard to navigate, but having a filter can help.

 

Why would you take this lightly? Why wouldnt you want someone who brings out the absolute best in you?

If you have the filter that if they dont bring out the best in you, then they arent the best for you…it will be easier to see Gods best for your life. He has a specific story for you…and a special person that will get to watch God do His best work in the depths of your human heart.

Be wise about who you date, about who you let have an influence on you.

Also- be encouraged. If youre lonely right now or feel like you keep striking out, remember that God has your best interest in mind.

 

He is fighting for you, and He will give you your best life.

In His perfect timing…

The Date Filter Application

Prayer: Pray for your future spouse, pray that God with give you eyes for them. Also pray that God would give you the filter that if someone doesnt bring out the best in you then they arent the best for you.

Scripture: Proverbs 13:20

Say It To Yourself: If they dont bring out the best in me, they are not the best for me.

Journal: Journal about what you believe Gods best is for you. This doesnt have to be a long list. What do qualities do you think are the most important to bring out the best in you and bring the most glory to God?

Devotionals

The Father Filter

Have you ever played that game?

The one where someone says a word and you have to say the first thing that pops into your head?

School- Meh

Ultimate Frisbee- Fun

Donuts – Sprinkles

Stranger Things 2- YES!

But when this game gets a little more serious its no longer a game.

Its real life with our

real experiences and our

real thoughts.

What you think about when you think about something, or someone, is really important.

We are seeing, thinking, feeling through a filter.

So, let me ask you a question…what do you think about when you think about God?

Maybe you would say Hes the referee. Or if referee doesnt feel extreme enough, you would say Hes the cop.

Hes the one calling the shots, handing out yellow cards and ticketing you when youve messed up.

Maybe you see Him like Santa. Hes the one that gives you stuff. That if you pray the right prayers and do well then He will #bless you.

Maybe you think He is an older man with a rad beard.

Maybe you think He is like a cloud because you cant quite describe Him and He feels far off and distant. When you try to grasp Him the air passes through your fingers faster than you can feel it.

Maybe you see Him as your homeboy, your ride or die.

Maybe you dont feel like you fit into any of those categories, maybe you feel like you know where I am headed with this and you feel like the lens in which you view God is pretty accurate.

Or maybe you dont feel like you fit into any of those categories because you are sitting there staring at this screen with insane doubts debating on if you think God is even real or cares about you at all.

 

Now, if thats you. Im just asking you to hang on. Give me to the end of this and then reconsider.

Regardless of where you are at or how you are currently viewing God, it is important to realize that your GOD filter is going to reflect the relationship that you have with Him.

And if we do not see God as FATHER, if we do not think of Him as FATHER when we think about Him, then we need to re-adjust our filter in order to have a healthier and more accurate view of God Himself.

The first instance where we hear God addressed as Father is when Jesus is teaching how to pray

This, then, is how you should pray; Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name.Matthew 6:9

Later on, God is addressed as Abba which translates to Daddy. Thats like a whole other level. Theres a deepened level of relationship when you rid of formalities.

When this sinks in, and I mean like really takes roots, it almost feels as if it cant be true.

It will absolutely destroy you in the best way possible when you can see yourself the way God sees you, when you see Him as Someone fighting, orchestrating and sacrificing for your good.

He is out for your good, and He will do it for His glory.

When we believe that we actually have an identity as children of God, addressing Him as Father, brings something new in us. It unveils a level of comfort, care and adoration that is incomparable. Regardless of what weve experienced.

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father.Galatians 4:6

If you are questioning or need a reminder that you are a cherished child of God, heres what you need to remember…

1. God LOVES you…He literally gave EVERYTHING for you so that you could be in a relationship with Him forever more.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16

2.Gods WITH you…He may not be tangible in the sense of physically seeing and feeling but He is there, and He is present, and He equips you with all that you need.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.Deuteronomy 31:6

3. Gods FOR you…He fights on your behalf and is writing a beautiful story for your good and for His glory.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.Exodus 14:14

 

So think about this…think about what you think about when you think about God. And let it wash over you revealing more of who He is. Let Him continue to reveal to you that God is FATHER.

 

The FATHER Filter Application

Prayer: Ask God to enhance your filter for Him, ask Him to give you a heart and a posture that sees Him and speaks to Him as Father.

Scripture: Memorize Matthew 6:9

Say It To Yourself: What do you think about when you think about God? Jesus reveals God as a Father.

Journal: Write about what view you feel like you have of God, if its changed or stayed the same, and how it influences the way you interact with Him and others.

Devotionals

The Wise Filter

I dont know about you, but I always feel pressure to make the right decision.

Do I want this donut or that donut? Do I want all the donuts?
Do I want to watch a movie or read a book?
Do I want my coffee iced or hot?
Do I want to watch Netflix or get outside?

When I am pressed for time and have to make a decision? An IMPORTANT decision?
You might as well take your thumb and squash me under it because thats how it feels.

We all have to make decisions every day whether thats as…

minute as deciding what to have for breakfast,
impactful as deciding where to go to college,
tempting as going for it with that hottie you got your eyes on,
or as important as who you choose to surround yourself with, what you do with your time, and how you view yourself, the world, and God.

All of these decisions we make are made through a filter.

Do you see different things as

Important
Meaningless
Harmful
Fun
Cultural
Everyone else is doing it?

Those are all filters. Somewhere there is something affecting all of our decisions. But the filter that is the most important is also the most complex part of our bodies, and thats our minds.

If our mind, our filter, isnt clear its like trying to purify impure water through a dirty filter…it doesnt work the way it should when its been taken care of and replaced. When we try to make decisions, especially when they are pressure cooked, and we havent spent time renewing, rejuvenating, and refreshing our minds we may look back and wish that we had done things differently.

We may wish that we were looking at the bigger picture, at what God wants for our lives.

We may wish that we werent so selfish or so caught up in temptation.

We may wish that we had waited or taken that opportunity.

We may wish that we hadnt said the things we didnt mean or said the things that we felt.

We wish we had done things differently, but we tend to neglect the most influential filter of all, especially if we consider ourselves someone who loves and follows Jesus

Paul was someone who knew a lot about making decisions, both good and bad…you could even say right or wrong. But when Paul (previously Saul) had a drastic shift in his life, and he came to know God and be one of the most evangelical people in history, he knew from experience that his filter had to be through Jesus Himself. If it wasnt, Paul wasnt going to make wise decisions and he could possibly even make a decision that would veer him off track, get him hurt, or even possibly get him killed. He knew that following Jesus was risky and that his life was on the line…but Paul wanted to live his BEST life.

He wanted to give Jesus and his people his best life, but he knew that he would need a filter of wisdom, of Jesus, to make that happen.

Paul wanted to give us the same advice

Be very careful, then, how you livenot as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lords will is.Ephesians 5:15-17

Paul knew that if we would ask the question…based on where Ive been, and where I am going, what is the wise decision?…then it could potentially shift how we lived our day to day life.

Not only for ourselves, but for the kingdom of God.

He knew that we may have to make decisions that dont make sense to other people simply because we want to live our best life. Not sub par or merely satisfactory. We want to live the lives that are Gods best for us because we believe that is the most loving and adventurous life we could ever live.

Today…I dont know where youre at. I dont know if youve been making decisions thinking of Gods best for your life or not. I dont know if you have some really big decisions to make that could change everything. I dont know if you want to achieve making better everyday decisions or if you feel like you are standing there now.

But what I do know, our minds are important because they filter anything and everything that we do. If we want to be like Jesus, then we have to live and love like Jesus filtering everything through the question…is this Gods best?

Based on WHERE Ive been, and where I am GOING, what is the WISE decision?

So, today, take a few moments and ask God these two questions

  • God, what is your best for me?
  • God, how do I have the filter of wisdom, of Jesus?

 

The Jesus Filter Application

Prayer: Ask God what His best is for you and to give you the wisdom to make decisions that honor and glorify Him.

Scripture: Read Ephesians 5:15-17 and Proverbs 9:10

Say It To Yourself: Based on where Ive been, and where I am going, what is the wise thing to do?

Journal: List out all the decisions that you have to make today, this week or this month, big or small. Go through each one and journal about what you think Gods best is for you.

Devotionals

The Fight Filter

Youth Ministry Devotions

The Fight Filter”

Im the least content.

And when I finally am able to reach contentment it lasts for minutes, maybe hours, before I feel the weight of discontentment again.

Spiraling me into trying to produce or accomplish something else.

The glory and lifted weight is short lived.

What a dangerous cycle.

Its the downfall of living in a generation that thrives off of instant gratification.

We want Amazon to deliver the day of, because Prime 2-Day shipping isnt enough.

(…did you hear they are developing a drone system so that can actually be a thing?)

We buy new shoes but then we see someone elses on Instagram and we immediately want those too.

What we just purchased, new and pristine enough to still return, is no longer satisfying.

That guy or girl texts you but then they dont say exactly what you want them to say or how you want them to say it.

It tugs at you and makes you antsy so you take longer to reply, use shorter responses, less emojis.

Are you ok?

Im fine.

No, no youre not…

 

Discontentment.

 

Recently Ive realized how my worth and my identity have been placed in what I do and what I produce instead of who I actually am.

Most importantly, who I am in the eyes of my ever present Heavenly Father.

And its left me feeling frustrated that Ive become so short sighted

I want to do, and produce, what is easy so that I can get more instant gratification, more affirmation, and the constant security of locking down my value and my worth in the netting of who I am to the world, instead of who I am to the King.

For a split second I believe the lie that it wont wash away if I can manage to keep up.

I can trace it back now, this endless cycle and constant frustration, like the maze you get with the kids menu at a restaurant

But listen, we are constantly in an arena.

Round after round, thing after thing, we are fighting, fighting, fighting.

Fighting to keep up with culture.

Fighting to make money.

Fighting to be with him or her.

Fighting to get into the right school.

Fighting our parents.

Fighting for our future.

 

Whats happened is this unspoken cultural expectation that anything slow, hard, boring, difficult, risky or really anything that takes effort, has become BAD.

Weve bought and held onto the opposing forces lie that if theres not a guarantee that we can win we shouldnt even bother.

We go for the low hanging fruit that is probably on the verge of rotting or has been eaten by squirrels rather than the fruit at the top of the tree…untouched, unscathed and more fulfilling.

Its harder to work for and harder to get.

God knew. He knew that patience and time would be virtuous to us in a world where if we fight hard enough, we can have all that we think we could ever need at our very fingertips.

But we are missing HIM.

He was sure that the fights would be bigger and more intimidating than us because

Peter and John werent spiritual scholars who were still ministering to the masses.

David had to face Goliath.

Moses had to lead an entire people out of Egypt and had shaky knees about it.

Abigail apologetically took on and pleaded for forgiveness for her husbands actions that potentially could have gotten people killed, she physically put herself in the gap.

If you can, for a minute, place yourself in their dirty shoes (or lack thereof) that wouldnt be Instagram worthy today…can you feel your heart begin to palpitate and your hands begin to sweat?

Its all risk, courage, and bravery for a greater story.

There are countless stories for us to see how God allowed hard and difficult to pass through, but what came out of it was way more glorifying to God Himself than if He had just handed people the answers and the gritless routes.

Imagine…the Great Adventure Book, our Great Written Guide and the Word of God wouldnt be all that interesting if God didnt bring process into the product.

But, we need to shift our perspective a little bit…we dont need to fight in the sense of works or worthiness or keeping up. We need to fight the GOOD fight.

And Paul gives us some very clear direction as to how to do that.

 

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God.Ephesians 6:14-17

 

But theres only one problem, with the armour we take off the shelf,

our backs are still uncovered.

Because thats where God intended for us to…

FIGHT together

FIGHT FOR each other

FIGHT back to back and back each other up.

Not pretend like we are, but actually do it.

Actually fight with the intentions of glorifying God and sincerely covering each other with love and protection like we care if our people get hit or not.

For ourselves, lets be gritty and build resilience.

For others, lets love well, protect, and not abandon ship.

For God, lets give Him the glory.

The best things require a fight.

The FIGHT Filter Application

Prayer: Pray that God would give you the qualities of the armor of God…truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation along with His Word and our Helper. Pray also that God would give you the will and the desire to fight back to back with your people, protecting them…fighting for them.

Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-17

Say It To Yourself: The best things in life require a fight.

Journal: Journal about the things in your life that seem hard right now. Ask God for perseverance and make sure that when you see relief or resolution to those things that you thank God for carrying you through something difficult for His glory.

 

Devotionals

The “Us” Filter

Youth Ministry Devotions

The Fight Filter”

Why do you think you choose who you choose?

That may be a question that you dont get very often so you may not know how to answer that just yet. Another way to put it is…

Why do you think you choose (or dont choose) your friends?

Why do you look at people and think, I want to be them! or I dont want to be them?

Part of our selection process can be defined as natural…only because of whats become cultural. Weve learned to gravitate towards what is cool, what is trendy, what popular, and what we feel like we need in order to fit in.

The other part of our selection process can be detrimental to our lives as we press on to become more like the perfect Role Model who came to walk our walk, feel our pain, and give us guidance and direction. He was literally and figuratively on our level.

Flesh to flesh, eye to eye.

When we put on the THEM filter it will stray us from becoming more like Christ because we will do the exact opposite of what Jesus has asked us to do.

If we are busy picking and choosing then we may

-write others off
-make fun of people
-devalue someone
-show hatred
-gossip about other people
-label people as less than what crowns Christ would place on them
-cause deep cut wounds of hurt

Even if none of our picking and choosing is explicitly verbal, the THEM filter is ultimately saying…

-You are not enough
-You are not worth it
-You are not good
-You are not valued
-You are not loved

Jesus gives us the perfect example of what our US filter could and should look like.

Jesus was passing through Samaria, tired and weary as He sat by a well when a woman walked up and began to get water.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, Give me a drink.(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)The Samaritan woman said to him, How is it that you, a Jew ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?(For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)John 4:7-9 ESV

Heres why this is important…Jews and Samaritans didnt interact.

Samaritans were considered less than, not on the same level.

But Jesus was known for breaking the mold and challenging the status quo…because He didnt want there to be distinction between US and THEM.

He wanted there to only be an US.

He wants you to see people the way that He sees people. Not defined by skin color, race, ethnicity, background, or how hip and cool they can be…but defined by who He claims them as. He claims them as His and He claims them as worth it.

Jesus said to her, Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.John 4: 13-14

As this chapter of a greater story ends…if JESUS hadnt been willing to acknowledge someone who didnt even believe, herself, that she was valuable then this Samaritan woman wouldnt have believed in who Jesus was and what He could offer her, eternity. But He did acknowledge her and she did believe! It was because of her story, her encounter, that many other Samaritans (who also see themselves as less than) believed in Him too.

God wants to change the way you see other people because there is no THEM in Jesus, there is only an US.

Right now, this may be the thing that thumps you hard in chest or is pestering you like a fly buzzing in your ear. Thats because this is so important. Especially today.

In a world where our social media feeds and TV screens are constantly plastered with differences in opinion, hatred and even hatred resulting in violence, this is the time to actually work on changing our perspective.

What if every person we laid eyes on came through our filter as someone who was the handiwork of the most brilliant Creator?

Remember, every single person you know is known.

What if we saw THEM through HIM?

 

The US Filter Application

Prayer: Pray that God would give you the desire to have the filter for seeing people the way that He sees them.

Scripture: John 4: 7-14

Say It To Yourself: What if I saw THEM through HIM?

Journal: Journal about how you think God sees you and how you think that is different from the way that the world sees you. Also journal about how you want God to help you see other people through His eyes.