Letter to a teen – Six things you need to know


Dear [insert your name here],

There were a few moments in my life that were transcendent. Those memories are higher than the others. These were my primary shaping influences. These memories had the most impact and caused the most transformation.

Some of them were positive, and even satisfying to think about today. Others were horrendously negative and still bitter to the taste. Still yet, I would not dismiss any of them. The good and bad ones, working together, shaped who I am (Romans 8:28). God can turn bad to good (Genesis 50:20).

I want to share six of those memories with you. This is the “uncut version” of what happened to me. At the end, I want to share six things I learned from my dysfunctional early life. My hope is to encourage you. I want you to know there is a way to flip a bad story into a good one.

Memory: Purpose in life

When I was 12-years old I walked to an “under construction” lake near our home. The lake was being built. It was mostly all bank with a small amount of water collected at its deepest point.

As I sat on the side of that dirt bowl, I looked into the sky and asked, “God, why am I here?” The question was not so much about why was I sitting in an empty lake, but why was I on earth (Psalm 8:4).

This is my earliest and most profound memory about life and God. The “purpose of life” question was what consumed me then and it is what I regularly think about today. I intuitively knew God did not create me to perpetually wander through life.

I was the only person who seemed to care about my purpose in life. My detractors were convinced how it was predetermined before the foundations of the earth were set that I was going to be a bad kid (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:3-11).

Memory: Born to be wild

When my school administration decided to not let me be in their Honor Society because I was too mischievous, I gave up on school. I was an angry A/B student who was without a mentor or moral compass.

My grades were good enough to get in their club, but my behavior was not. They rejected me, so I rejected them. I made the decision as a seventh grader to stop trying, which meant doing the minimum would be the path forward. During my senior year of high school, I skipped more days than I attended.

I am convinced they graduated me because it was more about good riddance than great expectations. Our Vice-principal affirmed this notion the day he reminded me of my worthlessness.

He had good reason to say those things. My oldest brother was in prison. My second oldest brother was about to go to prison and I was only a few months away from going to jail. I eventually spent five days in jail for B & E. I was fifteen.

Still yet, I knew the LORD had a plan for my life, even though I did not know Him and had no desire to follow Him. The idea of “purpose” was further affirmed by my probation officer. His perceptive words gave me a sliver of hope upon which to hang my future.

During one of our meetings, which was a prerequisite to keeping me from more jail time, he said, “You’re different from the other kids your age. You seem to want to make something out of your life.”

He was right. Though I was a young man with an out-of-control attitude and lifestyle, I knew there was a spot for me in God’s world.1 I was an angry foolish person, who had no good friends to encourage or motivate me in the right direction.

Memory: White trash

The primary people I hung with were black people. I would not go so far to say I understand what it is like to be black, but I do understand what it is like to be white trash.

We were on food stamps and could not afford the nice things the good white people enjoyed. My parents did not go to college and barely held down their ever-changing jobs. My dad’s drinking regularly interrupted his vocational opportunities.

My schoolmates lived in the city and their parents were white-collar college graduates. We were dirt poor rednecks who befriended the black folk.

I began my five-finger discount career (stealing) when I was 10-years old. I went into the pharmaceutical business when I was 12-years old: smoking weed and dropping acid. It was after I was busted at fifteen when things began to change.

With no parents or teachers to encourage me, it was survival of the fittest. Still yet, there was a driving passion that was quietly masked under the surface of my life: I knew there was a plan for me.

Memory: Self-improvement

After being released from jail, I systematically quit cursing, smoking weed, drinking alcohol, and dropping acid. I even began trimming my shoulder length hair.

My view on school did not change. It was still the bare minimum while investing most of my time working a job. I began working when I was 12-years old as a bus boy for a local diner.

During the summers I gathered hay for a few farmers. After I turned sixteen I was hired at a fast food restaurant. My restlessness and unquenchable desire to know my purpose in life motivated me to try different jobs.

My two biggest problems were being an angry teenager, who did not know God. Within two years I was a shift manager at a fast food restaurant, but it was not satisfying. I quit that job and made a radical career change by becoming an apprentice electrician.

Wiring new homes was a two-year stint that I loved, except it was too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. It was a hard job that did not translate to a long-term career. It was time for another change.

Memory: Nasty Christians

A local machine shop was hiring, so at 21-years old, I made the move. Maybe this was going to be the thing I was supposed to do with my life. There was a plan for me and no matter how many people lined up to tell me how hopeless I was or how many times I proved them right by the stupid things I did, I was determined to find that purpose.

What I did not realize and could not see was how I was approaching my problems the wrong way. I had put all my eggs in the career basket, not realizing there was another option.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

It was the “God piece” I could not see. Let me restate: I did not consider God because He was unimpressive and powerless. I went to church from zero to twelve. I had already tried God.

  • My parents were not solid role models.
  • The Christian kids gave us weed. At church!

I figured if the so-called Christian children had great weed, then religion was not going to help me figure out what I wanted to be as an adult. I did not need to go to church to get great weed. That was an unnecessary step in weed acquisition.

Needless to say, my view of God and religion was jaded. The Christian people I knew were hypocrites. Some of them were downright nasty. Religion came across as an awkward social gathering for people who were not obliged to live according to the tenets of their system.

The only “Christian” people who impressed me were the Mormons. They seemed serious and holy. The problem was I did not want to ride a bicycle while wearing church clothes. I definitely did not want to be mocked. I was already hated.

My main concern was that being cool and Mormon did not work for me. It was still important to be cool. No matter how messed up your life is, you must be cool.1

Memory: Real transformation

It was during my time in the machine shop when the LORD showed mercy as He broke through my thick skull. Through a series of circumstances, He used some of my workmates to tell me about Jesus.

Within a couple of months, the LORD regenerated me. It was not momentous or spectacular in any way. It was just another redneck country boy–who had no clue if the spoons went on the left or the right (Jonah 4:11)–adopted by God.

In time, I shared with my friends what happened. I followed another urge to read my Bible–the one given to me in Sunday school nearly twenty years earlier. The transformation process was slow and imperceptible, but there was no question how God’s Word was coming alive.

After the first reading through the Bible, I began to see things I never saw before. I saw me. The Bible was like a mirror that revealed every dirty detail of my life in high-definition.

I was a 25-year old angry, punk kid who was getting his 13-year prayer request answered: I was learning why I was on earth. This season of life was like a low hovering fog lifting to reveal God’s plans. I began to see what I could not see as I submitted my will to the will of God (Matthew 26:39).

Six things you need to know

Dear [insert your name here],

I share this story with you. It does not come close to giving you all the heartaches and disappointments of my life, but you get the idea. It does give you enough information to know my life was disappointing. (You can read more of my bio here.)

The LORD dropped me into a dysfunctional family at birth. It was not possible for me to extricate myself from the prison of personal or familial failure. There was only one road to freedom (John 8:36).

I do not know what you are going through or what you have gone through. I will assume it has been hard and disappointing, at least in some ways. If it has been, then I appeal to you to consider these next six points carefully. I appeal to you to take them to heart.

1 – You are normal – There is a good chance you got a raw deal by not getting the parents, the situations, or life you wanted. If so, you are not unique. You are normal. You are part of a cursed world–a curse you did not cause or the world you did not create.

2 – You are not a victim – You will have to choose what card you want to play: the victim card or the responsible card. I could make a strong case for the nonsense in my life by blaming others. I could even be convincing while not having to spin the truth in any way. Anybody can do this. We all have been hurt, cursed, and victimized.

3 – You are responsible – Was I going to spend my days being bitter and unforgiving toward those who hurt me or was I going to stop playing the victim card and change? At some point, you have to grow up and take responsibility for the life you choose to live.

4 – You choose – The first and most important question for you to answer is the Bible question. Is the Bible true or false? What will you say? If you say false, then continue to try to figure out life according to your personal wisdom and circumstances. If you believe the Bible is true, then it is time to heed its advice.

5 – Your hope – By the time I was 25-years old, it was clear to me I could not be trusted when it came to wisdom. I was immature, angry, bitter, hurt, and unforgiving–plus a few other “disruption type sins” that kept me in trouble. I decided to try God’s way–not according to some Christians I knew but according to God’s Word. I threw in the towel. I pleaded with Him to regenerate me (though I did not know that word at that time).

6 – Your opportunity – What will it be for you? Is it time for you to be mature? There is no question you are a victim. There is no doubt you are responsible. We’re all sinner/victims. The real issue is the choice you must make.

Perhaps you are a Christian, but you are not mirroring the life of Christ. If so, then today is the day for you to soften your heart (Hebrews 4:7). The twelve-year-old boy who was looking to the skies, while asking the big God question, found his answer thirteen years later and responded the right way (John 14:6). How about it? What will you do?

Five Ways You Can Love Your Church

If you are “doing church” correctly then you’re experiencing an appropriate amount of unmasking. Authentic church life happens when real lives willingly and appropriately reveal themselves in eclectic gatherings throughout the week.

If your church people are not living in transparent community contexts where the good and bad of their lives are appropriately revealed, then your church is not modeling what Paul taught in his letters to the churches.

Every Christian is a mixture of righteousness and unrighteousness, which is why when two or more Christians gather, there is an intentional desire to share both sides of their lives–good and bad–so restoration can happen.

If your whole self is not revealed to those with whom you do life in your local church, then you may not be in a fully-functional New Testament church. Hidden lives hinder the local body from being a fully-functional New Testament church.

In the last chapter, I asked why you attended your local church? In this chapter, the question is about the messiness of your local church. I am not talking about exalting your mess. Sin-centered, sin-hunting gloating does not honor the LORD. Being humbly transparent about your real self does. You and your friends are not perfect. I’m talking about stating the obvious by being honest in a community.

Gospel-centered, Gospel-shaped contexts where your imperfections can be revealed for the purpose of being transformed into Christlikeness is a key ingredient to authentic church life.

Exposure for exposure sake perpetuates chaos while highlighting sin.
Exposure for redemptive purposes perpetuates holy living through the transformative power of the Gospel.
Back to my question: Is your church a messy place? Though you’re not bragging about your mess, you can express gratitude to God for creating a place where broken people can be healed for their mutual benefit and God’s fame.

One of the best analogies of this concept is the hospital, specifically the emergency room. Thank God for emergency rooms: places where people choose vulnerability because they are desperately determined to be healed.

To put it in religious-speak: May your church always be a fig leaf removing environment (Genesis 3:7; Romans 8:1) so you can engage the real problems that keep people from fully enjoying each other and God.

You do not need to create a mess so you can say you are a messy church. You just need to be yourself. If you will do that, then it will only be a matter of time before the good and bad of your life will be “out there” where Gospel transformation can happen. Your call to action is twofold:

Are you creating a Gospel-centered community that fosters realness for the purpose of transformation?
Are you loving your church when your flaws and the flaws of your friends are exposed?
How to love a messy church

Love the church with your heart

True love is born in the heart and motivated by the Gospel. All other loves will not serve you well when it comes to engaging messy people. This infographic highlights a culture-centered view of love and a Gospel-centered view of love.


Love that begins with what you feel, experience, prefer, like, or crave will not stand the test when things become difficult.
Love that is founded on a commitment to glorify God regardless of the outcome will stand up when things fall apart.
Committed love is what motivated Christ to persevere when things turned dark and deathly (Luke 22:42). His affection for His Father motivated Him to do the will of His Father (John 4:34), even if it meant going to the cross.

It is easy to love someone for the wrong reasons. It is hard to count others more significant than yourself (Philippians 2:3-4). Who has not fallen into that trap? Your love for others must be rooted in Christ and the strength He provides (Philippians 4:13). That is the only way to maintain strength in well-doing (Galatians 6:9), while not losing your way when things take a turn for the worse.

Are you aware how much God loves you?
How are you imitating the love of God to others?
What do your responses about the negative things that happen in your church reveal about your love for the church?
How do you need to change regarding your affection for your local church?
Love the church with your mind

Your thoughts (mind) reveal your heart, and your heart determines your thoughts. In that way you can self-diagnose: If you are not sure how much you love your church (heart), then examine your thoughts (mind) about your church.

What do you think about your church? What you think about your church will reveal the depth of love you have for your church. Jesus said it this way in Luke 6:45, “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

The best practical way to examine your “church-thought-life” is to review your most recent thoughts that are connected to your most recent church conflict or disappointment. How did you think about the last thing that disappointed you about your church?

While you should never ignore church problems, it is not wise to over-fixate on church problems. Fixating on church trouble almost always exacerbates church trouble. The wise and humble person will speak into the problems of the church while guarding his mind against being negatively affected by those problems.

(It is possible you may have to leave your church because the faults are too great and the needed change is not going to happen. Still yet, even if you leave, you should be more fixated on and controlled by God than the problems in the church.)

There is a process to deal with faults, but making what’s wrong with the church the central and controlling theme of your thinking is a mistake. That kind of fixation makes you problem-centered, not God-centered. Paul taught that your first response to problems should be fourfold: (1) bear all things, (2) believe all things, (3) hope all things, and (4) endure all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).

What does thinking the best about your church problems mean to you?
Are there ways, times, or areas in which you have not thought the best about your church?
How do you need to change in order to have a more gracious and biblical thought-response regarding your church?
How has (or should) Proverbs 18:17 factor into your responses to church problems?
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

Love the church with your time

After meeting Lucia for the first time I began strategizing how I could spend more time with her. I was “falling in love” with her, and the more I fell for her the more I wanted to be with her. Love and time work together that way. If you love it you want to spend time with it; if you do not love it then you do not want to spend time with it. It’s simple math: love equals time or time equals love.

Distancing yourself from the church while saying you love the church is an antithetical concept. This is one of the amazing reasons you love God so much: He loves you with an everlasting love, even though He has an omniscient awareness of you (Hebrews 4:13). He loves you and He wants to spend time with you. That is the way He is, which you see from the very beginning of His relationship with humanity:

God spent time with Adam in Genesis 2:15.
God designed a tabernacle to spend time with His people in Exodus 25:8.
God sought a new way to spend time with His people in 1 Chronicles 29:1.
Jesus, God in the flesh, desired to spend time (tabernacle) with His people in John 1:14.
God came to spend time with you through the Spirit in Acts 1:4.
And God will always spend time with you in Revelation 21:3
It is God’s will for you to imitate (Ephesians 5:1) that kind of love toward others (1 John 4:21; Hebrews 12:24-25).

Do you love your church?
What does loving your church look like for you from a time perspective?
How are your gifts and your time intersecting your church?
How does the church show up on your weekly calendar of events?
This last question is not asking about attending events, doing busy things, or allowing the church to dominate your life. When I talk about a calendar of events, I’m speaking, for example, about how you pray for specific people in your church, give money or other things to specific causes, email friends notes of encouragement, and doing things that do not necessarily center on the church building.

If your definition of church connotes a building rather than a people, then you’ll miss the point of the question and this chapter. Some people use the word church to describe a building. I do not. The church is the people. The building is a building. It is not a local church.

Love the church with your hands

James called you to be a doer of the Word, rather than hearers only (James 1:22). A loving Christian is a doing Christian. Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Though your works do not save you, they do point to the reality of a faith that is alive.

To suggest to someone to “be warmed and filled” (James 2:16) while not lifting your hands to warm and fill them is not the religion Jesus taught or modeled (Mark 10:45). Peter said it this way,

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 4:8-11 (ESV)

To be Gospel-centered is to be a person of action. Jesus entered your world as the first missionary to help you change. You want to imitate Him by Your activities. Christians are doing people because they are Gospelized people.

How are your gifts being used in your church?
What contexts are you creating within your sphere of influence to exercise the gifts the LORD has given you?
In what ways do you see and encourage others to use their gifts?
In what ways are you equipping others to use their gifts? (See ex. Titus 2:3-5)
Love the church with your mouth

To love the church well is to speak well of the church (1 John 4:19). Paul talked about how your mouth should build up others rather than tear them down (Ephesians 4:29). Your tongue is like a hammer that can crush or build up a soul.

The local church is part of the body of Christ. It is a beautiful thing that God loves, Christ died for, and the Spirit empowers. Like the wife of a husband, who is a delicate, cherished, and valuable vase (1 Peter 3:7), the church is an amazing organism full of parts, all for whom Christ gave His life.

To speak sinfully critical about the church is to speak critically about Christ (Matthew 25:45 ). The most expensive and beautiful organization on the planet is the church–the individuals that make up the body of Christ.

(Refusing to be sinfully critical does not mean you ignore real problems in the church. You can address problems with discretion, as well as a charitable spirit that is full of compassion for something you love that is broken.)

When Christ talks about you to His Father, He speaks from a heart that is motivated by a love that has your best interests in mind. He is never sinfully critical about you to the Father. He is always for you (Romans 8:31) even when you make those messes I spoke about earlier.

Your mistakes do not mitigate or alter God’s love for you! Though He does not ignore your mistakes, He lovingly perseveres with you to help you be better than what you are at this moment. The speech patterns of Christ are always redemptive with redemptive goals.

Are your speech patterns about your local church redemptive?
When you hear something negative about another person is your default to believe the best or think the worst?
How are you at being quick to hear, but slow to speak because you want to be more measured in how you talk about your church (James 1:19)?
Do you lovingly confront gossip? If not, why not?
Gossip reflects the image of a spiritual, celestial being. But it is not God. It is not a stretch to say that Satan’s name is gossip. He is an accuser

Talk Like a Christian

Text: Ephesians 4:25-32
Christians should speak differently because of who we are.

Is there such a thing as freedom of speech in the home and church?
Do you have the right to say whatever is on your mind?
Is it acceptable to voice those words on the tip of your tongue?
Obviously the answer is no. No one has the right to say what is sinful or false.
But what about the facts; do you have the right to make observations, speak the truth, or state the obvious?
What about your opinion? Do you have the right to voice your opinion at anytime to anyone?

Let’s let God answer our questions.

Read Ephesians 4:25-32

I) The assumption is that Christians are different

a) What comes out of our mouths is different than what comes out of the mouth of the world because we are different.

i) We have put off the old self which was corrupt wanting all the wrong things.
ii) And we have put on the new self which was created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
iii) We are new creatures in Christ. And this newness impacts our minds. When we are born-again we begin to think differently and that makes us speak differently.
iv) So doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong is not a matter of individual strength or determination.
v) Our faithfulness in word and deed is because of God working in us.

II) Therefore, Ephesians 4:25, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

a) If you are a Christian God expects you to speak the truth.

i) This is not a suggestion or a good idea. Speaking the truth is a command rooted in the very nature of what it means to be a Christian.
ii) Do you see in verse 25 why Christians are to stop lying and spreading half-truths?

b) Speak the truth with your neighbor, because we are members one of another.

i) Paul is bringing the body of Christ up again.
ii) In Ephesians 4:12 we are told that Christ gives gifts to people for the building up of his body.
iii) We could spend a great deal of time on this and hopefully one day soon we will but for now meditate on 1 Corinthians 12 during your personal study this week.
iv) A simple statement will have to suffice: No one in the body of Christ has the right to say whatever he wants or do whatever he wants.
v) Why? Because we are members of one another. What I say and what I do effects you. What you say and what you do effects me.
vi) Question: What is it called when a group of cells in the physical body abandons its intended function and begins to do whatever it wants to do? It’s called cancer.
vii) When you or I abandon what God intended for us and when we begin to do and say whatever we want then we are in danger of becoming a cancer in the church.
viii) So put away falsehood. Stop trying to be what you aren’t intended to be. Stop saying what isn’t true.
ix) Instead, out of a realization of the importance and interdependence of the body of Christ we must speak the truth.
x) In the verses that follow we are going to look at 7 commands.
xi) These commands all relate to the danger of not addressing sin in ourselves and in each other; most deal with the words we use.

III) 7 commands and how they relate to speaking the truth to one another in love.

a) As we look at these 7 commands remember the context.

i) These instructions are given to us so that we will speak the truth to one another because we belong to one another.
ii) So, if all we do is care about our selves and what the individual says or does we do not go far enough.
iii) Gone are the days of independence; when you became a Christian you entered into the day of interdependence.
iv) You are a part of the family. You have a contribution to make. You run the risk of causing destruction.
v) If we are not concerned about what others are doing and saying then we commit a sin of omission; we sin by not doing what God commands.
vi) And what does God command?

b) Verse 26, be angry and do not sin

i) Many people use this verse incorrectly by making it an excuse for saying sinful things.
ii) “God said it’s okay to be angry. So we vent our rage.”
iii) God knows what I’m thinking so just say it.
iv) But notice that God said be angry and do not sin.
v) The principle here is to follow Jesus’ example, follow the example of the one who was tempted in every way but was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
vi) When people misunderstood him, lied about him, mocked him, made fun of him, beat him for no good reason, and ultimately killed him though he did nothing wrong and said everything right what did he do?
vii) He kept his mouth shut.
viii) Listen to 1 Peter 2:21-23 and understand that this is exactly what it means to be angry and do not sin when we are wronged.
ix) Christ left you an example, “so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
x) Jesus left this example: say whatever you want about me; that’s fine. Say whatever you want about my family; that’s fine.
xi) In fact, in Matthew 10:25, Jesus told us to expect people to talk about us.
xii) He didn’t say he would get angry about it. He didn’t say we should get angry about it.
xiii) What he tells us to do in Matthew 10:26-33 is what 1 Peter 2:21-23 tells us that he did: trust God and close your mouth.
xiv) We have no right to get angry about our reputations or the reputations of one another.
xv) So what should we be angry about and yet not sin?
xvi) We should be angry if the glory of God or the gospel is at stake. And we are commanded to deal with the situation immediately.
xvii) Verse 26 says, “do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
xviii) Often this is used to tell couples not to go to bed angry; which is true IF one or both is angry about the reputation of God or the gospel.
xix) But if God or the gospel is not at stake then it’s not a matter of not going to bed angry it’s a matter of don’t get angry in the first place.
xx) But more importantly because of the context this verse is God’s command to deal with sin in the church.
xxi) Verse 27 gives us a further explanation of what it means to not let the sun go down on your anger

c) Give no opportunity to the devil

i) If the gospel or the glory of God is at stake do not be slow. The longer you wait the more strength the falsehood gains.
ii) Doing nothing about sin gives opportunity for the devil to do damage to the gospel and distract many from the glory of God. When we refuse to act the devil wins.
iii) “But I did nothing wrong. I didn’t say anything. This isn’t my problem.”
iv) These words are like kindling Satan sets on fire to wreak havoc in the home and church.
v) Give no opportunity to the devil. Speak the truth. Stop caring about lesser things. Be angry, but only when God and the gospel are at stake.
vi) Let me put it this way. Taking the passive approach is anything but passive. Doing nothing gives Satan the opportunity to do great harm.
vii) Verse 28 gives us an example of what it means to be rightfully angry, not sin, and give no opportunity to the devil.

d) Rehabilitate the thief so that he cares about others

i) Read verse 28
ii) Don’t let him steal anymore. Use church discipline. Collect money to get him on his feet. Provide for him so he can get the education or training he needs.
iii) Bear his burdens so he can get a job. Don’t give him an opportunity to steal give him an opportunity to work.
iv) Love him enough to leave him without excuse.
v) And don’t let him trade one sin for another. He needs to “work with his hands what is good” some translations say.
vi) To stop stealing radios and start selling drugs is not a positive change.
vii) A positive gospel-centered change is for him to stop stealing and start working not to stay out of trouble but so that he can take care of the needs of others.
viii) So that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
ix) Christian rehabilitation is not keeping your nose clean. Christian rehabilitation is helping an individual so that individual can in turn help others.
x) So be angry when a brother gets caught stealing. Do not sin, do something about it; help him.
xi) And give no opportunity for the devil by way of overly discouraging him or by ignoring him.
xii) Help him so that he is equipped to help others.
xiii) Now verse 29 is where God turns up the heat in relation to the words we say.

e) Only speak what gives grace to those who hear

i) Read verse 29
ii) This verse is all inclusive. This is God’s expectation for the way you talk at home and when the church gathers.
iii) This is how we are supposed to talk to fellow members and unbelieving neighbors.
iv) This rule applies to your spouse, your children, your relatives, the less than helpful cashier, and the waiter who can’t seem to get it right.
v) Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths.
vi) Jesus used this word translated ‘corrupt, harmful, or unwholesome’ when referring to a bad tree that produced bad fruit.
vii) Do not let any word that hurts or even has no value come out of your mouth.
viii) The next phrase gives us the opposite of corrupt, ‘but only such as is good for building up.’
ix) Speak only what is needed to edify. And you must be mindful of the occasion. You must be aware if what you are about to say is necessary.
x) God is unmistakably intense in relation to the words that come out of our mouths.
xi) No one has the right to speak their minds. God commands that we only say what will give grace.
xii) Let me put these phrases in the form of a question we should ask concerning everything we say, “does what I’m about to say help the people who hear become more like Jesus?”
xiii) Everything must come under this test. From seemingly trivial statements about the weather, to observations about hair and clothes.
xiv) From jokes to the sharing of concerns and complaints. Does this help that person become more like Jesus?
xv) If it doesn’t then don’t say it. If you say it you will be held accountable for it.
xvi) Our words have a great potential for doing good or doing harm. Be mindful of everything you say so that you

f) Do not grieve the Holy Spirit

i) The Holy Spirit has been given to us in order to conform us to the image of Christ.
ii) The Spirit empowers us in weakness. The Spirit convicts us in our sin. The Spirit does all of this according to Scripture.
iii) So when we follow the old self and speak corrupting words that tear down we grieve the Spirit.
iv) When we do not put on the new self and instead say something at a bad time and it causes pain we grieve the Holy Spirit.
v) Chapter 1 verse 13 tells us that the Holy Spirit sealed us. He is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire it. His presence and our redemption bring praise to God.
vi) So the Holy Spirit is proof that you are God’s redeemed child. When you say unfit things, when you speak like the devil, this causes the Holy Spirit to experience sorrow.
vii) When we act like God our Father and Christ our brother this brings praise. When we act like Satan our old boss this brings pain.
viii) Every word, every comment, every compliment, and every complaint is an opportunity for praise or sorrow.

g) So put away the wrecking ball

i) Read 31
ii) Whatever you are mad about- stop it. Put away all anger, even the be-angry-and-do-not-sin kind.
iii) Because the day of redemption is coming when all things are united in Christ and all things are made right.
iv) Stop being bitter about it a.k.a. believe in Christ.
v) God has dealt with it and he’ll finish it. Why are you bitter? Why do you seek to punish? Vengeance belongs to God (Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30).
vi) Is God enough? Will God act? Has he forsaken you? Trust God and let go of your anger.
vii) Bitterness, wrath, and anger these are all internal emotions that erupt into clamor and slander.
viii) Clamor is what a soldier does in battle when he’s been shot, “I’m hit”. But instead of a battle wound clamor is the response of an individual who wants everyone to know he’s been wronged.
ix) Clamor is what a bitter person does. He won’t let it go; he’s always bringing it up.
x) He’s been wronged and he wants everyone to know about it and never forget it.
xi) Then there is slander. You wronged me and I want you to feel the pain I felt so I’m going to run you down.
xii) With malice, with an evil intent to hurt, words are poured out like arsenic in the water system.
xiii) I’m going to get you. I’m going to undermine you.
xiv) Spouses do this. Parents do this. Children do this. Coworkers do this. Neighbors do this. And church members do this and it must stop.
xv) Because you are a Christian be done with talking bad about people.

h) Put on the new self; act like God

i) Read verse 32.
ii) Don’t be bitter- forgive.
iii) Put away wrath and anger- be kind.
iv) Be tenderhearted. Care more for them than you do for yourself. Recognize that there is some sin in them that has caused them to sin against you.
v) Work diligently to keep your pride and emotions out of it. Work hard to love that individual.
vi) Say what needs to be said and say only what needs to be said in order to give grace and make that person more like Jesus.
vii) Speak the truth and do it with the overflowing love of God.
viii) This is what we are intended to take home: when someone wrongs you, you have no right to respond with clamor and slander with malice.
ix) When you have been sinned against you are commanded to forgive them.
x) How is this possible? Get God’s perspective.
xi) Forgive one another like God in Christ forgave you.
xii) How many foolish things have you done and said? There is much, infinitely much, for God to be angry about concerning what you have done and what you have said.
xiii) But what has God done? Because of Jesus Christ he has forgiven you. God doesn’t forgive you because you made it right; God forgives because Jesus made it right.
xiv) And God knows you’ll do something else wrong and offensive.
xv) He knows you’ll say something corruptive. But he is tenderhearted toward you; he is kind.
xvi) When God looks at you he doesn’t see the old self he sees the new self clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
xvii) So when you look at that person who has wronged you in word or deed what do you see?
xviii) Do you see the old self or do you see the new self clothed in the righteousness of Christ?
xix) Now if you are bitter tonight and tempted to say unhelpful words because you have been hurt this is what I want you to do.
xx) Pray that God will show you everything you have said or done that he has forgiven.
xxi) Spend some time quietly reading Matthew 18:21-35.
xxii) Let us join together and make the commitment that no longer will we as Immanuel Baptist Church give opportunity to the devil by saying unwholesome things.
xxiii) No longer will we let others say corrupting things about another member.
xxiv) The gossip stops. The untimely words stop. We belong to each other; we’re hurting each other.
xxv) And when it doesn’t stop? We speak the truth in love, we address the situation, and we forgive.
xxvi) Put on the new self; act like God. That means we all talk like Christians.

How To Study Your Bible

What is the best way to study your Bible? Reading the Bible slowly and carefully is preferable to reading it quickly and carelessly. In our fast-paced culture, we often want to try to get to a point of understanding as fast as possible. But the Bible is best read slowly, not quickly. Once a passage for study has been selected, read through it slowly.

Another tip involves asking some basic questions about the passage being studied. The typical journalistic questions may be helpful: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Try to determine the main subject of the passage being studied: who wrote it; who originally received it and in what context; is there a key verse that could sum up that passage being studied; what insights may hold a reference to God, Christ, human nature or behavior in general; or is there some aspect of the passage that is relevant on a practical level in your own life?
Keeping a journal often helps Bible study. This may be for devotional notes, theological questions and insights, questions you may have and more. It need not be an elaborate journal but a simple notebook where you can jot down insights you come across during your Bible study times.
Studying the Bible alone is helpful for personal, devotional times, but make sure your Bible study can involve others too. Find out if your church offers small group Bible studies and look for one that interests you. Many times other people will have the same sorts of questions about the Bible that you will have. As a result, studying and discussing the Bible with other believers will help everyone grow in their faith.
Try not to jump around too much in your study times. Instead of reading brief, isolated verses from different books of the Bible, try to concentrate on longer passages and books. You may wish to select a broad theme or topic to study, too, such as God’s plan of redemption. In general, however, studying the Bible book by book is better than jumping around a lot from section to section. If your time is limited occasionally, but you would still like to study the Bible more carefully, try reading entire Psalms or passages from Proverbs.

Your Christian Journey

When you accept Christ as your Savior, you begin a journey with Him. He longs to have you grow closer to Him and to grow to be more like Him. Here are several things you can do to help you as you walk with Him.

PRAY DAILY, confessing your sins and asking for God’s direction in your life. Go to Him for all of your needs. This is your way of having fellowship with God. You can tell Him anything and be sure He is listening!

READ THE BIBLE, God’s textbook for life. Start with the Psalms or the Gospel of John if you are uncertain where to begin.

ATTEND CHURCH where the Bible is taught so you can be continually fed from God’s Word. Get actively involved in serving God through a ministry within the church.

SEEK OUT A GOOD BIBLE STUDY GROUP.  Many churches have small groups that meet during the week to read and discuss various topics that will help you deal with specific areas of growth in your life.

SEEK FELLOWSHIP with other believers. Make friends with other Christians and make it a point to spend some time with them regularly. Working or studying in small groups is a wonderful way to do this!

SHARE YOUR FAITH with those who do not know the Lord. Tell them about the changes God has made in your life. Show them how they, too, can find the joy you found in knowing and walking with Christ.

Ten Ways to Strengthen your Walk with Christ!

1. Make it a habit to start your day with a prayer, as soon as you wake up. This will demonstrate to God that He is the number one priority in your life.

2. Spend more time reading the Bible than you spend on social media.

3. Be proactive in putting what you read in the Bible into practice. (Philippians – 4:9)

4. Use the Word of God as a shield to overcome the lies of the enemy when he whispers into your ears; Jesus used this tactic to defeat the devil in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:3)

5. Make a habit of finding a meaningful Bible verse every day to memorize and meditate on; this is one of the fastest ways to renew your mind and align yourself with God’s perfect will over your life. (Joshua 1:8)

6. Remove yourself from situations that would most likely lead you to sin.

7. Share your testimonies with others; this will help lay a foundation for others to strengthen their faith and draw near to God.
8. Cultivate your gifts and godly passions knowing that He deposited specific gifts in you so that you can use them. For example, God wouldn’t bless you with a talented singing voice if He didn’t want you to use it for His glory. (Proverbs 22:29)

9. Make it an aim to surround yourself with spirit-filled believers who are sold out on Christ, so that by just being in proximity with these people your dedication to Christ will rise drastically.

10. Ask God to forgive you for your sins; true repentance is clearly understood as changing your mind, from wanting to sin to not sinning at all. This results in a change of our actions.


How to Pray Everyday

We love people. We want God’s best for them. We quickly say, “I’ll pray for you” to those going through tough times — a family member, neighbor, grocery store clerk, pastor or friend from church. But do we?

Here’s a creative, helpful way to have a “place” for every prayer request so you can be sure to pray. Think of it as a way to pray every day.

Monday: Pray for Your Family

Take time to pray for each member of your family. Include extended family members. Entrust each one to the Lord. Wherever they are in their relationship with God, pray that He draws them “ever one step closer.” Be as specific as you can as you pray that He will meet them at their point of need.

Tuesday: Pray for God’s Family

Pray for the church, starting with your local church. Pray for your pastor(s), ministry leaders (e.g., elders, deacons, missionaries, teachers, nursery workers) and their families. Who else in the church needs prayer? Now think of the church around the world. Pray that the Gospel would be preached “as of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

Wednesday: Pray for Your Community

Think about the groups where you are an “insider” and pray for the people you see regularly — those you live near, work with, bump into at school or the store, and so forth. How have they asked you to pray for them? Pray that the Lord will meet each one at his or her point of need, both physically and spiritually, according to His will.

Thursday: Pray for the Nation

Pray for the revival of God’s people, and that we’ll truly love and serve those around us. Pray for those in authority. Ask God to bring to mind local and national spiritual and political leaders, and pray for each. Pray about national issues and challenges, such as the economy and its impact on everyday families.

Friday: Pray for the World

Pray that God will use His people to help others “to know Christ and to make Him known.” Pray that revived Christ followers would respond with Jesus’ love, grace, compassion and wisdom to social struggles — add to your prayer list specific needs you are aware of. Pray for the persecuted church. Finally, pray for the advance of the Gospel everywhere, toward Matthew 24:14.

Saturday: Pray for the Helpless, Hopeless, Hurting and Lost

As part of a regular Pray Every Day strategy, on Saturdays take time to pray for the down-and-out. Start with the world, draw closer to your nation, closer to your state, and closer still to your own community. List the names of and pray for the physically and spiritually afflicted. Pray specifically for ministries that are reaching out to the helpless, hopeless, hurting and lost.

Sunday: Pray for Personal Guidance

Finally, take time to pray for your own personal needs. Sometimes we pray for everything and everyone else but forget to pray for ourselves. On Sundays, pull away and pray for yourself. Walk with God through every aspect of your life — your personal, family, work, community, and church aspects of your life. Say, “Speak whatever to me, Lord, I’m listening!”

See how this can help you become more intentional in your prayer life? Indeed, prayer is the most important conversation of the day — with the Creator of the universe who is there, who cares, and who listens with an ear to respond both for His glory and for the good of people!

AWANA Kick-off August 28th

Mark your calendar for the AWANA Kick-off to be held from 6:00-8:00 pm on August 28th.  The kids will enjoy games, food, and learn about the upcoming year.

We are excited about the upcoming Awana year here at Immanuel Baptist Church. We are praying this year will be a time of spiritual growth and fun for your child. Please pray alongside us for both the clubbers (kids) and the leaders who will be helping.

The goal of AWANA is to reach children with the Gospel of Christ and train them to serve Him. We strive to do this through memorizing scripture, learning about God’s Word, games, and fellowship. AWANA stands for “Approved Workman Are Not Ashamed”, coming from the scripture 2 Timothy 2:15. Kids are encouraged to be confident in who they are for Christ, they are taught how to study His Word, and they are shown practical ways to apply it in daily situations, like at school or home.
We hope to see your kids at the AWANA Kick-off on August 28 starting  at 6:00pm.

Usama Dakdok Reveals Truth About Islam and ISIS

USAMA K. DAKDOK will be with us at Immanuel Baptist Church August 14th for the morning service at 10:30 am and for 6:00 pm Service and on August 15th at 7:00 pm.
He will do part one of his presentation “Revealing the Truth about ISIS” at 6:00 pm on Sunday and Part two on Monday at 7:00 pm. The message Sunday morning will be about the similarities and the differences of Jesus in the Bible and in The Qur’an.
Usama was born in Egypt and raised in a Christian home. His father was a Baptist pastor. Usama became a Christian at the age of eleven. He learned about Islam in school where Islam was a mandatory subject. In college, Usama studied Islamic law. He came to the United States in 1992 after his marriage to Vicki, an American he met in Germany while both were in full time ministries. They have one son, born in 1997. Usama earned a Bachelor’s Degree in theology and a Master’s Degree in  missions from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
His presentation will be in two parts; one on Sunday evening and the other on Monday evening. In Usama’s teaching we will see the true face of ISIS by looking at its relationship with Islam and the teachings of the Qur’an. We will hear the truth about ISIS, not what our leaders and our media are telling us.
Don’t miss this! It is our opportunity to hear the truth about Islam and ISIS!

2016 VBS

Check out the VBS Boot Camp video.