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Image- Bible Study Tools for TeensIn most sports, to excel it requires focus and discipline in the basics. For Football, it’s blocking and tackling. For Basketball it’s the free throw. No matter how many times they have done it, most professionals of their sport practice the basics everyday. I would have to say the most basic discipline for excelling in a Christ-filled life is regular time alone with God.

It’s so easy to hit the ground running (or groggy) each morning, without so much as a thought for God and His purposes. The things that fill up our day do not fully satisfy. In fact, the pursuit of good grades, money, or success (and just about anything else) will only leave our soul’s empty, if we don’t focus on the basics first. Spending time with God alone is important, and one of the best ways to hear from God is through scripture. Psalm 119:105 says “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Spending time with God and reading His word are nothing new, but focusing on these basics makes all the difference.

Bible Study Tool For Teens – S.O.A.P.

When I was a teen, one of the tools that helped me focus on spending time alone with God most mornings was called S.O.A.P. A key element in creating any habit is starting some sort of a routine. There are plenty of good devotionals out there that are a great way to get you started in alone time with God, but what I love about S.O.A.P. is that it get’s you right into the word. S.O.A.P. stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. Here is the breakdown:

S – Scripture

The very first step is to start by reading the Bible. Yes, simple. During your reading, pick a passage that stands out to you and read through it 2 or 3 times. You could use a daily devotional or Bible reading plan.

O – Observation

Next, read through the passage you chose a few more times, asking key questions that help you think about the meaning of the scripture. My favorites are “What is this scripture actually saying?”, “What does this tell me about God?”, or “What does this scripture tell me about myself?”. The goal is to get to a point where we can explain the passage in our own words. Also ask “who“, “what“, “when” and “why“.

A – Application

Next, we ask the hardest question of all: how does this passage apply to me? How can we apply what we read to our lives? Is it telling us something we should or shouldn’t do? Is it showing us something positive to put into our lives? Or maybe it’s showing us something negative that we should remove from our lives? There are many directives in the Bible that are somewhat easy to come up with a personal application to. But we can even pull out applications from narratives if we dig a little.

P – Prayer

Finally, pray. Talk to God about what you read. Ask Him to clarify anything you have trouble understanding. Commit to Him your application.

Just do it!

Whatever method you use, I encourage you to commit to a routine that includes spending daily time alone with God. It is basic, but it is so important. Why? Because when we spend time with someone, they tend to rub off on us a little bit. Don’t you want God to rub off on you?

I encourage you to try S.O.A.P. out! It works great to use in journaling as well! If you lead a group of youth, this is also an amazing tool to equip your students with.

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Image - Proof of God in Nature - Romans 1:20

Can you really see proof of God in Nature? It’s a great question that I’ll get to in a moment.

I love when fall really starts to kick into full gear. You get the excitement of football fast approaching the postseason, the basketball season has gotten underway, and I even enjoy the crisp cold Northern California air in the morning. I’m even tempted to pick up a hot beverage to enjoy even though I really don’t like them [I know, I know I’m a little weird, but I’ve come to terms with it]. Living in wine country this time of year can be really invigorating; color is all around you, and just stepping outside can turn around a bad day.

One of my favorite things about the changing of the seasons is that it reminds me that God created nature with order. Fall follows summer, winter follows fall. The seasons come and go like the best designed clockwork. The changes of the seasons are so dependable that most of us probably take it for granted; planning our lives, and especially our vacations, around weather that is months away. Although we cannot always predict weather on a specific day weeks in advance, have you ever experienced the leaves changing to their autumn color 6 months early? I haven’t. This kind of order does not come from chaos.

Proof-Of-God-In-Nature-Image

Imagine bringing home a piece of furniture from Ikea; You transfer the box from your car inside your home, and eventually you build it. None of us expect that the furniture will randomly assemble itself if we leave it alone in the box long enough. This is because, deep down, we understand that something as complex as a piece of furniture must be designed and built.

Is There Proof Of God In Nature?

In the Bible, Paul tells us that even if we had no other way of knowing about God, there is proof of God in nature. Nature is so much more complex than a piece of furniture, and if we are willing, we can see God’s creativity and workmanship in anything we deem “natural”.

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. – Romans 1:20

May you find enjoyment in the changing of the seasons. I hope you can be open to seeing proof of God in nature. God is the creator of order. He is also crazy in love with us, and He desires to have a personal relationship with you.

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Image of Two of God's Promises About MoneyDon’t you love it when you go to church and the sermon topic is on money? Maybe it’s just me. The reality is that most church goers get extremely uncomfortable when the topic of money is preached from the pulpit. Some of the reasons  for the discomfort I’ve heard are: “…the church just wants my money”, “…if only they knew how little I make” or “…I don’t need someone telling me what to do with my money.”  I want to briefly go over two of God’s promises about money. If you grasp these promises, I think it will help you relax a little bit more during those “money” sermons.

Money is definitely an issue with most of us. It may not surprise you that one of the most commonly associated words with money is “worry”. Jesus knew about this 2,000 years ago; during his famous sermon on the mount, Jesus urges his listeners to store up treasures in heaven, because no one can steal it, and it’s value isn’t affected by the stock market. He then says “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Talk about a money sermon. His listeners were probably getting as squirmy as many of you do. But then Jesus transitions immediately into the topic of worry.  Jesus illustrates that besides humans, nothing in nature worries about the future, God simply takes care of them; are we not God’s most valuable creation? Look at the rest of Jesus’ words on this topic:

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

-Matthew 6:27-34

When we worry about money, it reveals a heart issue; we are not trusting God to take care of us. Well, let’s look at some promises God has made to us about money.

Two of God’s promises about Money

1. When you tithe, God will give supernatural provision.

I said it. Tithe; one of the most scary words you hear in church. It’s right up there with surrender, self-control, and patience. But honestly, tithing is not a requirement. God does not NEED our money. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, plus he owns the hills. So why is tithing important to God? Because money tends to become our master. So God set up the tithe to free us from the love of money. And to make it easier for us, God attached one of the most amazing promises to the tithe; that when we do it God WILL provide. In fact, God challenges us to TEST Him on this promise (SEE Malachi 3:10). One of the reasons many of us let money become our master is because we falsely believe that money will provide for us. Money is a tool of provision, but it is subject to lose it’s value in a bad economy, and it can be stolen. Tithing was made for your benefit. So next time you hear tithing brought up in church; relax. Tithing is not a requirement, but a tool of love for us from God.

2. When you make giving a life habit, you will be happier

God made us in his image. One of the many things we can pull from scripture is that God is a giver. It is then reasonable to conclude that we are to be “givers”. If logic isn’t enough, Jesus said that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (see Acts 20:35). The greek word for blessed used here is makários which also translates into a more common english word, happy or happier. If you are like me, this statement is a little confusing, because if I’m being honest, sometimes receiving makes me happier than giving. But when you dig into the grammar in the greek, it isn’t talking about a moment, but more like a lifestyle. So the statement could be translated happier is the one who orders their life around giving, rather than receiving. If you have any experience in giving to someone in need, you are familiar with that deep joy that seems to erupt from within us when we give. Imagine if we ordered our life around giving, and actually put it in our budget to give some of our money away every month to meet the needs of others? This is the joy, or happiness, available to us when we make giving a lifestyle.

Give with a cheerful heart

These two promises related to money are there because I think God is aware of how easy it for us to fall into the trap of serving money. But ultimately, giving is between you and God. Paul tells us that we should give what we have decided in our own hearts to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. And that God loves a cheerful giver (See 2 Corinthians 9:6-8). If you cannot give a tithe cheerfully, don’t. But also don’t miss the opportunity to be happier by planning giving into your budget. The tithe (literally 10%) is a great number that scales to your income, and puts you under God’s supernatural provision, but if you can’t do that, maybe try another percentage.

I hope you let these promises sink in, and that they allow you to relax a little more any time you hear a “money” sermon on a Sunday morning. Remember, giving is for OUR benefit.

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In The River is a great praise song that will get your congregation moving! It is originally played in the Key of Dm (Relative Major of F). It is written by Josh Silverberg, Chris Quilala, Mark Alan Schoolmeesters and Ryan Williams. But you probably know the song from Kim Walker and Jesus Culture.

Song: In the River
Artist: Jesus Culture & Kim Walker Smith
Original Key: Dm (F Major)

CAPO 3

[Verse 1]
           G          Em
There is a river where goodness flows
           Bm            D/F#            
There is a fountain that drowns sorrows
            G    Em
There is an ocean deeper than fear
            Bm             D/F#
The tide is rising, rising

[Verse 2]
           G               Em
There is a current stirring deep inside
         Bm               D/F#
It's overflowing from the heart of God
             G              Em
The flood of heaven crashing over us
            Bm             D/F#
The tide is rising, rising 

[Pre-Chorus]
G        Em
Bursting, bursting
Bm                  D/F#
Up from the ground, we feel it now
G        Em
Bursting, bursting 
Bm                  D/F#
Up from the ground, we feel it now

[Chorus]
         G               Em
We come alive in the river
         Bm               D/F#
We come alive in the river
         G               Em
We come alive in the river
         Bm               D/F#
We come alive in the river 

[Instrumental] G  Em  Bm  D/F#

[Verse 2]

[Pre-Chorus]

[Chorus]
[Bridge]
           G          Em
Break open prison doors
            Bm           D/F#
Set all the captives free
            G                Em
Spring up a well, spring up a well
            Bm        D/F#
Spring up a well in me
            G           Em
Nothing can stop this joy
              Bm            D/F#
We're dancing in the streets
            G                Em
Spring up a well, spring up a well
            Bm        D/F#
Spring up a well in me

[Instrumental]

*[Chorus]

[Pre-Chorus]

[Chorus]

-----------------

*Alternatively you could end:
[Chorus] x2

[Tag]
            G                Em
Spring up a well, spring up a well
            Bm        D/F#
Spring up a well in me
            G                Em
Spring up a well, spring up a well
            Bm        D/F#
Spring up a well in me

 

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Forgive-and-you-will-be-forgiven-luke 6:37

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” -Luke 6:37

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Human-Battleship-Youth-Game

Having a good youth game up your sleeves is always handy. One of the favorites we do often is “Human Battleship”. It’s a fun take on the classic board-game “Battleship” and is great for small to mid size groups, and can even be tailored to work for large groups.

Youth Game Name: Human Battleship

Items Required: Light Ball (for Missiles), Objects to divide room into 2 sides and keep from viewing of each other.

Optional Items: Masking Tape (or some other marker) to set boundaries.

Number of Players: 6+ for most fun

Instructions for “Human Battleship” Youth Group Game:

Setup:

PVC Room Divider TemplateGet your play area ready for “Human Battleship” by dividing the space into two sections. It is best if the objects used to divide the room are tall enough to keep the sides from viewing each other. We use 2 PVC room dividers that we threw together. See the image for a template of it. I’ve seen other groups stack chairs and bunch them together. If you need to get creative, do so. As long as the two sides can’t see each other, and they can toss a ball over to the other side, you are good to go.

You’ll also need at least 1 light ball to use as a missile. We use two Water Soaker Footballs as they are lightweight and difficult to cause damage or injury with, yet dense enough to be thrown a good distance. We also put a little masking tape around it to be able to be tossed a little further with ease.

Optionally you can use masking tape (or some other kind of marker) to set boundaries in the shape of a tennis court.

Rules:

  • Divide into two teams. Have each team take a side and explain the rules of the game.
  • At the start of every round, all players must pick a position on their side to place themselves (the Human battleship). They do so by sitting down on their butt or laying down on their back. The choice is yours. The catch is they must stay in that location the entire round, or until sunk.
  • Once each player has picked their position, the round begins. Give one side the missile(s) to start, and they choose a player(s) to “fire” over the divider into “enemy territory”. If the missile hits an enemy target, that player is “sunk” and must move to the sidelines. Once missiles are fired from one team, the other team goes next. Repeat until one team is the victor of that round. Play as many rounds as you wish.
  • One variation we do to keep the “sunk” players involved is let them give “verbal commands” to direct their teammates to hit enemy targets. This also helps speed the game along. We don’t let players catch the ball to prevent themselves being sunk. We also usually play “direct hit” only, so if the ball bounces, or ricochets, into a player, it doesn’t sink them. But that is your choice.
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3-things-we-need-to-surrender-to-GodSurrender is a very profound thing. In the culture we live in, surrender is taught as a four-letter word, so don’t be surprised if you feel something inside  you squirming when I say that we need to surrender God. Being surrounded by the message “everything is about YOU” , the idea of lifting up your hands, and dropping everything is probably the last thing you want to do.

But when we follow Jesus, I think we have no other option but to surrender to him. In fact, when following Jesus, he will lead us into a life of surrender. I think this is kind of the point that Paul is making in his letter to the Galatians; Paul says:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

When it comes to surrendering to Him, I believe there are 3 things we need to surrender to God:

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Image, Take-Heart-I-Have-Overcome-The-World-John-16-33“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Corporate downsizing. Rebellious teenagers. Paying the Bills. Devastating illness. Maintaining Cars. Life is full of it’s share of troubles. There are times when we are so overwhelmed, we struggle to make it through the day.

Facing Troubles is Normal

Difficulty, and troubles shouldn’t come as a surprise to students of Bible. In fact, in John 16:33, Jesus said “In this world you will have problems”. Now if we stop there, it doesn’t sound like a very optimistic outlook on life. But one of the most encouraging statements directly follows. Jesus continues, “But take heart! I have overcome the world”.

How much courage does it give you when someone has overcome a difficulty you are facing? And not only that, but they promise to help you through it? Think of a child standing at the edge a pool with her mom waiting in the water below with open arms. The child’s faith in her mom, knowing she has overcome the water, is what gives her the courage to jump in.

We will have problems. We will have struggles. But take Heart, Jesus has overcome the world! If He is for us, honestly, who can stand against us? Trusting in Jesus is key; key to not simply survive our troubles, but to thrive in the midst of them.

Evaluate your current struggles from the perspective of the child with great faith in her mom. Trust in Jesus, our Savior. What have you got to lose?

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A-God-Who-Gives-and-Takes-Away-Love-of-Discipline-Hebrews-12-5-6

Have you ever witnessed a child behave in an unrestrained manner? What I’m talking about are those moments when we see a child creating chaos, or throwing an uncontrollable fit in the grocery store. I don’t know about you, but the first thing I ask myself is ‘where is their parent’? Being a parent myself, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of people asking themselves the same thing in regard to us and our children, but the point I’m trying to make is that our instincts in moments like this reveal a powerful truth we all know; children need guidance. If a child were to be left to make all the decisions of their life, most wouldn’t go to school, eat healthy, go to bed when they should, share, clean up their messes, be patient when they want something…and the list goes on. Children need guidance, rules, and discipline; without it, their lives would be complete messes. A loving parent disciplines their child, corrects them, sets rules for them, and gives them guidance.

Why is it then that so many of us struggle with the idea that God would care about our behavior? Or that God disciplines his children? I have heard the argument that if God were a loving God, he would not ‘give and take away’. But I believe it is the exact opposite.

The Love of Discipline

Wouldn’t a loving parent take away something their child wants if it is for their protection? Like candy if they have had too much sweets, or a dangerous object they have gotten their hands on. Or even taking away something good to teach them a consequence to some behavior or action.

The recipients of the letter we now call the book of Hebrews seemed to struggle with discipline from God.

The author writes:

… have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,

“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

Hebrews 12:5-6

Just as discipline (done properly) is a sign of love from a parent, so it is with God toward us; his children. The rules he set for us to follow, the consequences of our actions, certain things that are taken away from us; these are not the result of some killjoy in the sky, or over-controlling God. Rather they are the result of a God who loves us and desires what is BEST for us.

It’s no wonder many of our lives are marked by hurt, pain, and complete messiness. We are like children wanting to make our own rules and live by our decisions alone, yet much like children, we lack the understanding to comprehend the messes these desires will land us in.

The author of Hebrews continues:

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.  Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Hebrews 12:7-11

We may never fully grasp the “why’s” for God’s rules and standards, but I promise you, as our creator and father, he knows best.  Yes, our God is a God who “gives and takes away”. But his discipline is another display of his perfect Love for us. May we learn to embrace his guidance, his correction, his discipline, so that we may grow into the people he designed us to be.

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Your Love Awakens is a fantastic upbeat praise song by Phil Wickham. With a catchy lead hook, and deep lyrics, this song is a great choice for any contemporary church service. During the first time I introduced this song to our Youth Group, the kids joined along like we had been singing it for months. It is one of their favorites to this day.

Lyrics and Chords to Your Love Awakens by Phil Wickham

Song: Your Love Awakens
Writers: Chris Quilala & Phil Wickham
Original Key: B

CAPO 4
Intro:      G///              C/// 
(Lead Part: B-A-B-D-B  G  A | B-A-B-D-B  E  D   (Repeat)

Verse 1
G
  There were walls between us, by the cross you came and 
C
  Broke them down, you broke them down
G
  There were chains around us, by your grace we are no
  C 
 Longer bound, no longer bound

Pre-Chorus
Em                                             (Em)
  You called me out of the grave, you called me into the light
C                                C (Ring Out) 
  You called my name and then my heart came alive

Chorus 1
G                          C
     Your love is greater,   Your love is stronger
  Em                      D       C
     Your love awakens, awakens, awakens me
G                          C          
     Your love is greater,   Your love is stronger
  Em                      D       C
     Your love awakens, awakens, awakens me  

Verse 2
G                                             
Feel the darkness shaking, all the dead are coming
   C
Back to life, back to life
     G
Hear the song awaken, all creation singing 
C
'We're alive, cause you're alive'

[Chorus 1]

Bridge
(G)      C   			 G         
     And what a love we've found, death can't hold us down
Em                  D                                     
    We shout it out: 'We're alive cause you're alive'
         C   			 G         
     And what a love we've found, death can't hold us down
Em                  D                                     
    We shout it out: 'We're alive cause you're alive'
        C   			 G         
     And what a love we've found, death can't hold us down
Em                  D                                     (G)
    We shout it out: 'We're alive cause you're alive'

Chorus 2 (Muted)
G - muted                         G - muted          
     Your love is greater,   Your love is stronger
  C - muted                       C - muted
     Your love awakens, awakens, awakens me
G - muted                         G - muted          
     Your love is greater,   Your love is stronger
  C - muted                       C - muted
     Your love awakens, awakens, awakens me

[Chorus 1]

[Intro/Outro]


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