“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way."
Jesus came to preach the good news to the poor, to set the captive free, to bind up the broken-hearted, to usher in the Kingdom. A new way of living. A life that would be as though heaven had come to earth.
Followers of Christ have a beautiful mission to join him on: to make God’s Kingdom known here on earth as it is in heaven.
To bring peace where there is chaos.
To bring justice into the areas where there is injustice.
May we, friends, live into the calling set before us, to be peacemakers.
To be the ones who seek after the justice rolling like a river, ones who thirst for a never ending stream of righteousness.
If our hunger and thirst for righteousness and truth means that we hunger to be the ones to say "I told you so," I don't think that has anything to do with Jesus.
Jesus did not seek to cause panic and chaos. He didn't seek out to upset people with conspiracy theories. He upset people with the Truth. Capital T-truth. The Truth that he spoke about that he had come to upset the old and usher in the new, the new that had to do with the abundant life he sacrificed his life for. That was the Truth he spoke. It wasn't for his own standing or his own ego. It was to reflect the Father, His goodness and righteousness.
Let us be the ones who usher in the Kingdom.
Let us be the peacemakers.
Let us be thirsty and hungry for justice, not for "I told you so."
Let us be the ones that seek the peace and prosperity of those in our neighborhoods, in our cities.
Let us be the ones who are merciful for the tired and weary.
Let us collectively build the Kingdom instead of trying to build our own Kingdoms.
I will never stop talking (or writing) about identity. It is by far one of the topics I am most passionate about because it's my heart's desire for every human to be secure in his/her identity, to know that they are loved, that they matter, that they belong.
It's a cruel world that we live in where we have to battle for our identity each day. It makes me wonder if the battle of knowing who you are and Whose you are was an easier one to fight years ago. When I was in Middle School and someone attacked my identity and my worth, I could at least go home to the safety and security of my family, protected from the harsh words and slinging mud of peers for at least 16 hours. This isn't new news but today's Middle Schoolers who have access to social media and/or devices of any kind do not have that protective covering at home. The negative, hurtful words of their peers continue to fly through the waves of cell phone towers and wifi. The task of adolescence of knowing who they are has not changed, but dare I say that the task has become more arduous.
At Century Baptist Church, we have been on a journey to clarify our discipleship process and define what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We define a disciple of Jesus as someone who actively follows Jesus and loves people. Just like we have personality characteristics that describe us, we believe there are characteristics that describe and define a disciple:
Identity: A disciple of Jesus finds their identity in Jesus alone.
Imitation: A disciple of Jesus focuses on becoming more and more like Jesus each day.
Word: A disciple of Jesus holds high the Word of God and applies it to their lives.
Worship: A disciple of Jesus worships God above everything else.
Gifts: A disciple of Jesus is given spiritual gives to give spiritual gifts.
Gospel: A disciple of Jesus knows, applies, and speaks the Gospel at all times.
Community: A disciple of Jesus lives in community.
City: A disciple of Jesus is for their city and loves people wherever they are.
As a Middle School Ministry, we spend three years with students and families helping them begin to understand the three tasks of adolescence:
1) Who am I? - Identity
2) Do I matter? - Purpose
3) Do I Belong? - Community
In the Middle School Ministry, we have determined that the three characteristics of a disciple that need to be talked about the most, discussed the most, and taught on the most are Identity, Community, and City. Everything that we do revolved around these "Big 3." It gives us a filter to know what we will teach and when we will teach it. Not only does it help us filter out what we will teach or won't teach; it also helps us filter out what activities or events are put on the calendar and what activities or events need to be buried.
We have to pay attention to the spiritual and emotional needs of the teenagers in our lives or else we're doing our teens an incredible disservice. I believe one of the greatest needs for our students is to help them see and understand the incredible identity they have been given through Jesus Christ, to help them see themselves the way the Creator of the world sees them. Imagine a generation of students believing these incredible truths for themselves. I believe the day we start to get 'tired' of talking about identity with teenagers is when we have finally begun to take back the ground that the world, culture, peers, and anything other that the precious, confident words of Christ have stolen from them. When we get weary, maybe we need to lean into our students to let them remind us of how important it is to never stop talking about the worth and value that can never be taken from us.
Easter is coming.
More than likely, you’re already feeling the pressure of that week. You might have a million services you’ll have to be at, or maybe your senior pastor has asked the youth ministry to do a drama during the sunrise service and then serve a breakfast afterwards. Regardless of our unique settings, Easter is a big deal, and rightfully so because we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. It makes perfect sense as to why we have an “all hands on deck” mentality in the weeks leading up to Easter and the week of Easter.
Because Easter Sunday is one of the highest attended Sundays of the year, the ask of volunteers and leaders in our churches gets upped a couple notches. We want people who are walking into our churches for the first time to feel welcomed, to be able to find the children’s wing, to find information, or to find the bathroom. There’s tons of strategies we could talk about, like placing a volunteer every 5 feet to make sure no one falls through the cracks, but maybe one “strategy” we’re missing out on isn’t a strategy but a group of people instead.
What if we as ministry leaders took the week of Easter as an opportunity to engage and equip our students to serve in the church? What if we encouraged them to play a role in making Easter Sunday one of the best Sundays yet? Here’s some ways we can engage, equip, and encourage our students to serve in our churches this Easter: