Sailing into Summer

Posted: May 18, 2015 in CORE


Sailing into the summer feels great!  And what is the best way to celebrate all that we have learned this year?  A breakfast pizza party, of course!

Our savory feast fueled us for an epic review of all the things we learned this year. ¬†We stretched ourselves as we recalled lessons from Nehemiah, Advent, Matthew, Lent, and lots of theological terms. ¬†We also kept our game spicy by asking a few “Would you rather…?” questions.

"Would you rather drink soda through your dad's dirty sock?...or eat cereal from a stranger's shoe?" 


We laughed Рwe ate Рwe reminisced over the past year.  I am honored to have led these awesome rockstars.  What a joy!  But the spiritual growth does not end, just because it is summer.  No!

Join our FIRST EVER parent and student study of Matthew.  We meet on Wednesdays at 6pm in the Parlor.  We begin this week at Matthew 10, which is exactly where the students left off.  [Perfect timing!]


Prove it!

Posted: May 11, 2015 in CORE

1 John 3.002

Pastor Mike’s sermon at Manchester United Methodist Church continued teaching through 1 John. ¬†His message yesterday fit PER-FECT-LY with our last lesson for the summer. ¬†[But don’t forget that CORE students will be joining our Wednesday evening bible study – parents and students will continue studying Matthew together! #familyministry]

Pastor Mike taught from 1 John 3: 11-24 that the greatest way to prove our love for God is through our love for others.  This is our evidence that we have been redeemed from being a child of darkness to being a child of the light.  This love is empowered by the Holy Spirit and sanctified through the spiritual disciplines, including studying scripture, prayer, and worshiping with other Believers.

This was a perfect platform for CORE’s lesson. ¬†We studied Matthew 22:34-40¬†which was a question posed by those rule-loving Pharisees and Sadducees, asking…

Greatest Commandment.001

In Jesus’ reply He summed up all of His teachings. ¬†You see, Jesus consistently taught that He is more concerned with our hearts than with rules. ¬†If our heart is right with God, we¬†will naaaaaaturallllllly obey the rules. ¬†When we¬†love God, we¬†will love others. ¬†When we¬†love God, we¬†will live as children of the light, rather than darkness. ¬†When we¬†love God, we¬†won’t just say it with words – our¬†actions will show it.

But since loving God and loving people can be a challenge at times, the majority of our discussion yesterday revolved around how to do this.

Do we accomplish these two commandments by our own strength, or is it by the power of the Holy Spirit?

This is a deep question that impacts the way we pray…the ways in which we fight temptation…the ways in which we love our neighbor……and¬†I could go on, and on, and on. ¬†Do we love God “…in action and truth,” by fighting hard, or by letting the Spirit do the fighting?

Parents, what do you think?  What passages support your position?  I would love to hear from you this week!

Decoding Jesus’ Parables

Posted: May 4, 2015 in CORE


Yesterday the students of CORE returned to studying Jesus’ teachings in the Gospel of Matthew. ¬†As you read in the previous posts, our lessons have often been derailed by sermon discussion. ¬†Since our Sunday mornings will soon be over–and there is much more I want to teach–I had to bring us back to Matthew.

Speaking of Sunday mornings ending soon…

…our last official morning together is Sunday, May 17. ¬†But spiritual growth does not take the summer off! ¬†So I have devised a plan!

Wednesdays at 6pm: Family Study!

CORE students are invited to join the study Matthew study that is happening with parents on Wednesdays beginning on Wednesday, May 20.

Okay, now back to CORE’s lesson yesterday.

We picked up with Jesus changing His teaching style.

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” ¬†He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. ¬†Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. ¬†Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. ¬†This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.'” ¬†Matthew 13:10-13

It’s at this time that Jesus changes His teaching style from literal, to…well, in a sense, coded messages. ¬†He began teaching in parables, which are stories with spiritual meaning. ¬†He did this to help explain His teachings¬†to those who could understand, and to hide His teachings from those with hard hearts.

This is the awesome example we studied yesterday.

Matthew 13.001

What do you think this story is teaching? ¬†What spiritual symbolism can you find? ¬†CORE used their critical thinking skills, as well as considered what they knew to be true about Jesus’ nature when unpacking the meaning of this parable. ¬†Then they checked their answers with Jesus’ explanation in Matthew 13:18-23

Matthew 13.002

We concluded our lesson with a discussion about sowing the seed. ¬†Since we do not know the type of soil lives in the heart of each person, we should “sow the seed” in everyone! ¬†We should always be sharing the Good News that Jesus provides the only way to be at peace with God. ¬†Always. ¬†Without hesitation, and without excuse. ¬†After all, it’s Good News!

Does God Need Our Help?

Posted: April 27, 2015 in CORE

Does God Need our Help?.001


It only seems to take a spark to get a conversation going.  Yesterday was just another example of my beautifully prepared lesson being put on the back-burner in favor of discussing a great question.

“Does God need our help?”

This question was sparked by by a Children’s Sermon given at Manchester United Methodist Church earlier that morning. ¬†The topic for the wee tots was lighthearted in nature: “In what ways can we be helpful?”

The sweet cherubs cheerfully shared ways to be helpful to parents, siblings, and friends. ¬†Then the question was asked, “How can we be helpful to God?”

When the teens¬†of CORE got together following the church service, the students reflected on the concept. ¬†“Does God really need our help?” ¬†Good question, CORE. ¬†Really.Good.Question.

This leads us into some controversial theology. ¬†I want to train and equip the students with various perspectives, as well as¬†biblical support. ¬†I want to challenge them, teach them, and lead them in understanding God’s nature through His Word.

I also want to take time to thoughtfully prepare lessons.  It is quite difficult to tackle such deep subjects on-the-fly, so I pray that the Lord will be merciful with me.

In answering this question, I posed another question: What does Scripture reveal to us about God’s nature? ¬†Here’s one passage from Ephesians 2:1-5, 8-10

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,¬†in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.¬†¬†All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh¬†and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.¬†¬†But because of his great love for us,God, who is rich in mercy,¬†made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions‚ÄĒit is by grace you have been saved…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith‚ÄĒand this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God‚ÄĒ not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God‚Äôs handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do. ¬†

Using this passage, we¬†discussed God’s sovereign control. ¬†As seen above, it is only by His work that we can obtain salvation (Eph 2:8-9). ¬†We also discussed issues of sin and freewill (Eph 2:2-3).

So, what is the answer to this question?!

Ultimately, I did not give a clear answer to the students; instead, I challenged them to search Scripture. ¬†While we will not find one clear, black-and-white answer, we will read 66 books that reveal God’s nature. ¬†Is He a God who lets things happen? ¬†Or is He a God who is always in control? ¬†What does the Old and New Testament reveal? ¬†Remember, we are sanctified by the Truth, and The Word is Truth (John 17:17).

Can a man be of benefit to God?
    Can even a wise person benefit him?
What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous?
    What would he gain if your ways were blameless?

Is it for your piety that he rebukes you                                                                                                             and brings charges against you?                                                                                                             Is not your wickedness great?                                                                                                                    Are not your sins endless?  Job 22:2-5


Posted: April 13, 2015 in CORE

Even though we officially *PAUSED* our study of Matthew in order to explore deep theology, Jesus never stopped being a part of our discussions. ¬†So yesterday we reflected on Jesus. ¬†The following questions were posed to the¬†rockin’ students of CORE Youth Ministry yesterday, April 12, 2015.

  • Who is Jesus? ¬†How do you know who He is?
  • What are His important teachings? ¬†Where do you find them?
  • What was important about Jesus’ life?
  • What does Jesus have to do with your life today?

These questions sparked a great discussion about salvation–we discussed again the Truth of justification through repentance makes us at peace with God. ¬†We discussed the importance of sharing this Truth with others. ¬†And we discussed the ongoing transformation (sanctification) of a Christ-follower.

What did your student tell you about yesterday’s discussion?



Jesus gave several statements in the New Testament¬†that begin, “I am…”

  • How many statements did He make?
  • Where do you find them in the bible? ¬†(Book, Chapter, and Verse)
  • What do you think each one means?

Next week Kelsey will be gone (April 19), BUUUUUUT students will meet in the Parlor with some awesome adults¬†to discuss one of Jesus’ “I am” statements. ¬†Bring your homework on Sunday!

Source: Logos Bible Software

Photo Source: Logos Bible Software c/o Bible Screen

Gather the tools we acquired in previous weeks (understanding words like justification, atonement, reconciliation) and enter into Holy Week. ¬†This is a time when we reflect on Jesus’ final week before His payment for our sin.

CORE students looked at Matthew 26:36-46 yesterday. ¬†Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray after sharing the Passover meal with the disciples. ¬†It is in this passage that we Jesus’ raw humanity and divinity in conflict. ¬†How does Jesus handle this?

36¬†Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‚ÄúSit here while I go over there and pray.‚ÄĚ 37¬†He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38¬†Then he said to them, ‚ÄúMy soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.‚ÄĚ

39¬†Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‚ÄúMy Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.‚ÄĚ

40¬†Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‚ÄúCouldn‚Äôt you men keep watch with me for one hour?‚ÄĚhe asked Peter. 41¬†‚ÄúWatch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.‚ÄĚ

42¬†He went away a second time and prayed, ‚ÄúMy Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.‚ÄĚ

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45¬†Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‚ÄúAre you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46¬†Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!‚ÄĚ

Did you notice what CORE noticed? ¬†Jesus did not want to die. ¬†He did not want to be tortured. ¬†He was “overwhelmed with sorrow,” as He prepared for the coming events. ¬†And He asked His Father that He might find another way to rescue His people from the bondage of sin.


Jesus made His desires known to His Father, yet He followed with the most important words:

“Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Jesus had a will–He had a desire not to endure a torturous death. ¬†But Jesus showed us that the Father’s will is bigger, greater, and better than our own. ¬†Jesus humbly submitted to the Father’s will, and in doing so, offered salvation to all those who would repent and follow.

Does this picture of Jesus’ submission change the way you celebrate Easter this year? ¬†Does Jesus’ model of submission¬†shape the way you pray?…does it change the way you live your life? ¬†Consider these questions this week as you align your heart for Jesus’ sacrifice and victorious resurrection.

This week we have provided a daily reading plan to read and discuss as a family. ¬†We pray that–through the sanctifying Truth of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit–that our hearts may be prepared for resurrection life.

Holy Week Reading Plan.001


Posted: March 23, 2015 in CORE


Pastor Mike has been on a ROLL!  He as been tackling deep, important theological concepts in our sermons at Manchester United Methodist Church.

But you may be asking, “Why is theology important…especially for teens?”

Theology is vital to understanding our relationship with God. ¬†Theology supports our study of scripture¬†and causes us to develop a solid foundation to grow spiritually. ¬†Which leads us to this week’s term…



Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit transforms a repentant Believer from behaving like the world, to behaving like Christ.  Yesterday, the students of CORE had much discussion regarding sanctification as measured by spiritual growth.

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.  

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. ¬†Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. ¬†You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness….Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:17-24, 5:1-2

We can see here that there is a distinct difference between the behaviors of the world, and the behavior of repentant, justified Christ-followers.  That is a transformation process that happens in the life of a Believer.

Becoming sanctified is a daily process! ¬†It begins when a person repents of his or her¬†sin, acknowledging that we are sinners in need of a Savior, which is Jesus. ¬†“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. ¬†This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. ¬†There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus, Romans 3:21-24. ¬†Repentance and justification begins the sanctification process. ¬†We are are at peace with God through Christ’s blood (Colossians 1:20) and then called to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1).

What a hard calling! ¬†Christ lived a perfect, sinless life. ¬†I know that I cannot–on my own strength–accomplish that calling. ¬†Which is why the process of sanctification (being transformed into the likeness of Christ) is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what the nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. ¬†The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. ¬†It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. ¬†Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

You, however, are controlled not be the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. ¬†For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Romans 8:1-14

So how do we living according to the Spirit? ¬†I’m glad you asked! ¬†We live in total dependance that the Spirit would take control of our thoughts and actions. ¬†“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. ¬†For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. ¬†They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want….But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. ¬†Against such things there is no law. ¬†Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. ¬†Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit, Galatians 5:16-17, 22-25.

When we live by the Spirit, we are asking the Spirit to take control of our life. ¬†We can measure this by seeing the fruit produced by spiritual growth. ¬†Sanctification–being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the likeness of Christ–can only be done when we yield¬†ourselves to His control and grow in knowledge of Scripture. ¬†In doing so, we give Him glory!

CORE homework for this week:

Since we have been taking about such deep theology, I asked the students to write a brief response to the following questions.  The response can be emailed to this week, or handed in next Sunday.

  • Based on your understanding, what is justification?
  • Based on your understanding, what is sanctification?
  • How do you measure spiritual growth?
  • Read Galatians 5:16-25 and briefly explain what you think this passage means.