Posted: March 16, 2015 in CORE

Justification.  apple-tree (1)

Pastor Mike dropped this heavy concept on us yesterday, so the students of CORE spent our time together unpacking this awesommmmmmme theological concept.

Justification is that moment when a person goes from being God’s enemy to being¬†His son/daughter. ¬†It is a beautiful, supernatural, delightful moment when God no longer sees your sin (which is worthy of His punishment), but instead, sees Christ’s perfect blood.

Justification is no accident.  It happens when we repent.

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. ¬†This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. ¬†But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him….God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all eyewitnesses of the fact. ¬†Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear….Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” ¬†When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”¬† Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. ¬†And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”¬†Romans 2:22-24, 32-33, 36-38

When we repent, we acknowledge our sinfulness, and our inability to save ourselves. ¬†“But now a righteousness from God, apart from the 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. ¬†God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. ¬†He did this to demonstrate his justice because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. ¬†Where, then, is boasting? ¬†It is excluded. ¬†On what principle? ¬†On that of observing the law? ¬†No, but on that of faith.” Romans 3:21-27

I have heard¬†students (and adults!)¬†struggle to be confident in their salvation. ¬†They worry about whether God will accept them when they die. ¬†But because Scripture is trustworthy and true, we know that understanding justification can make us confident in our salvation. ¬†“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” ¬†Romans 5:1-2a

This requires delight in the One who justifies. ¬†It is not on our own strength or power. ¬†It is supernatural! ¬†“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” ¬†2 Corinthians 5:17

The example that CORE students discussed yesterday was this:

New Creation.001

Can a grapefruit tree change herself into an apple tree? ¬†No matter how hard she tries, she cannot–in her own strength–become an apple tree. ¬†It would be a supernatural miracle to change her from one thing into another. ¬†But when we are justified, we become a new creation. ¬†“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is a gift from God–not by works, so that no one can boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9

That’s justification. ¬†Supernaturally–by grace, through faith upon repentance–God changes us from His enemy to His son or daughter. ¬†Supernaturally–by grace, through faith upon repentance–we go from an eternity in Hell to an eternity worshiping our Savior. ¬†Supernaturally–by grace, through faith upon repentance–we are changed from a grapefruit tree to an apple tree.

And it was all made possible by Jesus’ death and resurrection. ¬†Sure puts a new perspective on Easter, doesn’t it?

I pray that understanding justification strengthens your relationship with the Almighty, and brings rich discussion in your families.




A Sovereign God + Sinful Man

Posted: March 8, 2015 in CORE

public-domain-images-free-stock-photos-high-quality-resolution-downloads-public-domain-archive-5-1000x667It seems we have continued the theme of surprise, unexpected discussions…and today, it was a GREAT one!

Somehow, the subject of God’s sovereignty was addressed. ¬†Is God in control of all things? ¬†Is He in control of sin? ¬†Is He in control of my repentance?¬†

This is a huuuuuuuuuge and important theological concept–predestination vs. freewill. ¬†Basically, when you repented and were born-again, was it because you chose Him, or because He chose and equipped you?

We can see this played out with God’s promise to the Israelites. ¬†God promised several things to Abram in Genesis 17, and we we focused specifically, on 17:7–“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”

We can see that–almost from the beginning of time–God set apart a group of people to belong to Him. ¬†He still created everyone else on Earth, but the Jews were His special people. ¬†They were chosen, and set apart.

However, even though the Jews and every advantage, they rejected the Messiah.  Paul address this in Romans 9:6-24 by saying,

6¬†It is not as though God‚Äôs word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7¬†Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham‚Äôs children. On the contrary, ‚ÄúIt is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.‚ÄĚ[b] 8¬†In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God‚Äôs children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham‚Äôs offspring. 9¬†For this was how the promise was stated: ‚ÄúAt the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.‚ÄĚ[c]

10¬†Not only that, but Rebekah‚Äôs children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11¬†Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad‚ÄĒin order that God‚Äôs purpose in election might stand: 12¬†not by works but by him who calls‚ÄĒshe was told, ‚ÄúThe older will serve the younger.‚ÄĚ[d] 13¬†Just as it is written: ‚ÄúJacob I loved, but Esau I hated.‚ÄĚ[e]

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

16¬†It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God‚Äôs mercy. 17¬†For Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‚ÄúI raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.‚ÄĚ[g] 18¬†Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19¬†One of you will say to me: ‚ÄúThen why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?‚ÄĚ 20¬†But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? ‚ÄúShall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‚ÄėWhy did you make me like this?‚Äô‚ÄĚ[h] 21¬†Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

22¬†What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath‚ÄĒprepared for destruction? 23¬†What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory‚ÄĒ 24¬†even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

As we discussed this passage we explored two of God’s attributes:

  • His love (as displayed when He is merciful and forgiving)
  • His justice (as displayed by punishing sin)

God is given glory when someone repents and is saved. ¬†However, He is also given glory when He is fair and sends a sinner to Hell. ¬†The Potter has a purpose for both lumps of clay, “…¬†according to his good pleasure…” (Ephesians 1:5, 9).

We will continue to explore the subject of election vs. freewill as woven into our future lessons. ¬†For now, I challenged each student to dive into scripture in order to explore the God’s nature and salvation. ¬†I am SO pumped to hear about the family discussions you have this week!


Posted: February 23, 2015 in CORE

Pause.001STOP!  PAUSE!  WAIT!  
There are some suuuuuuper important things that Pastor Mike preached yesterday. ¬†So, instead of continuing with our Matthew study, we took¬†a quick *PAUSE* to discuss these theological terms that help us understand salvation more fully. ¬†(We will likely¬†remain¬†*PAUSED* while Pastor continues his sermons called, “Back to Basics.”) ¬†Today’s post is a reflection of the sermon and student discussion that followed.


Last week we entered into the season of Lent. ¬†This is a season that seems confusing. ¬†We know some people give things up–others don’t eat meat–some wear ashes on the forehead–and others do none of these things.

So–for us Protestant Evangelicals–what is really going on during Lent?

The season of Lent is the 40 days (excluding Sundays) preceding Resurrection Sunday (Easter). ¬†For Protestants and Evangelicals, Lent is a time of self-reflection. ¬†As Believers we reflect on our need for a Savior, and anticipate His substitutionary atonement* that is coming soon. ¬†A great article by The Gospel Coalition titled, “Why Bother with Lent?” describes the reflection during Lent in this way by saying,

Confident of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we are free to probe the inner recesses of our hearts, unearthing sin’s pollution. God’s grace liberates us to explore our soul, facing its filth, rather than suppressing or succumbing to its contents. With David, we are free to pray,

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Ps. 139:23-24)

Searching us, God discovers nothing unknown to him (Ps 139:1-3), but discloses the secrets of our hearts, allowing us to know ourselves. Under his tender scrutiny, God exposes, not to shame, but to heal. Thus, turning inward, we are led upward to find consolation, hope, and transformation through Jesus Christ.

Since we are a part of Manchester United Methodist Church, we observe Lent as a means by which we turn from the distractions of our life in order to be realigned with Christ. ¬†(For more on the United Methodist Church’s stance on Lent, visit umc.org.)

This leads us to Pastor’s message yesterday. ¬†He taught us that in the Early Church, converts to Christ were taught for one year, and baptized on Resurrection Sunday; these converts took the 40 days prior to baptism to purify and ready themselves for their public confession of their conversion. ¬†Then he taught us some theological concepts:

*Substitution: “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Matthew 20:28 (NIV)

Since we know that “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom 3:23), our fair consequence is Hell. ¬†It is as though we have been kidnapped by sin and cannot pay the ransom ourself. ¬†Someone must come and pay the price in order to set us free. ¬†The word “substitution” is often used with the word “atonement,” which means satisfaction of the payment that was due. ¬†“For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people,” Hebrews 2:17.

*Redemption: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your¬†salvation. ¬†Having¬†believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory,” Ephesians 1:7, 13-14.

Redemption–or the act of being¬†redeemed–means to be brought back; more specifically, it means to be bought back by a payment. ¬†When we were enslaved by our sin we belonged to the Enemy and were headed to Hell. ¬†However, God paid for us to become His children; He paid with the pure blood that Jesus shed on the cross, and proved that payment to be sufficient by the empty grave. ¬†That payment allows us to be redeemed!

*Reconciliation: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. ¬†But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation,” Colossians 1:21-22

When people are enemies, reconciliation is what brings them back into a peaceful relationship. ¬†As we have already established, our sin kept us apart from God. ¬†However, through Christ, we can be reconciled to God. ¬†We go from being God’s enemy to being His son/daughter.

*Propitiation: ¬†“Therefore, since we have been justified* through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand…” Romans 5:1-2a

This is the process of going from God’s enemy to being at peace with Him. ¬†[Additional note: To be justified means to be seen as sinless.] ¬†We become justified when we repent of our sin and ask Christ to cover us with His sinlessness.

These terms allowed the students of CORE Youth Ministry to continue working through our understanding of salvation–a subject that I never grow tired of teaching! (:


This post was based on Pastor Mike’s sermon called, “Back to Basics,” preached at Manchester United Methodist Church on February 22, 2015. ¬†The terms were set by Pastor; the content and biblical support was supplemented by Youth Director Kelsey, based on the student discussion that followed the sermon.

*FOLLOW: Matthew 9-10* The Teachings

Posted: February 16, 2015 in CORE

Since I [Kels] did not lead¬†this lesson [special thanks to Al Remling for teaching my awesome students!], I am not privy to yesterday’s discussion. ¬†Sooooooo, I have generated¬†a few questions below for you to discuss as a family. ¬†These question-starters are based on yesterday’s lesson. ¬†Challenge your student to reflect on Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 9-10 and discuss the following ideas:
9-10 teachings.001MATTHEW’S CALLING: ¬†What do we learn from¬†Matthew (formerly known as Levi the Tax Collector)’s calling? ¬†What do we learn about Jesus? ¬†What do we learn about Matthew? ¬†What do we learn about ourselves? ¬†What do you think is the big idea?

FASTING: ¬†What do we learn about Jesus’ teaching on fasting? ¬†How do his examples (unshrunk cloth and wineskins) explain Jesus’ teachings on spiritual disciplines? ¬†What do we learn from this teaching that affects our life today?

SENDING OUT THE TWELVE:  Why was Jesus sending them out?  What were the instructions He gave?  From this passage, what do you learn about your responsibilities as a Christ-follower?

*Next week we will focus on the miracles from Matthew 9-10 [Jesus heals the paralytic, a dead girl, a sick woman, blind men, and mute men]*

*FOLLOW: Review!*

Posted: February 9, 2015 in CORE

We had an entire lesson prepared for yesterday. ¬†However, you know what they say: “The best laid plans…”

What began as a brief review before moving forward turned into an entire discussion looking back on Matthew 3-8.  We remembered the things that we learned in the past weeks, and the teachings and miracles that revealed attributes of Jesus, our Savior.


We are excited to continue our lesson next week on Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 9-10. ¬†We will have a special guest teacher–Al Remling!

A few thoughts on our Snow Day

Posted: February 2, 2015 in CORE
Snow Storm

Photographer: David Sun c/o 500px.com

Yesterday, I canceled CORE.

The driveway was full of snowdrifts, the wind was making the visibility poor, and speaking to the man who plows my driveway left me convinced that roads were impassable.

In response to this, I texted Pastor Mike, parents, and students, letting them know that CORE would not be meeting. ¬†I felt a little badly about this, but hey! ¬†What could I do? ¬†I was pouring my first cup of coffee while cueing¬†a sermon on YouTube (I looooove learning from Dr. John Macarthur) when my sweet boyfriend called–

J: “Why did you cancel CORE?”

Me: ¬†“I…uh…I have not been plowed out of the driveway.”

J: “That’s why you have 4WD drive. ¬†That’s why I taught you how to engage it.”

Me: ¬†“But…the roads might be bad.”

J: ¬†“Then drive slowly. ¬†Worship is important. ¬†You need to be there.”

We ended our conversation, and I felt guilty. ¬†(I felt a few other things…but this is not a blog about relational dynamics. ¬†Ha!) ¬†I quickly got dressed because I knew he was right. ¬†He reminded me that I had driven in far-worse condition for far-poorer reasons. ¬†Worshipping God along with our brothers and sisters is important.

I managed to engage 4WD (my first time ever!), and after a couple of tries, I even made it out of the steep driveway.  But the minute I got on the road, I was terrified.  TERRIFIED!

So I turned the jeep around and parked it.

* I was so scared of slipping off the road. * I was worried I would be stuck in a ditch. * I feared that I was being stupid. * Or reckless. * I was anxious about how late I would get to the church. * I was troubled that I might have canceled CORE needlessly. * I fretted over the things parents might think about me. * I imagined what my boyfriend might think of me. *

In worrying about all these things, I never once worried about what God thought about this.

Once I was safely back in the house, a verse came to mind. ¬†This verse came to my mind because–interestingly–it was from this week’s study:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. ¬†Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” ¬†Matthew 10:28, NIV

Just to be clear, Jesus said those words to the disciples as He was sending them out. ¬†He was preparing them for persecution, and of course, I did not face persecution yesterday. ¬†However, my heart was convicted–I did not have the correct¬†perspective of putting God first. ¬†I did not have the correct perspective when I chose to cancel CORE. ¬†I did not have the correct perspective when I chose to (try!) and brave the roads. ¬†I certainly did not have the correct perspective when I chose to turn around.

Our God is worthy of all that we have.  He is worthy of me risking my physical comfort in order to worship Him.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” Psalm 111:10

I share these thoughts with you to expose the truth: I am learning and growing as we study Matthew.  I have repented of the fact that I feared Earthly things far more than the Lord.  I realized that my actions (as well as my heart and mind) did not give God the highest position in my life.

I pray that the Lord continues to transform me into the likeness of Christ, and I pray the same for you.

Jesus prayed for us, saying, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth,” John 17:17

follow edit

“…Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know,” Acts 2:22 (NIV).

Yesterday’s lesson focused largely on Jesus’ miracles in Matthew 8 (healing leprosy, paralytics, fevers, demon-possession, and calming a wild storm). ¬†We saw clearly that supernatural miracles had both physical AND spiritual significance. ¬†For example, since leprosy was the worst, nastiest, incurable disease at the time, it reflects the nasty, incurable disease of sin. ¬†Every time Jesus performed¬†a physical miracle we see His divine authority to heal, both physically AND spiritually!

Between miracles, we read something powerful: The cost of following Jesus (Matthew 8:18-22).

Jesus addresses an impulsive Scribe who says to Him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go!” (8:19). ¬†Can’t you imagine hearing this passionate follower making such a bold commitment? ¬†However, rather than commending this pledge, Jesus responds cryptically: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,” (8:20). ¬†What does that even mean, Jesus?! ¬†We learn that Jesus is essentially telling this man that he does not realize the commitment he is making. ¬†It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “Do you realize that you are promising to follow someone who doesn’t even have a place to call home?!” ¬†Jesus is warning us against emotional, impulsive commitments. ¬†Following Jesus takes sacrifice.

He goes on with another example:

“Another disciple said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ ¬†But Jesus told him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead,” (8:21-22).

This man wants to follow Jesus, but only aaaaaaaaaaafter his parents have died. ¬†And since we don’t know how old his parents were, this could have meant YEARS! ¬†Jesus’ response shows us not to wait for salvation (to repent and be cleansed of your sin and made right with God). ¬†“…now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation,” 2 Corinthians 6:2.

It’s easy to marvel at Jesus’ amazing miracles in Matthew 8. ¬†(And we should marvel!) ¬†But in this week’s lesson we¬†see Jesus not simply¬†as a fancy miracle-maker, but our divine and perfect Spiritual Healer. ¬†Because of our sin (Romans 3:23) we were desperately in need of a Savior. ¬†Romans continues to boom the Truth that the only way we can be justified (made right with God) is through faith in Jesus, who was the perfect payment for our sin (Romans 3:24-26). ¬†“For it it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved,” (Romans 10:10).

For a more in-depth look at yesterday’s lesson, download our pdf here: ¬†Lesson for Jan 25

Lord, give us eyes to see our need for Jesus, and empower us obey Your Word.  Amen.

This week’s devotional take-home work:¬†Homework for Feb 1