NovelSisters

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Jesus Changes Things

Now that summer is getting closer, I’ve been thinking about how it’s going to look different than past summers. For the past thirteen years (since 2003) I have taken part in our church’s summer outreach called Great Adventure. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’ve seen some posts about it in the past. Looking back, it really has had a huge impact on me personally. The first year I attended a Backyard Bible Club as one of the oldest children. (I was going into 7th grade). It’s similar to a Vacation Bible School except that the high school and middle school students from our church would go into different neighborhoods to run a club for a little over an hour. Adults helped drive the students and host the clubs but the students did the teaching.

The next year when I was going into 8th grade I joined one of the student teams and helped teach grade school kids who came to the clubs. It was a huge growing experience for me. I learned how to talk in front of a crowd, connect with kids, share the gospel with different illustrations, and be a part of a team. The next year I was stretched even more. I was going into high school and old enough to be a captain or leader of one of the student teams. It was intimidating, but I felt like God really wanted me to say yes, so I did. I went to several training camps for the first time (I should have gone to one of them the year before, but was on a vacation during it). That summer I learned so much about relying on God, trusting Him, and stepping out in obedience. I got to see kids come to Christ and see my own growth in sharing the gospel and doing what was uncomfortable.

After that year, I was hooked. I wanted to do Great Adventure every year. It had changed me, made me more confident in what God could do if I trusted Him and obeyed. It was exciting to see Him answer prayers, give us energy and work in the lives of the children we were teaching.

Although I wanted to be a part of it, I didn’t exactly want to be a leader again. I thought I’d done my time and now that there were more high schoolers in our youth group, I could let someone else be the captain. But God had other ideas. I ended up being a captain every summer after that up until I graduated from high school and went to college.

You know how when something really works for you, you think it should work the same for others? Like you don’t want it to change? It’s easy to make a good thing into a tradition. I totally do the same thing with restaurants. I keep going back to the ones I’ve been to before and am more hesitant to try new places. But anyway, for the next four years I always returned home for the summer and helped however I could with Great Adventure. It usually meant going to the training camps, taking pictures at the clubs, organizing supplies, and just helping others with what I had learned.

I started seeing changes though. When I had done Bible Clubs, we had gone to two clubs in the morning and 2 in the evening. At one point we even had clubs Monday through Friday and then a huge carnival called Summerfest on Saturday or Sunday. It was a pretty huge commitment and it took a lot of hard work.

But as the years passed, things changed. We ended up switching to only evening clubs, stopping on Thursday, and instead of a huge party at the church, we had individual block parties at each club. We also started writing our own curriculum instead of using other church’s scripts. And we changed the name to Summer Bible Clubs instead of Backyard Bible Clubs. Some of the changes I liked, others were hard to accept. But each year it seemed like God wanted to do things a bit differently. Those “good old days” I’d had in my high school years weren’t the same. But somehow it was still good. I guess God has a better plan than me.

After college I was able to intern at the church and help write the curriculum for several years. I brought all of my experience from the past but tried to be open to doing things differently. We added new games, changed how we shared the gospel with personal testimonies, and just tried new things to make it more friendly to unchurched families.

So that brings us to today and now the latest change has come. Instead of doing Bible clubs for one week, we’re going to connect to neighbors at parks throughout a whole month, and have groups within our church plan their own outreach activities. And instead of teaching students how to run a club, we’re going to teach them how to share the gospel with their friends and to view their schools as their mission field.

It’s kind of hard for me to let go of Bible clubs. I learned so much from them and they were a huge part of my life for the past thirteen years. But as I’ve seen Jesus change our plans every summer and still be faithful to do even greater things, I will trust Him in this.¬†Because I do not worship a curriculum, a tradition, or my own preferences. I worship Jesus Christ. His ways are always best. He is always making things new and changing us from the inside, so I can’t expect Him to do things the same way forever. His purpose is unchanging. His goal is fixed. But His methods can be quite surprising and unconventional. So wherever He leads our church, I know it’s best, because He is always right.

Anyway, I hope you learned something from my ramblings about change and learn to trust Jesus in what He’s changing in your life too.

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Being With Jesus

Study, Read, Book, Bible, Koran, Torah, Religion

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So first off, I’m sorry for not posting last week. July has been a crazy month for me, full of vacations, Bible Clubs and my birthday. But during all the hubbub God has been teaching me something that is really important and I thought I’d share it.

To give some context, I’ve been reading through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship and also reading through Luke and several of the New Testament Letters this month. That’s part of where I’ve been learning from God. But I was also heavily involved in my church’s outreach called Great Adventure which involves Bible Clubs (similar to Vacation Bible School for those who don’t know what that is). And in the craziness and busyness of it all I realized that I was focusing on all of the little details of a club: how presentations went, if the leaders were connecting to kids, and if the kids were having fun or bored. One day I was focusing so much on all these details and what could have gone better, that I realized I was missing the point.

That night I read in Philippians about all the things Paul did that he now considered rubbish.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ… I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-“ Philippians 3:7-9

And in the next chapter he says,¬†“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”¬†Philippians 4:4

I had been so focused on works that I hadn’t remembered to rejoice in what God was doing. So I changed my perspective, and instead of looking at all the problems, I looked for all the ways God was at work. He was connecting students to kids, teaching students that He answers prayer, and showing us all that it wasn’t our effort or work that mattered, but His power.

But God wasn’t done with me. As I was reading in The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer dug deep into this passage:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” Matthew 7:21-23

Just as Paul said his works were worthless, these great deeds of casting out demons and healing people were worthless. My own efforts in doing Bible Clubs would be worthless too, if I missed the whole point. Why am I doing these things? If I’m not doing them with Jesus, for Jesus, and because of Jesus, then they are worthless.

Fast forward to this morning and I found myself reading Luke 10 and the last section jumped out at me:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

I know God isn’t impressed with my works but all of these passages really reinforced that message. Jesus doesn’t care how much I do for Him, how many Bible clubs I help with, how many times I share the Gospel, how many people I serve and love. Those are all great things, and following Jesus does mean doing these things, but the whole point is being with Jesus, loving Jesus and knowing Jesus. If I forget that, it’s all meaningless. So I thought I’d share that with you today. Don’t forget to be with Jesus today.

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