Philippians 2:25-30 (Devotional Thought)

I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (Philippians 2:25-30 ESV)

Who are your heroes? What did they do to become your hero?

We look to all different kinds of people as heroes. We honor men and women for all kinds of different achievements. We give athletes awards like “most valuable player” and “rookie of the year” we give singers music awards, we give awards to actors and actresses, and we bury men and women who have served faithfully in our military with military honors.

While these awards and recognition are nice, Paul lifts us a different sort of hero to us. To the church at Philippi he held recommended a guy by the name of Epaphroditus. This guy traveled to Paul on behalf of the church at Philippi and he almost died. He got sick, but even when he was really sick, even to the point of death, he was concerned about everyone else. He was still thinking of Paul’s needs and church at Philippi. I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick, I’m not on my A game. I’m usually cranky or sleepy. My fuse can be shorter than normal… but Ephaphroditus was actually concerned that people back home will be worried about him.

So now that Epaphroditus is better, Paul is sending him back home and he reminds the church to honor this guy. We don’t really give out awards in Christian circles. As far as I know there aren’t any missionary honors at missionary funerals, your pastor isn’t secretly hoping for the “pastor of the year” award, and that dear sweet lady at church that is faithful to give above her tithe to missions each month isn’t doing it so she can get a “Widow’s Mite” award… but when we know of people in our midst who put the needs of others above their own, we should be thankful for their example, and we need to honor them.

How do you honor someone who puts the need of others above their own? I think it begins with joy in their presence. You rejoice to be with them. Count it a blessing when you come across someone who is proficient at true humility, you will learn a lot from them. I think you also thank them, especially if they have imparted some gift or words of wisdom along the way. Epaphroditus carried a gift from this church to the Apostle Paul. Obviously he was serving God, but at the same time he was serving those who had partnered together in the gospel at Philippi.

Who do you need to honor today?

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Teenagers and the Gospel

teenagers and the gospelWelcome to this series on teenagers. The goal of this blog series is to help parents and youth workers to understand the general changes and issues that teenagers are facing. Sometimes a little knowledge can go a long way in helping to develop a proactive game plan for parenting, teaching, and shepherding students.

These are general observations gleaned from over fifteen years experience in youth ministry. Nothing in this series is ground breaking, earth shattering, or even new. Hopefully these basic observations will give you the insight, perspective, and perhaps empathy for the teens in your life. Of course the ultimate goal is to learn how to best take the gospel and apply it to the teenagers in our lives. This series is mostly to help you understand the world of being a teenager. To this end I hope the entire series proves helpful

We’ll be taking everything in bite size chunks. So buckle up and hold on to something, we are about to reenter the teenage world armed with the gospel.

Teenagers are Changing (Literally!)

Teenagers are emerging adults. This isn’t an overnight process. They are in a constant state of transition from childish dependence on others to adult like independence. One moment they may surprise you with their ability to give selflessly to others, the next moment they can throw an emotional tantrum and break down because mom asked them to take out the trash. They really do have a foot in both worlds. It is fair to expect your teen to be more responsible, but don’t assume it will happen without a few setbacks along the way. 

When a set back occurs, take it in stride, gently help refocus your child’s attention on becoming responsible. Be sure to take time to praise the positive strides you see your child making. Genuine praise and encouragement for being responsible will motivate your child to become even more responsible. If we’re not careful we can fall into a pattern of discouragement by only noticing the set backs and it’s easy to deflate your child’s motivation toward responsibility.

Teenage bodies are also growing and developing into adult bodies. Your teenager will most likely hit growth spurts. Not only will they get taller, but thanks to puberty their bodies will take on a more manly or womanly shape. It is important to keep in mind that mature physical appearance doesn’t mean that your teenager is grown up mentally as well. Many teenagers are children in grown up bodies. Just because they look grown up, doesn’t mean that they are.

Your child may be taller than you, but they still take their cues from you on how to handle the various situations life throws their way. They may not be asking for advice because they feel a pressure to figure things out on their own. A wise parent will make the extra effort to be available for their child to talk. Sometimes talking works best in a shoulder-to-shoulder situation or in the midst of an activity rather than an intense face to face sit down. As a parent it might be wise to schedule a regular time with your child each week to participate in an activity you both enjoy. My dad was always great about taking my brother and I to play tennis, fishing, look for fossils or arrowheads, and a host of other activities we enjoyed. Later in life these times fueled great shoulder to shoulder conversations on the ride home that helped both my brother and I process life.

Each of these posts will end with a Challenge. This is a way to take the post beyond just information and allow the information to impact the way you interact with the teenagers in your life. Obviously the applications will be different according to your relationship with teenagers. Much of this is geared towards parents but will have some application with youth workers as well.

Challenge: Write down the name of the teens you have in your life (if you have a bunch then you might want to spread this over a few days). Take time to pray for them. Thank God that he has placed them in your life and ask Him to help you be sensitive to their needs as they mature. Ask God to give you wisdom in your relationship with them.

  • Write down all the ways that you see your teen becoming more responsible. Think of appropriate ways to encourage your teen when you see them following through on this type of behavior
  • Now Write down areas of responsibility that you they still need to work through. Current frustrations, etc. Pray over these issues and have a game plan in place to encourage the snot out of your kid when they step up to the task.
  • Think of ways to challenge your child to be more responsible.
  • Pray that God would protect your child from people who would want to take advantage of them.

If you don’t already have a regularly scheduled time to hang out with your child start working on a plan to get some shoulder to shoulder time in on an activity. Think of something that will be fun for the both of you and work at it until you find something that sticks. You’ll be surprised at how much this regular interaction will open the doors for authentic communication down the road.

In the coming days and weeks we’ll be looking at teenage grumpiness, technology, identity, forgetfulness, and more!

How Should a Christian Live (Review)

The Word of Promise Next Generation New Testament Devotional: How Should a Christian Live? (The Word of Promise: Next Generation Devotional & Journal) is an awesome resource.  I was blown away at the thought that went into developing this book.  I’m a student pastor and always looking to review teen oriented Bibles, Bible studies, devotionals etc.  To be honest most of the stuff that comes across my desk is lame.

Here is what I really liked…

(1) The scripture in MP3 format that goes along with this devotional. I love the idea of having audio files of the Bible on my students ipods and in their ears.  By the way this is one of not those boring audio Bibles where some dude with a British accent reads to you (my apologies if you are British).  The readers are mostly teenagers and read with passion ensuring that each file has a chance of being listened to.  I’m a 30ish year old dude and I still didn’t mind having a teenager passionately read the scriptures to me on my ipod.

(2.) The message of salvation is front and center in the book.

(3.) It has games like cross word puzzles and jumbles to help get the message across. Though I’m not a big fan these kind of games personally, I do see the value in how it engages the mind and kind of makes it fun.

(4.) Teens are encouraged to listen to four or five chapters of scripture at a time.

The only draw back I saw was that each section may be a little long for a daily devotional.  This resources is probably better suited for a weekly Bible study (there are only 12 sessions).

I would recommend it to middle school and  high school freshman & sophomores who are willing to make a serious effort to get into God’s Word.  The retail price is $15.99 (Paperback), and is available at places like Amazon.com for $11.51.  I gave it four stars.

Disclaimer: As a blogger I received a complimentary review copy from the Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program  (http://booksneez.com/ ).  There was no requirement to give it a positive review, just for the reviewer to call it like they see it.

Other teen related Reviews:

For Teen Parents: