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Jesus

Last night we talked about Jesus. This seems like a “duh, it’s confirmation” but as we have gone through this year we have looked at some of the prophesies about Jesus, but never looked at his nature and who Jesus was.

Jesus was 100% human and yet 100% God/divine. Let’s not get hung up on the math of this though, but look at the nature of Jesus.

Philippians 2:5-8 talks about God humbling himself to become a human. Think about all the qualities of God and the power that he holds, God loves us so much that he came to earth through Jesus. Jesus was human, so he had human emotions and feelings, but Jesus never sinned. Jesus started as a baby like all of us, he learned to walk, talk, how to be a carpenter, interacted with his parents, got mad, was sad, you name it Jesus lived the human life. Yet, he was sinless, hence the fully God nature of him too. Jesus also performed many miracles. There is so much comfort in knowing that God knows who we are and understands us, even more than we understand ourselves. God was here with us on earth through Jesus.

When we pray to God, God understands and hears us. As we continue through this season of expectant waiting we call Advent we are preparing ourselves for the coming of our savior. Emmanuel, God with us; Jesus was with us and is with us. Throughout this Advent and into Christmas season I would encourage you to think about ways that we can share Jesus with others, and the qualities that Jesus had with others.

Questions to wonder about:

  • Since Jesus is fully human and fully God, how would you views change if he wasn’t 100% of each?
  • What qualities do you see in humans that we share with God?
  • What qualities do you wish we had more of that God has?

 


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New Testament

This week we finished our two weeks of giving some context to what we will be reading and learning from the New Testament. It is so important for us to take some time to understand  what is happening in the New Testament and when it was written. This will aid us in understanding what we read in the New Testament better.

Let’s highlight a few of the big differences in the Testaments:

  1. Jesus! Jesus, is here on earth and sharing God’s message with us on earth. In John we read where Jesus saying that he is saying what the Father (God) has commanded. We will spend a lot of time talking about Jesus and the good news he brought.
  2. Time it was written over. The New Testament was written over a hundred years and the Old was written over thousands of years. This help us to understand the history and the context of what is in the New Testament.
  3. Good News and Letters. The New Testament is made of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) The rest is pretty much letters written by Paul or other writers. We will talk about these differences and the books of New Testament as we go through the rest of this year.
  4. The New Testament puts an end to all the laws and sacrifices that were in the Old Testament. God’s love shines through with Jesus being the ultimate sacrifice and the new law of Love.

I’m excited for the rest of this year as we go through the New Testament and learn so much about God’s love for us!

Questions to Ponder:

  • Do you have a favorite section of the Bible? Why?
  • How would your understanding of the Bible be different if we didn’t make a distinction between to two sections?
  • How do you think the Old and New Testament are different? Where have you noticed similarities.

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Why do Maps Matter?

In the age of GPS and the ability to quickly find out where things are, we have lost some touch with where things are and the distances between them. I know this is the case for me. Then we look even farther back to Biblical times and to the Middle East our sense of location and cultures of areas is even more skewed.

We are starting our New Testament Unit now and kicked it off talking about Maps. I know this sounds like a riveting topic, but it gives us even more context into what we are reading. Let’s take a look at part of Paul’s journey in Acts 14:24-28:

Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.”

Do these destinations mean anything to you? For me, I just breeze over them sometimes, but when we do that we miss a big part of the story. Paul traveled a lot for his ministry, and utilized the network of road the Roman Empire had created. In this journey Paul traveled about 7,000 miles!

As we continue to move through the New Testament we will continue to look at the maps and other parts of the stories. When we skip some of the details we miss out on the story. Think about when we share stories of travels with our friends. When we talk about a new place do we just name the place and not share any details about it? Of course not! If the person we are speaking with isn’t familiar with the location we give them context so they understand what we are talking about.

Our reading of scripture is no different. When Jesus or the disciples were speaking of locations the people they were speaking to understood those locations or at least had an idea of what those places were like. When we don’t look into the cities then we miss out the story and the meaning of it.


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Chicago Mission Trip

COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE

Our group will serve by partnering with local ministries that are actively working with children and churches on the north side of Chicago. We will be in the Humboldt Park/Hermosa neighborhood of the city, which is largely influenced by the Puerto Rican culture. The organizations we partner with primarily facilitate kids’ summer programs in addition to a few that work with seniors and the homeless population in the Humboldt Park area. YouthWorks groups get to experience the very relational neighborhood at a weekly church service held at the housing site. Other evening activities include a trip downtown to Grant Park and Millennium Park, hearing from a community speaker, and sharing a meal with local residents at a weekly cookout.

 

This trip, will be much like previous summers trips with YouthWorks. There will be other churches joining us at this site and we will build relationships with them too.

 

Sign Up Here!


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Rooted Partner Synod Journey

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This is a first kind of trip for our Synod and St. Mark! We are super excited for joining together with the Grand Canyon Synod to serve Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tuscon! With this being a new kind of trip, there are some questions that arise. Here are some common questions and answers:

Q: What is a “partner synod”?

A: The 65 synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are assigned a “partner synod” for the purpose of strengthening one another for life and mission within the body of Christ. The Southeastern Iowa Synod and the Grand Canyon Synod are very diverse in their geographical location and cultural experiences. This journey seems to be natural way for us to learn about the church and each other in another part of the country.

Q: What will be doing?
A: The purpose of this event is to strengthen one another for life and mission within the body of Christ. Through worship, learning, and service, high school youth and adults will gain insight into the culture and people of our respective synods while on the territory of the Grand Canyon Synod. This journey opens our eyes to the opportunities that Christ sets before us, calling us to deepen our commitment and discipleship as communities of faith and as individual disciples. Participants will be learning about the joys and challenges of the culture and the church’s role in responding to issues like human trafficking, homelessness, and immigration/border issues. Both learning and service opportunities will be integrated into the week. Here is what we are doing in each location:

  • Las Vegas – Homelessness
  • Phoenix – Human Trafficking
  • Tuscon – Immigration Issues
  • Grand Canyon – Environmental Issues

Q: What is “Rooted”?
A: The theme of our journey is based on Ephesians 3:17:” …so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love…”.

Q: Where are we staying?
A: In Las Vegas we will be staying at the stratosphere hotel for two nights. We will be staying in Phoenix for the remainder of the trip in dorms. While in these cities, we will have area churches hosting us for meals and meeting spaces.

Q: How do we get there?
A: Looking at the costs of chartering a bus or driving that far, we have decided that flying out will be quickest and most economical mode of transportation to get out there.

Q: How Much is the trip?
A: Approximately $700. There is some wiggle room in there pending on the price of flights at the time we book, and the deal we work out with the airline. All we ask of families though is a deposit of $150.

Q: Why two big trips in one summer?
A: Tim is on the planning team for this trip, and was on it before coming to St. Mark. Since this is the case, he didn’t feel right forcing our group to go on this trip without any discussion. He is super excited about this trip, and looks forward to taking whoever wants to join!

 

Sign Up Here!


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Job

Job is an interesting book of the Bible where many aren’t sure that it is fact, but it is more of a myth. BUT the message of this story is still there and still very important to learn from. Throughout this story Job and his friends are trying to unpack what is happening to him. All the while God is dropping some knowledge on Job. Let’s look at the first part of Job starting at vs. 6 about how Job got into this.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Does it seem odd that God is “playing a game” with Job?

In God’s sovereign wisdom, He knows things we don’t know. He can see events unfold in the future that we could have never even imagined. Also, God rarely does things for one singular reason. Often times, God will achieve many things with just one event, and He may have 1,000 purposes that He accomplishes with it.

God probably didn’t care so much what Satan thought, but in His wisdom, God knew Job would remain faithful and that his story would inspire millions of faithful Christians to persevere in their trials throughout the ages.

Job 1:31-21

Job was a rich man who was very well off, with many kids. One day he lost everything, possessions, family, and health. Imagine losing all of these things in a short amount of time, like the time it takes for an Angel to speak to you. I think of some material items that I have, that I would be upset if I lost them, but then to think of even more than that being gone is tough to think about. Job lost his farm, his possessions, his family, and his health! I think that I could relate to Job on wanting to start all over, but it’s crazy to think that he fell and worshiped God!

After mourning for 7 days, Job finally spoke to his friends. They didn’t really offer any good advice to him. In tough times it’s hard to know what to say to those who are struggling.

What has helped you in hard times?

Job’s circumstances were so large to him. Think about things like breakups or fights with your child’s friends. These can feel really detrimental too. Our job as adults is to not minimize those struggles but to help youth through them.

Questions to discuss with your child?

– When have you experienced something that didn’t make sense in your faith?

– How do you recover when life seems stacked against you?

– Can you relate to Job?


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There’s a Psalm for That

The Psalms contain 150 prayers, songs, and poems, but they are so much more than just the format they are written in. The Psalms all evoke different emotions experiences in relation to being human. Kind David (yes David from David and Goliath) has been attributed to writing much of the Psalms.

The Psalms were written over a long period of time, so there was a lot of life that happened while the Psalmists were writing. There were people in exile, captivity, good times, and sad times. This is a good look at the life that the Israelites lived.

The Psalms can give us language for worship and prayers, when we don’t know what to say. Think about our lives and how there are good times and bad. Times where we feel hopeless. Whether you are feeling happy or sad and looking for a way to pray or the words? Simply look in the book of Psalms. Last night students filled out a card that says “all the feels” as students were looking through Psalms they were able to write down Psalms that spoke to them.

At the times of struggle or sadness we don’t always know where to turn or feel we can’t take it to God. First off, God is big enough for us to take our sorrows and joys to. He also wants to hear from us, his beloved people. The Psalmists wrote some really sad songs, poems, and prayers to God about how bad life was. That is ok, we can go to God with those and God will be there with us. The beautiful part of the Psalms of sadness or desperation is that they are still worshiping God and looking to God.

There are also Psalms about people who are thanking God for creation or praising God for the blessings they have. As stated earlier, the Psalms engage many of the emotions.

I know that in tough times, it is hard to see where God is or to even worship God. We want to run and not be in God’s presence. I challenge that though, prayer works and talking with God can help in these tough times.

The Psalms are great example of what a life of faith can look like. The Psalms aren’t a guide on how to live. These Psalms are a great example of worship and prayer.

Know too that in tough times part of God being with us is through our peers. Your small group leaders, pastors, and I are available to talk and pray through tough times.  God is always with us

Questions:

What emotions do you wish Psalms included?

What Psalms speak to you now?

Can this ancient poetry still speak to us?

How can the Psalms provide comfort?

 


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God’s Voice On Earth

Prophets were a huge part of the Old Testament and also and integral part for preparing of the coming of Jesus and Jesus’ life. There were so many prophets in the Old Testament, that we had to just pick a few to talk about. We talking about the first prophet being called as the Israelites were desiring one after Moses.

There is so much to think about when we talk about prophets, and our questions are ones that I’m sure the Israelites would ask too. How do we know this prophet is real? Do we know they are saying what God wants them to say? Well from Deuteronomy 18 we learned that God will pick them and speak through them. If what the Prophets says happens, then they know it is from God if it doesn’t well, the prophet presumed wrong.

We also looked at our views on us being prophets or living that life. What would it be like to work all the time for nothing (literally $0) and face angry crowds? This doesn’t sound like a desirable job? Well it’d be one for God to call us to that’s for sure!

What’s the journey that a prophet would go through to become one?

Called: They are called by God to become a prophet. (Isaiah 6:5-9) This call for them was very clear to them or God made it very clear. Think of the times that God has called us to something or made it clear. It’s tough to ignore God as he is persistent at getting to our hearts.

Content: Prophets are tasked with tough messages to share, but know God will be with them. (Jeremiah 16:14-18, 29:10-14, 31:1-7) They become more ok, or at least more obedient to the message God is tasking them to share.

Community: Prophets were called to speak to communities in which they belonged. (Ezekiel 3:1-11) This is a blessing and a curse, think bout the possibility of speaking out against family and friends or worse having to leave them due to persecution.

Consequences: Delivering tough messages to powerful people can lead to some negative consequences and rejection. (Daniel 6:3-12; 14-26)

As you can see the life of a prophet wasn’t super easy, but they were doing what God called them to do.

Questions to Ponder:

How do we know God is speaking to us?

What is God calling you to do?

What do you think of that call?

What is God calling St. Mark to do?

What makes you uncomfortable about sharing God’s message?

prophets-read-more

 


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Ruth

We picked up our journey through the Bible in the book of Ruth. Ruth is a really short book, only 4 chapters but there is a lot to it.

Starting off in Chapter 1 Naomi and her husband Elimelech choose to leave their homeland (Bethlehem) and go to Moab due to famine. They had two sons who married Ruth and Orpah, both were Moabites. All three of these men died in Moab leaving Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah widowed.

On Top of them being widowed woman in these times, would have many social struggles. Woman needed me to care for them, and support them. Naomi decided to return to her homeland and told that Ruth and Orpah had no responsibility to her and could say in Moab. Orpah stayed in Moab, which was home to her, and had better chances to finding a husband.

Ruth and Naomi journeyed to Bethlehem where Naomi was from.  This was during the barley harvest, so they went to take some grain left behind from the pickers in Boaz’s field. Boaz was a distant relative to Elimelech.  They ended up at this field by coincidence. It may seem odd to go to a field to pick it over for grain, but it was a practice to leave some behind as they harvested for those who needed it.

Ruth and Boaz ended up getting married after Naomi told her to go lay at his feet one night. Boaz was a very caring individual who took great care of Ruth and Naomi. Ruth and Boaz had a son, whom they gave to Naomi. This allowed Naomi’s family name to live on. Oped was part of Jesus’ Lineage.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Does the story of Naomi and Elimelech leaving their homeland sound familiar to current day?
  • How would you feel having to leave your homeland?
  • Do you align more with Orpah or Ruth in their decision to stay or go? Why?
  • How do we include outsiders well?

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Prayer Night

Last night we had our first worship night and focused on prayer. After we played some games and checked in with each other through highs and lows we spent some time in prayer.

We rotated freely through five stations to interact with God in different ways. The stations were:

1.)    Word: highlighting or marking Scripture that has impacted us.

2.)    Wipe Your Sins Away: asking God for forgiveness of our sins, and reflecting on where God is calling us through His grace.

3.)    Rest: time to dwell in the Bible, journal, pray, or just be.

4.)    Praise and Thanksgiving Wall: writing down what we are thankful for.  (The whiteboard was covered)

5.)    Pray for the World: posting sticky notes on a map of the world, as we prayed for different countries. 

We ended our night with some worship, and a closing prayer.

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