The COST of the Cross

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Sin is not a topic that comes up in the typical conversation. It’s more a topic we avoid than one we embrace. And yet the reality of sin and the negative effects of sin constantly weigh us down. Our sin has put us in a hole that we can’t get out of.

This past Sunday we took a look at sin by first looking at what sin is not: If we are following God’s rules, we’re probably not sinning. Jesus condensed all of God’s Law down into two commands: Love God with all that we are and love people in the same ways we care for ourselves.

By understanding what sin is not, we get a clearer picture of what sin is and how often we sin. How much of a typical day are we loving God and other people correctly in our thoughts, our words, and our actions? We probably can’t go more than four or five minutes without being selfish, jealous, greedy, prideful, angry, or lustful… just to name a few!

The other thing we discussed is how God’s Law is pro-relationships, while sin is anti-relationships. We’ve all been hurt by others’ sin, but we’re also all guilty of hurting others by our sin. Sin always damages relationships and brings separation between us and others and between us and God.

The Bible even says that sin leads to death, which is the ultimate separation. The Good News, of course, is that God chose not to leave us in that hole, but from the very beginning was putting into motion his plan to spring us free.

An innocent sacrifice is the required cost to cover over a person’s sin. Jesus, being the perfect man, fit the bill. And being God, the effects of Jesus’s sacrificial death were limitless and boundless.

His blood extends to the entire human race, to all those who have ever lived or are yet to be born. It covers every sin ever committed and those not yet committed. The blood of Jesus brings us forgiveness, cleansing, and new life.

As a family discuss these questions:

1) Why is it so hard to talk about sin? Even when we know that we’re all in the same boat, why is it so hard to admit to another person that we struggle with sin?

2) In the video, several people came and tried to give the man advice on how to save himself. Why do we constantly try to fix ourselves rather than initially turning to God for help?

3) Is it a sin to not turn to God for help?

4) Another tendency we have as Christians is to obsess about our sins. What if, as a family, we challenge ourselves this week to focus on loving God and loving each other and work on what we can do rather than what we shouldn’t do?

5) A third tendency we have is to constantly feel anxious or ashamed about our sins. Do you think this stems from not really believing that we’re forgiveable? If so, why is it so hard to accept that Jesus died for me? How can we work on that this week?

Sabbath and Silence

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For most of us in the church, Sabbath is probably the command we take least seriously. But we do so at the expense of our own souls. Keeping the Sabbath is what feeds our souls and fortifies our relationship with Christ.

A recent parenting article in TIME magazine examines the benefits for families choosing to slow down the pace of life and even embrace “boredom.” Author Carl HonorĂ© writes “(Children) need that space not to be entertained or distracted. What boredom does is take away the noise … and leave them with space to think deeply.”

Ironically there is a connection between silence and hearing God speak to us. And as our world gets louder and louder with technology that never leaves our side, I believe we need times of extended silence even more than we used to.

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, writes about keeping the Sabbath in his book Working the Angles:

Sabbath means quit. Stop. Take a break. Cool it… Quieting the internal noise so we hear the still small voice of our Lord… The two biblical reasons for sabbath-keeping develop into parallel sabbath activities of praying and playing.

As a family, discuss these questions:

1) Can we commit as a family to try this for a month (i.e. four Sundays) and then discuss how we feel about it, what’s working, and what’s not working?

2) Which day of the week and for how long will we keep the Sabbath together?

3) What will be some nonnegotiables for us? What are some things we will do? What are some things we won’t do?

4) How can we creatively incorporate praying and playing into our Sabbath?

The Backwards Life

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This week in youth group we talked about The Backwards Life that Christ calls us to in Mark 8:34-37. We discussed how much about the Christian life is counterintuitive, that at first glance it doesn’t seem to be very smart or safe. In fact, Jesus is literally saying, “What you’ve thought all along is up is actually down, and what you think is down is actually up!”

After watching the video, discuss these questions:

1) Can you identify with the illustration of clinging to the balance beam of life?

2) Do you think a person can be truly happy if they are not using the balance beam for its designed purpose (or if they are not living their life according to its designed purpose)?

3) What are some characteristics of the life Christ calls us to in the Gospels?

4) How is taking risks on a balance beam counterintuitive or backwards?

5) What kinds of risks do you think God might be calling you to as a person? As a family?