Do You Know What You Believe? Book Giveaway

You’re playing sports with friends or participating in a summer camp when all of a sudden, someone recognizes you. “Hey, I’ve seen you at youth group,” or maybe, “You’re the girl who goes to that Bible club, right?”

Um, yes.

“So do you really believe that stuff? I mean, about Jesus being God?”

You stand straighter and reply that you do.

“But if Jesus is God, why does he allow these terrible things that are happening?”

If someone asked you that, would you know what to say? Or as we saw last week, could you explain why attending church is important to you or why God’s Word remains relevant?

If you couldn’t, you’re not alone. Many teens and adults have only a basic knowledge of their faith.

The Need to Know

The Apostle Luke wrote his gospel to a man named Theophilus for one purpose: that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed (Luke 1:4 NKJV).

Likewise, the Apostle Peter challenged his readers:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear … (I Peter 3:15 NKJV)

Don’t you want to know with confidence that what you believe is the truth? Don’t you want to be ready to share your faith with others?

I do.

When I was a teenager, my Sunday school class did a study on Paul E. Little’s book Know Why You Believe. I still have my marked-up copy and checked Amazon to see if it’s in print any more. It is, along with two other books by Little: Know What You Believe and Know Who You Believe. The What book talks about foundational tenants of our faith including the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, Jesus’ death, people and sin, the Holy Spirit, the church, and more.

A Giveaway for You

I wish I could give you and every teen in my youth group a copy of these books, but for now, I’m starting with one copy of Little’s Know What You Believe.

Between now and Sunday, leave a comment below, and I’ll enter your name into a random drawing.

The winner will be announced in next week’s post.

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Do you know what you believe? Book giveaway! – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Book Giveaway – A classic that will strengthen your faith – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

4 Reasons Teens Need God’s House, Pt. 2

Last week, we saw two reasons why church should matter to teens (and a person of any age, for that matter).

We’ve all heard excuses why people don’t go to church anymore. Common ones include:

  • The church is full of hypocrites. (I’m sorry if that’s been your experience, but I encourage you not to let other people’s mistakes steal your opportunity to grow closer to God by sitting under Bible preaching.)
  • Someone at church wasn’t nice to me. (Hello! News flash: Christians aren’t perfect. And which of us hasn’t said something we later regretted and wished for a second chance?)
  • The Bible isn’t relevant. (God’s Word is the most time-enduring book there is. If you take time to read it, you may discover why.)

So instead of finding excuses not to go, let’s look at two more reasons church matters for us today.

#3: A Place to Serve

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

If you’ve grown up in church, you probably know Ephesians 2:8-9 by heart, but verse 10 is equally important. Although we are not saved by good works, God designed us to do them–to share the gospel with others and to shine for His glory.

Church isn’t the only place we can serve, but it certainly is a start. Opportunities abound and include: praise team, orchestra, choir, children’s church, youth group, AWANA, VBS, ushering, greeting, etc. For many, church offers training opportunities for future ministry and outreach.

If you’re not already serving in God’s house, I challenge you to ask Him to show you a ministry where you can plug in and share His love with others.

#4: A Place to Remember

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19 ESV)

Jesus told His followers to remember Him by observing the Lord’s Table, an ordinance churches practice to this day. In doing so, we remember His sacrifice on the cross and look forward to His return.

Whether your church observes communion once a week or once a month doesn’t matter. This practice provides reflection and self-examination (I Cor. 11:28) and private worship in a communal setting. It sets apart intentional time to make sure nothing is between our souls and our Savior.

Final Thoughts

You can probably think of more reasons why church matters, and I hope you do! But perhaps someone at church has burned you. Maybe taking a break seems like a good idea.

I’ll be the first to admit church has disappointed me at times, but more often than not, I’ve been fed God’s Word, challenged in my spiritual walk, and blessed by going (and giving back).

No church is perfect, but God never designed for us to walk this life alone. Being part of a local body of believers keeps us connected and accountable.

The choice to attend church is yours and not one to be taken lightly. I hope you won’t walk away like so many have but stay faithful to the Lord and His house.

Join the conversation! What are your reasons for attending church? What ones would you add to this list?

~ Kristen

Tweetables

4 Reasons Teens Need God’s House, Pt. 2 – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Is church relevant for today’s teens? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

4 Reasons Teens Need God’s House, Pt. 1

I’m grateful to Girlz 4 Christ for publishing the original version of this post in their summer issue, because this topic is close to my heart. As a millennial, I’m saddened by the absence of my age group in the church. I don’t want that same trend to continue with the next generation.

Does church matter? It’s a fair question and one I hope you’ll think about. I welcome your feedback on this topic and encourage you to share it with your friends.

Perhaps it’s not even one you’ve considered. Maybe you’re a recent graduate or will be a junior or senior in the fall. You’re so busy with college applications and internship programs that the last thing on your mind is church and whether you’ll keep going when you move away from home.

If that describes you, you’re not alone. Studies show that most young adults who drop out of church never intended to stop going; they just weren’t intentional about it. As a result, 70% of teens between 17-19 years old leave the church, some to return later, some to return never.[i]

So let’s be intentional today. Does church matter? God’s Word reveals that it does, because it plays several important roles in our lives.

#1: A Place to Gather

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

Face it. We need encouragement in our daily walk with the Lord, and we aren’t going to find it in a world that loves darkness more than light (John 3:19).

The church provides a meeting place where we believers can encourage and comfort one another (I Thess. 5:11). It’s a place where we can share our burdens and where correction and restoration can take place (Galatians 6:1-2).

The size, shape, or location of the church doesn’t matter. What matters is that church provides a place for like-minded believers to gather.

#2: A Place to Grow and Worship

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)

Sitting under the preaching of God’s Word is critical to our spiritual success. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it so that we can always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about our eternal hope (I Peter 3:15). Our personal devotions and Bible studies are vital to our growth–and I certainly hope you set apart time each day to talk with God and read His Word–but this time is not intended to replace Bible teaching in God’s house.

Attending church also implies intentional worship. Yes, you can worship in your car, at a sunrise service or at a concert; but church provides regularity of worship. Other places and methods can certainly complement it.

Next week, we’ll look at two more reasons church matters. Until then, I challenge you to talk to your peers about this topic. Some possible opening questions to start the conversation could be: 

  • Why will you stay in church even if your peers leave?
  • Why do you think teens leave the church, and are their reasons valid in light of God’s Word?
  • How has church made a difference in your life?

I welcome your comments below.

~ Kristen

Tweetables

4 Reasons Teens Need God’s House, Pt. 1 – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Does church matter to teens today? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

[i] Ed Stetzer, “Dropouts and Disciples: How many students are really leaving the church?” Christianity Today, May 14, 2014, http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/may/dropouts-and-disciples-how-many-students-are-really-leaving.html.

 

Happy Independence Day!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

— Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

Truth for today

The Declaration prizes virtues our forefathers fought and died to preserve. Eternal freedom, however, is found in Christ Jesus. Click to Tweet.

  • Equality: All men and woman are equal to God who shows no favoritism (Gal. 2:6).
  • Life: He offers eternal life to those who believe by faith in the atoning blood of Jesus to forgive their sins (Eph. 2:8-9).
  • Liberty: We can stand confidently in the liberty found through our new life in Christ (Gal. 5:1).
  • Happiness: We discover true joy when we delight ourselves in the Lord (Psalm 37:4).

Wishing you and your family a blessed Independence Day!

~ Kristen

Tell Little Lies to Bug Off

It’s summer. Can’t you tell? My morning run starts with bug spray and ends with anti-inch medication.

Biting insects take chunks out of my skin, and irritating as they can be, the bites heal in a few days. Other pests aren’t so easy to ward off, and I’m not talking about ones with wings and stingers.

More dangerous are the ones that penetrate our thoughts and convince us to believe lies about ourselves.

A few weeks back, I moved, and to make a long story short, am now able to serve in my church’s youth group again. My small group is finishing up the Demoss/Gresh study on Lies Young Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free

Last week, our assignment was to answer these questions and be ready to share:

  1. What is one area where I struggle to think truthfully?
  2. What are one or more specific lies I’ve been believing?
  3. What do I need to do now?

I wrote the questions on a note card in my Bible and thought them through on my drive home. Sometimes, teens think their leaders have life all figured out, but the truth is, we need Jesus and His guidance every day too. We need forgiveness for our failures and strength to press on.

So here I go. These are my answers to those tough questions.

  1. Self-worth
  2. Lie: My identity comes from an ideal set of circumstances, and if I fail to achieve those dreams, I am therefore a failure.
  3. I need to remember that I am more than both my accomplishments and my failures. My real identity is that I’m a daughter of grace and a child of the King.

Sometimes, lies become so ingrained in our thinking that we can’t tell them apart from reality. Or perhaps we’ve grown so comfortable with them that they no longer bug our consciences. Maybe we’re embarrassed to admit that we’ve been believing them.

I love what Jesus tells his followers in John 8:31-32.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (NKJV)

Lies ensnare us, but truth frees us. Click to Tweet.

In order to enjoy fellowship with the Lord and live in the light of His truth, we have a responsibility. Did you catch the condition?

If you abide in my Word…

The only way we can defeat falsehood is to combat it with truth from God’s Word. And the only way we can do that is to spend time daily with Him.

Next to the chair where I have my morning devotions is a picture that reads: In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

Yes, praise the Lord that His mercies are new each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23 says:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. (NKJV)

Now, it’s your turn. I’m passing this assignment onto you. How would you answer the above questions?

What area of your life do you need God’s truth to penetrate and expose the lie(s) you’ve been believing?  What truth from God’s Word can set you free?

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Tell Little Lies to Bug Off – Let go of the lies we believe and embrace the truth that frees us. Click to Tweet.

 

 

 

 

Just Like Dad: Biblical Fathers Leave a Model to Follow

Did you ever go to work with Dad when you were little? I remember when my dad’s company hosted “take your child to work day.”

My dad was a chemist, which pretty much equaled superhero to an eight-year-old. He took my brothers and me to “the lab,” showed us the equipment and factory, and let us look at bacteria under a microscope. He even had his own private office. So cool.

Chemistry class killed any inklings of my own future in this field, but I remember being proud and thinking how awesome I would be if I were “just like dad.”

More often than not, little feet want to follow in dad’s footsteps. Why else does Little Tikes® make junior-sized lawn mowers and grills?

I realize every family dynamic is different, and this post won’t break down all the “but you don’t know my dad” scenarios. If that’s how you feel today, I hope you’ll keep reading. This post isn’t going to romanticize fathers (like the one that maybe you never had); it is, however, going to look at three fathers from the Bible who model qualities we as believers should want to imitate.

Keep in mind that no dad is perfect, and the dads in the Bible were certainly no exception. Most of them serve as subjects for Father’s Day sermons, typically from a critical point of view.

Let’s set those illustrations aside today and learn from what they did right.

Adam

First man. First husband. First father. No pressure there! He didn’t experience the pride and joy of fatherhood until after the Fall when Eve bore their first son Cain.

We can only imagine his heartbreak when his firstborn later murdered his second son Abel. This dad must have felt like an epic failure.

But we serve a God of second chances, and He blessed Adam with another son named Seth, through whom godly men would come.

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:25-26 NKJV)

Adam recognized his children as gifts, appointed by God. Despite his own sin and the sin of his firstborn, he recognized God’s providence and graciousness at work.

We would do well to keep his eternal perspective and remember that God works through both tragedy and triumph.

Noah

As mankind spiraled downward and deeper into immorality, God grew disgusted with His creation—all except one. A man named Noah found grace in His sight (Genesis 6:6-8).

God determined to destroy his perverted creation and start fresh with Noah, described as a “just man” (Genesis 6:9). From a human standpoint, Noah was alone in a world that took pleasure in unrighteousness.

Noah understood how lonely a godly lifestyle can be. In addition, God tasked him with building an ark to take him and his family through a worldwide flood. To his neighbors, the job seemed absurd. Imagine their further consternation when Noah began collecting two animals of every kind and loading them onto the ark.

The ark was the first zoo, and I’m sure Noah’s neighbors enjoyed many jokes at his expense. But Noah didn’t listen to the world’s mockery. He listened to and obeyed God. As a result, he saved his family from destruction.

From Noah, we learn godliness is better than popularity and obedience to God’s plan is always best.

Abraham

If our lives unfolded like this man’s, I wonder if we’d still be faithful.

  • God commanded Abram to uproot his family and go to a destination yet unseen (Genesis 12:1). At 75 years old, Abram obeyed (Genesis 12:4).
  • God promised Abram that he would be the father of “a great nation,” even though he and his wife had no children of their own (Genesis 12:2, Genesis 15:2-5).
  • Ten years later, no baby (Genesis 16:1-3).
  • Abram and his wife Sarai took matters into their own hands and obtained a son through Sarai’s concubine Hagar. Abram was 86 when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16).
  • Fast forward. Abram was 99 years old when God next appeared to him and restated his covenant with him. God changed his name to Abraham, for he would be “a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5). God also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, for she would be a “mother of nations” (Genesis 17:15-16). The heir of promise would come from their union, not from Hagar.
  • At 100 years of age, Abraham and his wife Sarah welcomed their son Isaac into the world (Genesis 21:5).

Twenty-five years after leaving his homeland, Abraham finally saw God’s promise fulfilled. How well we would do to follow his example and walk by faith, not by sight!

Conclusion

These “first” fathers made their share of mistakes—everything from committing the first sin to fathering a child with his wife’s concubine. However, they also walked with God and believed in Him despite human odds and impossibilities.

I don’t know your dad. Maybe he isn’t in your life right now, and if that’s the case, I’m truly sorry.

Regardless, we can learn from the dads in the Bible who have gone before us and model their positive traits in our lives.

Little Tikes® may have grills and lawn mowers. Bible dads demonstrate faithfulness and perseverance. Those are qualities worth imitating.

6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage, Pt. 2

If you missed last week, you’ll want to look back at the first in this two-part series by Tami Myer. In these posts, she maps out a beautiful and biblical perspective on marriage for Christian singles.

Today, we pick up where we left off last time with the fourth thing singles should know about marriage.

If this post is a blessing to you, please leave a comment below-or share it with your single friends to encourage them in their walk.

***

#4. Marriage will not complete you.

Single people are not “halves” waiting for their other “halves” to join them. Two single people are two complete people. But after a man and a woman marry, God unites these two individuals as one married couple. Two people become one flesh and one team.[i]

Christ is the only One who is able to fully satisfy us. Whether we are married or single, Christ is the Lover of our souls who knows us completely, loves us unconditionally, and cares for us perfectly.

#5. Marriage is not the cure for loneliness.

Singles struggle with loneliness, but so do married people. In fact, some people say that the loneliness they experienced within marriage was more intense than the loneliness they felt when single.

Ravi Zacharias points out that the only lasting cure for loneliness is worship.

That may seem like a strange statement unless we understand that true worship is actually an expression of relationship. Worship is not a monologue of verbal praise or a one-person performance. Instead, it is a two-way relationship: we delight in knowing God, and God delights in knowing us. Genuine worship requires that we know God in our spirit (not just as facts in our brain) and in truth.[ii]

Without worship, we experience only temporary relief from loneliness through various distractions. But true worship can be a continual posture of our soul; it becomes a lifestyle. If we live in worship, then we can live free of deep loneliness.

#6. Marriage is an assignment from God.

Instead of looking for a soulmate, listen for God’s calling. Click to Tweet.

Marriage is a calling to serve another person. It is as much a calling as a missionary’s call to Africa or a pastor’s call to preach. A wife is called to minister to her husband’s needs, and a husband is called to minister to his wife’s needs.

If you marry because someone makes you happy, what will you do on the day that he or she doesn’t make you happy? (And that day will arrive sooner than you expect.)

Most of the reasons that people give for marrying then flip into their reasons for leaving: “he was kind, but now he’s not,” or “she was attentive and appreciative, but now she’s not.” However, if your reason for marrying is to serve, then you will never have a reason to leave because you will always be able to serve.

If God is calling you to serve Him as a single now, then fulfill that calling with everything you’ve got.

If God calls you someday to serve as a husband or wife, then fulfill that calling with everything you’ve got.

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. (1 Corinthians 7:17, MSG)

The calling is God’s business. Faithfulness to the calling is our business.

 

Notes:

[i] Genesis 2:20-24; Mark 10:6-9

[ii] John 4:24

6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage, Pt. 1

Tami Myer is my friend and fellow writer, and every time she blogs about godly marriage, I sit up and take notes.

And I’m not married yet.

So I started thinking: Could Tami share a biblical perspective on marriage for singles that we could apply to our walk now? I mentioned my idea to her, and she graciously agreed to guest blog here.

It’s my hope that Tami’s two-part series will bless you as much as it has me.

***

Why should singles care about the topic of marriage?

If marriage is not on your radar or even on your wish list, you may think that the subject is not relevant for you right now. But regardless of your marital status, you will benefit from understanding the divine design for marriage.[i]

Here are six important things to know about marriage.

#1. Marriage is a profound revealer of spiritual truths.

When we look at the universe, we know that there is a God. And when we look at marriage, we learn who this God is. The created world reveals the existence of God, but marriage reveals the nature and character of God. We learn that He is a God of relationship and that He is loyal and loving.

In the Scriptures, God makes a stunning claim:

For your Creator will be your husband. (Isaiah 54:5, NLT)

God will be our husband? What does that mean? As we study biblical marriage, we learn that a man is to be the protector and the provider for his wife. The husband is responsible for the well-being of the woman. He lays down his interests in order to love her well. His very life is to be a covering of protection over his bride. He honors, nurtures, and cherishes her.

Amazingly, God is eager to be this kind of “husband” to everyone who enters into a covenant relationship with Him.

I will take you to be My wife forever. I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. (Hosea 2:19, HSCB)

As a type of “wife,” we accept God and welcome Him. We take His name as our name. “I am His” becomes our identity. We become covenant partners with Him, and we allow Him to carry the weight of responsibility. We give up being spiritually single. We end our other spiritual love affairs (pursuing pleasure, prestige, or possessions), and we devote ourselves to Him. Instead of being spiritually independent (“I know what is good for me”), we depend on His guidance and wisdom.

We live to know Him and to make His name great. We trust His care, knowing that His goal is our radiance.[ii] Our thriving is His glory.

We abide in Him, and He abides in us. We delight in Him, marveling that He delights in us.

As a groom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.
(Isaiah 62:5, HCSB)

#2. You can have a great impact on others in the area of marriage.

As you interact with people every day, you can be a powerful influence. You don’t have to be married to know what God teaches about marriage. Understanding the Scriptures will enable you to share helpful truth with others.

It has been said that wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective. Whether married or not, we all need wisdom in this area because the marriages around us affect our lives. Marriages shape our society and culture.

#3. You may have heard that sexual purity is a gift to your future spouse, and that is certainly true. But purity is also a valuable gift to yourself.

You are far more than physical instincts and chemicals. You are more than an animal, which lacks moral strength or character. You have inherent honor, for you are a man or a woman created in the image of God Himself. Women have the God-given glory of being women. Men have the God-given glory of being men.

Your sexuality is deeply linked to your spirit. If you are abused sexually, there is a deep wounding in your spirit. If you give your body away sexually, your spirit is dishonored and demeaned. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18, NLT)

Perhaps you don’t know how much you are worth. Perhaps you don’t know that you are a person of high value. God says that you are a treasure. You are priceless!

Your body and spirit are worth far more than cheap words and empty promises. You are worth nothing less than someone’s solemn vow before God and witnesses to honor you “til death do you part.” Guard yourself against anyone who says you are worth less than a lifetime commitment.

Sexual purity isn’t just physical. It is also mental. Stay away from porn. It will destroy you. We live in a pornographic society, so it takes strength to fight back, but it is well worth the effort. Porn promises pleasure, but then it sabotages even the ability to enjoy pleasure. It is highly addictive, encourages abusive behavior, creates dissatisfaction, destroys empathy, and causes users to view people as objects.

Pursue sexual purity in your behavior and in your thinking. You will reap great rewards from this, both now and later, whether single or married. Purity will free you to be healthy physically, spiritually, and in your relationships with other people.

Whatever may be in your past, you can embrace purity now because God loves to give fresh starts and clean slates.

To be continued… Be sure to come back next week for the second part of: 6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage.

Notes

[i] One of the best books on marriage was originally written for singles. The Meaning of Marriage is based on a series of sermons which pastor Timothy Keller preached at his church in New York City, where his congregation is predominantly single.

[ii] Ephesians 5:27, NIV

The Places You’ll Go, Part 2

Wherever you go_Part 2 “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Perhaps you recognize this conversation from Alice in Wonderland.

If you’re a graduate, maybe you feel a little bit like Alice. You’d like very much to stop and ask for directions. Life may take you places you don’t expect, so why not be prepared?

Click over to BigSisterKnows.com for the second post in this two-part series on the places we’ll travel in this life. Special thanks to Ashley Jones for inviting me to guest post on her beautiful blog.

~ Kristen

The Places You’ll Go, Part 1

Oh! The places you'll go_Part 1May begins the season of graduations and celebration for a job well done.

You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!

Dr. Seuss penned these well-known verses which have become synonymous with graduation. They capture a sense of achievement and the anticipation of climbing the mountain ahead.

In addition to mountains, there are several other places graduates will find themselves in the years ahead. Some of them are exhilarating; others are exhausting.

Even if you’re not a graduate, you can still relate to these places.

Check out my full post The Places You’ll Go, Part 1 at BigSisterKnows.com where Ashley Jones offers “big sis” encouragement for our walk of faith.

I’m excited to share this two-part series on her blog to encourage and challenge graduates—or anyone else, for that matter—to pursue their God-given dreams, wherever they lead.

~ Kristen