“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23) If there was a bible verse that I first committed to memory before any other, besides John 3:16 of course, it was Romans 3:23. I can remember going with a friend to his AWANA meeting as an 8-year-old (think of AWANA as Christian boy scouts with less camping). I desperately wanted to impress the leaders with my ability to memorize scripture, and Romans 3:23 stuck immediately. What’s interesting is that for years I actually had no idea what Romans 3:22 or 3:24 said, or most of Romans for that matter. In fact, most of us confess like we don’t know what scriptures says either.

Many Christians have incredible difficulty walking in grace. We worry as if forgiveness is something that is earned. I doubt that anybody is preaching that message from the pulpit, but look closely at the way that we repent. I was talking with a student a few weeks ago and I asked if he needed prayer for anything when he looked down in remorse and with a lump in his throat he uttered, “lust.” I immediately thanked him for his honesty and prayed with him. He was grateful, but still very much tortured. My heart broke over the shame that he was feeling. That shame looked really familiar.

“Truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. (John 8:34)” When scripture reveals our slavery to sin, repentance allows us to confess that we need forgiveness so that we may crucify our sin. Crucifixion hurts. By the unrelenting grace of God, however, the story doesn’t end with the pain of the cross. Resurrection. Wow. Can we get stoked on that? We now live in the hope and power of the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. He defeated THE GRAVE. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)” That student–that Child of God is free! We are Children of God. How is it that students and leaders alike feel the need to prove our repentance to God? Until tears are shed and I don’t commit that sin for a month, I feel as dead in sin as I did the moment that committed it. That’s garbage! That attitude flies in the face of everything that we believe about God’s grace, forgiveness, mercy, power… need I continue?:

“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of our sins.” (Romans 3:22-24)

Live in the freedom of grace and the power of resurrection and you WILL see the dead rise. He promises.

Chance Espinoza is a worship intern with Saddeback Student Ministry’s Worship team.

One of our incredible Life Group Leaders put together a final few week of small group with his guys that was truly incredible. First, he wrote 24 Thoughts for Graduating Seniors – a final hit list of things he wanted them to know as a man and as someone who was finished with High School.

Beyond that, he planned a parent beach bonfire night where dads wrote letters to their sons that was incredible powerful as well. Terry is a great leader and after seeing his notes I asked if I could share them here on the blog – felt like it would be a win for others to read and maybe something other small group leaders could rip-off or adapt for their guys as well:

13) Be Yourself

It is so easy to leave home, be in a new place and you try to be someone you are not.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.  15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  16 You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out  before a single day had passed. -Psalm 139:13-16

14) Be Humble – Put others first

He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. -Psalm 25:9

The LORD supports the humble, but he brings the wicked down into the dust. -Psalm 147:6

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. -Ephesians 4:2

15) Be Truthful & Stay Close to Truth Tellers

Integrity is noticed by everyone – it will set you apart

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. -John 8:32

Truth provides freedom, Lies keep you from being free. Make sure you find one or two Friends who will be honest with you.  Find a small group or some way to stay connected to God.  You need to have truth put into your life on a regular basis or you will forget about it.  You need someone to help you stay accountable.

16) Stay Positive/Find something good in ALL situations

Only YOU control your Reactions! What’s your Attitude?

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts…. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.

17) Rest – Take care of yourself

What fills your tanks?  Make time for that activity

The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. 2 He lets me rest in green meadows;  he leads me beside peaceful streams. 3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths,  bringing honor to his name.  4 Even when I walk  through the darkest valley,  I will not be afraid,  for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff  protect and comfort me. 5 You prepare a feast for me   in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me  all the days of my life,   and I will live in the house of the LORD  forever. -Psalm 23

18) Don’t let ANGER destroy you – Replace it with Laughter.

Control your temper

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil. -Ephesians 4:26-27

When Abraham Lincoln had to write a letter to someone who had irritated him, he would often write two letters. The first letter was deliberately insulting. Then, having gotten those feelings out of his system, he would tear it up and write a second letter, this one tactful and discreet.

Don’t send the first TEXT MESSAGE when you are angry – DELETE IT and then write a second one to send!!!

Don’t forget about LAUGHTER!!!  It will do very positive things it your life!


Read Part 1 of this 2-part series right here

Anyone who ministers in a city with more than five non-Christians needs to be able to do apologetics and they need to do it well.

The truth is that everyone is an apologist at some point– some are good ones and some are rather poor at it. Many of us in youth ministry are great at loving students, leading leaders, planning events and preaching but we make lousy apologists. I was never offered one apologetics, logic or biology class in Bible School. Despite a lack of training and value in it, I believe that everyone (pastors included) is an apologist because everyone will eventually ask themselves the difficult questions of faith and life such as, “How can I be sure there is a God who created the Earth?”, “How could God allow so much suffering in the world?”, “How do we know the Bible can be trusted?”, “Is it good if my vacuum sucks?” et al. How will we answer these questions when we either ask them or they are asked of us?

Our ignorance in such matters is very costly to your students and the many who struggle with the tough questions being raised today.

In his book, The Weight Of Glory [1], C.S. Lewis gives a prophetic call to all of us, in this case those of us who are interested in reaching and keeping our students in the faith. Lewis calls us to answer the call to engage in the intellectual battle going on in our world,

To be ignorant and simple now — not to be able to meet the enemies on their ground — would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.

The role of apologetics can change someone’s life. Jesus tells us, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Truth has a very freeing and empowering element to it. When the disciple Thomas understood the truth of the resurrected Jesus, he believed fully that Jesus was the Messiah (John 20:28) and, according to early Christian tradition, was killed in India for proclaiming Jesus as Lord.

Apologetics can be intimidating, especially for those in ministry who “just love people.” “Save apologetics for the stuffy intellectuals,” they may say. “We just specialize in loving kids.” That’s great, we must love people but doing good apologetics as a form of what love necessitates. In Jude 22, Paul exhorts, “Have mercy on some, who are doubting.” Apologetics, then, is a form of showing compassion to people. This can be an expression of the loving priestly role of a ministry leader.

Ephesians 4:12 calls the work of pastor to love his people and “equip the saints for works of service.” To Pastor Tim Keller, equipping people in a secular world must not just include training them in the traditional spiritual disciplines. These days, to engage the post-Christian world for the purpose of making disciples, we must teach them apologetics as well. Keller writes,

In ‘Christendom’ you can afford to train people just in prayer, Bible study, evangelism– private world skills–because they are not facing radically non-Christian values in their public life–where they work, in their neighborhood, etc… the laity needs theological education to ‘think Christianly’ about everything and work with Christian distinctiveness. [2]

Ways we train our people to “think Christian” in a secular world is:

1. By not assuming that they already think “Christianly”.

2. Taking opportunities to show how biblical truth applies to various modern day events and circumstances in their world.

3. Helping our people think critically about the media they consume.

4. Learning from and providing online resources to quality apologists like William Lane Craig (reasonablefaith.org), Tim Keller, Ravi Zacharias (rzim.com), Greg Koukl (str.org), C.S. Lewis, etc. This act of pointing to others is a very helpful way for any leader to draw from the abundant resources that are available to us today.

It is important to note that not every pastor has to understand how the elements of mitochondria point to intelligent design and be able to teach it to a third year university class. They should, however, be able to point their people to someone who can do that. Apologetics does not have to be intimidating in today’s information age. The rational defense is out there somewhere, you just have to learn how and who to point your people to.

That is our job as Ephesians 4:12 youth pastors.

[1] Lewis, C.S. The Weight Of Glory. (Harper Collins, New York, 1949). Page 50.

[2] Tim Keller. “The Missional Church” June 2001. http://www.redeemer2.com/resources/papers/missional.pdf

For the past four years, Jon has served at Coquitlam Alliance Church just outside of beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. Jon is the young adults pastor in a ministry called Ethos. Check out his blog at http://jonmorrison.ca