Weekend Teaching Series: Instalife (series premiere, week 1 of 2)
Service Length:
70 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we used the app Instagram as a backdrop for a new series in HSM. This week we focused on jealousy – how Instagram brings out the best and the worst in us in that area. We talked about jealousy from Jesus teachings in Matthew 6 and had lots of fun along the way. One of my favorite weekends in HSM in a very long time – I think a good message, great game, fun look/feel and super relevant and easy to connect with our student’s world.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played a brand new game called InstaHack – where we bring someone on stage and have them log into their Instagram and then spin the wheel for us to various terrible things to their pictures, followers and feed. They could also win $5 Starbucks giftcards if they were extremely lucky. Super, super fun, crowd died at the right points, and the contestants were always a good sport. We also had lots of student greeters and a fun Christmas rap video.

Music Playlist: Silent Night (Taylor Swift version), Go, Joy to the World, 10,000 Reasons, Your Love is Strong

Favorite Moment: During one part of the talk I called out one of our students (I had his permission, more or less) and talked about #selfies. It was a great moment that I loved and

Up next: Instalife (week 2 of 2)

Weekend Teaching Series:  Summer Camp Kickoff Weekend (1-off)

Sermon in a Sentence: An introduction to the theme for summer camp (When Heaven and Earth Collide) by the summer camp speaker.

Service Length: 68 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we brought in the speaker, Mark Moore, who will be our camp speaker this summer. He did a great job of introducing the camp theme and walking students through the Sermon on the Mount – from memory! It was a great talk and the students were definitely into the talk for sure.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we played the most incredible game since Facebook Hack – it was called Velocicopter and it was invented by one of our team members named Hannah. So awesome! It is basically a game where we duct tape the contestants arms to their chest so they have these tiny little arms. We spilled ping pong balls on the stage and told them they needed to collect as many of their eggs in 1-minute as possible. Then we topped them off with a velociraptor mask and spun hem around as the game began. Hilarious! Here’s a little picture, I’ll see if I can find a video to put online, too. The prize was HUGE: we gave away a full camp registration to the winner!

Music Playlist: Charlie Brown (Coldplay cover), We Are the Free, Go, We Could Change the World, All I Am, Forever Reign, The Earth is Yours

Favorite Moment: I love our band of seniors! They are graduating in just a few short weeks, but they are going to also lead at camp so it was AWESOME to have them leading us this weekend. Love these students, camp will be so great!

Up next: What is Worship? (1-off)

A lot of what I read about sexual sin in the Christian realm sounds strikingly similar to what I hear in the secular world. I’ve heard youth pastors say again and again things like:

  • “Don’t have pre-marital sex, because you might get a disease.”
  • “Don’t masturbate, because you’ll have erectile dysfunction when you’re married.”
  • “Don’t look at porn, because it will make your wife seem ugly.”

As fine as these reasons are, the reason they sound just like the world’s advice is simply this: they have nothing to do with the gospel. So, I’d like to offer 12 gospel-centered things you should tell a guy who is struggling with lust:

1.) You Have a New Master. How many times have we justified using our bodies however we want with this line: It’s mine? News flash, Homie: if you are bought by the blood of Christ, your body does NOT belong to you. It belongs to Him. When you were saved, you didn’t buy Jesus. Jesus bought you. That means he dictates how your body should and shouldn’t be used.

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” -1 Corinthians 6:19b-20

2.) You Have a New Label. When we form a habit, we begin to identify ourselves by that habit. If we golf, we’re a golfer. If we lust, we’re a luster. So many times when temptation comes our way, Satan says: “Remember? You’re a luster. This is what you do. You’re a pervert.” If you have put your trust in Jesus Christ, that’s not true. Yes, you were a “luster” and a pervert. But when you accepted Christ, he gave you a new nature. You are no longer a luster or a pervert, but a son of God who has power to overcome Satan.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:7-10

4.) You Have a New Spirit Within You. So many guys I’ve talked to have just given up on their ability to overcome sexual temptation. “I don’t know what to do anymore. It’s just impossible to overcome lust!” Really? That’s not what God says. If you’ve been trapped in the lie that you can’t overcome sexual temptation, it’s time to begin believing more from God. If you’ve trusted Jesus for salvation, God has implanted the power of his own Spirit inside of you. To say “I can’t” is to say, “He can’t”. To say “I can” is to believe Him.

“…God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”-1 Corinthians 10:13

4.) You Have a New Race to Run. So many times, guys return to their lust because they’re not replacing it with anything. If a guy lays down the sin that so easily entangles, but doesn’t run the race set before him, guess what? He’s going to get bored and pick his sin up again. Singleness isn’t about sitting around and playing Cheeto-stained video games until we get married. It’s not about having extra free time to pursue our own desires and hobbies and aims. Singleness is about ministry. It’s about pursuing God and others with a greater intensity than will ever be possible in your life again after marriage. So, maybe the reason you’re falling back into temptation again and again isn’t because you aren’t trying hard enough. Maybe it’s because you’re not replacing you’re bad habits with the exciting, life altering race God has for you as a single person.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. -Hebrews 12:1

5.) You Have a New Reason to Love your Wife. (Yes, I know high-school guys do not have wives. But in all likelihood, they will.) Did you know that there is a way for you to practice spiritual leadership of your wife right now? Did you know that there is a very practical, daily activity you can do to assist your future wife in her day-to-day life today? Did you know that you can begin growing in your love for her right now? You guessed it: pray for her. You may not know who she is, what color hair she’ll have, or how the heck you’re finally going to meet her. But when you do, you won’t regret one minute you spent on your knees for her. And guess what? As you grow in your love for her, you will also grow in your hate for the perversion of your relationship. Lust just seems dumb when you’re in love.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. -Ephesians 5:25-27

6.) You Have a New Appetite. Part of the reason you fall into lust is this: you are thirsty. You are hungry. You are looking for beauty. Let me tell you something: you’re not going to find what you’re looking for under a girl’s clothes. You can look over and over again, but you’re still going to want more and more, because no woman can satisfy the longing you have to see God in his Holy Temple. That is the beauty you are looking for. Here’s the good news: you can experience this beauty in part, now, by dwelling on God’s word. God’s word is how he communicates all of his beautiful characteristics to you day after day. Are you leaving yourself spiritually hungry? Have you hidden God’s word in your heart that you might not sin against him? If not, you’ll try to itch that scratch with lust again and again.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

7.) You Have a New Story. At the very root of lust is an attitude of ingratitude. If you spent your time thinking about what God has given you, you wouldn’t be dwelling on what God has not given you. This applies to all areas of life; whenever you set your mind on things you don’t have, you are lusting. If a genie gave you one wish, what would it be? Would it be marriage? It would be wiser to ask for gratitude. Even when you are married, there is temptation to be ungrateful, and to look elsewhere for satisfaction. You are training yourself right now for marriage; will you be grateful for and loving towards your future wife, or will you be ungrateful, lustful for other women? You choose now. Make a list of temporal blessings (temporary things) and eternal blessings (God’s attributes and works on your behalf) and make sure to give God thanks all day long for the good he has placed in your life.

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” — Ephesians 5:4

8.) You Have A New Savior. The reason why so many modern church-goers are tempted to reject the notion of hell is simply this: we do not understand the incredible offense of sin against God. Sin does indeed deserve eternal punishment and separation from God, and when we sin, there is an eternal price to be paid. If we have placed our trust in Jesus for salvation, that price is paid on the cross. However, every time we sin, we add to the penalty Jesus paid on that cross. Sin isn’t free; it’s costly; eternally costly; costly for our sweet savior, led like a lamb to the slaughter of our salvation.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. Colossians 3:5-6

9.) You Have A New Joy. The difference between joy and temporary pleasure is the difference between water and lemonade. Lemonade tastes good for a moment, but ultimately it only makes you thirstier. Water, on the other hand, satisfies. When dealing with temptation, you must ask yourself: is it better for me to gain a few seconds of pleasure and lose my joy? Trespassing against God always strips us of our joy. So, we must choose: do we want temporary excitement, or eternal joy? And here’s the good news: when we choose joy, God allows us to experience pleasure as well, in His time and in His way. But when we pursue pleasure over joy by pursing it outside of God’s boundaries, we lose both.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

10.) You Have a New Hope. I’m not going to lie, I think a lot of Christian books on purity are full of a deceptive philosophy. They teach that if you have sex now, or lust now, you will ruin sex for your marriage. True as that may be, that’s not really the point of overcoming lust. If the sole reason you are trying to overcome temptation is to have better sex later, you’re going to fail. Why? Because you’re still worshiping sex, and when temptation comes your way, you’re going to take it. Don’t set your eyes on marriage; don’t set your eyes on sex. Set your eyes on intimacy with Christ. This is why you are working out your salvation with fear and trembling; so that you may be spotless, blameless and pleasing to God when you stand before him to give an account for your life.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. -Colossians 3:2

11.) You Have a New Trust. As a guy who once struggled with pornography, I have a secret for you: all sex is the same. There’s nothing out there that will ever be more satisfying than the plan God has for your sexuality within the confines of marriage. So many times we act like our parents, Adam and Eve, and we look for something outside of God’s boundaries, because we don’t trust that He has given us the best. And what happened when Adam and Eve eat the fruit? Nothing. It looked good, but they gained nothing. They lost everything. So, when Satan tempts you with the big shiny apple of temptation, call him out. He’s like the Wizard of Oz, and he’ll keep you thinking he has something great and powerful for you, so long as it’s hidden behind a curtain. Then when you open the curtain, guess what? Nothing’s there. Trust God that nothing is behind that curtain; He has the best for you in mind, not Satan.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. –Genesis 3:6-7

12.) You Have a New Freedom. As Christians, we differ from every other religion. We don’t try to earn our way to God; we don’t try to work for his approval. In fact, we obey because he’s approved of us. As Christians, we are not thankful because we obey; we obey because we are thankful. We don’t obey to earn God’s favor; we obey because God has already cleared our slates on the cross. Jesus was crushed for our iniquities, and the more we realize his grace for us, the more thankful we become, and the more obedient our hearts are to Him. So no matter what; whether you’re doing well in the fight for purity, or your head is hanging in shame, always, always, always rest in the good news of the gospel. Always be thankful for Christ’s sacrifice for you on the cross, because only obedience that flows from gratitude frees us to truly obey God from the heart. And obedience from the heart is the only way to please God our heavenly father and Jesus Christ, to whose name every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Hallelujah; praise God!

“Dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” 1 John 2:1

In other words, the reason to avoid lust can be summed up in one word: Jesus.

Nick McDonald is the High-School Youth Director at Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian church in Brighton, MI. He is the author of www.theradicaljourney.com, a site designed to shine gospel light on the masculine journey. There, you can download his free e-book for any of your students called, “Don’t Waste Your Sex: 50 Ways to Overcome the Battle for Purity.”

Tonight a dear friend of mine said that he will be pay me $1,000 if I lose 20 pounds in one year. I need carrots. This is a nice carrot.

I am fascinated by the effective use of incentives (carrots) that parents use to motivate their teenagers. I’ve heard of cash for grades, clothes for good behavior and even a new car for remaining a virgin throughout high school. I asked several of my high school friends about carrots and many of them receive all kinds of perks if they follow through on the activities that their parents value the most. So I asked, “should parents give carrots to teenagers for attending church, reading the bible or serving the less fortunate?” I could tell by looking at their faces that they were uneasy with this one.

I’m willing to bet you that if you took a look around the children’s ministry at your church you will find carrots galore! If you show up on Sunday you get a star on the chart or if you memorize the verse of the week you may get a tootsie roll. These are not trivial tokens! Imagine giving some smarties to a 2nd grade boy but not his four buddies seated near him or the over achieving girl who didn’t get an attendance star because she was out-of-town visiting her grandma. DRAMA!

Starting in middle school and especially in high school ministry you see a transfer from carrot encouragement to the focus on consequences. Where a kid once got candy for coming to church, now he can’t play in the praise band if he doesn’t have adequate attendance. It is this very mindset that propels we youth ministers to focus more on what Dallas Willard calls “sin management” instead of authentic discipleship. I am fully aware that God has consequences for his children, but I don’t see that He uses consequences as His primary motivation. Having said that, I’m not convinced that I see the use of “carrots” as a means for spiritual growth, except for………

The Kingdom Carrot-
Is the promise of a new heaven and new earth or eternal life enough for a 16-year-old? Should we focus more on passages like John 10:10 describing the abundant life as a means to spiritually motivate young people? I may have more questions than I do answers about this post, but doesn’t the Promised Land seem to be a decent carrot to encourage tired, thirsty people to follow God? There is also a good question that some folks on my team brought up about the difference between a salvific carrot and a Christian leadership carrot, but I digress.

Matthew 6:19-24 is a classic Jesus response about the ultimate carrot and how distracting earthly possessions can be. It is no coincidence that Jesus ends by saying we can’t serve two masters in reference to money, which might give us some insight on the dangers of certain types of spiritual carrots. While I confess to you that I needed the $1,000 to lose weight, I pray that for you and I, the Kingdom carrot will be enough.

Nate Stratman is the Director of Student Ministries at First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, CO.