Where is God when Tragedy Strikes?

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I came across this blog post a few weeks ago at newspring.cc it’s very fitting I feel for the present. 

When tragedy, sickness, hardship or death strike it is to easy wonder, where is God? Perhaps you have asked that question when faced with a heartbreaking loss. How could God let this happen to me?

The truth: God is always in control, and He loves you (John 16:27). This remains true despite what the circumstances may be.

The Bible does not make circumstantial promises; God’s word is always true. He knew everything that could or would happen to you before time began.

God has assured us that He will work all things to our good (Romans 8:28), and nothing can change that truth. Every opportunity, joy, and success we experience as well as painful losses and failures are a part of His plan. God’s work is in progress in our daily lives.

In Psalm 23 David praises God and extols His nurturing care in the midst of trials:  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 )

Even when we are in deep shadows, God is there, not as an observer, but as a protective Shepherd, close at hand! His care extends to every part of our lives at this very moment (Ephesians 1:4-6). When we cry out He knows our pain, when we sing He knows our joy and when we lean hard He is always there for us. God is your refuge and His everlasting arms are always there to support and hold you (Deuteronomy 33:27).

4 Things to Keep in Mind During Crisis

1. God is in control.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (Acts 17:24-26).

2. God knows our problems and pain.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

3. No matter what happens, God will help us through.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9)

4. God dwells within His people, therefore we are never abandoned or alone.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ ” (Galatians 4:6).

Our position as children of God does not grant immunity from the pain, problems and the difficulties of life. Jesus told His disciples that they would experience troubles but through Him they could also have peace (John 16:33). We can be assured that nothing can happen to us apart from the permissive will of our gracious Father (Romans 9:39). These promises give us peace in the midst of turmoil, hope instead of despair, confidence rather than doubt, assurance in the place of fear.

Parents-Your Teenager needs the Student Ministry!

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Blog post from: Greg Stier (a fellow parent of a teenager and Founder of Dare 2 Share)

Dear Parents of Teenagers,

Thanks for all you do to invest in the life of your teenager(s). You probably feel like an uber driver (ready to pick them up/drop them off when they call), coach (helping them perfect their sport), tutor (working with them on homework), guidance counsellor (preparing them for the future) and, sometimes, a jockey (pushing them to cross the finish line…without a whip of course!)…all wrapped up in one!

That’s why, with all the insane busyness of parenting a teen, it’s easy to let youth group attendance slide off the grid. It’s tempting to think, “My kid’s just too busy for a night of hanging out with other teenagers, playing some goofy games and hearing another Bible lesson.”

Believe me when I say, I understand the temptation. As a parent of a teenager (who has tons of homework, plays football and is not yet old enough to drive) my wife and I are constantly under pressure to measure every event through the lenses of what matters most. And we have decided that youth group attendance must be a priority. Although we view ourselves as the primary spiritual influence of our kids, we also believe that a strong youth ministry plays a vital role in his overall spiritual development.

With this as a backdrop here are 5 short, yet powerful, reasons you should encourage (make?) your teenager(s) go to youth group:

1.  Teenagers need models and mentors.

“O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come. “  Psalm 71:17,18

In the Jewish culture it wasn’t just parents that poured into the younger folks. Older men poured into younger men and older women poured into younger women (Titus 2:1-8.)

Of course you as a parent are called to be the primary spiriutal mentor of your own teenager but he/she also needs other godly adults! It’s important for your son or daughter to see that this whole “Christianity thing” is more than just mom’s and dad’s belief system. They need to have models and mentors that reinforce all of the spiritual truth they are learning from you.

2.  Teenagers need community.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:24,25

In an age of bullying, gossip, slander and hatefulness (which can destroy a teenager’s self-identity), young people need other young people who can lift them up, encourage them and challenge them in all the right ways.

Youth group is also a place where teenagers can discover their spiritual gifting and begin to use it to serve others. This will help them have a heart to selflessly serve others for the rest of their lives!

3.  Teenagers need mission.

When Jesus challenged his most-likely teenaged disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations”, he was tapping into the activist wiring of these young men. In the same way your teenager needs challenged with the mission to reach their peers with the good news of Jesus in a loving and contagious way.

Youth group is a place where your teenager can invite their unbelieving friends to hear the gospel. But it’s also a place where they can be equipped to share the good news of Jesus with their own peers (which will help them grow in their faith!) As your youth leader continues to build a Gospel Advancing ministry the message of Jesus will advance in them and through them. This process will accelerate the disicpleship process in the life of your teen in ways you could never imagine!

4.  Teenagers need theology.

“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”  Ephesians 4:14,15

Youth group is a place where teenagers can wrestle through the theology you’ve been teaching them (you’ve been teaching them right?) and have it reinforced in a powerful and personal way under the guidance of a youth leader who knows how to ask great questions and point teens to sound truth.

This should result in your teenagers knowing and owning their faith on a deeper level. Youth groups and small groups should be a place where teenagers can ask tough questions and even share doubts and struggles with their beliefs without fear of rebuke. Skilled youth leaders can take questioning teens back to God’s Word as the source of authority and help them process through all of the Biblical truth you are praying they grasp, believe and live out.

Great youth groups build on the foundation that godly moms and dads have laid. And, for those teenagers who don’t have believing parents, an effective youth ministry helps lay a solid foundation of Biblical truth for the rest of a teenager’s life.

5.  Teenagers need a safe place to confess and confide.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  James 5:16

Often teenagers who struggle with sin and temptation have nowhere to confess and confide. They feel trapped by their sins. But a healthy youth ministry can create a safe space for teenagers to open up and talk honestly about their struggles. Of course this doesn’t mean they should confess every sin to everyone. But it does mean that they should have a handful of others who know their struggles and can pray for and encourage them to walk in victory over those sins.

When my son came back from a youth retreat last year he had this opportunity. He opened up with a handful of others about some of his struggles and then he came back and opened up to me. After he confessed his struggles he told me that he felt a thousand pound weight had dropped off his back.

Here’s the thing, my son and I have a very strong and very open relationship. But there was something about his band of brother friends, under the leadership of a caring adult in a youth retreat type setting, that gave him the freedom to confess and confide.

Skilled youth leaders know how to create a context of open and honest dialogue. Teenagers who push their struggles down and never open up often struggle later on in life with addictive and destructive behavior. An effective youth ministry can help teenagers deal with these challenges now and prepare them to be victorious both now and later.

Yes, I know that teen life is busy. But it would be a shame if our teenagers graduated from high school and were catapulted into “the real world” without every opportunity to know, live, share and own their faith.

At the end of the day, our teenagers embracing and embodying the Christian faith is more important than sports and more important than academics. Getting them involved in a healthy, vibrant youth ministry is worth fitting into a crazy, busy schedule. And if it’s not quite as healthy as you think it should be then why don’t you volunteer and make it better?

There’s too much at stake for us to get this wrong. So let’s get it right!

To Reach a Generation,

Greg Stier (a fellow parent of a teenager and Founder of Dare 2 Share)

I Love Student Ministry!

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I’ll begin with this: Change is a good thing! Don’t believe me? Well, let me explain…

It has already been four years since I stepped out of the world of full time student ministry into the role of being a Campus Pastor for Rock Bridge.  I have loved nothing more than pastoring such a great community of people in the great city of Ringgold! This weekend at Rock Bridge Ringgold was simply amazing! We baptized 6 people and had four max capacity services! 14117698_10100538362310076_6715710985475329513_n So don’t worry, that’s not where the change comes into play. I promise I’m not going anywhere.. I LOVE ROCK BRIDGE COMMUNITY CHURCH and I’m FIRED UP for what God is about to do here!

Jump ahead a year and a half  and the church was blessed with hiring an amazing part-time student pastor. Unfortunately, it was just a short two weeks into his hire that we were all hit with the tragic death of his young wife. Though we tried to continue, eventually we felt it would be best for him to step down in search of a full time job outside the church. 

This left a hole to fill and I decided that it was more important to take on extra work rather than leave such a vital role empty. I did not imagine being able to do both campus and student pastoring, but, like always, God made it work. It was then that I realized just how much I had missed student ministry. 

So, let’s fast forward to today… 

This morning we announced that Rock Bridge Ringgold has hired a full time Associate Campus Pastor and his name is…(drum roll please)…Andrew Plisko!!!

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I’m so fired up about this, Andrew who has been serving as a Elder at Rock Bridge Ringgold for the past two years will be starting middle of September!   

I will still be the Campus Pastor at Rock Bridge Ringgold, just shifting the majority of my focus to the generational side of the ministry with Student/college ministry being my main focus while also giving more support to Casie, our children’s director. Andrew will focus on Outreach (HOPE), small groups, benevolence and adult ministry. We will share counseling and pastoral care.

As all of these changes have been happening, I’ve been writing down some things that I really love and missed about Student Ministry. I’m more than stoked to get back into the swing of things within full time student ministry and here’s a top 10 list explaining why:

 10. Middle school energy.   I love MIDDLE SCHOOLERS!  

10 1/2. High School energy. I Love HIGH SCHOOLERS!

9.  Random hanging out.  From students dropping by the office, to meals, ball games. I love being around our students!

8.  Students loving on my kids. I love watching students love on our kids and my kids LOVE these students!

7.  Trips.  I seriously look forward to baseball games, roller coasters, Camps, Retreats, DNOW’s… Even Lock-in if we still did them! 

6.  Passion.  I love watching students worship God.  (And in my opinion, I think we have one of the best Student Ministry Worship Bands around)

5.  Having the opportunity to share the gospel week in and week out. It’s such an awesome privilege and responsibility! I love to preach and this allows me that opportunity to do that weekly! 

4.  Transformation in the lives of teenagers. It never gets old.  Story after story of God’s work in teenage hearts is amazing! Not just during Middle and High School but years later seeing former students lives changed never gets old! 

3.  Being able to help mold the adult that these students will be in a few short years. 

2. The awkward conversations, late nights, and dealing with parents…ALL OF IT! I LOVE IT ALL! 

1.  Just being part of the Student Ministry TEAM! In my opinion Rock Bridge Student Ministry has one of the most amazing teams ever! Beth, Kelly, Sydney, Tim, Kent, Zach… I Look forward to jumping in head first and doing ministry with this team!

So, If you are, have or know a 6th-12th grader get them to The Link on Sunday Nights at Rock Bridge Ringgold (120 Remco Shops Lane) for The Link. 5:30-8:00! 

Here are some pictures from The Link tonight! 14089325_10208613961659689_4158350892096608158_n14095754_700983830049632_4958877736840226441_n

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Pastors… You’ve been called out!

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Blog by Pastor Rick Warren:

As pastors, we tend to like to focus on “spiritual” things. But God is the Creator of our physical bodies, and it’s in our physical bodies that we live our spiritual lives out before others. Pastors have a tendency to let our physical health go unchecked, and we have plenty of excuses such as our busy schedules, our calendar being heavy with meal-centered meetings, and our need to be behind a desk a lot to feed people spiritually.

For every excuse we can come up with to ignore our physical health, there are other pressing reasons to consider it.

  • Our longevity in ministry can be cut short by poor health.
  • Our sharpness of mind is affected by what we eat and our activity level.
  • We challenge others to live healthy lives, so we should set the example.
  • Our physical energy level rises to the demands of ministry if we’re in shape.
  • Our bodies are temples too, created by the Master Craftsmen placed under our stewardship.

The Bible is full of health rules and guidelines. I want to remind leaders of just six principles from God’s word about building a healthy body. When you feel bad physically it affects everything else. Shakespeare said it’s hard to be a philosopher with a toothache. I’d say it’s hard to be spiritually alert when you’re physically dull, when you’re tired, fatigued, out of shape.

1. Maintain Your Ideal Weight

Scientists know that you have an ideal weight based on your bone structure and your height. 1 Thessalonians 4:4 says, “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” I realize there are many medical and glandular reasons for overweight and weight problems, but the fact is for many of us, we simply eat too much. You cannot eat everything you want to eat and still maintain your weight. Ecclesiastes 6:7 says, “All the labor of man is for the mouth and yet the appetite is never filled.”

2. Balance Your Diet

You need to focus on controlling both the quality and the quantity of what you eat. Do you eat a balanced diet? A hamburger in both hands? I was on a seafood diet — If I see it, I get to eat it. 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 says, “Everything is permissible for me but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will eventually destroy them both.” The point that Paul’s making is that eating is not an end in itself. We eat to live we don’t live to eat. It’s a means not an end in itself. And if we get those reversed, food becomes our master.

3. Commit Yourself to a Regular Exercise Program

Most of us are convinced but not committed. You know that exercise would be good for you, but committing to it seems hard. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “Physical exercise has some value.” In Paul’s day, people were very active. If Paul wrote that verse today, he’d probably change it to say that it has great value. In the New Testament times, people walked everywhere, engaged in a lot more manual labor, and ate natural foods. Today, we drive everywhere, live sedentary lives, and eat processed junk foods.

How do you know when you’re out of shape?

  • You know you’re out of shape when you feel like the morning after and you didn’t go anywhere the night before.
  • You know your body’s in trouble when your knees buckle and your belt won’t.
  • You know you’re in trouble when you see your friends running and you hope they twist an ankle.
  • You know you’re in trouble when you breathe harder walking up a set of stairs than you do when you hold your sweetheart’s hand.

The key is training not straining. If you want to get in shape fast, exercise longer, not harder. Commit yourself to a regular exercise program. The fact is, your body was not designed for inactivity. You were made to be active. Even a daily walk will make a difference.

4. Get Enough Sleep and Rest

Psalm 127:2 says, “In vain you rise up early and stay up late.” The Living Bible says, “God wants His loved ones to get their rest.” Rest is so important that God put it in the Ten Commandments. He said every seventh day, you should rest. Jesus, in Mark 6:30-32, insisted that His disciples take a vacation. Make sure you’re budgeting your time wisely. Make sure you get enough rest and sleep.

5. Reduce or Avoid Drinking Alcohol

Ephesians 5:18 says, “Don’t get drunk with wine, which will ruin you. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” Health conscious consumers are sobering up America. There’s been a dramatic change in America’s drinking habits. A growing number of Americans are beginning to view alcohol as unhealthy or downright dangerous. It’s not surprising industry-wide sales are dropping. These are not religious people. These are just people who are concerned about their health. And for some surprising statistics about alcohol, see this infographic.

6. Live in Harmony with God

Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace is life to the body.” Our emotions have a tremendous effect on our physical health just like our physical health has a tremendous effect on our emotions. You cannot fill your life with guilt and worry and bitterness and anger and fear and expect to be in optimum health. A heart at peace gives life to the body. If you feel bad, it affects every area of your life. It’s a part of stewardship. Your body is a gift from God. What are you going to do with it?

Fruit of Self-Control

This past week we wrapped up a 9 week sermon series at Rock Bridge Community Church called “9 On The Vine” We have been taking a look at the 9 fruit of the spirit that is produced within those who are connected to the Vine.  This last message in the series was on the Fruit of “Self Control”

It’s was a great message that really spoke to me and is applicable to not only where I’m at in my journey to get healthy but to every aspect of my life.

Question: • What is something in your life that is hard to resist?

For me, as we have read over the last two months it’s food! I’ve asked myself this question…Does God really care about our weight? No, God does not care what you weigh. The Bible says that man looks on the outside but God looks on the heart. God loves you just as much at a size 40 as at a size 32.or ladies at size 28 or 4. However, Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are called to glorify God in body and spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). In John 15:8, Jesus tells us how we glorify God: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

So you see, the real issue is not about size or how much you weigh, but stewardship. My prayer is that God will continue to teach me/us how to become a good steward of our bodies and remove the hindrances that keep you from bearing fruit.

As I learned to build my health through following Godly wisdom in my eating behavior and through disciplining my body with regular exercise, my weight is taking care of itself!

The fruit of self-control, is when God, through His grace and Holy Spirit, produces this quality of self-control in our lives, we will find ourselves doing much better in most any area or areas where we lack self-control. Self-control is not something we can just decide to start having. It’s going to take grace coupled with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to achieve lasting victory.

Watch The message here:

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/176743945″>2016.07.28 – 9 On The Vine – Part 9</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/rockbridge”>Rock Bridge Community Church</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>