Author Archives: scottymac26

“Once Upon a Time” 1.20.13

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This week we dove into Chapter 3 of The Story and talked all about Joseph. Joseph has an incredible journey with his brothers, his father and with God. Joseph’s story starts with his brothers hating him because of the obvious favoritism from their father, Jacob. This favoritism resulted in ultimately Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery, against Joseph’s will. They covered it up by claiming a wild animal attacked him. The story goes on and through a series of ups-and-downs, including being falsely accused, being imprisoned and eventually God uses Joseph to interpret dreams, Joseph ends up, years later, in a position of high authority in Egypt.

Throughout his life, Joseph had to be asking God, multiple times, “God, what are you doing right now?” Why was Joseph going through the things he was going through? How often do we ask that same question to God about our own lives? Things happen in our lives and we don’t know why. We don’t know why we got that diagnosis. We don’t know why we lost that family member. We don’t know why we lost that job, that friend or our marriage. So we go before God, pour out our hearts and look for answers. Often times, we don’t always find them right away.

Back to the story of Joseph…

Joseph got to that high position of authority by warning Egypt that there was a famine of crops coming soon and that Egypt needs to store away food for the future. Egypt listened and Egypt and the surrounding nations began to experience a huge famine. A couple of years into the famine, Joseph’s family began to experience a famine as well. Jacob, the father, sends his sons to Egypt to get more food. There, they met Joseph, whom they presumed was dead. Joseph had every right to be upset, to deny them food, to even have them killed but instead he chose to react differently.  Check out what Joseph says to his brothers,

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Genesis 45:4-7

“…it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you”

Joseph realized at this moment that God used this terrible situation, a situation where he was sold into slavery, left for dead by his own brothers, falsely accused and imprisoned, for good. God can take any situation that we go through, good or bad, and use it for something amazing. If you allow God to, He can take your tough situation and use it to bless others. But will you allow God to?

Can you think of a time where you asked, “God, why is this happening”? Share that experience with your kid(s). What did God did with that situation? (Maybe you are still waiting for God to do something with that situation)

Write.rewrite Series…

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WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT:

Here is an overview of the current series as well as summaries of each week’s discussions. Listed below each summary is a “parent cue” to help you dialog with your child about each week’s session of this series. The questions are intended not just to be asked by you, but to be responded to by BOTH of you. Use this opportunity to find out what God is teaching your child, and allow your child to see what God is teaching you as well.

 

write.rewrite.

Series Overview

We are all drawn to great stories—whether that’s on the big screen, small screen, in a book or elsewhere. But we may be completely unaware of one simple truth—that our lives are a story as well. The decisions we make every day are shaping the plot. The things we do, believe and trust determine what is being written. And for many of us, the story we are scripting could be so much more if we let God write, or even rewrite, our story. It’s the story we long for, the one our hearts truly desire.

 

Session One: A Bigger Story (8/7/11)

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or someone who minimizes risks, we all long for a great story. A great romance. A great adventure. A great mystery. And it could be that the reason we yearn for something so big is because God made us that way. Believe it or not, a big story is unfolding around us, a story God is telling that started long before us and will continue to unfold long after we are gone. The things that draw us, that captivate us, that pull us in are the things that make God’s story great. The question is, are we a part of that story? Are we telling His story? In other words, are our lives reflecting something bigger?

Session One Parent Cue:

• What are some of your favorite stories (in movies, books, etc.)? What specifically about those stories do you love?

• Read Ecclesiastes 3:11. Do you ever wish your life was “more” than what it is now? If yes, why?

 

Session Two: Lost in the Story (8/14/11)

So if we all long for God’s story, then how do we settle for so much less? How does our story get so off track? It happens subtly. Oftentimes, without ever realizing it, the focus of our story shifts—God is moved from a place of prominence, to a place of convenience. But stay this way for long, and it is easy to see a story that has gotten off track. Small changes, seemingly harmless, can take our story to a place it doesn’t belong. Sometimes we think the story is better left in our own hands. But what if we allowed God the control, the freedom and the power He deserves? What if we allowed Him to tell the story? Where would His story take you?

Session Two Parent Cue:

• (This question is for the parent to answer.) Have you ever found yourself in a place in your life where you wondered, “How did I get here?” If you retraced your steps, what were the decisions you made that led you there?

• Each one of you take a decision in your life (whether good or bad) and track the steps that led you to the end result.

 

Session Three: Rewriting the Script (8/21/11)

If you find yourself living in a lesser story, how do you begin to let God rewrite your story? You follow Him. You follow His lead. And that path may sometimes be very clear, and other times it may feel very mysterious. But following Him wholeheartedly, regardless of what we may or may not understand as we go along, is the only way to allow God to write your story. Instead of taking the reigns, embrace God’s direction—join Him, get on board and embrace everywhere His story just may take you.

Session Three Parent Cue:

• What holds you back from trusting God completely?

• What would it take for you to surrender that reluctance?

• How might your life become a bigger story than the one you live now? 

 

FIGHTING FOR THE HEART

Create a culture of unconditional love in your home to fuel the emotional and moral health of your children.

 

Most of us are unaware of the stories we write every day. We go through life and make the decisions we need to make and do the things we need to do to get through the day and care for our families. But whether we realize it or not, we choose who we interact with and what role we play in other people’s lives. In other words, we choose how we play a part in other people’s stories in both our words and our actions.

 

And sometimes it’s easy to simply bow out, to feel like we no longer have a role in someone’s life—especially in the life of a teen. But here is one man’s story about how his dad found a way to take a new supporting role in his life, even if it meant intentionally choosing to be a part of it in a way he may never have imagined doing.

My Vegas Recap…..

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I am sitting on the train, about 2 hours from arriving back in Fresno. I came back a day early for a friends wedding tomorrow afternoon and it gave me some great processing time for what God has been putting on my heart this past week in Las Vegas. This wont be a play-by-play recap of the events. I’m not really that good at remembering all the details and Paul is significantly better at that than I am. Check out his posts. First let me say that this has been an amazingly powerful week for me both personally and in ministry. Some of you might have asked the question to yourself “why did the Jr high guy go on an all high school mission trip?” Valid question actually. When we first talked about this trip and we spoke with the ywam director over the phone months ago, I felt like God wanted me on this trip. The things Richard (the ywam director) were describing, what stuff I loved to do. Street evangelism, free prayer and just talking to people about Christ. I knew I had to go.

My quiet times with God on this trip has been some of the most powerful times I have had in a while. Very early on in the week I began to “camp out” in 1st John. A book I have read many times before but this week God spoke to me in a very powerful way. The verses I kept coming back to were 1 John 3:16-18

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If any one has material possessions and sees a brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.”

This convicted and moved me deeply. I had been thinking and praying about how to “better engage the community around me” for months now. Talking about outreach and service and integrating it into the youth group. But as with any ministry, the fire and conviction has to be birthed within the leader first. This is the passage that God used to do that. No longer could I closed heart against the people around me. No longer could I simply not pay attention to the need around me.

One of the first nights we got to Vegas, we were given a small voluntary task to perform. It was simple. Walk down about two or three blocks on the main strip with a piece of duck tape on your mouth. Just walk. No waving to people, no bringing attention to yourself and just see what happens. The reasoning for this was simple. We will experience just a small amount of what most prostitutes, homeless people and many others go through every day. There are over 2 million people in Vegas. But most of the time, people walk down the street and they are either ignored or shown attention for all the wrong reasons. Weird example, I know but God used this experience to change something inside of me.

“I could no longer ignore the people around me.” That is the phrase that God put on my heart and it He said it over and over.

Whether it was talking to the homeless people while serving at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission or offering free prayer on the “old Vegas strip”. Whether it was conversations I had or conversations others had, I felt as if people were just crying out for attention. The same way a child say “Dad. Dad! Dad! Look at me! Watch this!” We cry out in the same way just using different words or actions. We cry out by drinking too much. By gambling too much. By acting and dressing a certain way. We cry out using sex. But just like the child longing for his parents attention, we long for others attention. So, we cry out. Because we want this pain to go away. We want someone to acknowledge us. We no longer want to be ignored.

This isn’t just about “service projects”. Yes, service projects will be a key component. But this is about something bigger. This is about acknowledging and loving everyone who has need in this community. Everyone who has ever felt ignored. Everyone who has ever felt forgotten. This is the homeless people all across Fresno. This is the father that just lost his job. The mother who has a thankless job. This is the couple that is going through a divorce. This is the teenager that just doesn’t fit in at his school. The girl that is blaming herself for her parents splitting up. The 20-something that feels like the world is eating him up and spitting him out.

These people are the ignored.

These are the people we don’t talk to because we don’t know what to say. We don’t know what to say to the couple splitting up, so we avoid them. We don’t know what to say to the kid with a drug problem, so we hope it just works itself out. We don’t know how to fix the homeless problem so we choose to ignore it and do nothing at all.

We must remember the forgotten. We must acknowledge the ignored.

That’s what God has called us to do. We have all felt ignored or forgotten in our lives. We have all been in that place where we don’t know who to turn to. We have all felt ignored. We must engage the community in a more meaningful way. I must do more to bring the love of Christ to EVERYONE that God has placed around me.

Las Vegas has been ignored.

Fresno/Clovis has been ignored.

Our world has been ignored.

We must love all of them in “deed and truth”.

So as I go forward living a life completely devoted to Christ I must acknowledge the ignored. As I go forward attempting to lead this Jr high group, I want them to love the forgotten. Because how can the love of God abide in us if we close our hearts to those in need?

-Scott

“Grow Up” series overview

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WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT:

Here is an overview of what we’re talking about. Listed below the summary is a “parent cue” to help you dialog with your child about the session. The question is intended not just to be asked by you, but to be responded to by BOTH of you. Use this opportunity to find out what God is teaching your child, and allow your child to see what God is teaching you as well.

 

GROW UP:

Series Overview

Do your students ever wish they could just grow up? Maybe they yearn for the day they will get their driver’s licenses. Or graduate from high school. Or go away to college. They don’t really want to be kids anymore. They want to be seen as adults. They want to feel like they’ve moved on, grown up. We all know how that happens physically, but what about spiritually? How do we know we’re growing in your faith? How do we know that you’re moving forward in that area of our lives? The good news is that God is just as passionate about growing our faith as we are. And there are five ways He will use to do that—some involving things that we probably already know, and other ways that we may have never thought about before.

 

 

Session One: Big Faith (6.12.2011)

Your faith in God matters to God. In fact, God is most honored through your living, active, death-defying, out-of-the-box faith. That being the case, He’s committed to growing it. Big. Imagine how differently you would respond to difficulties, temptations, and even good things if you knew with certainty that God was in all of it and was planning to leverage it for good. But in order for all of that to happen, there’s one thing it all hinges on—your trust.

Session One Parent Cue: What area of your life are you most reluctant to trust God? Why?

 

Session Two: Big Life (6.19.2011)

You can know a lot. Maybe you know the stats of every football player in the NFL. Maybe you know the cheat codes to hundreds of games. Maybe you know every Scripture in the New Testament. But unless you do something with what you know, then what you know isn’t enough. Especially when it comes to our faith. God’s truth was meant to be put into action. It was meant to affect our lives, our relationships. And when we begin to live out the truths we know, something happens to us our faith. It begins to grow.

Session Two Parent Cue: What is one truth that you know from the Bible that you can commit to live out this week? Follow up with each other to see how that’s going.

 

Session Three: Big Team (6.26.2011)

Who has had the most influence in your life? Your mom? Your dad? A coach? A camp counselor? There are all kinds of people that play a part in our lives, in our stories. And some of these people have played a part in how you see God. In fact, God has used some of those relationships to grow your faith. We call these relationships providential because they are about having the right people in your life at just the right time.

Session Three Parent Cue: Who are the people in your life who have had a direct impact on your relationship with God? In what way did these people influence, guide or encourage you? 

 

Session Four: Big Give (7.3.2011)

God grows your faith through spiritual disciplines. That’s probably not news for you. Praying and being generous are just things that Christian do. But there’s more than just doing an action because it’s the right thing to do. In fact, in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He tells us that not only is our heart tied to how we pray and our generosity, but also the growth of our faith.

Session Four Parent Cue: How can you leverage your time this week so that you spend more time with God? What is one way you can be generous this week?

 

Session Five: Big Serve (7.10.2011)

Did you know that your spiritual growth is linked to your service? That’s right. You get something out of filling that volunteer position in the nursery or children’s ministry. You’re not just doing a job, filling a slot—you’re growing. God uses that service to teach you something about Him and others. And even if you don’t feel like you’re the best person for the job, or if you wonder, “Why am I doing this?” God says that if you want to grow, you have to serve.

Session Five Parent Cue: Have you ever had a great experience while serving another person? What was so great about it? What are some characteristics you see in each other that would be assets in serving?

 

Session Six: Big Moments (7.17.2011)

Have you ever met someone who went through something really difficult, yet if they had a chance to rewind and change what happened, they would be reluctant to do it? And the reason is because there was something they learned from that experience. It’s what we call a pivotal circumstance, a defining moment in their lives. Each of us has had one. Some may seem bigger than others. But to each one of us, they are huge. And you know what? Even thought it’s not something we would necessarily choose or want to happen, God takes those moments and uses them to grow our faith.

Session Six Parent Cue: Share about a time in your life that was really hard, but something good came out of it. Maybe you learned something new about God or yourself. Maybe you built some great relationships with people who supported you. How did what you learned or experienced somehow make the situation more bearable? 

Sex Is…

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We figured we would get everyone’s attention with that subject line… On May 15th, we will be starting a brand new, four-week series entitled, Sex Is… This is one of the most relevant and important series we have probably ever done. However, we know that the subject of sex causes a myriad of different reactions, emotions and concerns. This is why we (the student ministries team) want to be as upfront, transparent and understanding as possible. First let me just explain how these nights are going to look. It will be the same time as usual, 5:30-6:30pm: Small groups, 6:30pm-7:00pm: Hang out time, 7:00pm-8:30pm: Youth service. The biggest difference the students will probably notice is that instead of just myself (Scott) or Paul taking the stage to preach, we will both be accompanied by our wives throughout this whole series and will be team-teaching this series. Each week either Melissa and I or Paul and Mary-Kate will be talking about that week’s topic. We chose to do this because we want to be relevant to every single student that particular night. All four of us have different experiences and perspectives and we believe that all of these experiences God will be able to use for His glory. Also, towards the end of every Sunday night we will be taking questions that students have. We have set this up in a way that they will be able to ask the questions anonymously. We will probably not have time to answer every single question that is asked, however, we will answer every single question, eventually. We have setup another blog where we will answer the questions that we did not have time to get to and they will be answered there. More information about this blog when it is done, hopefully within the next couple of days. We encourage everyone to look at this blog, see a little bit of what questions are being asked and what we are talking about. I know this is a ton of information but we want EVERY parent to know what is being planned and what is being talked about. If you have any questions or concerns or just want to know a little bit more of what we are talking about please feel free to contact either myself (Scott) at Scottmacneil@nhclife.org or Paul at Paulmannino@nhclife.org.

Below, we have laid out the normal Parent Cue questions and some additional questions for the first three sessions(located at the end of the post) to get the conversation going between you and your children. These questions coincide with the message and also gives you the date of the message. Also, in a different blog post, we have posted an article about how some people learn about sex and some helpful things about how to start the conversation in your family.

WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT:

Here is an overview of what we’re talking about. Listed below the summary is a “parent cue” to help you dialog with your child about the session. The question is intended not just to be asked by you, but to be responded to by BOTH of you. Use this opportunity to find out what God is teaching your child, and allow your child to see what God is teaching you as well.

Sex Is . . .

Series Overview

Everyone has an idea of what sex is. Some people think it simply is an act to meet a physical “need.” Others believe it’s the way to make a relationship closer. Some people treat it like an addiction, while others have been burned by it. So what is sex? What was it created to be? Because if everyone has such a strong idea of what it could be and should be, maybe we need to find out what it is really and how we live with what we learn?

Session One: Sex Is . . . Serious (5.15.2011)

Sometimes the things that we think are not a big deal really are. Take sex for example. Sure, it’s a big deal to some people, but other people dismiss it as just a normal part of a relationship or a rite of passage. And when treated that way, if we aren’t careful, sex becomes just something casual. But sex isn’t really casual. It’s, well, serious. There’s more to it than just a physical act. It’s more complex than that. And while we know it’s a big deal because of what “bad” things could happen, there’s a much bigger reason why it’s serious—it’s how God created it to be.

Session One Parent Cue: How do you see people perceiving sex as not that big of a deal in real life and in the media?

Session Two: Sex Is . . . Powerful (5.22.2011)

You know sex is power in our culture when it’s used to sell cheeseburgers or furniture. But sex is power in a relationship too. Guys and girls use it to get what they want. And the tricky thing about sex is, just when you think you have the power, it can backfire. When you try to abuse its power, everybody loses. You can’t underestimate the power of sex, because if you aren’t careful, it will end up costing you.

Session Two Parent Cue: How can sex have power in a relationship? How can it affect you and how you see yourself and the other person?

Session Three: Sex Is . . . Everything? (5.29.2011)

Sex is serious. Sex is powerful. But sex isn’t everything. Yes, we said it. Sounds like heresy in our culture, doesn’t it? But there’s more to relationships than just sex. Sex may meet a need, but it never fully satisfies the deepest needs we have. There’s more to relationships than that. There are plenty of married Christian people who “get” to have sex, yet find out that there’s more to connecting with another person than just physically. Yes, sex is great. Yes, sex is important. But sex wasn’t created to meet every need and be everything.

Session Three Parent Cue: What makes a marriage “good”? Describe some specific things that make up a healthy marriage. (Some of these things will be from lessons you may have learned the hard way. You may want to consider sharing some of those lessons with your teen if age-appropriate.) 

Session Four: Sex Is . . . More (6.5.2011)

Information can be overwhelming. Sometimes you just want someone to set everything aside, and get real with you. You want him or her to have a real conversation. This session is much different from the rest of the series. It takes into account the past three weeks, but also gets real with where students are. Because when it comes to sex, they may be at different places. And they need someone to acknowledge that and help them move in a good direction.

Session Four Parent Cue: What did you learn from this series?

Additional Questions

Create meaningful conversation. Adjust questions as needed, and don’t feel like you need to answer all of them.

Sex is serious (5.15.2011)

Did you hear anything at church this week that you had never heard before when it comes to the seriousness of sex? What was it?

What do you think sex does in a relationship?

You know about the physical part of sex. (And if your child doesn’t or simply thinks he or she does, this would be a good time to explain it.) But how do you think emotions play into sex?

How does the spiritual part of us play into sex?

How does the “two will become one” show up in the emotional and spiritual side of us? (The physical is obvious.)

When it comes to sex and relationships, how do most people portray what sex does to a relationship?

With sex, does it ever feel like the message culture, friends or media are sending is incomplete? Like you are only hearing part of the story? (probably not) Why or why not?

As the parent, communicate (appropriately) what you think is being left out of the messages about sex your child is hearing.

When someone doesn’t take sex seriously, how have you seen it affect his or her life? (parent: maybe in a marriage of a relative or friend, a co-worker, in the news; student: maybe in the life of a friend or peer from school)

Sex is powerful (5.22.2011)

Did you hear anything at church this week that you had never heard before when it comes to the power of sex? What was it?

How do you think our culture conveys the message that “sex is powerful”? (focusing on the power of a girl’s body and how she dresses, and the power a guy has when he gets with a lot of girls)

Why do you think guys want to have sex? (If you’re a dad, explain why guys want to have sex.)

Why do you think girls want to have sex? (if you’re a mom, explain why girls want to have sex.)

As a parent, share—either through personal experience or stories of people you’ve known—how powerful the lure of sex is and the way it can change a relationship.

You may want to talk about the power of pornography, and how guys buy into the illusion of sex that requires nothing from them. And increasingly, girls are viewing pornography, buying into the illusion of intimacy that porn portrays of someone desiring them.

Sex isn’t everything (5.29.2011)

Did the message at church surprise you—that sex isn’t everything?

People have sex for many different reasons. Some people are just curious. They want to know what it’s like. Other people are looking for something.

Some people have sex to find security in a relationship, thinking it will make someone stay or the relationship grow stronger.

Some people have sex to get them status. They want to be known as someone who people desire and want to be with.

Some people have sex for companionship. They just want to be close to someone, anyone, and not be alone.

Some people have sex for acceptance. They don’t want to be a 40-year-old virgin.

If you were sexually active before marriage, this might be a good way for you to talk to your child about some of the choices you made, and why you made those choices.

Have you ever known a couple who was sexually active outside of marriage? Does their relationship seem overly physical?

Does it seem like sometimes when people say “sex is for marriage” that it really plays up the concept of getting married so you can have sex? In addition to sex, what do you think it takes to make a marriage work?

Note for parent: Sex defines a relationship in our culture, but it’s only one part of a relationship. Your child doesn’t hear that. Your child doesn’t realize that while it’s a great thing, it’s also not everything. It’s why sex isn’t the end goal for marriage. It’s why if they choose to wait to have sex until marriage, they need to know that sex isn’t the point once they get there. Sex will be a part of married life. It will draw a husband and wife closer together, but it isn’t the only thing that draws them together. Let your child know what you believe it takes to marriage work—even if those are lessons you learned the hard way—and how sex plays a role in that, but that it’s not the only thing.