What “Hot or Not” is Teaching Teens

Hot-or-Not-575x340One of the most popular trending apps right now is an app called “Hot or Not.” Even though this app attracts many young adults, teenagers are very much into it as well and are using it. Basically, it’s an app where you browse pictures other users have posted and you rate them as “hot” or “not.” The rating scale is 1-10 with low rating obviously meaning your “not” and high ratings meaning your “hot.” The photos can range from appropriate to sexual explicit. If you rate someone as “hot” and they rate you as “hot” as well, then you become connections and can chat (which is where this app opens up a huge window for sexting). That’s basically all the app is. So it seems harmless right? Seems like it’s a fun app teenagers can use to find people they think are attractive and maybe chat with them. Parents, click here to read a really good parent review of this app.

I’d like to suggest that this app is teaching teenagers, especially teen girls, that their value is found in their outward appearance and the approval for others. If you have a teenager, again especially a girl, or work with teenagers, you know how much of a struggle this is. Even though this is a tough issue for girls, the guys are not excluded from this as well. Teenagers want to be liked by their peers. Teenagers, in many different ways, are crying out for the approval of others. So many teenagers will run to this app, find the best pictures of themselves, post them, and wait in hopes that someone will make them feel valuable by rating them as “hot.” However, this comes at a cost and a risk. The risk is not everyone will think they are “hot” and that approval they long for may instead by shouts of disproval by people rating them as “not.” And maybe if they wear less clothes and show more skin they can get their ratings up? Do you see how this app can be devastating to teenagers?

It’s most devastating because it goes right against the Gospel. While teenagers are fighting for acceptance, approval, and value their Creator is shouting to them that He has the eternal acceptance and value they are looking for! He sent Jesus to die on a cross, to pay for their sins, so they can find eternal value and acceptance in a relationship with Him. They don’t need to look for approval and value in their outwards looks, even though there is nothing sinful with outward beauty, and the approval of others. The Gospel is what they need and when they take that step of believing in that Gospel and entering into a personal relationship with their Creator they can find all the acceptance, approval, and value they need in Him!

I think it’s important for parents of teens and those who work with teens to understand the devastating message this app could be sending. As parents, you may want to discourage your teens from even using this app or at least having honest conversations with them about the message it may be sending them. It may be that this could be a great platform to explain and teach the Gospel to your teenager.

The bottom line is that what teenagers want, what all of us want, is found in the Gospel. The Gospel is the answer and our only hope.

6 Things to Remember When Teaching Students About Sex

word-sexOne topic I think we should continually address in student ministry is sex. Sex is an amazing gift that the enemy has taken and used for evil. Our students live in a culture that is saturated with sex and the pressure to engage in sex before marriage is huge. Our culture sees sex as a recreational activity and our students are buying into that lie. Our students need to understand what sex is and how God has design sex to take place between a man and a woman.

Both our middle and high school ministries did a series on sex and relationships this past month. It was a great series and I believe we communicated God’s truth about sex and relationships well. I hope every student pastor does at least one series a year on the topic of sex. It’s extremely important and our students need it. Here are a few things I believe are important to remember when teaching students about sex.

1. Be bold. Talking to students about sex can be awkward. It’s not only awkward for you, but at times it’s awkward for the students (especially if your teaching middle school students). Break through the awkwardness by being bold. Don’t be afraid to use the word “sex” or other words that come up in a conversation about it. Students have heard all the terms about sex and associated words, you’re not going to say anything they probably have not heard.

2. Keep the Gospel central. When teaching students about sex make sure the Gospel is clear. There are a few reasons this is extremely important. First, you don’t want to teach students that just being a moral person in regards to sex is ok. Many students believe that staying a virgin until marriage is the ultimate Christian teens goal. So instead of striving after Jesus they strive to reach the standard of being a virgin. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the goal is not just to be a virgin. A student can still be a technical virgin, but still commit sexual immorality according to the Bible (more on that in a minute). Second, many students in your group will have already lost their virginity or have messed up sexually in some other way. These students need to hear the Gospel! They need to hear Jesus still loves them and He wants to forgive them. They may feel dirty, used, and broken, but God restores and wants to redeem their failure. One last thing, please be careful with the “dirty rose” illustration. Watch this video for more on that from Matt Chandler.

3. Define sex Biblically. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people define sex as just intercourse. According to Scripture sex is more than just intercourse. In Ephesians 5:3 the Greek word for sexual immorality is pornea, which covers all sexual activity outside of marriage. This includes heavy making out, oral sex, friends with benefits, and masturbation. Those are things that most students don’t consider sex. So if they do all of those things, but stay a virgin they think they are fine, but that’s a lie! God says sex is any form of sexual activity outside of marriage. Define sex Biblically when teaching students about it.

4. Have a time for genders to be both together and separate. Don’t be afraid to teach about sex in a mixed group. In fact, it may be a healthy thing to address sex with a mixed group of students. However, it’s also good to have a time where guys get with guys and girls get with girls to talk in more detail about sex. Have a balance and try and do both.

5. Address current trends. Make sure you relate the topic of sex to current trends in students culture. Help students see what God says about sex relates to how they use their bodies, social media, and other things. Hit things like sexting and Snapchat. Talk about how sex relates to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Take the truth of Scripture and help students apply it to their current culture.

6. Lastly, equip the parents. As good as it is for us to talk about sex with our students, the parents talking about it to them is more important. Encourage parents to have conversations with their student about sex. Help them do this by giving them whatever resources you can. Tap into things like CPYU and Focus on the Family for great resources on this topic. One of the things we did was offer a parent seminar for our parents about technology and how it’s being used by our students (click here to listen to the audio of that seminar).

Again, teaching students about sex is important. I hope these simple reminders will help you next time you address this issue with your students. If you have more additional thoughts, feel free to leave them in a comment below.

Book Review: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by JD Greear

9781433679216Recently I finished reading the book Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved by J.D. Greear. Don’t let the title fool you, the point of this book is not to discourage people from coming to Jesus, but instead, encourages people to place their faith and trust in Him and not in what many Christians call the “sinners prayer.” It’s a short book about doubt, assurance, and the Gospel.

I appreciate J.D.’s honesty and transparency in this book. In the first chapter of the book, as well as throughout the rest of the book, J.D. shares about his own struggle he had with doubt and assurance as he was growing up and into his college years. I can identify with his struggle and believe many other Christians can as well. J.D. writes this book with two audiences in mind. First, those who have said the “sinners prayer” and truly placed their faith and trust in Jesus, but still struggle with doubt. They wonder if they said the right words, were they sincere enough, did they really put their faith in Jesus, or if they were sorry enough for their sin. Second, he writes to those who have said the “sinners prayer,” but have really never placed their faith and trust in Jesus. J.D. says, “Jesus warned that there are a vast number of people who seem assured of a salvation they don’t actually possess” (pg. 4).

With those two audiences in mind, J.D. writes about what salvation really is and how someone can identify if they have been saved or not. Throughout the book J.D. communicates salvation in a very clear, Biblical way that I believe takes the focus off of the “sinners prayer” and on the person and work of Christ. He says, “Salvation is not a prayer you pray in a one-time ceremony and then move on from; salvation is a posture of repentance and faith that you begin in a moment and maintain for the rest of your life” (pg. 5).

This book has a great balance of theological meat and practical application. With chapters addressing questions like what is the Gospel? (Jesus in my place), what is belief?, what is repentance?, can you loose your salvation?, J.D. captures great theological truths found in God’s Word. Then J.D. explains the practical side of this issue. He shares practical ways from God’s Word to know you have been born again and what one should do when they continue to doubt (which is not to say the prayer again, but to continue in a posture of repentance and faith in Jesus).

I believe J.D. has written a great defense of salvation by faith in Christ alone and not on a “sinners prayer” ritual. Growing up in the Bible belt of our country like J.D. did, I have seen much emphasis be put on the “sinners prayer.” I have seen too many preachers ask people to walk down an aisle, repeat a prayer, and put more emphasis on that ritual than on faith in Jesus. This book helps us see the prayer doesn’t do anything, Jesus has done everything and all people have to do is respond to Him in repentance in faith. That may be done through a prayer or it may not. Salvation does not come through a prayer, it comes through repentance and faith in Jesus.

This has been the most helpful book I have ever read when it comes to dealing with doubt and assurance. It has been a helpful for me as I have had period of doubts in my own Christian walk and I believe it will be a great help to others in this area as well. It’s a short, easy to read book that will help you understand the Gospel and what salvation really is. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book.

Common Questions from Teens About Homosexuality (Part 2)

imagesHomosexuality is an issue our teenagers are facing more and more as time goes on. Our culture says it’s ok, but as Christians, who believe God’s Word, we believe it is sin and not part of God’s design. Our teenagers are hearing both sides of the argument and many of them have questions. In the first post of this series, I answered two common questions teens ask about homosexuality. In this second post I want to answer two more common questions I have heard teens ask about homosexuality.

Is homosexuality worse than other sins? I believe many teens ask this question because they see Christians respond more severely to homosexuality than other sins. We need to be careful our teens don’t see us “categorizing” sin as if some sins are worse than others. An important principle to teach teens is that all sin is equal, but earthly consequences are different. No matter how “big” or “small,” sin is always sin and it will send you to hell unless you repent and believe in Christ. However, the earthly consequences of sin may differ (note I said earthly because the consequences are the same after death-hell). For an example, someone may get angry and become bitter towards another person. That is still sin, but they may not face any horrendous earthly consequences. But someone could go out and murder someone and face major earthly consequences. Both are sin, but the earthly consequences are different. Don’t let teens believe homosexuality is different than other sins. It’s still a sin Christ died for and can forgive. Homosexuals are no worse than other sinners. The ground is level at the foot of the cross and the Gospel covers all sins.

Why do some Christians hate homosexuals? One of my biggest pet peeves is Christians who show no love for people in sin or who oppose their Christian faith. The best example of this, and why many teens will ask this question, is Westboro Baptist. Westboro Baptist is this “church” that has built it’s ministry on expressing what they believe is God’s hate for homosexuals. They picket funerals and waste their time holding up signs that say “God hates fags.” They are not Christian at all and I do not believe they have ever experienced real Christianity or accepted the Biblical Gospel. Many teens see this and get turned off to Christianity because they believe it is what Christianity looks like. Let’s do our best to show teens that true Christianity is loving the sinner and doing whatever we can to share with them the life changing truth of the Gospel! Those “Christians” who hate homosexuals do nothing but make Christians look less like Christ. Please hear me, I’m not supporting homosexuality and saying it’s ok (it’s not!), but I do not believe Christians should hate or treat homosexuals differently. They are real people, like you and me, who have a fallen sin nature and need a relationship with Jesus. Show them Jesus, not hate.

I hope these posts have been helpful to you as you talk to teens about the issue of homosexuality. It’s a growing issue in our culture and we must equip our teens to view and approach it in a way that’s God honoring and faithful to His Word. I hope these two posts on answering teens questions about homosexuality have been helpful. I encourage you to spend time in God’s Word, build your convictions on this issue from that, and in love communicate to your teens about why homosexuality is wrong.

Book Review: Date Your Wife

13812486I’m not a huge fan of books on marriage. It may because I’m newly and until recent I have never felt a deep motivation to read books about marriage. Of course I have read The Five Love Languages by Chapman like most people, well part of it at least. I know the gist of the book so I’ll finish it one day. But recently I finished a “marriage” book that I think every married, and future married, man must read. It’s called Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard.

I’ll be honest, this is a hard review to write. Not because it wasn’t a good book, but because it was such an excellent book I don’t have much to say other than get yourself a copy and read it as soon as possible! I’m going to take a different approach than I normally do when I review a book so hopefully by the end of this you will be motivated read this book yourself. Or if your a wife, buy your husband a copy of this book as my wife did for me. Here are a few reasons why I believe this book is one of the best books on marriage for men.

It challenges men to be men. Let’s face it, most marriage books tend to speak in a way that woman understand while men just don’t get it. I believe it’s because most marriage books aren’t challenging men to be men. In a sense many of them are speaking the language of woman so they motivate the wives but the husband is left in the dark. Men need it straight forward. Men don’t need someone to speak softly to them, they need someone to tell them to man up and be the man God created them to be. Don’t get me wrong, there are a some good marriage books that speak to men like men, but Date Your Wife has to be the best I have seen so far. In the opening chapter of this book, Justin says, “My assumption is that all of our first date stories have one thing in common: we acted like men. We pursued our wives-to-be. We made the move. We intitated. We took the risk. We took the lead…I’m calling you to do one thing. The action I want you to take is summed up in just three words: date your wife.” This book challenges men to do what they did before marriage, date their lover. It’s simple, easy to understand, and has the power to radically change your marriage.

It lays the responsibility of marriage on the man. If your easily offended than this book my rub your the wrong way. As I said before, Justin speaks to men like men. He lays the responsibility of the marriage, whether that is a good or bad marriage, on the man. In a culture where men are not seen and challenged to be the leaders in marriage, this is a timely warning to men. If your marriage sucks it’s your fault men! Men are the leaders and everything rises and falls on leadership. The bulk of this books is six chapters split into three parts that explain where marriages go wrong and where marriages goes right. In both of these the responsibility is laid upon the men. This is how it should be. This is how God created it to be. God created Adam first and then created a help mate for him. This help mate would be Eve, Adam’s wife. Adam was commanded by God to love, cultivate, and protect her. It’s still the same today. Men are the called to be the leaders in their marriages. If your marriage goes wrong, it’s your fault men. And if it is to go good than it will take you stepping up and being the man God created you to be.

It’s Gospel-Centered. By far this is the main reason I loved and recommend this book. It’s not a self-help book like many marriage books are. It’s not filled with moral commands that are encouraged to be applied as we just “try harder.” Justin makes sure the central theme of this book is not try harder, but to let the Gospel go deep into your heart and life so as a result of the Gospel you radically change the way you think, act, and pursue your wife. All throughout this book Justin pleads with men to remember the good news of the Gospel. It’s the Gospel that helps men date their wives. It’s the Gospel that changes the man which then changes the marriage.

Bottom line is this: every man who is a husband or hopes to be one in the future needs to read this book. It will be worth the money and time it takes to read this book. I believe this book has the power to change marriages like no other marriage book has ever done before.