One of the topics I haven’t spent much time teaching on in our student ministry is eschatology (or commonly called the end times). One of the reasons may be because of my own shifting in views of how I understand what the Bible teaches about the end times or the fact it’s an area of theology that contains so many various views it’s hard to know what exactly to focus on when you teach on this topic to students. It can be a tough topic to address in any setting and especially in student ministry.
Recently we did a series called “This I Believe.” In this series we walked through the major points of Christianity and covered topics like the Bible, Godhead, Angels & Demons, Mankind, Salvation, and the Church. To wrap up the series we talked about what we as Christians believe about the end times.
As I said earlier, this is a topic that contains many different views that all fall within orthodox Christianity. There are multiple views on the rapture and the millennial kingdom as well as different views on how to interpret the book of Revelation. There are also different views on the relation of the church and Israel and how that plays out in thee end times.
So with all those competing views what did I decide to land on when it came to teaching my students about the end times. I decided to focus on the major things we do know and that the Bible is clear on while not addressing (maybe I will in a different setting one day) some of the areas of debate like timing of rapture or nature of the millennial kingdom. My focus was on three main events: return of Jesus, final judgment, and eternal state (heaven and hell).
You can watch the entire talk below and see how I handled these topics.
For the past year or so as a church we have been going through the book of Acts on Sunday mornings. We have taken a few breaks here and there for other topical series but recently have picked it back up to finish out the book. I had the privilege of preaching this past week and focusing on Paul’s approach to sharing His testimony from Acts 22 and 26. In this sermon I focused on things that Paul did as he shared his testimony that we can apply to our own approach as we share our testimony with others.
Recently I went to Honduras with a group of our high school students. I have been using my site as a place for them to write about their experience. If you missed the previous three posts in this series be sure to go back and read them. Below is a few thoughts from another student who went on this trip named Lexi Gray.
“Purpose. When our missions trip group went to Honduras, we stayed at a place called La Providencia. La Providencia is an organization that wants to give the orphans and widows the best, not the leftovers. Our team got to be apart of helping these people for the week. I really wanted to go on this trip to build my relationship with God, my team, and the kids in Honduras. God has allowed me to do all three of these things.
Prayer. Prayer played a very important part during the week. Before our team would start on our worksite each day, we would pray. Also after every water break our groups would come together to pray. This taught me that I can pray in any situation at anytime.
Effort. Extra effort was required in order to accomplish what God had already prepared for us to do. Our team gave 110% to everything we did. Also we encouraged one another and stayed positive throughout the highs and lows of the trip. This has shown me that I need to give all of my effort and energy to everything I do because it is all for God. In addition, God has shown me that I need to complain less because this is God’s plan for my life, and he is in control.
Connect. I connected really well with the kids at the VBS we set up. One girl specifically stood out to me, her name was Alma. Alma loved making bracelets with me during the free time at VBS. Also she could speak a lot of English, so it was easier to communicate with her. One time I asked Alma who her best friend was. She said that I was. This showed me how much our group meant to each of these Kids and how much they loved us. Another thing that stood out to me was how happy and grateful these kids were for all the things they had. Several kids would come up to me to say thank you for the VBS. This has helped me to understand how much more thankful I need to be, because these kids do not have much.
Protection. God showed how much he really protects me while I was on this trip. One specific time was when I got extremely sick on the bus ride home from our adventure day. Once I began throwing up, I started to hyperventilate. I can’t move my hands or my feet, and the rest of my body gets tingly. I get stuck breathing in short breaths. But during the whole time God helped me to remember that he is always with me. Also God has given me an amazing brother to be right by my side. I am so thankful for a brother to be there when I need him, and to help calm me down. Also God has blessed me with Crystal McCann to help take care of me and help me know that everything is going to be ok. God has showed me how much he loves me and help me know that he will not give me anymore than I can handle.”
This summer our high school ministry partnered with LeaderTreks for a short-term mission trip to Honduras. It was an incredible week that allowed our students to serve and grow in big ways! I wanted to give a few of the students a place to share what they learned and how they grew. Wes Gray is a rising senior in our high school ministry. He has been on a few trips with us in the past but this was his first international trip. Read his thoughts below as he shares about his experience in Honduras.
“My first missions trip out of the country is definitely one that I will not forget. There is so much that God did through the team during the week. We stayed at La Providencia, which is an organization who cares for widows and orphans. They have taken James 1:27 to heart: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” They don’t give them the leftovers like most cultures do but they put their needs first.
Our team got to be apart of this through manual labor on a worksite and caring for the kids by having a VBS (Vacation Bible School) for them. On the worksite we were hauling dirt to a section to eventually make it the right height to make it into a patio. Also there was a giant trench we had to dig around this area where we would eventually put supports in. On a normal day we would spend 4-5 hours on the worksite. There were so many awesome team bonding moments on the worksite as well. Like when we would try and get everyone excited to go back to work and we would all scream and do something crazy. Also there were great conversations going on as we shared with each other what God was teaching each of us as well. Prayer was a very important part of our days as we very nearly did it before we did anything. This was a key takeaway for me, just how important prayer is and how it is something I should regularly be doing during each day. We saw so much progress throughout the week on the worksite as well which is a big encouragement especially as this was some of the most physically straining work I have ever done. My legs cramped up on a couple different occasions but with encouragement from the team and God given strength I was able to push through.
The VBS was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. Everyday as soon as we were done on the worksite we would leave to go to a church about 20 minutes away to hangout with 30 kids. We played soccer with them, jumped rope, colored, made bracelets, and played tag. After a while we would call everyone in and give them a snack and perform a skit for them. Our skits were on the life of Jesus. You would think the language barrier would have been a lot more of a problem than it was; however, we had several team members who could speak spanish quite fluently. The kids were such a joy to be around; even when they didn’t have much they were still overflowing with happiness and that really hit home.
So I have talked about all of the encouraging and positive ways God had connected with me during my trip… Now for the not as fun ways. Three days before we were supposed to leave ⅓ of our team got sick some worse than others. I happened to be one of them. Thankfully I didn’t throw up like some of the other team members but I had other side-effects that we do not need to get into. Lol. Anyway I did not feel my best but when I woke up the next day I was feeling better to some degree and did not have a fever anymore. I was able to work my hardest on the last day on the worksite before we had our day of fun ziplining and going through a waterfall. By the end of the day our team was wiped, but we still finished strong. On our day into the city Lexi (my sister) started feeling awful on our way back and she started throwing up. Then she started hyperventilating. She did it once before when we got rearended together. What happens is her hands clamp up and she loses feeling there and her whole body gets really tingly. The only way to fix it is for her to focus on taking deep breathes but it is hard to do that when you are freaking out. Luckily a US doctor was close by so we were able to load her into a van and take her back to La Providencia. She threw up two more times as well on the way back. Eventually we got her back and she was feeling again and was done thoughing up but she was really tired so she went to bed. Then we both weren’t feeling good on the plane ride back as well. So it seems like I’m just going on a really long rant about why I’m never going to go on a trip like this again, but really it is quite the opposite. God taught me this lesson through it all: He is going to give me strength when I need it and rest when I need it as well, but it is all according to his plan with his mission coming first. So that is the hard lesson I learned, but it was a very important one!”
Throughout the book of Acts you see the power of God on display. One of the places you see this power on display very clearly is in chapter 19 as Paul ministers in Ephesus. Recently I had the opportunity to preach from this chapter during our Sunday morning worship services. Below is that sermon. I hope it’s a blessing and challenge to you.