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“If I Were Valedictorian”

A Guest Blog post by Berean Pastor Barry Holbrook

It’s graduation time again…

A time of celebration. A time of victory. A time of bittersweet emotions.

As a youth pastor I get excited and saddened by graduation. Excited to see teens I have grown close to prepare to move on and impact the world as young adults, and saddened because it feels as if a piece of my heart is being savagely torn out of my chest! I will miss my graduating teens…

These days have me doing some introspection. One of the questions that has bounced around my head in the past few days is  “What would I say if I were Valedictorian?”

If I were the Valedictorian…

… I would challenge my fellow students to continue to work hard and strive for excellence in every endeavor.

… I would reminisce aloud of the wonderful days of high school and all the amazing memories that my friends created in my heart and mind.

… I would encourage my teachers and coaches to press on for they have impacted my life and many other lives with their dauntless pouring out day after day after day.

All of the above sentiments are necessary and expected. A Valedictorian should speak of these things!

But as a believer in Christ and Valedictorian I would say to my fellow students…

… Work hard and strive for excellence in every endeavor, but do it all for the glory of God.

… God has a plan for each of our lives. Jesus came to us that we may have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10). All of your awards and accolades are wonderful, but the greatest possible goal in life transcends any touchdown or scholarship you may receive. That goal is to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Nothing matters without this relationship and after entering into this relationship everything matters!

…In just a few moments you will hear you name called, you will stand up, walk toward your principal, shake his/her hand and be handed your diploma. The crowd will applaud your efforts and celebrate along with you–you have graduated high school!  Receiving your diploma is a big deal. You worked hard for it. You completed all of your assignments and passed all your tests. But in the process of earning that piece of paper did your life bring honor and glory to God? Did you receive the applause of Heaven as you walked through the hallways of your high school? In a moment you will see the smile of your principal as he hands you your diploma–but did you live your life in high school in such a way to hear from God the Father, “Well done good and faithful servant!”

…High school matters. Living for Christ in high school matters more. making good grades matters. Making good grades to glorify Christ matters more. Earning a scholarship matters. Earning a scholarship to continue honoring God in college matters more.

… But what if you do not have a relationship with Christ right now? What if you are sitting here and God is the furthest thing from your mind? You have an opportunity to gain something greater than a high school diploma today. Your diploma will open doors for you. A relationship with Christ opens eternity for you! Graduating high school  is the beginning of your adult life. Being saved is the beginning of REAL life! As you prepare to face the world with your diploma in hand, why not surrender your life to Christ so to be genuinely prepared for life?

… You will leave this building today a graduate. You can also leave this building saved, in a relationship with Jesus, reconciled to God the Father. Yesterday you WERE a senior in high school. Today you are an adult. Say yes to Jesus today and be able to say “Yesterday I was lost without hope. Today I have been set free to live forever!”

… Congratulations graduate, the old is passed away, all things have become new.

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Obese Christians

Spiritual Obesity

Obese Christians

A guest blog post by Pastor Barry Holbrook

Obese is defined as having excessive body fat. Our nation is full of people who can be labeled obese.

Annual medical expenditures attributable to obesity have doubled in less than a decade, and may be as high as $147 billion per year, according to a new study by researchers at RTI International, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. (RTI International, 7/27/09)

Wow…those are very sobering statistics.

Let me pose a question: What is the number one contributing factor to obesity? The answer of course is over-eating. if someone insists on over eating on a regular basis they have placed themselves on the pathway to obesity.

According to WebMD, if you are obese and have unhealthy eating or activity habits, you have a higher risk for gallstones, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease (CAD), a stroke, and sleep apnea, among other conditions.

Obesity in our physical bodies is not God’s plan for any man or woman. We are designed to eat healthy and exercise in order for our physical bodies to function the way God intended.

This is not only true of our physical well-being, but it is true of our spiritual well-being too!

We have all heard the phrase or something similar: ” I go to church to be fed.” This is all well and good, unless “getting fed” is all that you are doing! We all need to be part of a church where we are being fed spiritually, but if all we do is eat then we will grow to be obese!

Just as physical exercise or activity is healthy for someone who is eating properly, there must be an outflow of the truths we “eat” in our churches, bible studies,and life groups!

We get so caught up in “getting fed” that we forget that God has called us to be ministers to a lost a dying world! If we keep bellying up to the buffet of biblical truth that our pastors and leaders prepare for us week after week without properly having an outlet for that truth we will grow fatter and fatter– bellies full and plump with no effort to serve and minister.

So instead of looking for where  your next 5 course meal is going to come from — start asking God to show you where He wants you to feed others!

We have been so over-fed. We are obese Christians…

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Walker India Mission Update #2

An Update By Tom Walker From India

This Is Why We Came

Nearly a year ago Janet and I read a book together called “Granny Brand.”  It was the story of Evelyn Brand who was a missionary to Southeast India.  We laughed and cried as she described her beloved “hill people,” along with the sights and sounds of India.  Last Friday we felt we lived out a part of that story.

We left our hotel after lunch and embarked on a three hour journey to a village church dedication.  The journey was complete with bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses, trucks, three-wheeled “autos,” cows, sheep, goats, chickens and pigs.  (We had even seen a camel the day before).  That is normal for India, but where the normalcy ended was when we turned off the main road.

We began to wind through the countryside, “jungle,” on a one-lane road.  We began to notice cotton fields, being worked by the village people.  Then we came upon an ox cart filled with bags of harvested cotton.  When we arrived at the village it became abundantly obvious that we were the novelty.  Word spread quickly that there were some white faces within view and people began to come by the vehicle and some were even brave enough to try out their sparse English with a brave “hello,” followed by laughter and antics.  We slowly made our way through the narrow, crowded streets of this village of 3,000 people.  Then on the outskirts of town we saw them.  The people of the church, gathered for the dedication service.

For most of us, it would be a stretch to call this structure a building, let alone a church.  In reality, it consisted of eight concrete pillars, some trees trimmed as supporting beams and several sheets of corrugated tin, completing the roof.  The walls consisted of large pieces of fabric and the ground was covered by an assortment of woven grain bags and tarps for the people to set on.  Now in India no church would be complete without a sound system, despite the fact that the enclosed area could not have been any bigger than 150 square feet.  There was a green ribbon tied across the front opening of the structure, awaiting the arrival of the distinguished guests from the Berean Fellowship in the US.  We were greeted warmly by the gathering of about 35 men, women, and children who had been waiting patiently for our late arrival.  After Janet and I were honored to cut the ribbon, all proceeded proudly into the building and took their places on the floor, while we occupied the places of honor, an assortment of plastic chairs at the “front” of the church.  Fresh flower were hung around our necks and coconut milk was served to us, straight from the coconut!  This was a festive occasion for this small band of believers.

The Lord had impressed upon me that when I brought the dedication address it should be in story form, as undoubtedly many of these simple villagers would be illiterate.  That was the case as only a few possessed Bibles.  I chose as my text the familiar passage where Jesus tells the story of “three lost things,” in Luke 15; a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son.  The people sat attentive and captured by the Word of God, communicated orally through a translator.  Knowing looks and heads bobbing in agreement conveyed to me that the stories were part of their culture, communicating truths they were connecting with.  As I sought to be animated and relevant with my illustrations I was observing three men that were standing some distance away, along the road.  Obviously, they were not yet part of this fellowship, but would they be in the days ahead as the believers live out their faith?

Then it struck me.  This is why we came.  This made all the expense, inconvenience, heat and humidity, culture shock, and feelings of being overwhelmed worth it.  As I looked into the faces of these simple, village people, and saw the beaming smile on the face of the young pastor whom we had honored by dedicating “the building,” my heart was moved.  This is why Christ came, to seek and to save the lost.  This is why Granny Brand endured decades of hardship to reach people just like these, nearly a century ago.

Some things have changed in the villages of India over the years.  Some have electricity, cell phones, and indoor plumbing, but the need remains the same.  Men who will brave the challenges of ridicule, prejudice, and threats.  People who will pray and encourage those who go.  People who will give.

For ten years now the Berean Fellowship has been invested in training and supporting men such as this, who in turn will go to the villages with the light of the gospel.  This is my eighth trip to teach, preach and encourage.  But all over again I remembered why we came.  Why you gave.  Why they go.

Tom Walker

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Please leave a comment and encourage the Walkers in their missionary work!

Feeding Steak To Infants

Today’s blog post is written by one of our guest bloggers, Pastor Barry Holbrook from Mitchell Berean Church. Please enjoy the blog post and take time to leave a comment!

Feeding Steak To Infants

Just had an interesting conversation with a 16 year old young man in our youth group.

“Pastor Barry, I started attending a youth group in town when I was in 7th grade. It was mostly just fun and games though. So in 9th grade I began going to another youth group and floated in and out of there for about a year. But it wasn’t until I came to the Berean youth group that I ever heard that I needed to be saved and enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

News like this always breaks my heart. I know the youth pastors at both of the ministries that this young man attended. They are rock solid, doctrinally sound teachers of God’s Word.

So what is the problem? How can a young man be in a youth group or a church for 3 years and never hear his desperate need for salvation?

It is because youth pastors and youth leaders are consistently putting a plate of juicy T-bone steak in front of infants without teeth!

If you sit in the average American youth service or small group study, you can hear fantastic lessons on theology and doctrine. Now, don’t get me wrong: these lessons are important and necessary. However, if the youth have never been introduced to the basics of the Christian faith, they cannot chew, swallow, or digest these truths!

Every youth ministry in America should teach and/or review the basics of our beliefs every year — if possible twice a year! Have you read Paul’s letters to the churches? Every one of them referred to the basics of the faith.

Galatians 1:3-4: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.

Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:23: …we preach Christ crucified.

Did Paul include deep doctrinal truth in his letters? Of course he did! Was theology part of his purpose for writing? Yes! But he always reminded his readers of the very things that rescued them from death unto life!

This year alone I have had at least a dozen conversations with teens that had never heard the word “saved”! Does that surprise you? Probably not. But it should shock you into action! Our teens are in desperate need of truth from God’s Word, and we are the ones called to make sure they hear it and then disciple them to live it out in their daily lives!

We cannot and should not ever assume that our kids sitting in our youth rooms know what they believe and why they believe it! I challenge you to put them to the test! Ask them what salvation means to them. Ask them to explain justification and sanctification. Be shocked at what their concept of sin is and how it is defined.

Youth ministry teaching must be balanced: you have to provide milk for the infants and T-bone steak for the mature disciples. It may be easier to lump all your kids into one, all-encompassing lesson time, but it is certainly not profitable.  We must put to death our dreaded enemy called “Convenience” and strive for excellence in the teaching of God’s Word to the teens whom God has entrusted into our care.

Hebrews 5:13-14: Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

(By the way – that young man was saved and surrendered his life to Christ on the first night he visited our youth group, and he is now enrolled in Leadership training!)

In His Grip,

Pastor Barry Holbrook

Mitchell Berean Church

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Please make sure to leave a comment with your thoughts below.