Tag Archives: Understanding the Spiritual Journey

Our Posture Towards Death

The following was a sermon given on Sunday, November 20th, 2016 at Nelson Covenant Church.

Today many within our community are still in shock at the news of the tragic death of Devon Dunkley this week.  Devon’s family is part of our sister church at the Junction, and he was a part of our youth group for many years.   This past Wednesday Blair invited me to share from the Scriptures at our youth group, and I thought it would be important to pass along those thoughts to our entire community this morning.

We have record of an early Christian community in the ancient city of Thessalonica.  These were new believers in Jesus, and after experiencing a series of deaths within their community, they were seeking to understand how they were supposed to process death as believers in Jesus.  Paul addressed their questions in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

What is our posture towards death?  How are we called to live as Christians in the face of death?

The first thing that must be said, is that We MOURN. We MOURN the loss that comes through death. 

“13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”

Notice Paul doesn’t say, “You’re Christians—so you shouldn’t mourn!”  He says, “I don’t want you to grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”  Paul wants these early Christians to know that they will grieve and mourn, but their grief and mourning will take on a different shape.

I’ll expand on that in a second, but let’s stay on this first crucial point:  Christians MOURN the loss that comes from death.  Death is a monster, because it takes someone from us who was an image-bearer of God; someone who was valuable and loved, beautiful and good.  That’s why it’s important—critical—to mourn.


Jesus taught, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4.  In the kingdom of God it’s not a virtue to remain stoic and unfeeling in the presence of significant loss.  We are not more spiritual if we can keep sorrow at bay, nor are we stronger if we manage to keep our grief contained and controlled.

Jesus wept in the face of tragedy.  When his cousin John was beheaded, Jesus mourned.  When Jesus was informed that his close friend Lazarus had died, he wept.

That we can allow the searing pain that comes from losing a loved one find expression through our tears and our crying out to God…reveals we are becoming more like Jesus, not less.

Christians mourn in the face of death.

But there is a second thing that must be said.  In the face of death, We MOCK. We MOCK the powerlessness of death.  Paul continues:

14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

And in 1 Corinthians 15:22–26 Paul declares:

22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.



I’ve been reading through St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation (written in the 4th century).  In a chapter on the resurrection Athanasius shares how he has witnessed the truth of Jesus’ resurrection transform how the Christians of his day responded in the face of death.  Specifically, he highlights how the resurrection has led to Christians “despising” death (and by “despising” he means mocking/belittling).  Listen to his words:

A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this. All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead. Before the divine sojourn of the Savior, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection.

“There is proof of this too; for men who, before they believe in Christ, think death horrible and are afraid of it, once they are converted despise it so completely that they go eagerly to meet it, and themselves become witnesses of the Savior’s resurrection from it. Even children hasten thus to die, and not men only, but women train themselves by bodily discipline to meet it. So weak has death become that even women, who used to be taken in by it, mock at it now as a dead thing robbed of all its strength. Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot the passers-by sneer at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him. So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Savior on the cross. It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, “O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting?

If you are a Christian, you serve a King who has broken death and trampled it underfoot.  When Jesus was resurrected, he overcame death’s power and signaled the beginning of the end of death’s rule and reign over God’s good creation.

Therefore, those in Christ are no longer held hostage by death’s power.  Death is a defeated foe, so that we now live without fear, knowing that “We are confident…and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8.  Even more astonishing than the hope of life after death, is the hope of life after, life after death.  The Christian’s ultimate hope is that one day Jesus will return and bring full Restoration and Redemption to this broken world.  Then his kingdom will be fully established within the context of a new heavens and new earth, and “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

In light of this great hope, Christians mock death, seeing it for the temporary inconvenience that it is.

And so death causes us to mourn, but it ought never cause us to despair.  Christians must never be frozen by the fear of death, nor overwhelmed by a misunderstanding of its grasp.

Because of what Jesus has accomplished–for you, for me, for Devon–death does not have the final word.  It has been swallowed up in the life and victory of King Jesus; a life and victory that Devon now knows fully, even as he is fully known (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12).


Sermon Notes: The Spiritual Journey of the 40’s

Here’s the next “installment” of sermon notes from Grindstone church’s current series, “Understanding the Spiritual Journey.”  These are from my February 23rd message looking at the spiritual journey of the 40’s.

A Snapshot of Life in the 40’s

Paula D’Arcy: the 40’s are about “saving relationships.”

The 40’s is a “Hinge decade” of one’s life; decisions you make during this decade will determine the next 30-40 years.

Remember the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7?  Often in our 40’s the “storms of life” really begin, and we find out what our foundation really is.

Specifically, in relationships.  Our 40’s is where the foundations of our marriage and key relationships begin to show.

Because of our social capital (wealth, education, support systems,) we’ve likely been able to navigate life fairly well through our 30’s.  But for many people the 40’s confront us with a new set of challenges that many people don’t feel prepared to handle.

When you talk to people about their 40’s, these are some of the common experiences of that decade:

  • Feeling like you’re being pulled in 100 different directions!  Exhausting! (sandwich generation!)
  • Discontentment or boredom with life or with things that have provided fulfillment for a long time.  Feeling restless and wanting to do something completely different.
  • As reflective space opens up, many begin questioning decisions made years earlier and the meaning of their life.  “What have I really done with my life?”  So there is confusion about who you are and where your life is going.
  • 40’s often struggle with disillusionment between with way things are vs. what they expected them to be.
  • Health stressors start (not indestructible!).
  • Often you’re raising teenagers in your 40’s (very stressful!

Taken together, all of these factors lead to many in their 40’s feeling like they’re losing control and that their life is unraveling.  Which is ironic, because in your 40’s you LOOK like you’ve peaked.  You appear to be strong to those around you.  But internally you feel like you’re in a very fragile place.


What are the major spiritual challenges?

THE Major Spiritual Challenge: Navigating the Mid-life Transition (Transition vs. Crisis!)

Jung/Rohr’s/Scriptures “Spirituality of Two Halves of Life”

-There are two halves to the spiritual life.  The “rules” for what leads to growth and maturity in the first half are different from those in the second.  And it’s usually in one’s 40’s that they begin to transition from a first-half to the second-half spirituality.  It’s not something you do, it’s more something that’s done to you.  You can’t control it, you just have to recognize it and lean into it.

And how you handle that transition is by far the most important challenge of the 40’s.

The first half of the spiritual life is defined by Rules and Wilfulness. 

The habits that lead to maturity and growth are:

  • Structure
  • Routine
  • Morality
  • Black/White thinking
  • Discipline
  • Hard Work
  • Ambition
  • Idealism
  • Self-control
  • Personal success

If these values and habits get embedded during the first-half of your life, you’re likely to be a healthy, maturing person into your 30’s.

Together these values act as a “Container” that allows you to go deep in  one place; to be rooted and grounded in healthy, productive habits.

The second half of the spiritual life is defined by Grace and Willingness.


The values of the first half aren’t discarded, but they are softened.  They just don’t matter as much.

They begin to give way to the 5 major characteristics of the second half of life

  1. Deep humility (lack of ego)
  2. Deep simplicity (lack of attachments)
  3. Deep faith (lack of control)
  4. Deep grace (lack of legalism/moralism)
  5. Deep generosity (lack of “personal success”)


“Jeff, is this biblical?”

For those who have eyes to see, yes!

Think about the general distinction between the Old and New Testament.  There does seem to be a more rigid, focused, disciplinarian emphasis in the Old Testament, while a more gracefilled, generous, loving emphasis dominates the New Testament.  Why?

Galatians 3:24 the law was our guardian/custodian until Christ came!

  • Servant whose responsibility was to accompany, protect, and sometimes discipline his master’s son until the boy reached maturity. These custodians supervised their charges’ moral conduct and general behavior. Their methods of persuasion varied from physical punishment to shaming. Paul regarded the Mosaic law as a “schoolmaster” (kjv) or “tutor” (nasb) to lead us to Christ (Gal 3:24-25).

Another level.  Think about the tension between Paul and Jesus.  Paul leans much more in this direction, and Jesus much more in this direction.  Some scholars even try to pit one against the other, framing things as if there are competing “kinds” of “Christianity.”  That misses the mark of what is going on.

Paul = first half of life teaching.  Makes sense, his mission focused on Gentiles!

Jesus = second-half of life teacher. Makes sense, his mission focused on Israel!

Key: Both halves are necessary for maturity in Christ! Jesus “full of grace and truth”


The 40’s is a time when the transition usually begins.  And the transition often begins in response to “a great Defeat.”  i.e. (usually a loss–friend, parent, child, job, marriage).  The loss of something integral to your identity.  It’s a defeat that confronts you with your limitations and powerlessness, often for the first-time.  Up to this point you’ve been able to leverage your social capital and growth, climb, achieve, and succeed.  But the great defeat puts an end to that.  The defeat forces you to confront things about your life that are neither easy or comfortable to face.  Some people choose not to face these things.  This leads to a mid-life crisis where they regress back into first-half of life values—only this time “harder” and “more determined.”  The results are always sad.

The major task of the this time in life is to recognize that a transition is taking place, and shift your life to align to these values and postures of the heart.

This is much easier for women to do then men (due to much better social support systems)


Jesus’/Scripture’s counsel to this demographic

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

40’s are an opportunity to take stock of which yoke you’ve been wearing.

40’s time to exchange that yoke for Jesus’, and to move deeper into God’s grace.  It’s a time to learn to enjoy God and create space for these

  • Deep humility (lack of ego)
  • Deep simplicity/generosity (lack of attachments)
  • Deep faith (lack of control)
  • Deep grace (lack of legalism/moralism)
  • Deep generosity (lack of “personal success”)


How do we navigate the mid-life transition well?

  1. Re-centring on the gospels.  Take on Jesus’ yoke!


2. Practice disciplines of “secret defeat” (Andy Crouch).  These prepare us for the transition, and help us navigate the transition.  Found in Sermon on the mount.

  • Deep humility (Fasting)
  • Deep simplicity (Tithing/generosity)
  • Deep faith (prayer and contemplation)
  • Deep grace (repentance and restitution)
  • Deep generosity (joy in service to others—especially poor)


Practical Advice for the 40’s

Inner world/life is undergoing a huge shift! males = from outer world to inner female = from inner world to outer

So I want to address each individually.

Men: “There must be more to life than this.  There must be more to me than this!”

In 40’s, often realize what they’ve been chasing after doesn’t really deliver what they thought it would.  Men often discover they have lost their identity in their service of wrong things! (money, power, sex, ego, etc.)

All the titles and prestige don’t mean much.  Personal ambition starts to fade.

“What are you going to do with that tower?”

  • Men: From “making your mark” (striving and success) to relationships and reflection
  • A radical re-commitment to service and the common good is mandatory, while an increased attention to the inner life.
  • It can look like hesitancy, “giving up”, softening
  • From Warrior to King
  • Share your inner journey with someone


Women: “There must be more to life than this.  There must be more to me than this!”

Often, women have lost their identity in their service of good things! (family, relationships, etc.)

Women often transition from relationships and reflection to “making your mark” (striving and success).

Often the best Christian leaders and those making the biggest impact are usually second-half of life women

Husbands need to open up space for your wives to explore and expand

Women: it’s your time, get out there!


How can the church support those in their 40’s?

  • Acknowledging the mid-life transition and giving them tools.
  • Create spaces of lament (for The Big Defeat)
  • Be patient and gracious.  Life is exceedingly difficult in the 40’s due to interior shift.
  • Create safe spaces (small groups) where men can process The Big Defeat.
  • Create spaces for women to step into 2nd half of life calling/passion.



Sermon Notes: The Spiritual Journey of the 30’s

Matt Pamplin has kindly allowed me to post his sermon notes from his recent message, “The Spiritual Journey of the 30’s.”

Snapshot of life in the 30’s:

  • Paula Darcy said the 30’s are about saving coupons.
  • Life can feel so busy and you are just looking for space in your schedule.
  • A decade of establishing (proving) yourself – trying to make something of yourself – Career / family. (30’s and 40’s)
  • Life is happening to me – It can feel like time is going by fast, you don’t have much time for rest or reflection.
  • Starting to realize  things may not turn out as I dreamed/planned.
  • Perpetual tiredness – one person said “as a parent – you never get tired, you just are tired”
  • Excitement has given way to “normality”  – Mundaneness –it can feel like every day is the same – a bit like ground hog day.

Spiritual challenges of 30’s:

Keeping a commitment to Christ central as other commitments come in.

The cares of this world (parable of the sower) – come into play (especially in the midst of busyness) what’s important?

Seeing God in the small things not just the dramatic

Big Picture: (what’s happening)

Owning the decisions you made in your 20’s – realising you have made these choices / commitments.

Learning to be content where you are.

Scripture’s advice to 30’s: (Philippians 4:10-13)

Paul is writing from prison to the church in Philippi.

Firstly Paul says in verse 12 contentment has to be learned and it’s a secret.

Paul says that contentment is something that has to be learned, it takes time. This is not something we fall into or we click our finger and get straight away. It also is a secret which implies that not everyone gets it. Not everyone has learned it. It eludes us, there is something that we are looking for. We want contentment – yet it’s so hard to find. Why because it’s a secret. It’s not found in what we see, its hidden –  it’s ultimately found in Christ but first let’s look at what it isn’t

Contentment ISN’T….

  • Based on circumstances – its not based on what we have or don’t have. Paul says that he is content no matter what his circumstances are. He is saying this because Paul knows we think contentment is found in earthly things. Whether he is doing well materially or not. We live in a culture where it can feel like we need to catch up to others or we look around and want what they have. Yet Paul says wanting more won’t make you content. Culturally we are always striving for more and yet contentment isn’t found in what we have. Just look at most celebreties – they would be the happiest people in the world if it was true.
  • Based on my achievement – Paul doesn’t say his contentment is what he has done. In phil 3 he says if anyone has reason to be confident in the flesh its paul yet that is not what brings him contentment .

As humans we look to compare ourselves to others. We think maybe if I was better or more gifted then I would be content.

Content IS…

  • Being present – Not wishing you were somewhere else or someone else. Coveting is wanting someone else’s life – wanting to be someone else.

We need to learn to be present. To love God in the mundane and normal of life.

  • Being thankful – Contentment comes from being thankful where you are at. We are constantly striving for more but because we aren’t satisfied we aren’t thankful for what we have. There is that joke first world problems but actually its there because we generally are grumpy. I was in a coffee shop the other day and the person ordered a drink. They said it would take 3 minutes to brew another pot. If you don’t have 3 minutes you better loosen up your schedule!

In 2 timothy  3:1-5 paul says there will be terrible times in the last days, one of the major marks is people will  be ungrateful.

One of the common themes of the new testament is thankfulness. Paul says in phil 4 rejoice in the lord always. Hes writing from prison! Thankfulness is the mark of a disciple. We always look to what we don’t have and yet we don’t see what God has given us.  It’s about celebrating the small things.  Can I be thankful wherever I am?

  • Knowing Christ – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. True contentment can only be found in Christ. He is the source of our life. Paul says it’s only in truly putting our attention and focus on Jesus that we can find contentment. So what has your attention? What has your affection?

Practical advice:

  1. Invest in your relationships – marriage, friends, kids.
  2. Practice being thankful – celebrate the small things.
  3. Spend time with friends who share same values – who push you to know Jesus
  4. Saying no in order to say yes
  5. Don’t beat yourself up, try to enjoy it

 Church support for the 30’s:

  • Mentor / Invite for dinner. Especially those 10 – 15 years older – individuals / couples.

  • Babysit – If you are a teen – early 20. Gareth and Joe – my boys-admire them and spending time with them.

  • Pray for those in their 30’s


Sermon Notes: The Spiritual Journey of the 20’s

Here are Matt Pamplin’s abridged sermon notes from his sermon “Understanding the Spiritual Journey of the 20’s”:

A Snapshot of Life in the 20’s

  • Paula Darcy says – 20’s are about saving the world.
  • This is a decade there is a lot happening –  lots of big decisions – marriage, job, where live, buying a house etc, start having a family.
  • A decade of diversity among our friends. In this decade we can have friends who are single, dating, engaged, married, have a family all within our friendship group.
  • Claudia Hammond in a book about nostalgia says that we reminisce most about the 20’s because it’s a decade of first time (major decisions)
  • 20’s is about feeling invincible. I am healthy, I am now educated, watch out world here I come.
  • Decade of opportunities – there is so much choice of what to do and not a lot holding me back. Travel opportunites mean I can go anywhere.
  • Maybe the word that best describes this decade is adventure

The Major Spiritual Challenges of the 20’s

  • Transitioning into owning my own faith. It’s no longer my parent’s faith. Lots of different world views and philosophies that collide at this time.
  • You start to realise that some of the things that were important to you about your faith are no longer that important. In fact you don’t know if you even believe them anymore! You are asking lots of questions.
  • Learning to follow Jesus even when life seems ordinary – how do I follow Jesus radically now that I have a family, house etc?
  • Practically following Jesus – now that there is no-one to keep me accountable to go to church, read the scripture, serve etc.
  • The transition of not just believing in Jesus but trusting him.

Big Picture  – what’s happening?

  • What am I doing? How do I make the big decisions that are in front of me?
  • For the very first time – life might not be turning out as I expect. Not married, not in the job that I expected.
  • Time for making big decisions – career, spouse, where to live etc. But a pressure to make the “right decision”

The Bible and the 20’s

Matthew 7:24-29 / Luke 6

First thing Jesus says is – “anyone who hears these (my) words” (personal). Are we listening to the voice of Jesus? Jesus says that everyone is building towards something. Earlier in Matthew 7 he has said there are 2 roads that we can take. So Jesus says our life is heading towards something. When we look to build a foundation for our life who are we going to listen to?

Second thing (Jesus goes onto say) There are 2 guys building 2 houses. He seems to imply that the house look the same from the outside. There doesn’t seem to be a difference when you look at them but it’s what the houses are built on. Jesus says you will know how well the house is built when the storms come. Are you willing to take the time to build well? How you build now will have implications for the rest of your life. It takes time to build a strong foundation, Its not instantaneous.

The Third thing Jesus says is – “the wise man is the one who puts my words into practise”. So Jesus says “practise my words” but what has Jesus said in the sermon on the mount. It’s really important to notice what IS in there and what is NOT. Jesus never mentions – Safety, comfort, financial wealth, instant gratification, security or success.

But Jesus does say – Love your enemies, fast, pray lots, give to the poor, don’t worry about material things and what true blessing looks like.

The North American lifestyle is not the gospel of Jesus. I am not saying all parts of it are bad but we have got caught up in thinking this is the goal of your life when Jesus says following him and his kingdom are the goal of your life. In Matthew 6 Jesus has said “if you seek my Kingdom first then don’t worry about the rest”.

So when making decisions what filter do you use?

Advice for 20-somethings

  • Seek God and his kingdom, may your big decisions be based on this.
  • When you make a decision (this is coles notes) Pray (surrender to God, check your motives). Read the scripture, Seek wise counsel (people who will challenge, not just people who will tell you what you want to hear). Then actually step out and do something.
  • Prioritize being part of a church. Commit to being involved even if you don’t get something out of it. Being in a community of people who are not like you will help shape and form you.
  • Disciplines not feelings that shape us. Be formed by the disicplines you are practising (prayer, reading scripture, fasting, giving, serving). Don’t be formed / make decsions just by your feelings “if it feels good do it”.
  • Sabbath rest not busy noisiness – Learn to practise Sabbath. Its hard to claw it back later. Sabbath is about playing and praying. But Sabbath primarily reminds us that we are not God….God is.

How can the church support those in their 20’s?

1. Celebrate – We need to celebrate we have some great 20 something’s at Grindstone. As a church we are fortunate to have so many wonderful 20’s. I often hear from different churches that 20 something’s are great but they don’t contribute as much financially. They do contribute financially but why not look at their passion and how they stretch us to grow. Let’s look at how blesse we are to have so many vibrant, passionate 20 something’s.

2. Listen / ask – Often we see groups of 20 something’s but take the time to ask them their name, listen to their story. People who are older need to come alongside and support and help (mentor them). We need to learn from each other.

3. Pray  – It seem obvious but take time to uphold them in prayer. This is a significant decade.


Sermon Notes: The Spiritual Journey of Teens

As part of Grindstone’s “Understanding the Spiritual Journey” series, I’ve decided to post our sermon notes on my blog so that people can review the decades of interest to them.

Here are the notes from yesterday’s message which I co-taught with Derek Hisson.


1. A snapshot of life in the teens

A time of ENORMOUS transitions. 

Teens more than just ‘high school’ (jr. high to 3rd year university).

-“a living hell”
-Social and academic pressures
-Lack of support systems
-Family dysfunction/breakdown
-Others trying to strike you down so they can rise up
-Time of searching/questioning/rebellion
-Spiritual interest is often high during teen years
-Individuation from family of origin
-“A foot in two worlds” (adult and child)
-Mixed messages: “Don’t do drugs, but try new things”
-Fluctuations (on top of the world vs. bottom of the it)

2. What are the major spiritual challenges?

What is happening? (Big Picture: Identity Formation).  Teens are looking for answers to the major worldview questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I?
  • What’s the problem?
  • What’s the solution?

What is happening? (Ground Level)

  • Grindstone Guys Top 3 issues you deal with Porn, Drugs, Friends
  • Grindstone Girls Top 3 issues you deal with Body Image, Self-esteem/worth, Sexual pressures
  • Teens are challenging their beliefs, trying to figure out what they believe and why, instead of passively accepting what they’ve been taught.  They’re looking for places that allow them to question and offer a patient, safe space to work through their struggles.

3. The Bible and Teens

Scripture addresses the questions teens are asking!

  • Who am I?
  • What really matters in life?
  • How do I get the most out of life?
  • Am I important?
  • Am I loved?
  • Does my life have a larger purpose?

When teens ignore the Scriptures, they’re ignoring the most powerful resource for addressing those questions!  No other resource tackles those questions head-on in such an affirming and powerful way for teenagers.

Jesus’ disciples were teenagers, which is so important to highlight because it shows us that Jesus was very eager to invite and involve teens to front-line kingdom work–then and today!

1 Timothy 4:12 : “12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  The passage is saying is that as teens it is completely reasonable to want to be an important and active part of the church, so long as you are setting a Godly example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.  Teens are being called to act in ways that are Godly, not just to be examples and not let people put them down.

4. Our Advice to Teens: Enter the Jesus Dojo

A dojo is literally “a place where one learns the way,” usually of some kind of martial art. In this case, this dojo teaches the way of Jesus. And, similar to a martial arts dojo, this community teaches not just by lecturing, etc. but by actually practicing together the way of Jesus.

We enter the dojo through new experiences and by moving from ideas to action.

A Dojo is where you train, not simply try.

40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)

7 train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)

25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:25)

“Spiritual training” is a core aspect of true discipleship.

NOTE: This is not a matter of being “good enough” or earning favor with God. There is nothing that we can do that will cause God to love us more than He already does. Training is not a matter of earning extra credit with God. It is about discipleship to Jesus and becoming more like Him.  We are not trying to earn God’s salvation or earn God’s love, we’re training because now that we are living for Jesus and his kingdom agenda, we need to reshape our lives accordingly.

How to train: Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength

Every teen in this church should have a weekly HSMS traning plan.  It should address the four dimensions Jesus included as part of the great commandment.

Heart: relationships, compassion, joy, love, forgiveness.  What is one thing I can do this week that will help me grow in this area?

Soul: prayer, self-awareness, spiritual disciplines.  What is one thing I can do this week that will help me grow in this area?

Mind: Biblical knowledge, Christian worldview.  What is one thing I can do this week that will help me grow in this area?

Strength: sacrifice, serving, giving, other-centredness, delayed gratification.  What is one thing I can do this week that will help me grow in this area?

Do you have a HSMS training program?  If not, why not?  Spiritual growth and vibrancy never “just happens” anymore than becoming a fit and competition-ready runner “just happens.”

  • 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

5. How can our church support teens in their spiritual journey?

Heart:  Encourage teens and take time to listen.

Soul:  Pray for the teens in your life and in our church.

Mind:  help create environments where they can work through their questions and doubts, while being guided deeper into God’s Word.

Strength:  Look for ways to tangibly bless teens you know.


Sermon Notes: “The Spiritual Journey of Childhood”

As part of Grindstone’s “Understanding the Spiritual Journey Series,” I had the pleasure of co-teaching a message on the spirituality of childhood with Tracy Crewson (one of our Children’s Ministry Co-ordinators) this past Sunday.  Our message is available via at www.grindstonechurch.com for those who want to listen to it.

Every time we do this series, I get a consistent stream of people wanting the notes from our messages, particularly the decade that is most relevant to them personally.

So I’ve decided to put an abbreviated version of each decade’s speaking notes on my blog so people can review the information whenever they would like.

Here are the notes from week one of our series: The Spiritual Journey of Childhood.

A snapshot of life in the childhood decade

Childhood is a time of enormous developmental change on every level.  Between 0-10 years of age, every 4-6 months children come into new capacities that they need to learn to adapt to and manage.


A. “What is happening? (Big Picture)”

  • Children are trying to develop a “container” (to borrow language from Richard Rohr) that can “hold” together their experience of the world.
  • Children are learning to manage continual and rapid growth on almost every level simultaneously.  The interior life of a child is in an almost continual state of flux, and this is part of the reason children thrive in environments that provide consistency and routine.  There is so much internal change, having a consistent and predictable external reality provides the necessary security and safety that allows children to adapt well to the internal changes.

B.  “What is happening? (Ground Level)”

       Children build this “container” be seeking the following:

  • Physically : Children are seeking touch, physical affirmation, and nourishment.
  • Emotionally: Children are seeking love, belonging, and security.
  • Psychologically: Children are seeking boundaries, expectations, consequences, and consistency
  • Spiritually: Children are in beginning stages of identity formation and “worldview coherence.”  They are asking big questions about life, death, God, meaning, etc.
  • Ideally, children are being nurtured on all four of these levels.


What are the major spiritual challenges?

A. Developing Trust.

  • Dr. David Richo says, “Trust is not an either / or proposition, but a matter of degree…It’s the capacity to trust, which may have been limited or disturbed in our early life, because that’s where we’ve first learned to trust. Trust is basically a feeling of safety and security. When that didn’t happen in our early life with our parents, our capacity to trust became limited. ”
  • Since our spiritual relationship with God is a relationship built on faith instead of sight, it is a relationship built on trust.  Our experiences early in life shape our capacity to trust God later as teens and adults.

 B. Overcoming a lack of nurture and care from adults.

  • Children need to be nourished on all four levels (physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritually).
  • While most people agree on the need to nurture their children physically, emotionally, psychologically, when it comes to nurturing their spirituality, we prefer a “hands off” approach.  Spiritually, it’s often viewed as progressive to “let them decide for themselves.”  This  mentality is dangerous, however, because it assumes that children are able to independently make healthy and wise decisions when it comes to spiritual matters (something Scripture and experience clearly disagrees with).


The Bible and Children

Scripture consistently emphasizes the importance of this decade!  Throughout the Bible there is an enormous value placed on children (which was rarely present in pagan cultures), and an enormous calling placed on communities and the raising of children. Deuteronomy 6 is a prime example:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.


  • “Impress them on your children.” Imprint. Children are not meant to figure things out for themselves. To “empower” children in this way is usually a way for parents to relieve themselves from the burden of parenting.  We are to actively instruct children in the way they should go and explain why.

Matthew 19 contains another key text that reveals children’s worth and their place of prominence within the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:13-15
13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.


  • Matthew records that Jesus was ‘indignant’ –  he was angry or annoyed at what he perceived to be unfair treatment of these children.  Jesus was angry that the children were being seen as unimportant.
  • We cannot view our children in the way that society increasingly views them – as burdens, interruptions, and inconveniences.


Advice to Parents

i. Parenting is difficult.  Don’t give up! Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

 ii. Habits matter.  What habits are you letting take root in your child’s life?

iii. Disciple your child. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6.  Our guidance (or lack thereof) during the childhood years has enormous influence and ramifications in the subsequent decades.

iv. Provide morals, but not moralism. We need to give our children the reason behind the rules God has laid out for us.  We need to teach them the Scriptural ‘whys’ so our children develop a Christian conscience not a legalistic conscience.

v. Be a disciple yourself.  Christianity is just as much caught as taught.  What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a growing and mature relationship with God, or is your Christian parenting style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?

vi. Seek healing for a childhood lost.  Now is an important time to seek healing for those of us who never experienced a safe and healthy childhood due to abuse, neglect, or lack of care and nurture.


 Advice to all of us: learn from children

  • Our spiritual vibrancy is tied to the children around us.
  •  Matthew 18:3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
  •  Mark 10:14, “Let the children come to me.  Don’t hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
  •  There is something about the spirituality of children that we in the subsequent decades are to embrace and emulate in order to be thriving members of God’s kingdom.  Children, not just adults belong in the kingdom of Heaven and are not just as marginal members or on the coat-tails of their parents, but are models in the kingdom of God showing adults how to enter the Kingdom.
  •  Mark 10:14, “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
  •  Jesus does not mean that the kingdom of heaven belongs only to children but rather to those like them – they are the perfect object lesson in the kind of humility, faith, and “powerlessness” that is require to enter into God’s kingdom.