The Heart of Crave

1 Peter 2:2-3 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

With the new school year upon us, Crave Student Ministries is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to welcome brand new “Cravers”! However, with the passion of Crave not only being in the service to students but their families as well, we also eagerly await the brand new Crave parents!

Nonetheless, I am aware that this time can cause more angst and anxiety in the parent’s heart than anyone can fully understand. The thought of my 6th grader entering into a stage of discipleship and worship alongside a 12th grader definitely weighed heavy on my heart just 12 months ago…and I’m “in charge” of his experience as well as everyone else’s! Therefore, I can only imagine the trepidation that is on the hearts of those parents entering into this transition now.

With that in mind, allow me to share with you the heart of Crave Student Ministries. Several years and two student ministers ago the passage above, 1 Peter 2:2, was adopted as the central scripture that captures the heart of this student ministry. At the core, our prayer is that each student in Crave begins to or continues to yearn to draw closer to their Savior. However, we recently added the third verse in this passage as it brings to light a very real truth reflected in the ministry that God has cultivated here.

First, let us consider what is actually being “craved”. In verse 2 we see that we, believers, are called to crave pure spiritual milk. If we’re not careful this phrase can be lost on us and easily filed in the drawer labeled “Christian Jargon.” What can that possibly mean? I know milk, and I love the 100% whole, vitamin D, gotta shake it up every time but not too long because you might make butter, milk. But, I’ve never seen “pure spiritual milk” on the shelves of our local store. We have to dig a bit deeper to answer this question.

Verse 1 of this passage begins with “So…”, so…lets go back a bit further. If we do, we’ll see an exhortation for believers to set their minds and hope on the grace that saved them, and to live holy lives with our hearts being made new by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. But we’ll also see Chapter 1 end with this reminder: “And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

This word…the word of the Gospel, the good news. How much more pure can any word be? Furthermore, how much nourishment can be had at that very news of grace, mercy, life, and holiness in Him? We are called to crave that pure spiritual milk, His word, His good news. But not so that we may forever be bound to the “dairy isle of life.” The whole purpose of this call may also be lost on us as well. If we’re not careful, we’ll easily be tossed too and from congregations and local churches based on whether or not we’re “being fed.” I’ve been lost in this sensation and can easily see where others may be as well; nonetheless, we cannot settle for this immature and incomplete call. We have to see the later part of this verse- “that by it you may grow up into salvation…”.

There’s a purpose! That we may grow up! This is not a stagnant call for us, nor is it ever described as such in scripture. If we want to be really convicted, lets read Hebrews 5:12 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” But wait! Now milk is bad? Absolutely not! But what are we doing with it? Imagine if your diet, as a growing, maturing person, consisted solely of milk. You wouldn’t be growing much! Nor will our faith and our sanctification if we continue to bounce around between the “all-you-can-eat-spiritual-buffets”! 

So, what’s the heart of Crave? That our students and families may seek to draw closer to God through his word and Gospel, preparing their minds for action, living their lives in pursuit of the holiness brought about by the Spirit, with their hearts fixed upon the salvation paid for by the Son. This preparation, cultivation, and adoration can be found any time Crave comes together, especially on Sunday mornings and evenings as we seek to dig deeper in His word through small group studies and discussions.

However, let us not forget the “if.” This is so very important. “… if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” The very truth is not everyone who worships together in Crave has tasted that the Lord is good. As a matter of fact, I would dare say that there is a portion of those who will rebel against that very declaration. And we have been given the awesome honor of walking down this path and opening the word with them, all the while, praying that they are overcome by the grace that saves.

This is seen, more so than any other time, on Wednesday evenings. We have the pleasure of coming together to worship our Father with many students and parents from across the county and each school district in our area. The real truth of the matter is that there will be some in the group that have not surrendered to Christ’s lordship, and far be it for me to assume that much of any one particular person who gathers with us. Therefore, Wednesday evenings take on much more of an awesome outreach intent for our county and area! This can be seen in our fellowship, intentional focus on building relationships, student-led praise, and a significant emphasis on preaching the word.

Reflecting on the charge put forth in Colossians 3:16-17, Crave seeks to come together in praise and worship of our Father to His glory. In doing so, we pray that each student and parent grows in up in their salvation as they crave His word. For those that have tasted, our prayer is that they begin to teach His amazing truth in due time. For those that have not tasted, we pray for that day of celebration when repentance is made and salvation is experienced.

To those families beginning this transition- welcome, come on in and buckle up! I pray that this will be an exciting ride for all of us!

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Lets Stop The Hop

I love going to a good movie with my family. My boys get excited when a new superhero movie comes out! So I, being the good father that I am, make it a point to indulge my fascination…I mean THEIR fascination with a great adventure story. Imagine with me, if you will, how a day at the movies might look if something like the following were to take place.

The boys are excited about seeing the new movie, and I am obviously giddy about the same, all the while Stef is grinning and bearing it. We all load up in the vehicle, each donned with our superhero attire, not mom of course, she’s the adult in the group after all. We travel to the theater, reminiscing our favorite scenes from the previous comic book-movie installment and the post credit scene that left everyone anxiously awaiting the next leg of the story. Finally we’ve arrived and we make our way to the theater. Tickets are purchased, we enter the magical land of big screens and spend our savings on buttery popcorn and the obligatory sour, mint, and cinnamon candies. At last comes the time that we enter into the sanctuary of the silver screen and we each depart from our family group, going on our own way into theaters number 2, number 6, number 9 and number 14.

Where did I lose you? Why on earth would we, with so much anticipation, investment, and excitement traverse such a detailed course only to enjoy the pleasures of the movie apart from each other? Great question! But families do something of this nature very often albeit not necessarily with movies, but with corporate worship, and quite frankly it’s time that we take a closer look at this routine and examine a possible need for change.

Church shopping, hopping, blending…call it what you will; however, I would offer to you that it is reckless and dangerous to the family. You may be thinking to yourself how bold and ostentatious this assertion may be; nevertheless, I make such a statement with great love and concern for the family and the church that we are called to be. Now, before you quit reading out of disdain for this bold statement, I ask that you hang with me just a bit longer. Please hear my heart as it is truly for our families to fully experience the greatness of God, together!

First, allow me to say to those that have a church home but continue to “hop” from one church to another- I get it, but…

I get that we need community. I get that our children go to school with congregants of many different churches and we may feel the need to have them worship alongside each other. However, I would remind us all of the course set for us in Deuteronomy 6:7 “You shall teach [my commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Therefore, there’s really not a biblical emphasis placed on framing our worship around our friends, but there’s a blatant command for our families to worship together. How can this expectation be kept if we know very little of the worship, teaching, and preaching that our family members are participating in with a different church family or a variety of families from day to day?

I also get that we have needs that sometimes are not always met by one church family. Much like when my boys want Mexican food and I want a good bacon cheeseburger…which only means that we’re making multiple stops. Nonetheless, we see in scripture multiple exhortations for us to grow up into maturity and not see the church as a buffet. In Hebrews, which is a letter to believers, we find such an strong cry: Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food. Perhaps we need to step away from the tempting perspective of church being a time of feeding to the biblical perspective of  church being a time of encouraging and sharpening one another (Heb 10:25, Prov 27:17), and to be sure to not forget that our time together is to be spent worshiping the only one who truly deserves it and so much more.

Are we fed by scripture and time together? Absolutely; and I would suggest that we do just as much feeding as the person sitting next to us or the one in the pulpit. We feed into the lives of the people we greet in the foyer, the person we hold the door open for, the couple in our bible study class, and even into the life of our pastor! But, if we fail to forget this and only think about our own appetite while placing the blame of our perceived spiritual malnourishment on the shoulders of our pastor or ministers, only to move on to or mix in some other buffet, could it be possible that we’re negatively impacting the life of the church and its members? As a matter of fact, isn’t this what the letter to Hebrews stated again in 10:24-25? To consider how to stir up one another in love and  “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  All the more…herein lies the passion and persistence needed to come together even more! Why? Because, praise God, Christ is returning and we get to be on the welcoming committee as Larry Osbourne writes in his book Thriving in Babylon.

But lets not forget, if we see an opportunity to serve alongside our church family in a way that God has laid on our hearts yet not made available, lets step up! The Hebrews passage in Chapter 5 reminds us that we ought to be teachers by now, so lets serve in biblical, creative ways under the leadership of our church family! What damage do we do in stepping away from our church family just to pursue a passion that He’s laid on our hearts? Perhaps that need is placed there for you to pursue and glorify Him through the family of believers that He’s already placed you in.

Finally, for those of us that may be found shopping, hopping, or blending- unity is desperately needed within your church family. Listen to David’s song in Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” How can one church family be unified if they are not dwelling together or their time together is inconsistent? I then think upon the cry of Paul in his letter to the church of Ephesus:

Ephesians 4:1 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

How can we walk alongside each other with any consistency if our worship together is spotty at best?

I am left with a fear that few reading my thoughts see a clear, vivid problem with my analogy of our family trip the the movies. As much as we love seeing great stories and colorful images come to life, our participation in corporate worship is not about our entertainment at all. My concern for those that shop, hop, or blend churches is ultimately that consumerism is at the heart of this behavior. How much have we cheapened grace that we may confuse the worship of our Creator and Savior with concert-style entertainment and simple take-home points? How far from God’s wrath being poured out on His Son do we have to go to consider church being all about us and our self-help? How dull of hearing and guilty of little doing do we have to be to place our preferences above the worship and adoration of our one, true God? What a scary place to be. I pray that we fix our eyes back on Him, take up the commandment to worship together as a family, unified in our dwelling, and walking together in corporate worship. Lets leave the buffet of shopping, hopping, and blending aimed at our own appetite to the world, and once again gather together to glorify our Lord.