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Nehemiah

Is God still in our schools?

By Nehemiah, Local FP Communities

Rachel Camarota, FP Director Johnston County

This blog was written by Rachel Camarota, Director of FP Johnston County, NC.

Before I stepped into this role with First Priority, I was a teacher and the sponsor for an FP club at a local high school. Every day I saw the need for Christ-centered clubs in our school and among our students. But do you know what else I saw? Students who love Jesus, who were unashamed to share their faith through First Priority.

For the past decade, we have been told that God is not present in our schools anymore or that young people aren’t interested in Jesus – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you?”

While in recent years there has been a noticeable decline in Christian beliefs in our schools and among our young people, as long as we have students who walk the halls and believe in Jesus, God is still there.

This is where First Priority comes in. We train students to be disciples of Christ and to share the Gospel in their school – and it is working. Just in the last weeks of 2019, 2 students accepted Christ in a local high school!

But those students would’ve never been given that opportunity had it not been for student leaders being brave enough to share the Gospel at First Priority – and they can’t share the Gospel without your help. Click the button below to find out more info about how you can start a club in a school in your area.

Start a Club

Rachel Camarota
FP Director Johnston County

If you don’t measure it, you don’t care about it

By Nehemiah, Leadership Development

I recently heard someone say, “If you don’t measure it, you don’t care about it.” Whatever ‘it’ is, he is totally right. The new year always evokes change in people. But because this is not only a new year, but a new decade, it has us writing goals and making adjustments to our life; spiritually, physically, financially, emotionally, and so on. A few weeks ago I shared a quote I heard from Toby Mac. He said, “if you are not changing it, you are choosing it.” there is that ‘it’ again.

Let’s talk about physical goals for a minute. If you don’t know how much you weigh, how are you going to know if you are making progress? If you don’t know how big your arms are when you start lifting weights, how can you celebrate the win? I know you can see the results eventually, but isn’t it more fun to celebrate your achievements from where you started? I love to step on the scale after a week and see that I have lost 5 pounds. I need to lose 20 pounds, but how rewarding is it to celebrate the 5 and then be motivated to do the next 15? We measure so that we can celebrate us changing the situation, not choosing it.

Financially, you need to know what you have coming in so you can make a budget based on your measurement. Whether that measurement is small or large, you set goals on saving, giving, etc.

Spiritually, I need to measure the time I spend with God. I heard a guy say that the hallmark of discipleship is discipline. If I do not take time to spend reading the Bible and continuously putting God first in life, I, like everyone else, will fall back into the worries of this world and be defeated by the enemy.

In your ministry or business, you have to have something to measure. If you don’t, how can you get anyone to join you or partner with you if you can’t measure your accomplishments. No one wants to be a part of a ministry that can’t show results.

Why do we at First Priority bug you so much for your numbers? Because we want you and everybody else to celebrate the win that God gives us. I heard someone ask a campus ministry guy how many schools his ministry was in, and he said, “I don’t know, the Lord is just doing incredible things, and we can’t keep up.” What? Are you kidding me? My first thought was, man, I would never give that guy a dime of money or a minute of my attention. He told me loud and clear that he does not think being on the school campus is important even though that’s what his vision statement says! I know in the ministry world we like to say, if just one person gives their life to Christ, it was worth it, and I agree, but God also wrote a whole book on Numbers.

Hey, in this new year, this new decade, let’s make sure we measure so we can celebrate the win with God.

New Year, New Goals, New Opportunities

By Nehemiah

New year, new goals, new opportunities, and the list goes on. I am sure you can add a lot to your list of things to be new. When I was in college, my buddies and I went and played golf almost every day. We would go late in the afternoon. We could only get in 9 holes, and we had to walk, but it was cheap. I think I spent more money on golf balls than green fees; I had a bad slice! If you have ever played golf, you know that feeling when you hit that perfect shot. You replay it in your mind and remind your buddies of how good it was, to the point of being irritating. Those good shots are what make you keep coming back. What I love about a new year is we get another shot. A shot to change something, a shot to start over. I heard Toby Mac say, ‘whatever you are not changing you are choosing.” Wow, that is good! IF we don’t like something or want to make a change, we have to take a shot.

I know many of you have wanted to help your students have a club on campus, where they can share Jesus with their peers. Well, why not take that shot this new year? Your students get a platform to practice what you are teaching, and you get to see God use your students to reach their friends for Christ. Your congregation in your church can pray for your students as missionaries. It is a win-win, and all you have to do is choose to do it. We train you, you train students, and students start clubs. It is so easy even a caveman can do it. We will have two webinar opportunities (45 minutes in length) for you to choose from. You can choose January 9th or 28th. Click here to register. https://firstpriority.club/club-resources/start-a-club

Figuring out Life with a God who Hides

By Nehemiah, First Priority Of America

Wow, I cannot believe it is already Christmas! I know everyone is saying that this year because Thanksgiving was so late. It seems like it just snuck up on all of us. Christmas is next week, and I still do not even have a tree up. What kind of Christian am I? Right! I promise I will get a tree tonight so I can get back on the good list.

Well, I wanted to tell you about this book I have been reading. It is by a guy named Tony Kriz, and the name of the book is Aloof: Figuring out life with a God who hides. Did that get anybody’s attention? It did mine. I have felt that way for years. Not that I have never felt the presence of God, just that it seems like sometimes He is just beyond my reach. Is it just me and Tony, or does that resonate with you too? The Author quoted a friend of his name Richard Twiss. He said, “Our problem is not God’s absence. It is that God is everywhere at all times. The problem is we are not attuned to His actual ever presence.” Ok wow there it is…we are not attuned.

So how does Christmas fit in here? Well, Christmas seemed more magical when we were kids. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Christmas. It just seems that most people have greater memories of Christmas when they were young. Have you noticed that God was more real to you when you were a kid? Do you remember just carrying on conversations with Him about anything? Talking to Him like he was your best friend? My oldest son Hayden was riding his scooter out in our driveway when he was about 6 or 7. He was out there just carrying on a conversation with someone. He was saying things like, “did you see that trick, do you like that one, what did you think about that?” I was wondering who he was talking with. I thought maybe he had an imaginary friend. I looked at him and asked, “who are you talking too”? He looked at me real funny like I was nuts and said, God. I said what what are you doing? He said, “I am showing God my tricks.” I said, “did God like them,” which he replied, “Yes, He did.” I told God that if he liked my tricks to make the wind blow in my face, and it did!” There you go, through the mouths of babes. Remember, Jesus told his disciples in Matt. 19:14,“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Becoming a Christian takes child-like faith. Kids have faith. My youngest son Cole used to throw his toys on the roof of our house just so I would let him go up there and get them off. When he got all of his toys and he was ready to get off the roof he would just make eye contact with me and jump, trusting me to catch him. Is that not what God wants us to do with Him? There is an old hymn that says, trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus is to trust and obey. Seems pretty straightforward though the eyes of a child. When we get older, we get busy with the worries of life, and we trust less and obey less, and God seems aloof. This Christmas, watch the kids and look at the wonder in their faces. I think that is what God desires for you and me, to wonder in Him and to simply trust Him with everything, giving our worries and burdens to Him. Matt. 11:28 says,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Maybe giving my burdens to Jesus every day is the secret sauce that makes me more child-like. Being child-like helps me experience God so God won’t seem so aloof.

Jada’s Story

By Nehemiah, Student Leaders

“Sometimes I feel like I am the only teenager trying to live for God, but then I think of all the other students in FP, not only in my school, but across the nation. I am reminded that I am not the only one, and there are people I can go to and lean on for help spiritually.

First Priority has also given me the confidence to talk about and discuss God openly to other students. When I started directing meetings and speaking to the group, I was timid and hesitant to tell my testimony. Now that I have spoken more, I have the confidence to share God’s good news with everyone because of the practice in First Priority. Considering my initial lack of confidence, I truly believe that God has given me the gift of gab. Most of the times this leads to me talking too much, or saying something that I wish I could take back, but I feel like I am putting this gift to work in First Priority.

This club has given me a platform to share the things that God has shown me that helps live life to its fullest potential. Lastly, FP has given me the opportunity to do something in school that will help save my soul and others. Sure, art clubs and scholarly activities are great to be apart of, but when I stand before God, I have to give an account of what I have done to help build his kingdom. FP has given me the opportunity to help build God’s kingdom through volunteer work and witnessing to others, and I am truly grateful for that.”

-Jada, student from FP St. Louis Metro East

Why am I here on this planet?

By Nehemiah No Comments

Why am I here on this planet? I believe you are here for two reasons.

1. To know God.
God knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb. He created you to know Him. (Jerimiah 1:5) The Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew tried to get Jesus to pick one commandment over the other. In Jesus’ brilliance, he summed them all up in two. We refer to this as the Great Commandment.

Matt:22:34-39  But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

So first and foremost, this commandment says to love God. When we spend time with God, we get to know Him. The more time you spend with God, the more you grow to love God because He is good. (James 1:16-17) 

2. To Love people
When we continue to Love God, the 2nd commandment becomes a lot easier, love people. I believe how we treat people is a direct reflection of our relationship with God. God loves all people, so, therefore, the better I know God, the better I will be at loving people. So once again, why am I here? To Love God and Love people. I am here to influence peoples’ lives toward a relationship with Jesus.

Be used by God.
Working with students and student pastors for over 30 years has given me insight on a few things. Of course, the older I get, the more I realize I know nothing. But here is something I have learned. There is nothing more important in the life of a believer than to be used by God! I find that the people who are fired up for God are the ones being used by God. My oldest son Hayden, helped start a First Priority club on his campus during his freshman year of high school. In his sophomore year, he got the opportunity to share his testimony at the club. He was, of course, nervous, as this was his first attempt at public speaking. I helped coach him and helped him outline his talk. That Thursday afternoon changed his life forever. He stood and shared his story to about 300 students, and then at the end, he gave people an opportunity to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. That day 35 of his peers gave their lives to Christ. Boom! Hayden was never the same. He was so excited that God used him. His youth pastor was also fired up as he realized Hayden was practicing what he had been teaching him. First Priority gave my son the platform to be used by God.

God’s Great Love for Us

By Nehemiah No Comments

Unfortunately, I had to do a funeral this past weekend. I do not like speaking at funerals, however, it’s easier when the person was a Christian. Funerals are a great reminder of our mortality, and for the believer, it is the doorway into our next adventure.

1 Cor. 15:54-55 says, When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

When it was time during the funeral for me to speak, I began with this account of creation from the incredible writer Max Lucado.

They stepped into the Garden again. The Maker looked earnestly at the clay creation. A monsoon of love swelled up within Him. God’s form bent over the sculptured face and breathed. Dust stirred on the lips of the new one. The chest rose, cracking the red mud. The cheeks freshened. A finger moved and an eye opened.

But more incredible than the moving of flesh was the stirring of the spirit. Those who could see the unseen gasped. Perhaps it was the wind who said it first. Perhaps what the stars saw that moment is what has made them blink ever since. Maybe it was left to an angel to whisper it: “It looks like… it appears so much like…it is Him!”

The angel wasn’t speaking of the face, the features, or the body. He was looking inside–at the soul. “It’s eternal!” gasped another.

Within the man, God had placed a divine seed. A seed of his self. The God of might had created, not a creature, but another creator. And the One who had chosen to love had created one who could love in return.

What an excellent reminder of the Father’s love for us, and His desire to be in a relationship with His creation. We will all face death one day, I hope for you and all you know that it is simply a step into the next adventure of fully knowing God’s great love for us.

God bless,
Mark

Scars

By Nehemiah, First Priority Of America No Comments

I get asked a lot by people if Todd and I ever fought. Is the Pope Catholic? We not only fought, we were very good at it. My mom and dad decided to enroll us in karate class so some of our aggression might be left there. Karate only made us better. Now we could really hurt each other. When you are a twin, your opponent is the same size. This made our fights very interesting. We kind of had an unspoken rule. Don’t hit hard in the face. This rule lasted only as long as the other one was not hurt. He will deny this, but I know I knocked him out at least three times.

I remember one time a friend was over at the house and Todd had hurt me, so I disregarded the rule and went right for the nose. He must have been unconscious for ten minutes. For his side of the story read his book. Todd had a temper like you would not believe. When he got mad, he got real mad. I liked to hit him, make him mad, and then flee the scene. One time I hit him, ran to the garage jumped on my bike, and took off. He was in fast pursuit behind me on his. I was traveling a little faster because I was not carrying a broom. He finally made it beside me and tried to whack me with the broom. When he could not make that work, he decided to stick the broom handle in my front spokes. That worked! My front wheel came to a complete stop as my body, and the rest of my bike continued on. My brother’s anger was subdued, so he left my poor bleeding mangled body in the street.

Needless to say I have a lot of scars on my body that remind me of my younger years. What is crazy is that when we get to heaven, the only one with scars will be Jesus. I am reminded of Thomas who we call doubting Thomas.

John 20:24-25: Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

We call him doubting Thomas because he had to see and touch, but really the reason for his doubt is found in his nickname (Didymus). Thomas was an identical twin like me. I have been mistaken for my brother Todd all my life. Thomas thought Jesus had a twin, and he was not going to believe until he saw and touched. When he did see and touch, Thomas proclaimed, “My Lord and My God.”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Today when we share the gospel, we need to release the doubt that we hold onto, knowing that the Holy Spirit helps non-believers see and believe. He is at work in the lives of people and He can use our scars to help share the message of hope.

Each Week of the Hope Cycle is on the Podcast

By Nehemiah, FP Tools

This year’s Hope writing is fantastic. We want to thank Joel, Natalie, and Phillip for their time and passion for the gospel. I love all of the help week tools and can’t wait to see how God uses them to see thousands of students come to Christ this school year. If you are a part of First Priority you know the feeling we get every day knowing that the gospel is being shared and students are giving their lives to Christ. Bam!! If you don’t love that you are in the wrong ministry. There are 4 podcasts this month that deal with each week of the hope cycle. Please take some time this week to check them out and send them to your campus coaches. Have a great week and remember someone somewhere in a FP club just gave their life to Christ!

You can find the podcasts here or you can listen on itunes, google play, or spotify.

Are you a disturbed sinner?

By Nehemiah No Comments

“While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by.   When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. ‘You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,’ she said.

But he denied it. ‘I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,’ he said, and went out into the entryway. When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, ‘This fellow is one of them.’ Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, ‘Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.’

He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.” Mark 14:66 – 72

If you can relate to this story, you qualify as a disturbed sinner. I will confess that I have denied my relationship with Jesus several times. Then reacted just like Peter. I once heard the best description of a Christian from a talk show host in Atlanta. Some lady, Mrs. I’m Better Than You, was arguing with the talk show host and said to him that he did not even know what a Christian was. To which he replied, “Mrs., I know exactly what a Christian is…a Christian is a disturbed sinner.”  Wow, now that is good.  I know I belong to Him because when I sin or deny Him, I am disturbed about it.  

I have learned a couple things from these moments.  I think sometimes we deny Jesus because we cannot adequately defend our faith.  We know so little about the Bible that we cannot make a solid argument.  I have also learned that when faced with these moments, no one can take my faith story away… I was blind but now I see. The more time you and I spend with God, reading His word and talking to Him, the more we build that relationship and become more confident in who we are and whose we are.