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Nehemiah

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 | No Comments

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.

Download our Free Club Ministry Tool

By | Nehemiah | No Comments

Happy August first!! What?!? Summer camps are starting to wind down, mission trips are in the bag, and some of your students are fired up about making a difference on their school campus.

If you don’t already have a First Priority club in your community, we put together a booklet to help local churches reach the schools near them. This is our 2019-2020 version and is based on 25+ years of campus ministry. It is meant to be used by churches or a network of churches.

Sign up for our free FP Webinar and we will get you the guide as you prepare for the school year. Can you imagine when your students start reaching their friends for Christ at school? We can too!

You can sign up here

 

Praying over our Schools

By | Nehemiah, Local FP Communities | No Comments

Haley Wherry, FP Director of Blue Ridge

Whether school for you starts on August 10 or September 10, the school year is quickly approaching. One thing that we can all do to kick the year off to a good start for our schools is to pray. In Tennessee, the state government made a law that the weekend before school starts is to be the ‘Weekend of Prayer Over Students’. We use that law (that doesn’t do much) as an excuse to rally parents, teachers, and area churches to set a day/time that weekend to pray together. We want to encourage you as well to find ways to be praying for your schools, students, teachers and administration. Click the image to listen to Haley Wherry, FP Director of Blue Ridge talk about the 2019 Tennessee weekend of prayer.

God calls us to pray. Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  We want to constantly be in prayer for these students who are the leaders of our future. It is our job to support and encourage them to be who God has called them to be.

Do Something!

By | Nehemiah | No Comments

Has God called you to do something that you have not done because of fear?

Paul said to King Agrippa in Acts 26:19, “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.”

Paul was in prison for years because he was obedient to the vision from heaven. Wow, look where obedience gets us; locked up!

No wonder we get scared to really jump out there and do something that God has told us to do, like start a campus ministry, go to the mission field, etc. We are scared of the unknown, the uncertainty of money and stability and the fear of failure. All of these things and many more keep most Christians on the sidelines of life, watching everyone else play. We wait for the players in the game to write a book or a song on how exciting it was for them to play in the game. Then we run to the next conference to hear them speak and leave like we did at summer camp, ready to charge hell with a water pistol. Once we get back home, we get caught up in business as usual and we sit and watch.

Life, real life, abundant life, is a life of obedience. If God told you to do something, then do it. Paul, like Nehemiah, was right where God put him. He was speaking to a king and proclaiming the good news. We believe God put you right where you are to unite your city to reach thousands of students. Do something. Get in the game.

Mark Roberts

Open up spiritual eyes

By | Nehemiah | No Comments

1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” I hear a lot of people say the Bible never really made sense to them until they gave their lives to Christ. Well, there you go.

If you have ever been around non-believers and they think you’re crazy, welcome to the party. God has changed your heart because you heard the gospel and the Holy Spirit of God convicted you. Then, a real conversion happened in you. Your mind became re-wired to hear the Holy Spirit. You also were given a new heart. You and I were influenced by somebody, but make no mistake, we play only a small role in the salvation department of God. However, it is a huge part of God’s plan. Our job is to love God and love people. I pray today that you will play your part. Pray for those around you. Ask God to give you the opportunity to partner with Him to influence the lives of people so that they too may understand the Spirit of God.

We are aliens of this world, strangers passing through. Our great goal is to take as many people with us on our way to our real home.

Pray God opens the spiritual eyes of those around you, and be ready to help guide them through that process.

Keep Fishing,

Mark Roberts

The Call of God on your Life

By | Nehemiah | No Comments

The walls and gates of Jerusalem had been torn down for over seventy years. During those seventy years, there were probably hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who thought to themselves or said to a friend, “We need to fix these walls.”

How many times has it been said in our country that, “We need to reach these schools?” Everyone in the church would agree with the statement and might even go so far as to try to do something about it. However, they get busy with all of their other obligations and it becomes just another great idea. Many churches are doing good things, but nobody is organizing them all to share the hope of Christ with every student. Like in Nehemiah’s example, if there is not a person waking up every day to organize the work, it will not happen.

When Nehemiah inquired about the Jewish remnant and the conditions of the city and was told of the situation, he was moved to tears. Nehemiah 1:4, “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”

The difference between all of the thousands who had seen the condition of the walls and Nehemiah was that Nehemiah was burdened. He was burdened to the point that he spent days fasting and praying to God. If you are burdened, fast and pray.

We tell others who are thinking about starting First Priority in their community to pray, familiarize themselves with First Priority, and with the conditions of their community. If they can’t sleep, then it is a good indication that God is calling them to do something about it! We like to call it the “sleep test.”

The call of God to unite your community and reach students is very important. This is no easy task! If it were easy, someone else would have already done it. There will be very hard times and a lot of frustrating moments, but the call God places on your life is what will keep you keeping on.

Mark Roberts
Associate Director
First Priority of America

Letting Students Lead

By | Nehemiah, Student Leaders | No Comments

I’m sitting at home on a sunny but very cold January day with my kids who are home from school due to the NO snow we got here. Life in Tennessee for you. I told my kids I had to work still even though they were home for the day and I am battling a bad head cold. My 11 year old daughter was bored before school should have even started. I told her there was a bag of chocolate chips in the cupboard and she could bake some cookies. She immediately got up went and grabbed the chocolate chips and went to work. She has done this before pretty much by herself but I was there to help guide her. Today I couldn’t since I was working and sick. I said a few things from my computer as she was going along. She said, “mom, I know what I’m doing, I don’t need help.”

So often we want to jump in and help our students lead. We think they can’t make it on their own. That they won’t do it quite right or say just the right thing. But we need to learn to let students lead. They are capable and really, more effective in reaching their peers than we would be. They don’t have to be perfect or say just the right thing. They just need to be willing to lead.

First Priority is all about letting students lead. Students reaching students. Students sharing the hope of Christ on their middle and high school campuses. Students can influence their school campuses for Christ if we simply let them. You can train them and equip them with the tools they need to lead, but then you need to give them the reigns to do what they were taught to do.

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. 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV