Anonymous asked: If a christian commits suicide, do they go to hell?
I answered: No.
“He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—” Acts 16:30-31. Period, that is the answer, no additions or footnotes. Paul and Silas give that answer to a man who was about to kill himself. Even so, the answer is not “believe in Jesus, and don’t kill yourself”. They implore him not to commit suicide, because it is a terrible thing, but that is before he asks the question about salvation.
Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Again, no qualifiers. Suicide is horrific. It is an act of desperation and pain and selfishness. I know this because I have had friends and family members take their own lives. It is unspeakably bad. It is not, however, beyond the forgiveness of Christ. And that is the core of your question.
One of the basics at The Bridge is called “breaking down the lie”. Most spiritual issues people have come from a lie they are buying into. Whether it is because someone told them something messed up or that they just believe it inherently. The lie behind this question is “I know Jesus died for our sins…but not the really bad ones right, not the ones we don’t repent of and move past to become shiny happy christians.” That is a lie, and when we drag it out into the light like that, it is a ridiculous lie. The blood of Jesus covers all your sins. End of story. Addictions, abortions, sex, suicides whatever, there is nothing beyond His forgiveness for those who have accepted the offer of eternal life from Him.
Know that, and if anyone tells you something or you have a thought within that contradicts that, find a scripture or a friend or a blog that will drag the lie out into the light and let it die there.
Anonymous Asked: Hi! I’m leading a small group for the first time. There is a big range of age and experience with the Bible. I’m having a hard time coming up with a study to do. Any suggestions?
I answered: First of all, cograts on getting to lead a small group. If your awesome taste in blogs is any indication, you are going to do great. Your question is a good one. Obviously, you should pose it to someone in charge at your church (or whatever organization sanctions the small group) but I will provide a suggestion that you can factor in, or maybe take to them as a suggestion.
Walking through a book of the Bible is a great small group plan. That lets you lead conversation, you can throw out questions and let folks respond and go from there. You should have a lesson laid out because there is a chance that you will throw out a question and everyone will just blink at you. It also is easy for folks to miss one or two meetings without totally losing the thread, which is important. I have had success with the Epistles. The advantages of those specifically is that they are relatively short and they tend to have an over all point since they are a letter.
That kind of loose structure also allows you to keep the focus on the needs of the folks being ministered to which is, after all, the point. At The Bridge, all of the topics preached on are questions submitted by the people that come. It’s that way because the point of ministry is to remove roadblocks that are keeping people from growing in the Lord, and the better we know what those roadblocks are, the more effectively we can do that. Your small group has the same goal, to help folks move ahead in their walk. As you walk through a book of the Bible together, if folks are engaged, they will let you know where they are and what they need if you listen.
So say you’re are going to read through the book of Philippians. You can read the first 6 verses and then ask if there were any ideas that jumped out at anyone. If nobody jumps up you can have some question chambered like
“how do is feel to be called part of God’s holy people? Is that affirming, encouraging or does it make you feel insecure?”
“Do you pray with joy, if not why not?” “
“God will complete his good work in you, how should that effect the way we deal with our failures or our impatience or insecurities?”
And from there you go after it like the rockstar you are.
Here is a little tip on how to use worship songs to enhance your message. Make song choice work for you. We will use the newest Bridge track “Grace” as our example. Now obviously if you are doing a lesson on grace, that pretty much explains itself. But we are going to go all next level on you. Any subject that focuses on forgiveness or trying to combat shame or moving past something have a component of grace about them. So if you sing this song about grace it will reinforce the favor we have with God in an emotional way that just an explanation may not have. If you give a one sentence definition of grace, “the unmerited favor of God” it will have a lot more since you have just sung to God about what grace means for your relationship.
grace is a gift that i have not earned
grace is a gift that i don’t deserve
grace is a gift not something i’m owed
grace is a gift, oh. grace is a gift
that you give me because you love me
Let’s say you sang “Grace” which ends with those lyrics, and you are doing a lesson on how guilt or shame stunts our spiritual growth. You have already made the point that Jesus doesn’t love us because we earned it, so we can’t unearn it and we need to move on. The song has done that and you can reference that instead of coming into that emotional subject cold. Ninja level tactics, use them wisely.
If you any specific worship questions, send them our way. Our resident worship master, Jed Brewer would be happy to answer them.
Jed Brewer wrote an awesome worship song about the concept of grace. One of our Bridge team, Tasha Lawson, provided the vocals. It’s got more soul than James Brown’s jumpsuits. Who doesn’t need cool music and who doesn’t need to be reminded of the grace we have been given? Put this in your ear sockets, then tell a friend.
Anonymous asked: Every semester or so, my youth group will talk about sex and relationships. I try to tell the guys that if they have any problems with lust or porn, that they can come talk to me but no one has. I’m pretty sure most of if not all of these guys struggle with that. How do I get them to admit it so we can deal with it?
i answered: I think you can see things from their perspective. In their mind, this could be the equivalent of the parental “I won’t be mad, I just want the truth” which tends to end up in knowing the truth and being mad. So unless somebody gets up the courage to take the plunge, you probably aren’t going to succeed with the wait it out strategy.
We can all agree that your instinct that most of these guys struggle with naughty internet behavior is accurate. So you know they are struggling, so just go ahead and talk about it. You may want to split the group by gender for this, let a female leader talk to the girls about similar issues. So this way they can get the information you want them to have without them having to take the first step. You can also underline the fact that this behavior is a very common issue. If you have your own story, this would be a great time to bust that out. At some point, talking to someone about pornography addiction is a necessary step to overcoming it, but a group setting can be a good place to start.
They will also get a chance to see how you deal with the situation. The little dark corner of their mind that is convinced that you are going to try to yell and shame them through will be dealt with. You can show grace and empathy, which will do more to open the door for them to come to you more than any sincere invitation would have.
Sometimes you have to be out ahead of them, and that’s fine if you keep it gentle and don’t slip into “I came from the mountain to dump my wisdom on you!”. God put you in this position and you can be bold, but gentle:
“Hey guys, I know you all probably deal with this because pretty much every teenage guy since the invention of broadband has dealt with this. It doesn’t mean you are dirty, it is not the irredeemable sin. Everybody wants to look at naked people, there are several billion dollar industries based around that. The point is how we can deal with that and let God in instead of trying to shut him out of that part of our lives.”
Anonymous asked: The guys in my youth group will occasionally let some cursing slip when we are hanging out. I don’t particularly care, but I feel like I should say something as the youth guy. How do I say something without seeming like I am judging?
I answered: Here at The Bridge, there are a number of pithy slogans that Unka Glen and Jed have developed over the years. The one that seems to apply to this situation is “major on the majors and minor on minors”. That means that every issue that someone has is not equal and we have to prioritize.
Sometimes it looks like, yes he needs to stop interrupting people, but he also needs to get off of heroin, so let’s focus on that one. Cussing can come in on different places on that list depending on circumstances. If these guys are dropping f-bombs when they say hi to the old lady’s on Sunday morning, that is a “we need to take care of this now” issue. If they are letting something mildish slip when you’re watching the game, then that’s probably not that huge a deal.
Now if they are trying to make someone (the youth guy perhaps) squirm by pushing the language, that is a respect thing, and respect is a major. So you need to get a read on the why’s. Now if they are just the standard variety of socially clueless, then a simple check in can do. Just “hey guys, I don’t mind the occasional bit of profanity, but let’s try not to be jerks”. I think most basic advice young men need can boil down to “don’t be a jerk”.
Majoring on the majors can also be a good lesson for the guys. Giving the impression that everything is on equal footing is kind of a lot to throw at people, and showing that we have the ability to prioritize communicates a little bit of logic that folks can get behind.
Anonymous asked: I always hear that I should act with grace and speak with grace, but if grace is God forgiving our sin and not sending us to Hell, how do I do that?
I answered: I think grace is a term that gets used a lot, which is understandable because it is a wonderfully beautiful concept, but that can blur the meaning. Grace is defined as “the unmerited favor of God”. So it is not just that God forgave our sin and we are not going to hell, it’s that He did those things even though we have never done nor will ever do the slightest thing to deserve it. So God loves us and shows us favor even though we deserve the opposite. That is something we can let profoundly influence the way we treat people.
A lot of the crappy things people do to and say about each other can be traced back to insecurity. People put others down, try to hurt people before they get hurt, or any other manner of stupid, hurtful behavior. So since our favor with God is something our behavior didn’t merit, that means we can’t lose it by our behavior. So we should have grace with ourselves not to beat ourselves up after every mistake, and instead move forward. The grace we have been given also means we can love others with more gentleness. This is the basis of the biblical command to forgive others as you have been forgiven. If we can really get our heads around how great the grace we have been shown is, then it is so much easier to give other people a break.
The key is to remind yourself of how incredible the grace we have received is. Every time you screw up is an opportunity to remember, as is every time you don’t hold something against someone.
jkhayz asked: Hey! First, I just wanted to say that the resource you guys are providing is great. Second, I need some advice on how to help a friend. He’s been struggling with depression, deeply, but won’t talk about it more than the surface level. In August, he leaves for the Marines. But he has recently been saying things like that’s he’s never coming back and that he is just going to die in the marines anyway and has nothing left here. I pray for him and let him know I’m here but I’m still worried. Advice?
I answered: I feel for you and your friend in this situation. I can’t imagine the stress of joining the Marines, but I have struggled with depression, as have many mature Christians I know. So let that be an encouragement for you in your concern, a lot of people have been through this and gotten a handle on it. I would say that includes biblical figure like David and Paul, who both very much struggle with their mental state in the scriptures.
I think you have good instincts in how to handle this. The thing about depression is: it is not a rational state of being. Because of that, rational arguments against it tend to be ineffective. Depression has a way of warping and distorting everything, and that can burrow deeply into someone’s mind. I have always thought that Romans 12:2 is about depression:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Depression robs someone of their ability to see that God has something good for them, and to overcome it you need some brain rewiring.
The thing about brain rewiring is that you can’t do it for another person. You can really only do what you are doing, pray and be there. The most helpful thing I was reminded of was that God promises that it won’t always be this way. Revelation 21:4 says one day “there will be no more tear or mourning of crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” So it will get better, that is God’s promise to him and it is a story that he can see lived out by others.
So stay the course of praying and loving, but don’t put the pressure of solving someone else’s depression on yourself. Depression is like some other long-term issues in that someone doesn’t move past it until they decide to move past it. One of the most brutal things about depression is that after a certain time, it saps your will to do anything other than be depressed. But you can be there to say “when you are ready to move past this thing, I will be there for you” which will both be a comfort in friendship and remind him that there is a time when he will want happiness more than depression.
Anonymous asked: In your post about what to say, you mentioned “earning the right to be heard”. Can you explain what that is?
I answered: I would be happy to. Earning the right to be heard is the first step in ministry. No matter how awesome and insightful your ideas are, if no one is inclined to listen, you aren’t really going to accomplish much. Some folks think that the way you get people to listen to you is by being brilliant and compelling in word and thought. That is a lot of pressure to put on yourself, and also makes it about the person doing the ministry, instead of the folks being ministered to.
“Lo, I bring you wisdom from my mighty, holy brain! Do not attempt to resist with your puny problems and lives!”
Earning the right to be heard is about making it about the folks being ministered to. You are saying that the reason they should listen to you is because you are concerned about there life. People are very inclined to listen to you, and even seek you out, if they know that what you are about is helping them out with their stuff, instead of flinging your wisdom nuggets at them whether they want them or not.
As we talked about in the post you referenced in your question, earning the right to be heard is not complicated. It’s mainly about humility, the humility to go where people are instead of trying to get them to come to you, or the humility to listen more than you talk. Actions that communicate that your ministry is about serving (serving food, asking questions, sitting with the kid who is sitting alone at lunch) is earning the right to be heard.
And if you put the effort into earning the right to be heard, you will build credibility that will allow you to be bold later down the line. When someone knows that you are about being there for them, you say the plain truth and it will allow people to just hear the truth without wondering about your motives. And as we covered in the previous post, that work is as simple as asking basic questions and listening to what they have to say. The return on that investment is amazing.
Ever ministry has it’s own jargon, so if you don’t understand something in one of our posts, feel totally free to hit the ask box and we will unpack it for you.
mercyshipdude asked: Hey Unka Glen, Congrats on launching the Bridge! I’m really looking forward to gleaning lots of good wisdom and advice from you guys. Lately, I find myself entrenched in a Tumblr sub-culture of depression/cutting/thin-living/Eating Disorder blogs. I admit that I…
“grace is a force that I can’t conquer
your grace endures even though I wander
grace is a force that drives me back home
cause my God is love and my God is strong”—"Grace" -Tasha Lawson, written by Jed Brewer listen here
Anonymous asked: My friend has been sexually abused when she was younger and she feels like it is her fault that it happened. She continually puts herself down for not speaking out about it and she puts the blame all on herself. What do I say to her? How do I comfort her? What does Jesus have to say about this?
I answered: Well first of all, I am so sorry for your friend. And she is very blessed to have a friend like you who wants to love her well in this incredibly difficult situation.
I think Jesus is heart broken for what your friend has been through. As for her abuser, I would say Jesus is pissed. Most importantly, Jesus knows what your friend has been through. Jesus was sexually abused. John 19:23 says the soldiers took His clothes. On the way to the cross He was stripped naked while the crowds laughed at Him. So she can definitely go to Jesus about this problem with the knowledge that she won’t find judgement, but empathy from someone who has been there.
You already know this, but it bears saying: your friend is in no way to blame for any of this. Anyone who says otherwise is a person who has forever forfeited their right to be listened to as a rational human being ever again. She is putting unfair expectations on herself to have spoken out. You know it, I know it, but there are deep emotional issues keeping her from seeing it. So you may need to remind her of these things gently and repeatedly.
You should also remind her that this doesn’t say anything about her, not who she was then and not who she is now. It doesn’t make her dirty or damaged goods in any way. Abuse says something about the abuser, not the victim.
I would also encourage you to encourage your friend to seek professional help. What she went through was horrific and it clearly left some deep scars. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, and neither is reaching out to someone trained to deal with those scars for help. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is completely confidential you can call 1-800-656-HOPE. There is probably a local crisis center or woman’s center in your town. You can also probably find some info in your school counselor’s office. And your role is just to be encouraging.
“I will drive you, we can get some ice cream after. If you want to talk about it I will be there, if you just want to drive to our favorite song I can do that too, just let me know what you need”
Lastly, you need to pray for her. I and the Bridge team are happy to join you in that, as I hope the Tumblr folks reading this are as well.
Jed Brewer wrote an awesome worship song about the concept of grace. One of our Bridge team, Tasha Lawson, provided the vocals. It’s got more soul than one of James Brown’s jumpsuits. Who doesn’t need cool music and who doesn’t need to be reminded of the grace we have been given? Put this in your ear sockets, then tell a friend.
Anonymous asked: My friends talk to me about their relationship problems a lot. I want to give them advice, especially if something bad is going on in the relationship. The thing is, I don’t have much dating experience. So should I just not say anything? I want to help!
I answered: If you will allow me a guess, I think what you are most afraid of is the following scenario:
Friend: “my boyfriend is constantly saying incredibly mean things to me”
You: “that doesn’t seem healthy, you deserve better than that.”
Friend: “what do you know? you don’t understand love!!!”
Now you are still clearly the good guy in that worst case scenario, but the snap back from the friend hits what for most folks is a pretty vulnerable place. So it’s going to be a risk. If, however, you decided that it is worth the risk, there are some tips for success.
Don’t even try to give “dating advice”. Just stick to good, simple advice based on spiritual truths. If they are in a crappy relationship because they have low self esteem, then you can speak to that from a place of grace and love. If they are in a bad relationship because they are scared that God doesn’t have their back enough to give them a great, loving marriage one day, so they are trying to get what they can now; then you have the tools to remind them that God does love them and he does promise to come through for them in His own perfect timing.
Most problems have an underlying issue of not being able to see a basic truth about who God is our who He says we are. So you don’t have to be an expert on subject matter to answer those underlying issues. You don’t have to have been on drugs to know that someone is using drugs to numb themselves. And you don’t have to have been in a relationship to know that if that dating relationship tears you down instead of builds you up, then it is not something you should be involved in. So the best strategy is to stick to the basics.
Anonymous asked: “I am starting as a volunteer Young Life leader this semester! I am soo pumped for our first club on monday :). But I have no idea what to say to kids when I first meet them…help?!
I answered: First off, congratulations. I was a Young Life leader for 6 years and it is an organization still very close to my heart. This is a question that pretty much everyone has starting out in ministry. The good news is, the answer is actually pretty simple and not scary. Ask questions and listen to their responses. That’s easy right?
One of vaunted Tumblr guru (and my boss) Unka Glen’s ministry keys is that ministry is much more about listening than talking. This is especially true in the initial phases of earning the right to be heard, which you accomplish much easier through listening. When you are dealing with what Jesus refers to as “the least of these”, whether that is suburban middle school kids or ex-cons, you are dealing with people who everyday are being told that they are not worth listening to and therefore don’t matter. You think they matter, that’s why you are giving up your evening to be here. So you can easily show that you are not like the rest of the world by asking “how was your day?” and then actively listening to the response. Which leads to more questions (“practice went long” “Oh what position do you play?”) and before you know it: you are having a conversation.
The same idea works in more discipleship focused environments. People are used to church people telling them what God is saying. But it is a powerful move to sit down next to someone and ask them what God is teaching them this week. They get the nice self-esteem boost of someone speaking to them as an equal, and they also have to go through the exercise of thinking about and explaining what God has been doing in their life.
And you don’t have to pull some magical answer at the end to make this work either. There is a lot of good relational ministry in saying “wow that sucks”. The words are not nearly as important as the action. If you want to be heard, you have to start by listening.
Anonymous asked: I am starting to look for a job in youth ministry, but how do I know if I am called to one job in particular?
I answered: Life would certainly be easier if we were guided in such decisions by clouds parting, a beam of lighting descending on the right choice, and a nice major chord emitting from out of nowhere. That’s not the way things happen, but there is still a part of us that kind of waits for it when faced with a big decision, especially a God decision.
I would make this point, just because something may seem too big for you does not mean you are not called to it. When Glen (Unka Glen of Tumblrsphere fame) offered me the job I have now with Mission:USA here was the process: it sounded awesome, except for the terror that it filled me with, so I turned it down. Then I was lovingly counseled (yelled at) by older folks in my life who loved me and believed in me until I took the job. And this happens in scripture too. Moses heard the actual voice of God from the burning bush, but he still had doubts and insecurities about himself as a messenger of God. But he went anyway, because he was called.
This often manifests in having the “that would be awesome” list and the “I could do that” list and keeping them separate. Don’t let your insecurity drive you to do this. Take a look at what you want to do deep down. If it seems way too big and scary, yet you still kind of want to do it, that’s awesome. Ministry is big and scary, and that healthy respect for that fact will make you a good candidate and help you do a good job. Don’t fear you aren’t enough to go through the process. A good ministry is looking to see if you fit with them, not to rip apart your life and walk to make sure it is up to snuff. So, in this particular instance, your fear can be a guide and not a roadblock.
Pray and seek wisdom from older folks, who have been in ministry and know you well. Also, remember that God has your path laid out. If you try to take a job God doesn’t want you to have, something will work out so that you don’t get that job. And if there is a job that you are called to, you are going to get steered there. And you can be called somewhere temporarily. If you take a job, and a year later it’s not working out for whatever reason, does that mean you weren’t called there? No, it means that you were called there for the time you were.
So go boldly in the knowledge that God goes before you.
I Feel Like I Don't Know Enough Bible to Do Ministry
Anonymous asked: I want to get involved in ministry, but I don’t think I know enough about the Bible. I feel like there are so many questions that I wouldn’t be able to answer. What can I do to address this?
I Answered: You could spend sun up to sundown pouring over the scriptures, digging into versions and translations and Greek and Hebrew and reading every commentary known to man. The problems with that plan are: A) you still wouldn’t totally understand the Bible because no one totally understands the Bible and B) it wouldn’t leave any time to actually do ministry.
The way to do effective ministry is to go to where people are lonely and hurting (hospitals, jails, retirement homes, the high school lunchroom) and be the person who cares about them. When you care about someone out of your love for Jesus, they rarely pull out a quiz on exegesis to determine whether or not you are worthy to do so. All ministry begins with earning the right to be heard. The best way to do that is to be humble and servant-hearted, not to prove how knowledgable you are.
Of course the Bible is essential to a relationship with Jesus, and to ministering. Not because mastering it qualifies you to do the ministry; but because the Bible is a life line to who you are and who God is. You can’t do ministry unless you are filled spiritually, and the way you get that is through the Holy Spirit and through being in the scripture. Psalm 119:11 says “I have hidden your word in my heart”, which is a beautiful picture of a right relationship with the word.
You will certainly encounter things in ministry that you have no idea how to deal with, everyone in ministry does. So the Bible shouldn’t be your teacher’s edition answer key, it should be your refuge, your hideaway. And because you will be forced to go to the scriptures so often, alongside your regular daily time with the Lord, the familiarity will come. Also, if someone asks you a direct Bible question that you don’t know the answer to, that’s not a failure. It is an opportunity to sit alongside that person and search the scriptures, which is wonderful ministry opportunity.
As for a good place to start, the book of Romans is a wonderful summation of basic Christian doctrine of Sin and the Cross. A friend of mine who has been a missionary and pastor for decades says that if you know Romans chapter 8 by heart, then there are very few common questions you won’t be able to handle.
Anonymous Asked: I do a youth bible study, and it seems like whenever kids start dating, it is only a matter of time before something goes wrong and drama erupts, which kills what I’m trying to do. How do I deal with this/stop it from happening?
I Answered: Yeah, who would have thought that when you put a bunch of kids who are essentially Molotov cocktails of hormones into the same room, they would have trouble focusing on what’s important?
A quick note on what won’t work. Telling high school kids that they can’t date because they are just going to break up anyway will only lead to wails of “you just don’t understand our loooove!”, which will be just as counterproductive, even if it is probably true.
So I think we need to look upon these inevitable relationships not as problems for the leader, but as a learning opportunity for the students. This is a great time and place to learn about what relationships should and should not be (guided by your awesome youth leader of course). You need to be able to set healthy boundaries in a relationship, which you can’t learn to do until you are in a relationship. You need to learn that someone not wanting to continue to pursue a relationship doesn’t have to be the end of the world, but you can’t learn that until you are broken up with. A lot of christian culture seems to be of the idea that you don’t talk with the opposite sex in any mildly flirtatious capacity until you meet the person that it is mystically communicated to you is your future spouse, and then it’s off to the races. Because of this some grown Christians don’t have basic relationship skills. These kids could avoid that.
Most importantly, you can use this to give them a glimpse of how a marriage relationship is meant to allow two people to serve the Lord as a unit better than they could separately. This will model good relationships for them, while also keeping them growing by serving the Lord within the group or church. And it is a lesson worth learning now.
You sure do spend a lot of time trying to get me to feel bad about myself. And not just bad, but somehow…just not what God is looking for. Like I don’t measure up, and I never could measure up. But here’s the thing, if that was really true, why are you pressin’ that dang button so hard? Huh?
uesinkim asked: hey Unka Glen. i am a 21 year old college junior and i have had a heavy burden on my heart to start a men’s ministry at my small korean church. i finally got the okay from the leaders and wanted to ask you advice on it. how do i reach out to the men in our community…
ofaquietmind asked: Unka Glen! You’ve given me plenty of helpful advice and words of encouragement in the past and I often find myself returning here when I’m not sure what to do next in my walk with God. So my question is, how do you go about really studying your Bible? I definitely…
belindabaker asked you: I have a friend who really, really needs Jesus. But, he seems so cynical. I’ve tried to share the Gospel with him, but I’m lacking in boldness. I guess what I’m asking is, how do I share the Gospel with someone who doesn’t seem to care?