Echo Summer Spectacular Schedule

ECHO Summer Spectacular
July 19 – July 25

Summer Spectacular is the name we have given to a week FULL of activities this summer. During this week, every day something different will be going on. All students, high school and middle school, can attend any activity they choose (unless otherwise noted) Some of them will require advance sign up, and an email with registration links will follow. Mark your calendars and choose what you want to participate in. You can sign up by clicking here.

**Sunday, JULY 19th
Roller Skating @ Skate and Fun Zone in Manasas
12:30-3:30pm – $12 for admission, rental, and some pizza
We will leave from Freedom, but rides pick at Skate and Fun Zone

**Monday, JULY 20th
Adventure Golf @ Woody’s in Sterling
3:00-4:30pm – $10 for a round of amazing adventure golf
Meet me @ Woody’s, the family can stay and play, or pick up your student at 4:30pm.

**Tuesday, JULY 21st
Whitewater Tubing @ Butt’s Tubes in Harper’s Ferry
ADVANCE SIGN UP REQUIRED – WAIVER REQUIRED
9:00am-2:00pm – $25 covers your tubing fee
Meet us @ Freedom High School at 9:00am, we will be back to FHS for pickup around 2:00pm.

**Wednesday, JULY 22nd
Laser Tag @ Panther Family Fun in Ashburn
3:00-5:00pm – $20 for 3 games of laser tag
Meet us @ Panther Family Fun Center on 606, pick up your student at 5:00pm.

**Thursday, JULY 23rd
Bowling @ Bowl America in Chantilly
12:00-1:30pm – $8 for 2 games and shoe rental
Meet us at the bowling alley!

Bonfire @ the Hauge’s
7pm-9:30pm – FREE s’mores, stories, zipline, and more.
Get directions to the Hauge’s on the church website. They live in Gainsville at 4324 Berry Road.

**Friday, JULY 24th
DROP OFF – an intense game of mystery and mayhem!
HIGH SCHOOL AND RISING 9th GRADERS ONLY
Meet at 7:00pm on the Town Green – FREE

**Saturday, JULY 25th
King’s Dominion!
ADVANCE SIGN UP REQUIRED
9:00am-????? – $35 covers your ticket and some gas $$
We will leave Freedom HS parking lot, spend the day at the Park, and be back in the late evening. Plan on money for meals in the park and to have a long day in the sun.

Love This! Love Yourself

In a culture where love is all out of whack, “self-love” has been distorted as well.

When Jesus included the call to “love your neighbor as yourself” in his list of the greatest commandments, he was assuming that people do in fact love themselves. This is a pretty safe assumption to make – we as creatures tend to love ourselves first and foremost, and to put our own interests above the interests of others. Selfishness is a reflexive attribute of our fallen state.

What is different about the world you and I grew up in and the world that first received this teaching of Jesus is the idea of “self-esteem.” We have been told that the most important thing to have is this stuff called self-esteem, that we are to believe in ourselves so we can achieve something important. In this age, trophies are not only for the winners, but for everyone who participated. Gym class games that are competitive are moved aside for those that make “everyone a winner.” In the old model, one “winner” would imply that the other people are “losers,” and we don’t want to damage this fragile thing called “self-esteem.” I believe the self-esteem guru’s have pure motives, but I am not so sure how helpful their advice is. Placing too much emphasis on self-esteem seems to run contrary to some scriptural imperatives like “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…” (Romans 12:3) or “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3).

At the same time, some people struggle with recognizing their legitimate worth in Christ. Far from self-love, these people struggle with self-hatred. They loathe the person looking back at them in the mirror and struggle to see anything of value in themselves. The marketing machine of our culture has built itself on the ability of advertisers to convince people that they lack and that they are not enough. They are not skinny enough so they need this diet product (like Jenny Craig), they are not flawless enough so we need this skin product (like Proactive), they are not powerful enough so they need this deodorant (like Axe, or Tag). This ease with which I recall actual product names and claims is a frightening commentary on our culture. Growing up with the ad machine telling them we are not enough, or that we lack – maybe we need our teachers and Saturday morning cartoons to help us find our self-esteem again?

I think that finding and living with a biblical concept of “Self-Worth” is a bit like trying to navigate a narrow road with a ditch on either side. The one ditch would be self-love: pride, vanity, selfishness, and arrogance. The other ditch would be self-hatred: insecurity, fear, approval addiction, and self-loathing. Finding the road is the trick. What does a grounded, biblical picture of self-worth look like? John Ortberg calls is “appropriate smallness.” It is standing before God and others with true humility, with the attitude of servant to all – while at the same time understanding that we have immense value because God has attributed unsurpassible worth to us. At the end of the day, something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it (as we have all been reminded with the real estate crash). If this is true, God has established our worth in dramatic fashion. The price He was willing to pay for humanity in its broken state was astounding: the perfect life of Christ.

This is the secret to loving yourself in the appropriate way – understanding that while you are nothing on your own, in Christ, you are enough. You are valuable because God decided you are valuable. He loves you and prizes you because you are His. Helping our students discover their true value in Christ is essential in inoculating them against the pull of their culture.

Love This! Love Your Enemies

As we continue to talk about love as a choice and not as a feeling, Sunday’s echo experience brought us to one of the most challenging teachings of Jesus: the call to love our enemies.

Luke 6:27-38 records one of the times that Jesus issued this challenge. This is a revolutionary teaching about love. Jesus turns the conventional ideas about love and fairness updside down. When it comes to love, conventional wisdom says “love those that love you.” This is rational and logical; it happens naturally. It is an easy thing to love the people that are good to us. Jesus explains that for children of God, it is not enough. They are called to love their enemies.

Is this even possible? The word Jesus chooses to use here is agape, which is a different sort of love than the kind you would have naturally for your close friends and relatives. It would be impossible and unnatural to have that kind of love for people that are your enemies. The kind of love Jesus describes is much more than a feeling, it is not an act of the heart but an act of the will. It means that no matter what people do to us, no matter how they treat us, no matter if they heap on insults and injuries or even break our hearts, we will never allow hate for them to invade our hearts. Instead, we will regard them with an unconquerable benevolence and goodwill, seeking only their benefit and advancement. This is only possible with the help of Christ.

Is this hopeless ideology? Many people dismiss this kind of statement from Jesus as being a figure of speech, or something Jesus said strictly for shock value, or a hopelessly high ideal that is not achievable. These are all easy ways to rationalize such a challenge away and let ourselves off the hook when it comes to obeying it. Maybe the most striking reality of this statement is that it was actually meant to be taken seriously. That is how the earliest followers of Jesus understood it. If this was meant to be taken figuratively or as impossible idealism, the early church missed the memo. Look at Romans 12:9-21 and see that the tradition of “lov[ing] your enemies” and “bless[ing] those that persecute you” was alive and well in the teaching of the early church. This was actually being taught and it was actually being lived out.

Loving your enemies is a powerful weapon of influence and change. This attitude completely changes the game. Instead of becoming victims, hurt and mistreated by people around us, we are empowered to actually overcome evil with good. When he was caught mourning the loss of northern and southern troops after a civil war battle, Abraham Lincoln was once reminded that it was the president’s obligation to destroy the enemies of the nation. His response was something like the command of Jesus: “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make them my friends?” Love alone has the power to make friends of enemies.

The ability of the earliest followers of Jesus to show love to the people that abused them (and even hunted them down to kill them) was a major factor in the growth of the early church. It was utterly compelling to watch selfless love being demonstrated in such a supernatural and irrational way. It would both endear people to the cause of Christ and undermine the image of the Roman persecutors at the same time. The harder the hammer of persecution fell, the more glorious the love would seem, and the faster the gospel would spread. This happened with Stephen in Acts 7, and it continued to happen for two centuries. This kind of love does not go unnoticed.

Where does the inspiration for this kind of love come from? From Jesus. In the presence of the mocking crowd and the taunts of his executioners, Jesus had the strength to utter few words from the cross. In the face of the rage in their eyes and the hate in their hearts, Jesus asks God for mercy. He does not ask for mercy for himself, but for the crowd and the soldiers that are insulting him, abusing him and destroying him. “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.” This is the model for loving our enemies: Jesus hanging on the cross, asking his killers to be forgiven. They meant him nothing but harm, but he meant nothing but good for them. This is the greatest picture of love ever. No poet has expressed it more beautifully; no song has ever captured its essence more precisely. This is the foundation of influence the early church was built on. Not flashy programs or services – but love. They changed their world through unbelievable, irrational, unconquerable LOVE.

Questions for you and your teenager:
*Do you think it is realistic to love your enemies? Is it possible?
*Why do you think showing love to someone that shows you hate is so powerful? What does it mean to “overcome evil with good?” Can love actually transform hate or change the heart of someone else?
*What examples of affecting change through love can you recognize through history?

Love This Priority #2 – Love your neighbor as yourself.

This series in Echo, we have been talking about love, which is not a feeling, but a choice. When Jesus was asked what was the heart and soul of this whole religion thing – what is a relationship with God all about, the conversation turned to the “great commandment.” Love God with everything, and love your neighbor as yourself. This week it was all about loving our neighbor.

Luke 10:25-37 recalls how a teacher of the law wanted some clarification. His question was: “who is my neighbor?” If I am being commanded to love someone, I want to know who that someone is. This sounds at first like a great question, but Jesus seemed to to think it was the wrong question to ask.

Jesus answers in a very unexpected way. This is a great example of Jesus doing what he does best: masterfully helping people who are focused on the wrong things find the right things. This teacher of the law intended to have an abstract theological conversation. Jesus manages to turn it into a stinging real life situation. A lot of what made Jesus’ answer scandalous has been lost because of historical distance, so let me talk some of this out.

First, you need to understand the question being asked. By asking this question, the teacher of the law is implying that some people are “neighbors,” and as such are to be loved, while other people are “non-neighbors,” and we might not need to love them. He is trying to draw lines and categories of who should be loved and who should not. The commandment about “loving your neighbor” was from Leviticus, and Jews had been debating what was meant by “neighbor” for a long time. This rabbi would teach one thing, while another rabbi would teach something different. Some rabbis taught this only applied to other Jews. It would certainly not apply to a Samaritan. There was a quarrel between the Jews and the Samaritans that was centuries old. The road from Galilee to Jerusalem led through Samaria, and the Samaritans were known for hindering or even injuring Jews that tried to pass through. The Jews looked down on Samaritans as “half breeds” and “heretics.” They were not friends. When Jesus’ story unfolds and the Samaritan is the 3rd person to find the beset traveler, the original audience likely assumed that the villain had just arrived. Jesus does not pick a Samaritan as his hero on accident. He picked a Samaritan because Samaritans are in the “non-neighbor” category of the person that asked the question. This introduces a new question for you and I: who is in our “non-neighbor” category?

The priest and Levite serve as examples of empty religion that does not work because it is not concerned with the needs of others. They are the story’s true villains. They are expected to be the good guys, but they end up acting in a horrible way. I just heard a story about a woman that was in a rollover accident where she lost consciousness. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance, only to arrive and find her wedding ring was missing. Eyewitnesses told police that a man actually reached into her overturned car and pulled the ring off her finger while she lay there helpless. Stealing is one thing; seeing another human being in desperate need and failing to respond is another. Stealing from a human being that needs your help? that is a special kind of evil. The priest and the Levite saw the same need and heard the same cries for help as the Samaritan, but what did they do with what they say and heard? What will you do with what you see and hear? Neighborliness is only limited by our failure to see, feel, and respond to the needs of others.

This brings me to why I think Jesus was a master at this type of “mind game.” We enter the story along with the teacher of the law, thinking about who qualifies to be our neighbor and who does not. Who should receive our love and who can we withhold it from? Who is our neighbor? Well, it might be everyone – including the people we would not expect. It would include those that are not like us and that we do not like. But this is the wrong question, at least to Jesus. Through the story, Jesus flips the question and the answer. Instead of worrying about and assessing others to see who fits the bill for “neighbor,” or who is good enough for us to love – Jesus’ call is to become people that behave in a neighborly way to everyone. We (and the lawyer) started off seeking to limit who we (and he) have to call our neighbor, and we end up evaluating ourselves and how we are doing as a neighbor in the broken world we share. We are not to worry about who is our neighbor, we are to worry about how to be better neighbors ourselves – serving them, showing them love, and healing their wounds. Jesus says let the neighbor be you. Be the neighbor. This reminds me of Gandhi who once challenged us “to be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Questions for you and your teenager:
*Do you know the names of your actual neighbors (meaning the people living next door to your home)? What can you do to get to know them better?
*What would be different if everyone treated everyone else the way they wish they were treated?
*Can you think of anyone on your “non-neighbor” list? Are some people harder to love than others? Do you think Jesus ever intends for us to have a certain number of people that we do not love, for whatever reason?
*Should you help someone in need if it means putting yourself in danger? Why or why not? Are there limits to this?
*What are the needs around you right now, and how are you doing at being neighborly?

Love This Priority #1 – Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength

Love-This
Love is in the air at ECHO! We just wrapped up our first week in our “Love This!” series. Some thought from last Sunday that are worth talking out with your teenager:

Sometimes people talk about falling in love, like falling into a puddle or something…as if it were an accident; completely uncontrollable. This attitude sometimes makes us think that love is some mysterious feeling that we cannot harness – like “the Force.” We hear songs with lines like “you can’t help who you love,” and the general attitude of our culture is that love is something that happens to you. Then we hear about people that “fell out” of love. Brad used to be “in love” with Jen, but then he did a movie with Angelina, and he must have fallen out of love with Jen and then fallen in love with Angelina. Couples that were so convinced they were “in love” are now not “in love,” and they might be “in love” with someone else. If they fell into this puddle, I guess you could just fall out of that puddle and fall into a different one, right? We have this other cultural image of “cupid.” He is a baby with a bow and arrow, and he goes around shooting people in the butt to help them fall in love. Whoever thought it was a good idea to give a baby a bow and arrow needs some parenting help. Again, in this frame of mind, love is something that happens to you and is out of your control. Our students have grown up in a world where love is an accident, marriages are based on the strength of a fickle feeling, and the whole idea of love has been reduced to the warm fuzzies. Feelings are unfaithful because feelings fade. Ice cream is great…but it eventually melts.

What if our culture has love completely wrong? Love is not a feeling, Love is a Choice. You can choose who you love, you can choose what to love. C.S. Lewis said it like this:

“love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both [people] ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

Some people may be easier to love; other people might be more difficult. But you can make the choice. Love isn’t a feeling, it is a verb. It is an action, a way of living, a way of communicating importance and ordering your heart. This means that if something is important to you, it should change the way you act, the way you think, the way you live your life. Ultimately, no one understands love like God. God is Love – Love is his language. The universe might just be a huge experiment in love. When Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, he said that when it came down to it, love is at the heart and soul of everything.

With this conversation as the backdrop, we looked at Mark 12:28-31. The most important commandments in the entire bible are about love. If love is a choice; I mean to say that if you and I have something to do with the affections and attitudes of our hearts, than this is a critical point to pay attention to. What Jesus is saying is that your entire life should be oriented around one thing: Love. The Love of God and Love of others, these are the most important realities in our lives. And Jesus didn’t stop there. Jesus taught all kinds of revolutionary ideas about love.

Questions for you and your teenager:
* What do you think about the idea that love is not a feeling, but a choice? Does this challenge the way you have thought about love in the past? Do you think it is possible for someone to choose love without ever “feeling” it? Why do you think our culture is obsessed with feelings?
* Do you agree that some people are easier to love than others? Why do you think this is?
* Jesus challenged us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. What do you think he meant by “with all your heart?” What about soul? Mind? Strength?

Love This! New series in Echo for June

Love This Series Graphic
Love This Series Graphic

In the month of June, Echo will be exploring the teaching of Jesus on Love. Love is a word loaded with meaning that is sometimes used flippantly in our culture. “I love ice cream.” “I love my wife.” “I love your new computer.” Three times I have used the same word, yet you can be sure the word does not carry the same meaning. My love for my wife compels me to lay down my life for her and do all in my power to bring her joy and ascribe to her unsurpassable worth. My devotion to ice cream is slightly less intense. (I hope slightly is an understatement, but I am my father’s son in this regard.) In the teaching of Jesus, love was a central reality in the Kingdom of God. When Jesus was asked about the “greatest” commandment, his answer would not have been unfamiliar to an audience saturated with the Jewish scripture. He modifies the commandment laid out for Israel in Deuteronomy 6: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.” Love is the language of commitment in the Kingdom of God. It establishes priorities and motivates the rhythm of life otherwise known as worship. Love is a verb – something to be lived out. It is a commitment that should have a profound effect on our behavior. Our love for God should be inextricably linked to our love of ourselves and a group of people Jesus called our “neighbor.” Jesus also challenged his followers to open the envelope of love to include their enemies. This month we want students to encounter what love is all about when it is lived out through service. When we value something, love should become more than a feeling and express itself through action.

As a resource to compliment this series, I am recommending this book to our students: http://www.youthspecialties.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=228

Get a copy for your teen.

Expect some discussion questions for you to tackle with your teenager to follow as we work through this series.

Week 1 – Love God – We will talk about how we as creatures were designed to first and foremost love and know God. Love of God should consume our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Week 2 – Love Your Neighbor – We will talk out the way that our love for God should be lived out in a selfless commitment to others – including those people that our prejudices and history categorize as undesirables.

Week 3 – Love Yourself – We will talk out what it means to have a healthy self image and to see ourselves as creatures created in the Imago Dei – the stamp of God that is on each of our hearts. If God has decided we are priceless, who are we to suggest that we are worthless? What does it mean to have good self-esteem in a world out of control and off balance?

Week 4 – Love Your Enemies – We will talk out this huge challenge that Jesus throws our way – love the people that it is easy to hate.