Praying with Zach

Katelyn Williamson, Director of Youth and Family Ministry


When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and saw the man and said, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down. I must be your guest today.’” (Luke 19:5 PHILLIPS) 

Question: Who is the most popular cultural icon among your peers? A musician? An athlete? A social media influencer? Picture that person walking into the halls of your school tomorrow. What would happen? Would they get swarmed by students for selfies? That’s what it was like for Jesus. His public appearances turned into pop-up parades. Today’s story centers around another person who longed to get close to Jesus, but he had to figure out how to navigate the crowd. His name was Zacchaeus. I bet his friends called him Zach. That is, if he had any friends. Zach was a tax collector by trade, the most despised job in town. The Romans had conquered the Jews and bribed Zach to turn against his own people. His job was to go door-to-door with Roman soldiers and demand that his neighbors send a percentage of their income to Caesar in Rome. But tax collectors were known for up-charging everyone, becoming rich by stealing from their own community. 

Scripture: Turn in your Bible to Luke 19:1–10. 

Read it slowly and underline anything that catches your eye. Read the first five verses for a second time and then share your wonderings. 

My Wonderings: I wonder how short Zach really was? I wonder . . . I wonder . . . I wonder . . . I wonder how Jesus actually saw Zach. I did a Google Image search of “sycamore trees” and they look like big pieces of broccoli. They have so many leaves that it would have been easy for Zach to stay hidden under cover. I wonder if Jesus was the only one who even noticed him hiding in the tree. Maybe you feel like that sometimes. Like no one ever notices you. You try your best to get bigger numbers on report cards, social media posts, and in the weight room. And smaller numbers on the scale. But sometimes you mess up on purpose, just to get someone’s attention. Many of my teenage friends are asking the question “Does anyone see me?”

Below are some actual statements my friends have posted on their social media accounts:

I’m screaming at the top of my lungs, and no one even turns their head. I hate when my mom talks about how awesome my brother and sister are. #IFeelLikeCrapNow. Try walking a mile in my shoes, then you can yell at me for not being perfect. OK, I’m bored. What should I pierce? I wish I believed I was worth loving. I wasted my childhood trying to grow up. Leave it to me to always mess everything up. I told my mom I’m depressed and can’t do my homework cause I’m emotionally damaged. She believed me and is taking me to the doc. LOL Crying because I’m so exhausted and I want to sleep, but I can’t because I have so much work. Emotionally . . . I’m done. Mentally . . . I’m drained. Spiritually . . . I feel dead. Yet physically . . . I smile. 

One of my high school friends sent me this message recently:

Kate, last night . . . it hit the fan, and I mean hard. Everything was going good and then my mom had the great idea to start the timeless argument about how I don’t care about school. She called me downstairs and logged into the parent portal to check my grades . . . they were bad. I had pretty much given up hope this year. As the argument continued, I found myself falling into a pit of deep-seated hatred and anger for my parents. They just don’t get it, I thought. I punched my wall, ’cause that’s what kids do in movies and stuff, but it kinda hurt, and I didn’t feel any better. My dad is so angry. He took away all my stuff. My phone, my laptop, my friends, my driving privileges for, as he said, “the entire summer.” He even told my mom to take away all my clothes except for two pairs of shorts, two shirts, two pairs of socks, and one pair of shoes. He said my life is going to be like the military. We are talking about waking up early, doing chores and yard work every day this summer. This is the worst ever. My parents just don’t get what I’m going through. They don’t understand my emotions. I feel like nobody understands me. I have lost touch with God. I’m stupid, worthless, scrawny, ugly, too skinny, no girlfriend, and living for no reason. My parents came in to say good night to me and told me they were sorry, but they did it ’cause they love me. When they said “Goodnight, love you,” all I could mumble was, “I wish the feeling was mutual.”

Do you ever feel like that? Like no one truly gets you, like no one understands you, like no one sees you? Jesus. Jesus sees you. Just like he saw Zach hiding in that tree. But how would you know if Jesus was looking at you right now? You would have to look at him in order to really know, right? Your eyes would need to meet his. So how do we do that? How do we turn our eyes towards Jesus? The Message translation of Luke 19:3–4 says, “[Zach] wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way . . . so he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus.” Maybe we do the same thing Zach did. If we desperately want to see Jesus, maybe we figure out how to escape the chaos of the crowd and climb up a tree. How is “the crowd” distracting you? Could it be the notifications constantly buzzing in your pocket? Is it a constant fear of missing out? What if the distractions are keeping us from missing out on the one thing we want to see most? Jesus. Can anything compare to looking into the eyes of God and seeing that he is looking back at us?

At the heart of worship is attention. Make a list of things that are distracting you from paying attention to Jesus. Take your time and ask Jesus to reveal to you the things that are keeping you from seeing him. Then, as an act of surrender, write them down. Pray something like, “Jesus, just like Zacchaeus, I desperately want to see you, but I’m distracted. Will you help me turn from my distractions and look toward you?”

Falling in Love with Jesus

Katelyn Williamson, Director of Youth and Family Ministry


I remember going to summer camp right before eighth grade. That was the year I started asking more questions about God. Each night, the camp speaker opened the Gospels and shared stories about Jesus. He told us how getting to know Jesus helps us get to know God. Then, he told us how much Jesus loves us. This frustrated me. Mid-week, I cornered the speaker after his talk and said, “Chris, you’re being really repetitive. We know Jesus loves us. We get it! You can move on. Tell us how we’re supposed to be better people and stuff. You don’t have to keep harping on his love. Tell us what we need to do.” With kindness in his eyes, he leaned against the stage and listened. Then he slowly replied, “Kate, I’m not sure you do get it. When Jesus’ love grabs hold of you, that is what changes you—not a list of ways to be a better person.”  I had grown up in the church, heard about Jesus, and called myself a Christian for years, but that was the first time someone had ever made me question if I truly understood Jesus’ love for me. At that moment, I felt incredibly lost.

On the first day of that week, everyone was placed on a team. At the week’s end, the winning team was awarded the cherished “Camp Champ” t-shirts. Points were distributed for winning competitions and performing obnoxious team cheers. There were bonus points for anyone who got up before breakfast and walked around the lake. I wasn’t a morning person, but I loved winning, so I decided I would wake up early every morning and help my team take home the shirts. It was about a half mile around the lake, and you got points for each lap, but the rule was you had to walk, not run. And you had to walk by yourself. And you had to be silent. As an extrovert, I’d never intentionally spent that much time alone or in silence.

This camp was nestled in the North Idaho mountains, and most mornings there was a mist that fell heavy on the lake. Often the fog was so thick I couldn’t see ten feet in front of me. During those mornings I began talking and listening to Jesus in a way I never had before.  The morning after that conversation with John, I had a conversation with Jesus. We talked while we walked. “Jesus, I’ve been trying to live ‘the Christian life’ for a long while, and to me, it feels a lot like this competition at camp. The more I behave, the better I perform, the more likely I am to win at this religion thing. The more likely I am to be liked. But after this week and John’s talks, I’m thinking I might be getting the whole thing wrong. I want to understand your love for me, but I honestly don’t know what to do. Jesus, will you help me?” I didn’t hear an audible response from him, but that morning during the final lap around the lake, I experienced Jesus’ presence walking alongside me. I don’t really know how to describe it. All I know is that he answered my prayer and gave me faith to believe that he was with me.

A big part of being a teenager is asking questions. My guess is that, much like young Katelyn, you probably wonder what God is like, if he’s real, and how he feels about you. In the person of Jesus, we get answers to those questions. Jesus Christ reveals God’s heart to us. Since none of us were alive 2,000 years ago when Jesus walked the earth, how do we know what Jesus was like? The same way we know what our great grandparents were like. We listen to stories. And hopefully, you’ll read some stories about you. As you read the stories of Jesus that show us what God is like, read them with your mind because these stories are true. The gospel accounts are factual, historical reports. They were recorded by people who either knew Jesus firsthand or by close companions of people who were eyewitnesses of the risen Christ. But don’t just read them like a textbook. These tales are much more like love stories and action movies. Let your heart get wrapped up in the wonder of God’s love for you. Try to imagine what it felt like to be there 2,000 years ago. In the very presence of Jesus. God with skin on. Imagine being at the wedding when he turned water into wine or in the boat when he calmed the raging storm. When you put yourself in the scene, what do you see? What do you see on the face of Jesus? What do you hear, smell, taste and feel?

In the classic French novel Les Misérables, Victor Hugo wrote, “Le suprême bonheur de la vie, c’est la conviction qu’on est aimé; aimé pour soi-même, disons mieux, aimé malgré soi-même.” The English translation is, “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” God has communicated his love for us in dozens of ways. He reveals it in sunsets, friendships, taste buds, and songs. But if you’ve ever doubted the way God feels about you, there’s nothing more convincing than the person of Jesus. And I am convinced that if you truly get to know him, you can’t help but fall in love with him.

Phone Home

Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries & Missional Service


When I was in college, my dorm room was decorated with movie posters. My sister-in-law worked for a local radio station, and they often promoted movie premieres. She had access to original movie posters for the theaters, and she shared them with me. One of those posters was from E. T. My roommate and I taped it to the wall by the phone. Yes, back in those days, we had a phone hanging on the wall! She thought it was funny to add a sign to the poster that said “Denise Phone Home” because my dad and I talked weekly on that phone. Each Sunday afternoon we’d talk. About the Browns, my aunts, his work, my siblings, the Indians, my grades, the weather. It kept us connected. We continued those weekly Sunday phone calls until he died ten years later, and I’m so glad we did.

The article link below by Deb Koster, an ordained pastor in the Christian Reformed Church, contains some advice for parents sending children off to college. She speaks from experience about how to stay connected and how to adjust guiding your children as they head off on their own. Click the link below to read more.

Phone Home

Wise Words

Shannon Fossett, Director of Children’s Ministries


We don’t say the “s word” at our house. No, not that word. The “s word” I’m having a difficult time saying is senior. Our oldest is going to be a senior, and I can’t believe it! When I think of it, tears of sadness and joy come to my eyes.

Another thing that happens is I think of all the things our son needs to know before he leaves home. Wise Words sometimes come from books, but sometimes they come from the experience of friends. That’s what happened to the author of the article you’ll find a link to below. When her son was senior, a friend shared the wisdom of her experience of how to “foster independence” in your child so that they’re ready to make life decisions. Trust me . . . I’ll be looking back on this article many times over the next months.

Wise Words

Rite of Confirmation

Pastor Thaddeus Book, Associate Pastor


Desert Cross celebrated the Rite of Confirmation on Sunday. Nine of our youth participated. We asked them to write a faith statement that would help them articulate where their faith and lives intersect. Each of them then chose a portion to share with the Congregation during the service. They expressed themselves so well and so beautifully that we wanted to share their words with you. Let’s keep these young people in our prayers as they continue their faith walk.

  • I believe there is power in prayer and that God is always listening. I believe you should live with faith every day and set out to do what God has planned.
  • I believe that forgiveness is an important part of being a Christian.  Jesus forgives our sins because he died on the cross for us.  I believe in forgiving people’s mistakes. I believe in forgiving people who hurt you.
  • I believe in life after death.  I think after death I will ascend to heaven and spend eternity with Jesus. I’m not sure what heaven looks like, but I hope my family and friends that have already passed with be waiting for me.
  • Grace is very important to me because it is not only just forgiveness, but it is also eternal love.  This is much like how Jesus Christ always told us to love and forgive.  Grace is also very important to me because if I show grace, it means I will be following in the footsteps of Christ and his disciples.
  • I believe God’s eyes will never fail to see me when I am lost.  I believe that God will never ignore my prayers.  I believe that God will always sense my presence when I am in need.  I believe that God will forever keep me safe and lead me through the desertedness of life. I believe that God will never forget me. I believe I will never forget God.
  • I believe in the forgiveness of others. People are going to make mistakes, and if you can’t forgive them for something that they didn’t intend, then what does that make you?  Forgiving someone is almost always the right thing to do, often, you never know what they have or are going through and if you judge them for a mistake they have made, maybe you don’t really see the whole story.  And it would be wrong for you to judge someone, especially if you don’t understand their situation.  Jesus forgave so many people, many of which were great offenses, but it shows you how forgiveness is the right option.
  • I believe in service.  We should always strive to help others.  Through little good deeds, we can make a huge impact on someone’s life.  I believe we should always cherish and be kind to everyone around us.  Service grows from love and concern for others. I believe God wants us to love and serve others graciously and create a more positive community.
  • I believe God helps guide me through life. God pushes me to continue improving and be a better person.  With him I am able to make mistakes and learn from them and make good choices.  God has taught me to spread my faith through actions. Through my faith I will always try to build good relationships and love others.  I hope after confirmation I can be more connected to the community.
  • In the verse Proverbs 3:5-6, we are told to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” What I believe this is trying to tell us is that we have our faults, we have made decisions that do not act on behalf of God. In these moments of decision and action, this verse is telling us to let go of these faults and rely on the Lord, to rely on love. I believe that God is telling us to love, for he is love, acting inside of us to spread the word to others. Faith is important to me because it teaches me not only what it means to be a member of the church, but how to be one. After my confirmation I will try to follow closer to the teachings of God, letting love guide me.

Guidance & Social Media

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


Parents, I know you are acutely aware of the impact that our teens are facing as it pertains to social media, but how do we provide guidance?  Our role in shaping our children and their interactions with social media is a role that can feel daunting and nearly impossible to master.  My own kids show a proficiency in social media that I can’t even fathom, and I’m the “youth guy” at the church!!!  Social media has become one of the core influencers in the life of your teen, and it didn’t even exist 20 years ago.  I remember when most of the youth at Desert Cross were just getting their first cell phones, which had no connectivity with the internet or apps, and Tetris was the big distraction during meetings.  Here we are two decades later, and an entire crew of elementary kids are rolling around with connections that span our entire globe.  News, photos, applications, pornography, videos of violence (sometimes even live) are all in the palm of their hands.  Sure, we set some basic guidelines around what they can and can’t do with their phones.  We give them a short lecture on the responsibilities that come with wielding this power.  I just feel that we can and should offer them more.  More instruction, more explanation, more understanding, and more guidance are needed as they learn to navigate the very adult world through their phone.  Have you discussed what it means to honor God with their eyes, ears, mouth, and time?  I know I didn’t do much of that as I raised my boys.  At least not as much as I should have . . . looking back.

The link below is to an article that has some great Biblical perspective on your role in the life of your child’s social media footprint.  It’s from Parenting for Faith, the program Desert Cross is offering this year.  If you’re interested in learning more about that program, use the second link to our website.  Take what you like from the article and know that you are not alone on this parenting journey.  I hope you might also consider sharing your ideas with parents around you.  My guess is we all could use some insight along our parenting journey.

Guidance & Social Media

Parenting for Faith at Desert Cross

Parenting for Faith

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


Parenting is tough, really tough.  In a recent meeting with the high school youth, I asked a couple questions about parenting.  The first was “What is something your parent/s do/does that you do NOT want to do as a parent?”.  As you might imagine, this question gets a very wide range of answers.  The next question I asked was “What is something your parent/s do/does that you DO want to do when you are a parent?”.  Then we talked.  A lot.  You better believe that I pointed out to the youth that night just how difficult parenting is.  I’m not sure they believed me, but I tried!

Parenting is the hardest thing that I have done, at least over a long period of time.  If I add the expectation that we, as Christians, have in passing on our faith, then things get even more complicated.    Please hear me when I say this:  You are not alone.  You are not alone in your struggle in finding ways to be a “good parent” and feeling like you are failing.  You are not alone in your fear that your child will not adopt this faith that you value and where you have found so much hope, joy, love, and peace.

Desert Cross is working to figure out ways to support you on your parenting journey.  Please find the link below to a lesson from the “Parenting for Faith” course we’re offering at Desert Cross.  I hope you find a nugget of benefit from reading it.  You’ll also find a link to more information about the Parenting for Faith course that begins at Desert Cross September 29.

Parenting for Faith

Parenting for Faith at Desert Cross

Helping Teens Deal with Depression

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


May was Mental Health Awareness Month, and I find myself feeling like it needs to be longer than a month!  Our teens are at a fairly high risk for many mental health related issues, and sadly I am not sure that most of us feel equipped to offer much help if an issue arises.  If you are like me, I imagine there are moments, or phases, where you wonder about the mental health of your teen.  Will this pass?  Do they need to see a doctor or a therapist? Is this situational, or is there something chemically amiss with my son or daughter?  Will I be judged by friends, family, and coworkers?  Is this issue treatable? 

It is easy to become frozen by our fears, but I pray that fear motivates you, for the sake of your child, to attack the situation.  Be their advocate, champion, and most importantly their parent.  As we learn more about the science of mental illnesses, we are also learning just how important societal acceptance is as well.  I cannot promise that the process of your family’s journey towards healing will be an easy one, but I can assure you that your child is worth the challenge. 

The link below is to an article on teen depression. Approximately 1 in 5 youth will experience depression during their teen years. After you read the article, please share it with someone else who might need the link for their child.

Helping Teens Deal with Depression

Changing and Growing as Parents

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


We are in the throes of a record setting hot summer, and we’re venturing out from our COVID-19 cocoons.  Parents of teens are now being forced to ask themselves what this might mean for their teenage sons and/or daughters.  For the past year we knew where they were . . . likely at home.  We knew who they were with . . . likely alone or with family.  We knew what they were doing . . . okay, that might be a stretch.  This change in our environment has caused parents to now face the difficult challenge of parenting their teens through these changes.  I found a really good article with some useful tips.  They are not from a religious standpoint, but they are golden. My prayer for each of you is that you find ways to continue to improve as a parent.  That doesn’t mean that you are not good at it now!  It simply means that our youth need our best, so they can be their best.  Keep growing and challenging yourself to adapt to their new needs.

My own boys are now in their early 20’s, so I’d appreciate you sending me an article on how the heck to parent them!  =)

Click the link below to read how we can adjust our parenting as our kids get older.

Changing and Growing as Parents

Losing My Religion

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


I wake up each morning, throw on my reading glasses (yeah, I’m getting old), and grab my phone to read the latest news from the previous day.  This time keeps me, at least a little bit, updated on current events in our city, country, and world.  A couple of weeks ago an article caught my attention because of its title: Losing My Religion.  I had to open it.

The article is well written and also covers a topic that many of us have thought about over the past several years, and especially as we have lived out this pandemic.  Please click the link below take a minute to read it.  You may not agree with everything the author says, but I do see great value in giving it some thought.

Losing My Religion

Learning Patience

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


A year ago, almost to the day, we found ourselves in a strange new pattern.  Masks, distancing, hand sanitizer, and an odd lack of toilet paper were the easy signs of our new world.  The more subtle signs took a little more time to manifest.  Here are a few of my little indicators that life was going to be different.  I received a letter from Arizona stating that I had filed for unemployment, which was false.  Then a few months later Montana followed suit, yet I have never even stepped foot in Montana.  Last month Kentucky also gave me the news.  Of course, I spent the time to file my grievances and lock down my credit, but this was all a sign of unrest in our culture.  People were showing their desperation and panic by stooping to new ways of finding stability financially . . . theft.

Another more subtle instance of our solitude creeping away at our psyche is the isolation.  I am not yet sure of the impact of social distancing, but there is a price to pay.  My fear is that our patience for others might deteriorate, or maybe our teens will lose their already frail ability to connect with peers in authentic relationships, or worse yet we simply become apathetic to the needs of others.  Fear is such a temptation during times of stress.

My thoughts go to my source of peace.  My thoughts go to my faith that our Creator gave us the tools to repair . . . and even to thrive during trials.  My thoughts go to each of you, and my hope is that you too are able to seek these free gifts and blessings from our God.  One word in particular has been on my heart and mind: patience.  Please reflect on the verses below.

Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

1 Corinthians 13:4 – Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; it is not arrogant.

Romans 12:12 – Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

I am being taught patience.  I would guess that many of you feel the same way.


In Service to Others

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
–Mahatma Gandhi

Finding oneself is difficult.  Finding oneself as a teenager during a pandemic…no thank you!  Our teens are desperately seeking to discover who they are, where they fit in, what their purpose is, and why it all matters.  Gandhi’s quote about finding yourself in the service of others is perfect.  So often in our Western Culture we see our accomplishments, money, possessions, and authority as the path to understanding.  Those things are not bad or wrong, but they certainly cannot answer the question of who we are or how to discover ourselves. 

Serving others is not only a beautiful way to discover oneself, but it’s also a way to connect with our Creator and Lord.  Jesus served with every breath, and his example should be a roadmap for our lives.  I invite you to start your journey of self-discovery, of unveiling your true self, and start by offering more of you to others.  It is a beautiful and rich journey.

The ELCA has many wonderful opportunities to get involved in service to the world.  Click the link below to investigate some of the simple ways you can get started.

In Service to Others

Talking Faith

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


Parents, as you have conversations about faith at home, I want to share an article with you that I think has some value.  I know firsthand that sharing our own faith and guiding our children in faith is extremely difficult.  This article does a nice job of offering ideas on how to approach it in ways that your teen will likely appreciate.

Know that you are all in my prayers, as are your children.  We are on this journey together.  Click the link below to read the article.

Talking Faith

Life for Teens in 2020

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries



For months we have watched our sense of normal change.  Working with teens and raising teens is difficult in the best of times, but this year has proven to be anything but that. 

Stop and think, for just a moment, about what some of the most important things for teenagers are:  developing independence, socializing with friends, playing a sport, having a hobby, getting good grades, learning to drive, and, of course, spending time with family.  These are some of the biggies that come to mind.  In 2020 their lives have been stripped of several of the items on the list.  Through no fault of their own, they have lost almost an entire year of life’s normal educational routine. 

My hope for each of you is that you will take time to discuss these losses with your child.  Give them the acknowledgement that they deserve.  Build in time to mourn what we are going through.  Because of our faith in Christ, we have a sense of joy and hope that provides perspective.  However, our teens are still formulating what their faith is, so they may not feel those assurances as strongly or as clearly as we do.  Acknowledge that as well, but also take time to share your joy and hope with them, so that they might be inspired, or at least comforted, by your conviction of better days to come.

One thing 2020 has taught me is that our teens are strong people.  They really are.  Let’s pour into them!  We finally have a “captive” audience with our teens, so let’s take advantage of our extra time with them.  Shape them, prioritize them, cherish them, and listen to them.  I promise you will not regret it!  Please check out this interesting article from the New York Times.  It covers several other aspects of raising teens during the pandemic and offers some great insight.

Life for Teens in 2020

Jesus and Authority

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


Matthew 21:23-32

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Parable of the Two Sons

‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

From Faith Lens:

Gospel Reflection

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the “cleansing” of the Temple (Matthew 21:1-16)  set the stage for his confrontation with the chief priests and elders.

“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”  That is the question put to Jesus by Jewish leaders who are obviously upset at what they perceive as an attack against both the Temple and their own authority. Yet, their question is not an honest one.  That is, they are not really seeking knowledge and understanding, but are looking to trap Jesus.  Indeed, they are well aware of what his actions imply – that he is the Messiah, God’s anointed one.  They hope, in answering this question, Jesus will give them something they can use against him.

Jesus is wise to their ploy.  And while his counter-question hangs them on the horns of a dilemma, it is more than simply a clever way out.  This question concerning John the Baptist is a clue to the answer Jesus would have given, had his questioners been open to the truth.  If they truly understood what John was about (see Matthew 3:11-17), they would know where Jesus gets the authority to say what he is saying and do what he was doing. 

In sharing a parable about a man with two sons, Jesus goes on to underscore the fact that they have chosen to ignore John’s message and, therefore, Jesus himself.  After all, what does it say that even people whose daily lives seem to be a big “No!” to God believe John’s message of repentance and renewal, when the religious leaders do not?  What does it say that even tax collectors and prostitutes “get it,” when those who should most welcome the Messiah refuse to see God at work?

This is not simply a story from long ago.  Jesus continues to challenge us to open our eyes to what God is doing in the world, calling us to view our lives through our “faith lenses”.  How we answer the chief priests and elder’s questions as it pertains to Jesus is critical.  What does it mean for the church that Jesus is Lord?  And, more personally, what does his authority as God’s  Messiah mean to each of us?

Bible Study Tools

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


Students and Parents, as you know sitting down and reading scripture is sometimes an overwhelming and confusing experience.  We often don’t know where to start or stop, are confused about the context or content, or simply avoid doing it altogether.  In recent years a group of graphic artists and teachers got together to make really meaningful videos, covering the major themes, characters, history, and lessons from scripture.  They do a fantastic job of it too!!!  Please use this link to their YouTube page the next time you are curious about something in the Bible or simply want to grow in your faith and understanding of it.  You won’t be disappointed.

Bible Study Tools

Justice in the Home

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


As I sit here, now in JULY, I am truly floored by the magnitude and disruption that we have seen in our world, cities, schools, homes, and basically everything else.  Not only are we facing a global pandemic, but we are also in an election year, and have civil unrest around the world.  Two months ago I was confronted with a term that I thought I understood. Justice.  In the past two months, however, I have been thinking about this word non-stop.  In my search for a deeper understanding of justice, I found a well-thought-out article about justice in the home.  This intrigued me as I care deeply about our youth and our parents.  I reflected on my own parenting and how I could have been better and also ways that I succeeded in creating a just home for my family.

Click the link below to give this article a look please.  You might find ways to begin teaching about justice by offering it at home for all to enjoy.  Share your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of this page. 

God’s Peace.

Justice in the Home

Serving Others Helps Teen Grow

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1
At Desert Cross, we are passionate about serving others.  In my opinion, it is one of the greatest strengths and examples that we can offer our children.  Apparently, I am not alone in my belief.  Check out this article about adolescents and the importance that serving others can have on their growth in life.  Notice that the article is from Psychology Today, not a faith-based publication.  This is exciting!  The research shows that God has literally designed us to serve others!

Click the link below to read how acts of service serve us in many, many ways.

Serving Others Helps Teens Grow

Parenting Teens

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


When it comes to parenting teens, I am convinced that the majority of us feel as though we are just hanging on for dear life.  Obviously, there are a million methods to which we might subscribe to when it comes to our personal parenting plan, but I keep reading those listed in this article (please see the link below) and though I failed at several of them, they speak some fantastic truths.  

A few weeks ago during our weekly gathering of high school students, I asked the teens about parenting.  My two questions were:

What is something that your parents do that you do NOT want to do when/if you become a parent?

What is something that you dearly appreciate when it comes to how your parents are raising you?

No, I will not discuss your child’s answers with you =) . . . I will, however, let you know that they dearly appreciate you, even your shortcomings as a parent.  They were extremely open, respectful, and even compassionate, when it came to describing their frustrations about you as a parent.  The most beautiful responses came with the second question. You should feel proud of how much they appreciate you and your efforts.  Your explanations, laughter, and even your discipline, have been gifts for them.  

Raising a teen can be overwhelming, even scary at times.  Please know that you are not alone in your fears, you are not supposed to have all of the answers, and your children will offer you the grace and forgiveness that God has shown to each of us.  Hold these words from Matthew closely and trust that you, we, and God can figure this thing out. 

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

Click the link below and check out these fantastic ideas for some additional skills you might want to adopt.  Have an idea to share?  Use our comment section below.

Parenting Teens

The Gift of Listening

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


Listening sounds so simple!  We have two ears, so it should be really easy.  You and I both know that listening, truly listening, is a skill that takes time to develop, discipline, and patience.  Tons of patience.   Listening is actually a really complex word, but it’s a word that may prove instrumental in building a healthy relationship with our teenage children.     

Reflecting on my experiences as a youth leader, I am often put in situations where listening is the single greatest gift I can offer to our teens.  I listen to weird stories, strange situations, moments of doubt, conflict, pain, loss, grief, great joys, deep love, shallow lust, and the list could go on for pages.  This act of listening is difficult at times.  However, listening is the gift that teens crave from us.  They crave it because they need to process without judgment or hear themselves speak so that they can process how they sound or even just to get something off of their mind.

I am aware, as a parent of boys who are exiting their teen years, of how difficult it is to listen, but even more difficult than listening is listening without judgment.  At times I wonder how good my poker-face is because if my own boys were in tune with my subtle body language, I am convinced our conversations would have been far fewer and further apart.  I have been listening to teens for 20+ years, and I can promise you that it is easier listening to “other people’s kids” than it is my own.  I am convinced, however, that it is critical for us to offer our own teens this gift, maybe more important than other things we prioritize.  We value our children’s education, friend groups, sports, activities, safety, vacations, and so much more, but I believe that one PRIMARY element of their overall health and development that we tend to neglect is having access to our ears, without judgment. 

I know that if you are willing to grow in this area, for your teen, that God will work with you.  That’s good news.  My prayer for you, as a parent, is that you pray for this gift.  If you have it already, congrats!  Pray for more of it!  I also hope that you take this gift seriously, as challenging as it may be, because it could prove to be profound for your child, your family, and for you.

I found an article that offers some great advice on how we might grow in this area. Click the link below to read more. Please share your struggles and successes with us.  Reach out or use the comment section below.  We need each other as we figure this stuff out!

The Gift of Listening

Passing on the Faith

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


I so wish, as a parent myself, that I could impart faith on my children by dropping them off at church, similar to soccer practice or their education at school.  However, I have learned over the years that this model simply isn’t as effective as we parents might have hoped.  I think that we all know that we have the most profound effect on our children’s lives, but sometimes we don’t always know how to impart the “faith” side of our lives onto our children.  Well, I don’t have the answers to this difficult dilemma, but I now know that my hunch was correct.  How we model faith for our children is, in fact, key to them carrying on the faith in their own lives.  Know that you are not alone in wondering how best to pass on your faith, and we here at Desert Cross want to walk with you as you discover how this important task might be carried out.

Click the link below to explore this topic further.  Share a comment below.  Let’s share the faith with our kids together.

Passing on the Faith

Generation after Generation

Chad Diegle, Director of Youth Ministries


My thoughts come from the recurring sentiment that older generations have towards youth.  I have heard, about a million times, that “today’s youth are (fill in the blank).”  The adjective where you fill in the blank is hardly ever a positive one.  Today, I most often hear that Millennials are lazy, entitled, and have no work ethic.  Before they were here, I often heard that the Gen X Generation was not patriotic, defiant, and selfish.  We all know what the Baby Boomers were like in the 60’s, and I am sure their parents and grandparents thought the world was doomed.  I would imagine this cycle of worrying about the next generation has plagued us since the beginning of time.  However, I’m challenging you to fight it.

Read the following article for a quick look into why these negative sentiments creep into our psyche.

Maybe we can start discussing what makes our differences beautiful rather than ugly. Start the conversation in the comment section below.

Generation after Generation

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