Polluting Influences

March 28 was our meeting about polluting influences.  Not only can our bodies become polluted by what we eat and breathe, but our mind, soul, and spirit can also become polluted by many things:  false concepts, evil words, improper attitudes, worldly heroes, a rebellious spirit, goals of the world, bad pictures, wrong advice, desire for wealth, corrupt music, bad books, foolish friends, etc.

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In our very first Bright Lights meeting (and a little bit of our last meeting) we talked about how Satan doesn’t want us to be  bright lights for the Lord.  Because of this he seeks to hinder our testimony with his many traps, weapons, and tactics.  One way that the enemy seeks to hinder our effectiveness for the Lord is through polluting influences which distract and contaminate us.  We need to be on guard against these influences.

The enemy uses many different “channels” of pollution:

  • Television, videos, and movies — these can be full of evil concepts, words, actions, and pictures that can quickly pollute our minds with worldly thinking and cause us to waste much time.
  • Music — the words, attitudes, character of the musicians of worldly music can create rebellion and dangerous, immoral patterns in the lives of those who listen to it.
  • Books — many books are clearly evil, but others are more subtle and require special discernment.
  • Internet — the internet is being used for much good, but it is also full of great evil.

None of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but they can be channels of pollution in our lives.  Each of us need to be very discerning in these areas and to flee from what is evil.  Allowing pollution into our lives, no matter how little, can contaminate our testimony for the Lord.  To illustrate this, we took a jar of clean water and put in a couple drops of black food coloring.  It sure doesn’t take much pollution to contaminate what is clean and pure.

God has given us special protection from polluting influences through our parents. Our parents have much more wisdom and experience than we do, and can often see something wrong with a particular movie, book, activity, etc.  In saying “no” to these things, they are protecting us from worldly influences that harm us and dim our light for Christ.  We compared our parent’s authority to an umbrella.  We are only protected from the rain (the world) if we stay under the umbrella (our parents’ God-given authority).  Let’s commit to staying under our parents’ authority and protection from worldly influences.

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Discernment is necessary because Satan can take anything that is good and use it for something evil.  Because of this, we must be able to test what is of God and what is of the world.  A helpful Scripture verse in discerning what polluting influences are is Philippians 4:8-

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

If we desire to be reserved and set-apart for God’s special purposes, we need discernment in cleansing our lives so that we can maintain a pure and unpolluted bright light.  For an object lesson of this concept, we lit an oil lamp with a chimney that was polluted with soot.  Then we switched the chimney for one that was clean and pure.  The light difference was startling.  In the same way, our light for the Lord is dimmed by the polluting influences that we allow into our lives.  We need to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1)  so that we can shine brightly for the Lord.

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Jar – just a little bit of food coloring can contaminate a whole jar of water
Oil lamp – one chimney is polluted with soot which dims the light

For our small group time, we talked about the relationship between temptation and polluting influences.  We also divided the girls into accountability partners, and encouraged each girl to make a commitment or goal regarding one area that has been a polluting influence in her life, ending our discussion by praying for each other.

Our activity was small group skits about polluting influences… this is always a favorite activity with the girls and helps them to think through practical ways in which the lesson applies to our daily lives.

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Havala, Emma, Hannah, and Olivia – how books can be a polluting influence
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Hannah, Tami, Betty, Katie and Abby – how the internet can be a polluting influence
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Lily, Calli, Sara, and Joy – how music can be a polluting influence
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Deborah, Maria, Louisa, Jenna, and Sarah – how TV can be a polluting influence

We ended the evening, as usual, with fellowship and snacks.  Thanks to Hannah, Katie & Tami, and Hannah for our yummy treats.

Friends

At our last Bright Lights meeting (February 28), we discussed the important topic of friends.  We talked about how we are extremely influenced by the people around us.  Satan knows this and therefore wants to brings friends into our lives who will lead us in the wrong directions.  Wrong friends will keep us from living for the Lord; on the other hand, godly friends will encourage and strengthen us in the ways of the Lord.

We took a look at the biblical examples of Rehoboam and Daniel.  King Rehoboam listened to his friends that he grew up with rather than wise counsel.  As a result the kingdom of Israel rebelled against him (1 Kings 12:1-19).  Daniel on the other hand is an example of what a godly friend is like.  He took a stand for what he knew was right and his three friends followed his example (Daniel 1).  Who knows?  Perhaps we wouldn’t have the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego thrown into the fiery furnace if Daniel hadn’t been a godly friend (Daniel 3).  Whether we realize it or not, we are very influenced by those whom we choose as our friends.

Friends influence us
Friends influence us

On of the things we discussed was the four purposes of friendship:

  • To give spiritual encouragement (Romans 1:11-12)
  • To comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4)
  • To sharpen (Proverbs 27:17)
  • To work together for the kingdom of God (Acts 12:25, Philippians 2:25)

For a fun object lesson, we made “Friendship Fudge” with the different ingredients representing different aspects of a godly friendship.  We ate it for snack time… yummy! :)

The ingredients of a godly friendship
The ingredients of a godly friendship
Taking turns mixing the fudge
Taking turns mixing the fudge

It is okay to have unsaved friends or weak Christian friends, but they need to be “ministry friends.”  The purpose of these friendships need to be to win them to Christ or help them grow in the Lord.  To illustrate this, one girl stood on a chair while two others tried to pull her down.  At the same time, she was trying to pull them up.  This quick object lesson reminded us that we need to be cautious around these friends – make sure that you are influencing them, rather than them influencing you.

Object lesson: its easier for friends to pull you down than for to pull them up
Object lesson: its easier for friends to pull you down than you for to pull them up

Earthly friendships can be sweet for a time, but they do not satisfy.  Friends will fail and disappoint us, but Jesus never will.  He is more to us than any other friend could be (John 15:13)  Perhaps we don’t have any close friends in our lives right now because He wants us to focus on cultivating our friendship with Him.  We talked about some ways that we can get to know our best Friend:

  • Spend time alone with Him – good friends love spending time together.
  • Learn to get to know Him – good friends are interested in getting to know each other better
  • Demonstrate your love for Him by your actions – good friends are focused on needs of each other
  • Run into His arms whenever you need comfort – good friends comfort each other

In our small groups, we discussed the importance of being a giver in friendships rather than a taker.  If we have this focus, we are less likely to negatively influenced by our friends.

For our activity we played a fun game.  We divided into two teams on either side of a blanket.  Each team sent a girl to sit on their side.  When the blanket was dropped, it was a race to see who could say the other girl’s name first.  It was a lot of fun to watch some of them blank out.  It was a good activity for helping everyone to know the names of the girls in the group.

Who can say the other's name first?
Who can say the other’s name first?

Our snacks were provided by Sarah and Lily.  We also enjoyed the “Friendship Fudge” that we made for our object lesson.  We’re looking forward to seeing you all at our next meeting for our “Little Sister Night.”  Remember to RSVP so we know how many extra girls to plan for.

Fellowship and snacks
Fellowship and snacks

Our Words

BL 030Our meeting on February 14 was a bit different than usual – the normal small group leaders were all down South enjoying the warm weather in Florida and Texas, while we were recovering from a big snowstorm from earlier in the week. :)  Thanks so much to Mrs. Monica L. for playing the piano for our singing time (and Hannah for picking the songs for us), and for Abby and Katie stepping up to lead small groups.  Your help was such a blessing and encouragement.

Our topic was on our words.  We started out by reading James 3.  The tongue is either an instrument of much good, or great evil – power to bring life or death.  Because of this, our words is one of the biggest areas in our lives that require discernment.  God has much to say about this topic – there over 150 verses about words and speech in Proverbs alone!  We discussed the kinds of words that we shouldn’t use:

  • Bad words (swearing) – Exodus 20:7
  • Harmful words (gossip, blame, criticism, complaining, unkind, teasing) – Proverbs 12:18
  • False words (untrue, lying, deceit, exaggeration) – Psalm 34:13
  • Proud words – Proverbs 27:2
  • Inappropriate words – Ephesians 4:29
  • Unnecessary words – Psalm 71:24

And then we talked about the three kinds of words that we should use, found in Psalm 100:4–

  • Words of praise – we should praise God, praise others, and praise God to others.
  • Words of thanksgiving – it is important to show our gratefulness to God and others by taking time to say thanks.
  • Words of blessing – we can speak blessing by expressing our desire for others to have success in their life and ministry, explaining how God used them to benefit our life, sharing the gospel, giving words of comfort and encouragement in a difficult time, letting others know you are praying for them, etc.

For an object lesson on encouragement, we had a volunteer come up and stick her hand in a bowl of ice water.  The next girl who volunteered was encouraged by all the girls to keep going, and resulted in her keeping her hand in longer.  This was a reminder of how encouragement is so powerful in the lives of others.

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BL 037Then we talked about how what is in our heart is what going to come out in what we say to others (Luke 6:45, Matt. 15:18).  If we are thinking about the things of this world, its patterns will creep into our speech.  As young ladies seeking to be bright lights, we want our words to be spiritually edifying to others.  This cannot happen if we are thinking about worldly pleasures all the time.  As we think about things that honor the Lord, we will want to talk about those things and encourage others with our words.

We closed with an object lesson.  I had a volunteer come up to crumple and smash a piece of paper.  Upon having her apologize to the paper :), we unfolded it and smoothed it out.  But it still showed evidence of the rough treatment it received – there was no way to make it smooth again.  This was used to illustrate how our words can cause great pain in others lives and can ruin our testimony for the Lord.  We cannot take our words back once we say them, that’s why we need to show much discernment in this area of our lives.  Matthew 12:36 tells us that we must give account for every idle word that we say. This should motivate us to guard our mouths.

After the lesson, the girls were given some time to do a personal worksheet.  Then we divided into three small groups for for discussion on how we can guard our mouths.

Our activity was to memorize “tongue tamer” Bible verses.  We memorized one with pictures, one by repetition, one with partners, one by song, and one by actions.  We memorized 5 different verses in about 20 minutes!  It was a profitable activity, and also encouraged us that memorizing Scripture usually isn’t as hard as we think it is.

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Our snacks were Valentine’s Day themed – pink and red M&M cookies (Katie and Tami), beautifully decorated heart sugar cookies (Jenna), and chocolate cake with pink and red hearts (Mrs. F.).  Katie and Tami also brought a bouquet of roses mad out of Hershey kisses for everyone!

Since our meeting, we have been doing a 2-week “Psalm 19:14 Challenge“.  Each day there is an assignment for how to use our words in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.  It is our prayer that this challenge will help us learn to watch our every word throughout the day so that our speech will be spiritually edifying to those around us and pleasing to the Lord.

Here’s a great little poem that sums up our lesson:

A careless word may kindle strife;
A cruel word may wreck a life;
A timely word may level stress;
A loving word may heal and bless.
-Author Unknown

Discernment

We studied the topic of discernment at our meeting on January 31.  We looked at discernment as the skill of separating good from evil, and God’s ways from the world’s ways.  Satan, our enemy, is crafty and cunning in trying to deceive and trick people into following the patterns of this world.  Since he wants to damage our testimony, we should not only to avoid evil, but also the appearance of evil (1 Thes. 5:22).  It is so easy for wrong beliefs, influences, attitudes, desires, and possessions to creep in and contaminate us, and soon we can become accustomed to the evil and do not even notice it.  That’s why its important for us to show discernment, especially in the areas of the doctrine we believe, holiness, and how we treat people.

Satan wants to ruin our testimony by getting us to compromise and mix with the world – even in “little” areas.  It is important for us to show discernment and not fall into these traps of the enemy.  Not only do we need to be able to discern between good and bad, we need to also need to be able discern between good and best, because Satan often brings along something good just to keep us from God’s best.  We need to be able to discern between influences which honor the Lord and those that dishonor Him.

As an example of discernment, we had a fruit-tasting object lesson.  Four volunteers were blindfolded and given a bite of fruit and then had to discern what it was.  It was a good example of how difficult discernment can be.

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The decisions that we make now will influence us our entire lives; that it is why it is so important to develop discernment now in our youth.  We made a list of ways that we can cultivate discernment in our lives:

  • Examine everything in the light of God’s Word (i.e. Ask, “What does the Bible say?”)
  • Have right motives (identify and remove pride and greed)
  • Trust in God’s power rather than man’s skill
  • Get advice from your parents and listen to their cautions
  • Remember that God’s ways are usually opposite to man’s natural inclinations (flesh vs. spirit)
  • Make a commitment to have no fellowship with darkness
  • Ask, “What is the source of this?  Is it of the world?”
  • Ask, “Does this honor Christ?  What would Jesus do?”

In our small groups, we discussed the importance of knowing the truth by studying God’s word, so that we can identify Satan’s lies and traps.  Each small group also studied a Bible character and how they showed discernment in their lives.  The characters studied were Joseph, David, Nehemiah, and the Bereans.  Then each group shared with the large group what we could learn about discernment from the lives of these godly role models.

For our activity, we did an obstacle course relay race.  The girl going through the course was blind folded and her team members were shouting out directions to her.  But the hard part was that there were three teams, with three different kinds of directions being called out.  It was a fun (and somewhat silly) example of the importance of discernment between what’s right and what’s wrong.

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During our tea and fellowship time, we enjoyed snacks made by Katie and Jenna.  Praise the Lord for a blessed evening of learning, fun, and fellowship!