Blueberry Donuts – Caught Not Taught

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot lately about why students are leaving the church, and even last week wrote a blog on it. Yet as I’ve been doing more reflecting on it, I really think it gets back to the responsibility of the parents. No where in Scripture do I see church leaders being held responsible for what is going on in kids’ lives. Sure, James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” but I don’t see the teachers being held accountable for another persons sin, but I do see it being the parents responsibility for their children (Eph 6:1-4, Deut 6:6-9, Titus 2:4, Proverbs 22:6). Now I want to be careful to not cross into legalism here, and I think many times the phrase “it takes a village” to raise a child is very true. We need the church and the support of the people in the church to help raise children-parents need to be willing to admit they can’t do it on their own. Yet what I see throughout Scripture and in my own life is a very important phrase to remember in being a parent. What kids learn is often caught not taught.

This morning I went to the grocery store to buy some more creamer for my coffee. Every time I go to get creamer I grab a donut on my way. This donut it a blueberry donut, which is my favorite donut for one reason – that’s the exact kind of donut my dad always used to get when I was growing up. I remember there was a donut shop in La Crosse, Wisconsin that my dad would take me to (I don’t remember the name of it) and they had a blueberry donut that my dad apparently really liked and would get every time. Because of that, I would also get a blueberry donut, and they continue to be my favorite to this day. So parents: what are you teaching your kids today? Do they see someone who is following Christ with their whole life, or someone who just goes to church because it’s what they are expected to do? Children are a lot more observant than you might think so be careful: your actions speak a whole lot more than your words.

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Frozen By Indecision

I found an article this morning (thanks to Tim Challies who posts links to blogs every day) titled ‘Are You Worshiping the Idol of ‘Open Options.” It’s a fantastic article that says a lot of things that I’ve been saying for years! I have struggles with this issues throughout my life as well when trying to figure out which college to go to, who to date, what to major in, where I should work and a host of other questions. In the middle of these struggles, Kevin DeYoung wrote a book called Just Do Something that has become my go-to book on God’s will and making decisions. The title of the book is so helpful in determining the will of God in your life: just do something! Anything! God will continue to guide you! My Senior Pastor uses the picture of a car, it can’t change direction if it’s standing still.

I can think of many people my age who just refuse to make decisions and try to spiritualize it by saying, “I’m just waiting to figure out God’s will for my life.” I hate to say it, but by not doing anything you’re outside of God’s will! Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” And in 1 Thessalonians 4:2, Paul again says, “For this is the will of God, your holiness.” Stop and read that last word again. HOLINESS. If you are living in a Christian community, submitting to the leadership of the church, regularly learning and growing in the Word and continually being conformed into the image of Christ, then go make some decisions! Find a good spouse and get married and have some kids, take a job across the country that helps you provide for your family, grow up and move out on your own, make some mistakes and continue to be made more like Christ! Trust his faithfulness as you continue to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received.

Introverted Evangelists

Found this article titled ‘The Introverted Evangelist‘ yesterday and found it very insightful. On every personality test I’ve ever taken I’ve been an extrovert to the extreme! I love people, I love being around people and never like being alone. Talking to people is generally very easy for me and the instant I walk into a room I have new best friends. Because of this it is often hard for me to identify with introverts.

The main point I liked from the article was:

What is an evangelist anyways? An evangelist isn’t a personality type or a personality disorder, but an evangelist is one who brings good news, both in the proclamation with the mouth and their actions. If this is the case, where does it say that an evangelist is going to be an extrovert or introvert? What if God’s plan was for everyone to do the work of an evangelist? (2 Tim 4:5). Think of the power of the church if we empower both the extrovert and the introvert to be the representation of the good news in the way that God has made them? How many more people would be reached for the sake of Jesus?

We took the youth group to a Dare 2 Share conference a couple weeks ago that fell into the extrovert evangelism camp. During one afternoon we had to go to a mall and share the Gospel with a stranger. Many of the students weren’t very comfortable with this, especially the introverted ones. I don’t think trying to talk to strangers is always the best way to evangelize.

The church needs both introverts and extroverts to be the body. We are different and can and should use our gifts and personalities to God’s glory. I hope and pray I’m able to reach out and influence the introverts I know, but continue to encourage them to live out their mission to make disciples.

Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church

Last week I did a blog titled ‘Resisting Being Cutting Edge‘ and included a link to another blog titled ‘Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church‘ Today I’m going to interact a little with that article. This article says the 10 reasons are:

10. The Church is “Relevant”

9. They never attended church to begin with

8. They get smart

7. You sent them out unarmed

6. You gave them hand me downs

5. Community

4. They found better feelings

3. They got tired of pretending

2. They know the truth

1. They don’t need it

It’s worth reading the explanations in the article, but the thing I don’t see on here is family upbringing. I think this is the key to all these other issues. We have professionals who take care of every need we have. There are teachers who are professional educators, doctors who are professional health care providers, shouldn’t we have professional Christians too? I hate to break it to you, but there is only one professional Christian who we can read about in the Bible. His name is Jesus. Ultimately we need to trust that God is going to work in the students lives as we do our best to instruct them, but I think it’s almost completely up to the parents. The parents are the ones who have the option of spending the most time with their kids, and the ones who the kids will most often imitate.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is not a universal truth, but it is a general trend. Ultimately children have their own minds and identities, but in the grace of God those who are raised in Bible believing and God fearing homes will grow to be the same. Parents need to start stepping up and setting an example for their children as they grow to be more Christ like in their lives. If the parents are nominal Christians the students will be that AT BEST, and most often will completely fall out of church.

The other issue I see with these top 10 reasons is that we NEED community in the church. We all have these spiritual blind spots and sin issues in our lives that we aren’t aware of until someone else points them out in our lives. Were it not for the church people would follow their own thinking and reasoning right into sin. Community may be a buzz word in the Christian circle today (just as “Gospel” is), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t value it. The call to Christianity is a call to community. We need the body around us to support encourage and hold us accountable.

“Christian” Music

I so often struggle with “Christian” music. I grew up at a time where “good” Christians only listened to music by Christians, and one of the first CDs I ever got was ‘Jesus Freak’ by DC Talk. I still really enjoy that CD, and still regularly hear the title track on the radio…it came out in 1995. If I listen to non Christian radio I’ll hear the top tracks from today, yet the “most current” Christian radio station still plays songs from when I was 7. If that’s the best Christian music has to offer, we’re doing something wrong.

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us that everything we do should be done to God’s glory, which means we should do the best we can for him. I think this applies to music as well! Christians should be on the forefront of musical trends and setting the example for others for how to do music well! Yet too often I see Christians copying whatever the latest trend is (Eminem gets popular, and we get KJ-52, Black Eyed Peas get big and we get Group 1 Crew). Granted, there are some people, like Lecrae, who are on the forefront of their musical genre and using it as an opportunity to spread hope, but overall we seem to be stuck in a rut musically.

This isn’t something I have a quick and easy fix for how we can get better music, and I’m still working through all the ramifications of this as well. But my overall sense is that Christians are greatly failing in so many areas to do things to the best of their ability. I’m honestly tired of the charts that compare “secular” artists to “Christian” artists – if the music is good, listen to it and use it as an opportunity to talk about different worldviews.

Gay Is an Adjective – Review of Washed and Waiting

Gay is an Adjective – My Review of Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality

Adjective: a word or phrase naming an attribute, added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it.

Noun: a word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any class of people, places or things (common noun).

Many people use nouns to identify themselves, for example, I regularly tell people, “I am Norwegian.” Today, many people define themselves by their sexuality. This leads to many people saying, “I am gay.” I just finished reading Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill who says Christians need to begin switching the use of that word to an adjective, so he describes himself as a “celibate, gay Christian.” Christian is the noun and the other two words are adjectives. He has, through many trials, learned to place his whole identity in Christ, making Him the head of his life, as he battles his homosexual attraction.

This is a much needed book in our culture today. Is there room in the church for people who struggle with same sex attraction, yet are willing to call it a sin and trust Christ in their struggle against this sin? I hope that churches are able to see this book as a wake up call to reach out to those who are broken by sin, as the church is supposed to do. And if you look at Scripture, that’s all of us.

Wesley does a fantastic job of bringing us along with him in his journey through life and relentless pursuit of Christ. There were a couple occasions that the book brought me to tears as I was able to see this struggle through his perspective. I hope and pray Wes is able to continue to find strength in the only one who can give it, Jesus Christ.

 

“Faithfulness is never a gamble. It will be worth it.”

-Wesley Hill

Putting Your Spouse First

I’m the kind of guy who likes to do research. Whenever I’m about to buy something, I read as many reviews as I can find, painstakingly pick one out, then read the manual from cover to cover before the item even gets to my door. This thinking permeates all areas of my life too so in preparation for marriage, I’ve read When Sinners Say I DoThe Meaning of Marriage, What Did You Expect, and various blogs as well as talking to everyone in the church I’ve seen to have a good marriage. I’ve been doing my research! Yet one thing I’ve already learned in my 24 years of life is that until this intellectual knowledge becomes practical knowledge that I’m living out, I know nothing! One of my best friends from high school got married in May of last year and as we have been talking through the course of his first year of marriage of just how difficult marriage is. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, quite the opposite in fact! The difficulties come from two sinful people coming together in an attempt to mirror the perfect relationship God has with us.

So in my studying and research on this matter I came across this blog today. What an accurate picture of what marriages today need!

My parents were intentional that having kids wasn’t going to stop them from doing the things they did before they had kids. Their object was to bring the kids into their marriage, not allow the kids to drown their marriage in a sea of tasks for the children. For this reason, our kid activities were pretty limited.

Whoa! How many parents actually do that today? And would doing this decrease the incredibly high divorce rate in America today? I think it would! As I’ve been talking to people who have been married for 20-30-40 years they have had this mindset, or else they wake up to it sometime in their marriage. Lewis B. Smeades in an article on Christianity Today way back in 1983 said:

My wife has lived with at least five different men since we were wed—and each of the five has been me. The connecting link with my old self has always been the memory of the name I took on back there: “I am he who will be there with you.” When we slough off that name, lose thatidentity, we can hardly find ourselves again. And the bonds that connect us to others will be frayed to breaking.

As we go through life our main focus should be, in this order: God, our spouse, our children and then anything else. I know it’s one thing for my to write about this on this side of marriage, but it’s a reminder I need to begin telling myself before I get married to carry in to my marriage. Through God’s grace, I will keep Him first, and then make my spouse my priority as we do our best to live out the Gospel in our lives.

Resisting Being “Cutting Edge”

My dad sends me articles quite regularly, and one of the most recent ones was titled ‘Resisting the Urge to Do Cutting Edge Youth Ministry.’ It was a helpful article, and I read another one today called ‘Top 10 Reasons our Kids Leave Church‘ that I’ll interact with later this week.

I don’t think the ultimate goal of and youth pastor on pastor in general should be to be cutting edge and always staying relevant, but does having a faithful ministry and being cutting edge have to be mutually exclusive? I replied to my dad saying: “I agree – but then what does that look like practically? He says “I describe our strategy with a few participles: loving, teaching, proclaiming, worshiping, and praying.”

My follow up question is: how? I don’t think being “cutting edge” and following his “few participles” are mutually exclusive, you can still do things well and things that will reach a broad demographic and maybe even be cutting edge without sacrificing what God has called us to.”

I know within Christianity there is a tendency to run from one end of a spectrum to the other. For example, within the Evangelical Free Church, we were founded within the charismatic movement which is characterized by very emotive responses to pretty much everything and strongly encourages the use of all the gifts of the spirit talked about in the New Testament (tongues, prophecy, laying hands on, etc). Yet my experience with much of the EFCA today is a divorce from emotional and intellectual knowledge. These two things can’t be mutually exclusive, we need the intellectual knowledge, but it should lead to an emotional response of gratefulness.

So within the church today, I think our main focus needs to be on being faithful to the Gospel, but then practically we’re going to live that out in different ways depending on where we are in life, where we live, what we do and a host of other things. As of right now I am a 24 year old serving in a church with another pastor in his mid 30s and another pastor in his late 50s. We all talk differently, have different passions and different gifts. This doesn’t mean any of us is better or worse than the other, but together we can reach a much broader demographic than if we were trying to do ministry on our own. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re cutting edge, I’d say far from it, but we do try our best to do everything we do to the best of our ability and to the glory of God.

EFCA Theology Conference 2013

The audio and power points from this years EFCA Theology Conference: Sex Matters are now available online. If my notes from it weren’t good enough, you can listen to the conference in it’s entirety here. I hope it’s helpful!

Lenten Reflections

Lent is something I’ve often heard of as I was growing up, but never really took a look at what it was or where it came from. Generally I just heard friends in high school who would give up things during Lent season, but didn’t have any idea that it was anything beyond that. Thanks to a recent post on the Gospel Coalition website, I learned a little more about what it is.

Lent (from the Latin for “fortieth”) begins on Ash Wednesday, 40 days before Easter. In a devotional guide to Lent, Kendal Haug and Will Walker say “Lent, therefore, is about living out of our union with, and identity in, Christ. Lent is first and foremost about the gospel making its way deeper into our lives.” What a great thing to celebrate and practice! Letting the Good News of the Gospel make its way deeper into our lives!

You can access this devotional guide through the Gospel Coalition blog or clicking here. I plan to go through these devotionals myself as I prepare for the celebration of the best news on earth: Jesus Christ dies for my sins, was buried, and on the third day he rose again, and now sits at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf!