What Getting Angry, Scared or Despondent Says About Us.

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When something touching an idol in our lives the three most common reactions are anger, fear, and despair. When something we love more than we should is shaken we respond in anger, fear, and despair which each, in turn, drives us deeper into our idolatrous behavior.

For example, when I was growing up I was not ok in life if others didn’t approve of me and like me. It is something I struggle with to this day. Although by God grace I struggle less today because of the power of Gospel at work in me daily. When I was growing up if someone didn’t like me I felt despair. I would do everything in my power to help them see that I was fun, kind and an all-around good person. I would sacrifice time with people who actually liked me because I need to be liked by everyone. The more I was around these people the more fear and despair I felt.

Why Revisionism Matters.

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I have been reading a book by Os Guinness entitled “Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Lost Art of Christian Persuasion.” In his book Dr. Guinness talks about how we have to move from convincing people to become Christian to persuading them to search for Christ. Towards the end of the book he talks about the dangers of revisionism. Revisionism advocates for change in longstanding doctrines that the church has believed to be true over the course of thousands of years. Guinness speaks to the dangers that revisionism has on the Church and Christian Orthodoxy. Revisionism is not just a liberal concept it can be found in both the liberal and conservative wings of Christianity. What Guinness has to say is both telling and challenging. It is telling because it is becoming more widespread it is challenging because it calls us to action. It requires us to do more than sit back and wait for the dust to settle. What we believe to be true must be founded in love but we must be faithful to what is true.

How does this play into kids and youth ministry? We can no longer teach our kids to be good citizens we must prepare them to be Christian advocates. We must teach them what is true so they do not make decisions based on what they experience, that feels true. Our job as pastors of the young in our flock is not just to create spaces that are creative and fun but we must teach them what is true.

Relevance is not giving people what they want, it’s giving them what they need. Sometimes they don’t even know they need it. What kids need from us is a is not just facts about life and ways to do life better they need a new framework to see the world. Without a framework their facts about life will wither under the relentlessness of the experience that our generation uses to trump truth. We can not run away or put our head in the sand we must meet the challenge of our day full force with the timeless truth that has been handed to us. Here is what Os Guinness says in his book “Fools Talk” about liberal Christian revisionists.

Christian advocates, then, must be ready to focus their attention on those inside the church as well as those outside— resisting modern revisionism just as St. Paul resisted ancient Gnosticism and St. Athanasius stood fast against Arianism and the world of his day. Are today’s evangelists and apologists prepared to count the cost and pick up their crosses again and truly be contra mundum— even to the point of scorn, shame, and perhaps imprisonment and death? Let there be no misunderstanding: the greatest crisis now facing the church in the West today is the crisis of authority caused by the church’s capitulation to the pressures of the sexual revolution, and in particular to the bullying agenda of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer coalition. It will not do for evangelists and apologists to keep silent for fear of losing opportunities to present the gospel. As Luther made plain in his day, to fight the battle at any point other than where the battle is being fought in one’s day is to lose the battle.

Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous regret in failing to stand against National Socialism in his time carries an equivalent warning for evangelists and apologists today. They raised the question of authority, but I was an evangelist and an apologist and not a theologian, so I didn’t stand up . . .

The Hidden Danger of Leading in a Large Church.

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Large church and small churches both have challenges. Small churches are usually struggling to grow large while large churches struggle to find ways to be small. There are leadership challenges in every church of every size. One of the challenges I have found from being on the staff of a church that has grown over the past several years is the danger of overspecialization. When you work in a small church, you are forced to be the jack of all trades. You have to prepare a message for Sunday, do marriage counseling, and perform a funeral all in the same week. In a large church, you often have enough staff that you can focus on what you are best at and learn to do that very well. If the church were a business, this idea of focusing on what you do best would be a great idea, but the church is not a business. One side effect of the church borrowing so heavily from the business world and leadership gurus is that the church now has more middle managers than pastors. When as a Pastor you only do what you are good at you run the risk of building the church but losing your soul.

Leading by doing only the things we are good at most often leads us down the path of unintentional self-reliance. Somewhere along the line, we cross from God-dependence to self-reliance, and when that line is crossed the church starts to die and so do we. The scariest reality is that your church could continue to grow even as it is dying, and we never figure it out until it’s too late. Pastors are not CEO’s and understanding your strengths is important, but the Bible tells us that leading in the way of Christ is different even appear foolish to those who may be looking from the outside in. How does the Bible say we are to lead? I believe the Bible goes out of its way to show us that we are to lead from our weakness. Leading from our strength may make us more effective but I don’t think it makes us more dependent. There is something about leading in an area we are weak in that reminds us of what has always been true we are weak, and he is strong. We see from Scripture and understand from experience that when we feel the strongest that’s when we are the most weak. It is when we feel our weakest that we lean most on the only person who can sustain us. My fear is that in the modern church when we talk of growth, management, and effectiveness, we fail to talk about dependence, hope and peace.

How the gospel keeps wonder alive.

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In all my years of kids ministry, I have always been so amazed at the wonder kids have. I have been equally amazed at how uncomfortable I can be and many adults can be with the idea of wonder itself. Here is the problem with wonder. You can’t explain it. You can’t reason with it. It is what it is.

I try my best to keep wonder alive in my kids. My three year old loves the color pink. I ask her every time she says she loves pink and it’s her favorite color “Baby, who made the color pink?” She says “Daddy, God did” I say “That’s right He did because He loves you so much”

I want my kids to grow up with no box to put Jesus in. We start off as kids thinking Jesus can do anything because he can. We then spend our entire life trying to fit Jesus into our carry-on luggage. Something we successfully do with every pat answer we are given and we give others. I love what C.S. Lewis says in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe “He is not a safe lion but he’s good” I can think of no quote that sums up how we must always view Christ to maintain that heart of wonder. A few years ago I begin a journey that I believe has lead to the greatest tool in keeping wonder alive.  In rediscovering the gospel much of my striving turned to grace-filled wonder. I moved from trying to earn my father’s love to grace-filled gratitude for his love he demonstrated to me in Christ Jesus.

How does the gospel keep wonder alive?

1. The gospel address our sinfulness and His sufficiency. It makes no attempt to solve every mystery. The gospel is good news. It’s a declaration, not a doctrinal dissertation. Should we search things out? Yes. Does Theology matter. Absolutely. But if we think have an answer to every question of the human heart will help us we are mistaken. The surest way to kill wonder is to believe you have an answer to every question.

2. Bring everything back to Jesus. – There are few things that I have found that have brought me to a place of wonder more than the meditation on scripture. When you start to think and speak of the greatness of the majesty of who Jesus is and the power of what He has done you are overcome with wonder because the grace of God is truly wondrously amazing.

3. Wonder springs from the a place of passion – I believe law kills wonder because you are so worried about do what is right, about being good enough, about trying harder. When you really believe that there is a God who loved you enough to send his one and only son into the world because He thought you and I were worth saving. It creates wonder. It instills passion.

4. When you start to understand the power of the gospel you see the sovereignty of God at work. The more aware I because of the sovereign work of God in my life and in lives of others I am filled with worship and wonder because I am constantly reminded He is God and I am not.

As we celebrate Easter let your mind drift to the wonder of His grace.

What to do When You Feel Stress

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Everyone reading this post feels stressed out. We live in a fast pace culture. We wear stress as a badge of courage. If we are not busy or stressed we are not significant or important. I am no exception. I remember a good friend of mine once told me that your ability to handle stress will determine how far you go in life and how much money you will make. I agree. So how do we get better at handling stress? I believe you have to 1. Recognize it’s source 2. Embrace the solution.

What is the source of stress? We live in a fast paced world with lots of things going on it’s very easy for us to point at things that our outside of us as the source of our stress. I have found that in me and those I know well stress is an internal problem with exterior consequences. Stress most often is a result of me wanting something to much. I want to have it all. I want to be thought of as a good worker, I want to be seen as a good father, I want to feel like a good husband. Stress is most often the byproduct of my striving to be what I feel that I need to be so that I will be significant. If we all are honest it is often times the by product of me getting good things the wrong way. It’s me trying to earn what I feel that I deserve. Stress is the byproduct of our idolatrous hearts.