Even on Our Worse Days


Even on our worst days, we still serve a Great God who is on our side, and whose grace is sufficient for us. That’s good news. – Isaac Pittman

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The Missing Milestone


milestone

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Today’s post is from Jeff Henderson who leads Gwinnett Church in North Atlanta. Jeff and his good friend David Salyers have seen a need and met it with outstanding results. If you’ll ever have a middle school son or grandson, don’t miss this!

Over the years, as our kids have grown older, people have often asked my wife Wendy and I this question: “What’s the most important thing you did to help transition Jesse and Cole into the middle school and teenage years?”

That’s a great question.

It’s no secret that middle school is a difficult time in life. Youth pastor Derrick Harris says, “The 6th graders of today are the 8th graders of 10 years ago. Not because they are more mature, but because they are more exposed.” From exposure to pornography to peer pressure, middle schoolers have it more difficult than ever before.

But here’s the thing: Middle school isn’t just a difficult time in life, it’s a pivotal time in life. It’s in these years that kids are changing not just physically, but emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. It’s a transition unlike any other.

So, for myself and Wendy, we saw the transition into middle school as an important milestone in their lives.

Milestones are moments that mark our lives in a significant way. Things like the birth of a child, graduation ceremonies, weddings and retirement parties. They represent the end of a season of life and the beginning of a new one. After a milestone moment, we adopt a new identity of sorts.

Yet when it came time for my son Cole to transition into the teenage and middle school years, my friend David Salyers and I realized that there was a missing milestone. Throughout history in nearly every single culture there was a rite of passage, particularly from boyhood to manhood. Yet sadly, in our Western culture we have lost this important idea. It has become the Missing Milestone.

The importance of this Missing Milestone can not be overstated. It affects our families, communities, and nation in innumerable and immeasurable ways. Dr. John Trent writes in his book The Blessing, “If a young man fails to receive the blessing of his father, he will spend the rest of his life looking for it in all the wrong places.”

I didn’t want that for my son Cole, and neither did David for his sons. So, we teamed up to create a modern-day rite of passage for our boys. A rite of passage that was tons of fun but also paved the way for crucial conversations.

It eventually turned into what is now Champion Tribes, a group experience that gives fathers a plan to be intentional in their sons’ lives. A roadmap that we’re working hard to bring to families all across the country.

That, I think, is oftentimes the key: Parents have the passion, but they lack the plan. If this is you, here are some things to consider . . .

  1. It needs to be a moment in time, yet part of a journey.
  2. It should build upon ceremony and ritual.
  3. It needs to include your blessing.
  4. It needs to be done in community.

If you want to learn more about our experience, how we have helped hundreds of fathers navigate this important phase of life, and teach values like Commitment, Humility, Accountability and Perseverance, you can visit championtribes.com/how-it-works.

At the end of the day, no matter what stage of your life your child is in, don’t miss the milestone moments!

Scripture: Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Jacob’s Hip


Reposted from Joel Townsend

Some might say Jacob had overstayed his welcome in Haran. He’d served his father-in-law, Laban, twenty years, including fourteen years for Laban’s daughters and six years for his flocks, (Genesis 31:41). Laban had changed his wages ten times. Each time Laban rewrote the rules, God blessed Jacob and turned the adversity to Jacob’s advantage. It was embarrassing; the wealth Laban’s family had accumulated over generations, flowed steadily to Jacob. Laban’s herds diminished, while Jacob’s flocks increased. Laban’s sons were not pleased; Jacob knew an invitation to leave when he saw it.

Jacob fled Haran with his wives, children, and flocks. He snuck away while his father-in-law was shearing in another city. We might be tempted to think of him as a young, impetuous man; but Jacob was by no means young. Rachel bore Joseph before the family’s flight from Haran and Joseph is identified later as the son of his old age, (Genesis 37:3). Scholars place Jacob in his late seventies or older, as he returned to his father in Hebron.

An Incomplete Life

As you no doubt know, Jacob was the second-born of fraternal twins. He and his brother, Esau, struggled together within Rebekah’s womb. Due to the contentious birth, he was named, Jacob, meaning, “heel-grabber” or “supplanter,” (Genesis 25:26). Without apology, he tempts his brother, Esau, into surrendering the “birthright” for a bowl of soup. Without shame, Jacob deceives his aged, blind father into bestowing the paternal blessing on him, rather than the rightful owner, his brother Esau. Though Jacob possesses God’s blessing, he is, by nature, a grabber.

 

Jacob lives without apology. He has known only wealth and blessing. On his return from Haran to Canaan, his thoughts toward his brother, Esau, are not remorseful or repentant. To the contrary, Jacob is motivated solely by fear.

“Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; for he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.’ ” (Genesis 32:7-8 NASB).

Jacob is alone. He has sent his wives, maids, and children ahead across the stream named, Jabbok. Jacob has left tainted relationships behind him in Haran. His worst fears are before him, as Esau closes with four hundred men. Jacob worries to lose his possessions; he fears for his life. Hebrews 11 lists Jacob as one of the heroes of the faith. At this moment, Jacob is not feeling very heroic.

Jacob’s Hip… A Reminder to Walk Differently

Isn’t it amazing how God meets us as we look down from the ledges of our fears into the disastrous possibilities of our imaginations? Until this point in his life, Jacob has received God’s blessings like a child tearing a gift from the hands of the giver. Now, he wishes he’d spent more time getting to know his benefactor.

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, “Jacob.’ ‘He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’ ” (Genesis 32:24-28 NASB).

God confronts this slippery, elusive, deceiver called Jacob. When asked his identity, Jacob must confess that, by name, he is a “Heel Grabber.” In exchange, Jacob receives a blessing, a new name, and a dislocated hip. As many have pointed out, both spiritually and physically, Jacob’s hip reminds him to walk differently from this day forward. God expects that Jacob will receive His blessings with humility and grace. Jacob becomes the man God intended, and we remember him with these words in Hebrews.

“By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.” (Hebrews 11:21 NASB).

Why was Jacob leaning on his staff? His hip still hurt.

Dinner With My Dad


Reposted from 

I had dinner with my dad once and learned a lot about going places.

When it came to my dad, I carried some stuff around for a while. It was big, heavy stuff and had messed up our relationship . . . resentment, stubbornness, expectations and the heaviest of all . . . pride.

Have you ever had your luggage at the airport over the 50-pound checked-bag limit? I have. You and your bag are in it together and if you don’t take some stuff out, neither of you are going anywhere. Unless you lighten your load, you’re stuck.

I wanted a relationship with my dad, but I couldn’t travel closer to it with my overweight baggage. Our relationship was stuck . . . miles apart.

When my wife Claudia and I got engaged, I hadn’t spoken to my dad in 8 years! But she told me we weren’t getting married until she met my dad. I knew if I wanted to marry the woman of my dreams, I had to lighten my load. If I didn’t take inventory of my stuff, get on a plane and have dinner with my dad, she and I weren’t going anywhere together . . . and I’d be stuck single.

So, I left the stuff on the curb at the Atlanta airport and flew to Memphis, where Claudia and I had dinner with Dad. We ate steak and cried. We were finally able to travel together to a place previously impossible to get to for 8 years because my baggage was overweight.

It still happens though. I try to go places with too much stuff. I wish it was easy stuff to unload like socks and toothpaste. But it never is. It’s heavy stuff like . . .

A bad attitude and critical words.

Pride and entitlement.

Jealousy and comparison.

Expectations and opinions.

Fear.

These things weigh me down big time. You know what’s way lighter? Kind words, gentleness, gratitude, empathy and courage. When I choose to travel with those things instead, it’s like taking a jackhammer out of my bag and replacing it with a box of chocolates. I’m clear to fly. And happier too.

Jesus chose to travel light and load His bags with love and grace. Those things kept Him moving toward people. He must have known a bunch of other stuff would have slowed Him down . . . which feels like good packing advice to me.

Sometimes the places we get to go are destinations on a map. I unloaded fear and ended up in Mogadishu, Somalia once. But more often, the places I get to go are in relationships. Moving closer to family, friends and Jesus. Those are the best adventures and the ones where I learn and grow the most.

Usually I need a push to take inventory of my stuff, get moving and get unstuck. My wife, my friends, some great mentors and words from Jesus and his pals have been super helpful for me. Their encouragement helps me take inventory of the stuff holding me back. And when I slow down and really listen, I know I’m moving closer to going places and doing more things like having dinner with my dad.

Scripture: So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us. Now stay focused on Jesus . . . (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

We Live for the Lord??


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

It’s not hard to find someone who is for the Georgia Bulldogs. Or for the Clemson Tigers. Americans are for America. We relish our identity as Americans when we celebrate our independence each July 4th. As husbands, we’re for our wives and our kids. When you’re for something, you identify with it, you advocate for it and you even set your priorities around it.

Merriam-Webster says ‘for’ is “used to indicate the person or thing that something is sent or given to.” But what are we ‘given to’ in our daily lives? What (or who) do we think about? Identify with? Advocate for? Set priorities around? Could it be one (or more) of the following . . .

  • Our work and career?
  • Our golf game?
  • Our favorite college team?
  • Our vacations and time off?
  • Our home and/or lawn?
  • Our church?
  • Our wives?
  • Our kids?
  • Our parents?
  • Our retirement?
  • Our kids’ sports?
  • Our finances?
  • Our health and fitness?
  • Our friends?
  • Our problems?

God is about motives. He’s about the why far more than about the what, when or where. Through all of history, God has been about relationship. That’s the whyHe created us to be in a personal relationship with Him. We’re called “Christians” because of that relationship, but somehow we still don’t have much time for Him.When we think about the time and attention we give God every day compared to the time and attention we devote to the things on the above list, it’s almost comical. When it comes to the Creator God who invited us to call him Father, the omnipotent Almighty God of the universe who wants to be our best friend, who controls everything . . . well, He gets a few minutes each day before we hit the gym (if we don’t forget). Except for maybe ‘our problems,’ there’s not a single bad thing on that list . . . they’re all good and some of them are even necessary. So, what gives? What does God want from us?

And lest you think I’m throwing rocks, I live in a glass house. As much as I love God and try to follow Him, I’d hate to see a pie chart of my daily thoughts. God would be there but I’d be ashamed of how little I actually think of Him or talk to Him. But oh . . . when I’m under pressure or in a crisis, His piece of my time, attention, energy and mindshare gets really big!

We live for the Lord when we’re constantly praising and thanking Him. When we’re looking for opportunities to serve others. And when we slow down enough to read His Book, listen to His voice and live as He wants us to live, we feel His peace and His presence in our lives. That’s what He wants for us.

Scriptures: If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12

What Should I Do When I Disagree With My Church?


Reposted from rethink

If you’re in community, your likely to experience conflict.

Conflict is healthy for any growing organization, church, marriage, and friendship. To not have conflict probably means that passivity has taken residency in your conversations. We are all allowed to have have our needs met and challenged.

What happens when we disagree with our Church? Let’s explore 4 questions.

1. Is this personal conflict or communal conflict?

Personal Conflict

In Philippians 4:1-4, Paul pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to get along. There is personal conflict between two ladies. Paul asks the church’s leaders and members to come alongside them.

Spiritual formation is critical to your personal conflict. Are you taking the inward journey? Why do you care about the issues that you keep bringing up? How many people need to know your bent towards other things? I know a lot of Christian who do a lot of stuff. I don’t know many Christians are focusing on being at peace.

Communal Conflict

In Leviticus 4, Moses writes that the entire Israelite community is guilty of sin when the High Priest sins. Sin/Conflict/Tension is personal, but it’s also communal. It’s not just your conflict, but it’s our conflict.

Are the issues you are feeling/thinking through also being felt by others? By others, I don’t mean your friends. That’s easy to leave a church if your friends feel the same way. Do people outside of your circle feel and express the same thoughts and feelings? That might be worth exploring. When an issue is disrupting an entire congregation, you might be stepping into an unhealthy congregation.

2. Is this a problem to solve or a tension to manage?

Problem To Solve

There are multiple ways to approach conflict. This is necessary, because you won’t get the same result if you use the same approach.

A problem to solve is something that must be “figured out.” Your personal, theological, ethical, preferences and bents have been violated, called into question, or aren’t valued. This is something where you feel like the church has crossed one of your personal boundaries.

Are you the one that’s supposed to “figure out” the problem? Are your church leaders supposed to “figure out” this problem? 

Tension To Manage

A tension to manage is a conflict that doesn’t need to be solved now or possibly ever. This conflict doesn’t cross any of your boundaries. You are ok with this.

If it’s something to manage, the inward journey is critical. It means you don’t have control of how something may be decided upon, managed, or executed. If that sits well with you, then growth happens when you decide to not jab at it or passive aggressively get others on your side. Your spirit is at peace.

3. Is this a conflict of Theology or a Conflict of Proxy?

Theology

In any discussion, on theology, there are open-handed and close-handed positions.

Open handed issues are issues that you believe strongly, but are open to discussion and seeing where others land. These are different for different people. These conversations are fun (for me), because they can be heated and intense debates, but at the end you are ok with having your views moved or remain the same.

Close-handed issues are issues you believe strongly about and are not willing to change your position. For a lot of Christians, these are issues like: Is The Bible true? Did Jesus actually live? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is Jesus the only way to heaven?

You need to know what are your open and close-handed issues. Churches need to know theirs too. Every church as a right to their own beliefs about Scripture and its theology.

What gets a lot of churches, in trouble, is when they don’t have an official position on a given issue. If there is an issue you care about, What is your church’s official position? If your church doesn’t have any official position, set up a meeting and explore it.

Proxy

Proxy is often the reason why most people leave their church. It’s not such much their church’s beliefs as much as it the way people live. They don’t like how they are treated or how things operate.

There are a lot of great churches whom have deep convictions about theology. However, they are not willing to invite discussions with people on the “fringes of society.” They will talk about suffering, but they are not quick to help with rocky marriages. They may say everyone is welcome, but only to a certain point of comfort.

Are you someone who prefers a more “conservative approach to theology” and a more “liberal approach to loving people” or is it vice versa or something else? How you sit with those questions might help you decide if your among the right community of believers.

4. Is this a conflict for decision making rights or reconciliation?

Decision Making Rights

Every church should know why they exist….beyond the great commission. Loving everybody is a great mission, but everybody isn’t everybody. We are all different people with different preferences, dreams, and hopes.

If your church has a mission, vision, and values to reach a specific target audience, allow them to do this. It’s a heavy weight to hear from the Lord. A church shouldn’t change who they are and what they do to win everybody. It’s impossible. Jesus didn’t win everyone, neither will his churches. Sometimes people have their minds made up.

If you disagree with a church’s mission, vision, and values and it crosses your personal, theological, and practical beliefs, it may be time to go.

Reconciliation

The high note of the Gospel is reconciliation – enemies of God to peace with God. It’s hard to seek peace if we haven’t taken the inward journey. If your goal is a curiosity that leads to peace and understanding, you should remain. You should stay even if it’s not something completely  the way you would do church. If it doesn’t violate those personal beliefs and actions, stay with your church family. You have a Kingdom to gain, community to extend, and depth to growth into.

Why Millennials Aren’t Attracted to the Church


 

Reposted from rethink

f we are honest the church in America is not doing well reaching the younger generation. Now I know there are churches that are doing great things, but as a whole we have a lot of room to improve.

I’m not a pessimist, or a glass half full, kind of guy. I like to classify myself as a realist. I know, I know. All realists are really just pessimists that cannot admit it. But I truly believe I’m a realist. I guess you can be the judge if I am or if I’m just in denial.

I don’t want this to come off as the sky is falling. I don’t think that is true. But I do think there are some easy things we can do so that the younger generations can know the love of God and find the benefits of living in community.

For lack of a better word I am going to use the word millennial throughout this post. I don’t really like that word because it comes with a lot of baggage. But I don’t know of another word that would adequately describe this (my) generation.


If you want some of the raw data on the state of the church here’s a few studies:
Barna | State of the Church
Pew | Religious Landscape
Pew | Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings Towards Religious Groups
Pew | The Changing Global Religious Landscape


These studies don’t paint the brightest of futures for the western church. Particularly with the next generation. Now I don’t believe we are all going to hell in a hand basket. And I certainly don’t think all hope is lost. In fact I believe now in the church more than ever. I’ve seen a lot of articles talking about how the church is dying. And I cannot disagree more. I don’t believe it is dying. I believe it just needs a shift in model.

For all of church history the model for church has been changing to suit the culture. Just look at recent church history in the past 100 years, and you will see all the innovations that have come and gone.

I believe that these studies that are coming out are pointing to the dire need of a major shift in how church is done in our culture.

As a millennial, if that’s what you want to call me, and someone who works in the church full-time, I find myself in a unique spot. I believe it’s time to start thinking about what needs to change and what needs to stay in our churches. If we don’t, the church in America will slowly die and will certainly lose all credibility.

Here’s 7 things that I have found that are turning the younger generations away from the church. I have heard these in conversations, read them in comment sections, and even been frustrated with them in my own life.

Lack of Real Community

I know what you are thinking… We have an awesome small group ministry, plus you can always grab coffee before service and hang out. While those things can promote community those simply aren’t enough. The main focus of the average church is their Sunday service. Which for all the good they do, the biggest weakness is they lack community.

The focus of energy in most churches is on what’s happening on stage on Sunday and not the community Monday-Saturday.

I’m not saying the church service as we know it is bad. But we must recognize what it cannot do. If we want all people to find a place in our churches then we have to put more effort into how we do community.

Sermons are Still the Primary Teaching Tool

At one point sermons were the best way to communicate the Gospel. Then someone got the genius idea to put sermons on tape cassettes so you could listen anywhere. And then CDs came along, and now mp3s. Those were all great ideas.

But now it’s time to rethink how we teach our churches about Jesus. I, along with many 20-30 year-olds, am constantly listening to podcasts. And there is so much GREAT stuff out there. They are conveying information in new and refreshing ways. Many Christians have hopped on board and started talking about the Gospel and what it means to follow Jesus. And this generation is eating it up.

My question is why haven’t churches done this yet?!

I’m not talking about putting your sermons on a podcast. Every church does that. I’m talking about crafting a podcast specifically designed to be a podcast. One that can tackle some of the tough, and historically unapproachable, topics. I did a search this past week looking for churches doing this, and I came up with 2… I’m sure there are more. But the point is the vast majority of churches are not teaching in the primary format that culture has become adapt to using.

I suspect the sermon as we know will slowly disappear or at least massively change. The way to teach the Gospel effectively to the younger generations will be through technology.

All (or most) of the Energy Goes Into the Church Service 

We already talked about this a little in the first point, but I think this goes at a deeper point. Most millennials aren’t interested in just going to church; they want to participate in church.

This means that the church needs to provide opportunities to be a part of the church on Sundays AND throughout the week. Community is a big deal. Also the church needs to provide opportunities to serve in the local community.

I know most churches will respond: we do that! We have Life Groups, and we give to a lot of outreaches. While many churches do that they have not geared it in a way that connects with millennials.

Lack of Trust in Institutions

In previous generations large institutions meant credibility. However they increasingly mean corruption to the younger generations. The natural bent of millennials is to not trust institutions. That certainly doesn’t mean every church is corrupt. In fact I would say the exception is the corrupt church, not the rule. But it is important to recognize the lens in which the church is viewed through.

In order for churches to gain trust back they have to show, and prove, that they are trustworthy by being transparent.

Their Thoughts Aren’t Valued

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a story like this: A young person walks into church with a new or different idea on how to run a ministry of the church. Rather than be heard they are just shut down with an excuse on why that wouldn’t work. Or that they are too young and inexperienced.

Millennials need to be heard and their ideas valued. In fact many of their ideas will benefit the church. But sadly most of these ideas are left on the ground because no one took time to listen.

Think about this for a minute… Who’s going to be leading the church in 10-20 years? Yeah, millennials. If we don’t give them the opportunity now in a way where they can grow and learn there won’t be any qualified leaders in 10 years when we need them.

The Church is Not a Safe Place to Wrestle With Issues/Theology

This is a big one for me. The church should be the safest place to bring whatever is going on in your life out into the open and deal with it. But often the church is not a safe place to wrestle with your theology. If you don’t align with what the church believes then it’s the door.

The church should be a safe place to question Biblical inherency, gender roles, what’s sin and what isn’t, talk about doubts, and even disagree about issues. The church should be the safest place to figure life out and what you believe. But more often then not the church is a place where you have to have all your “stuff” together. And if your life is a mess or you don’t prescribe to the same theology then you aren’t welcome.

We should be able to engage in healthy conversations about theology. And when we disagree have maturity and pursue unity. The only thing, and I mean the only thing, that I think disqualifies someone from the body of Christ is an unwillingness to grow.