Parents Interpret for their Kids

family01Any time you turn on the news, something bad has happened. The big news right now is the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and it is terrible to watch and think about. This morning I also saw the story of the mudslides in Washington and the difficulty the search and rescue teams are having in locating survivors. Those are only two of the sad stories the news carried just today.

This morning I listened to a conversation between Ken Coleman and John Piper. The conversation turned to parenting, including raising adopted kids as both gentlemen have adopted children into their family. Ken then presented the question to John Piper about how to communicate with our kids about the bad things that continue to happen in the world. There are so many ways our kids can hear about tragic events and Ken Coleman asked Piper how do we deal with that. I thought John Piper’s answer was great: “We have the golden opportunity to take the initiative, if they hear it from the news on TV or the iPad, to get the interpretation from mom and dad.” He went on to say that we won’t have all the answers, but we can help our kids interpret the evil in the world and what God has to say about it.

Now that my wife and I have a 6-month old in the house, we are kind of beginning the parenting process all over again. It was a good reminder to me that whatever the future brings and whatever evil takes place in the world, we can help our son interpret it and point him to a loving Heavenly Father who is bigger than any of the evil we experience.

Importance of Mentors

Apple_Podcast_logo-642x642This weekend served as a good reminder to me of the value of mentors in the lives of students. For the past 8+ years, we have made small groups a primary part of our student ministry. We connect students with adults who will meet with them on a regular basis to build relationships, to study God’s Word and to create a safe place to share both the trials and triumphs in life. This weekend, we experienced a couple of “wins” that reinforced the value of that.

I am learning the importance of celebrating the wins. We tend to focus on what’s not right or what didn’t work and there is value in pointing out when good things happen. Also, with the nature of small groups and student ministry in general, you don’t normally see fruit or results until later down the road.

This weekend one of our junior high boys small groups made an effort to invite and include another guy in their group. They saw the guy at church, invited him to come to small group, made sure they knew where he needed to meet and he showed up! While they were encouraged by their small group leader, the students made the invitation.

Another of our groups – a 6th grade boys group – just completed a challenge put forth by their leaders. Each boy was given a certain amount of money to invest into a kingdom project. Each boy was given the freedom to choose where to use that money. I just received a report from the leaders about what each boy did. That’s a win!

Then, this morning, on my way into the office, I was listening to the Catalyst Podcast. One of the interviews was with Josh Shipp, who leads a mentoring ministry.

He said the biggest problem our students face today is a lack of Christian, caring adults involved in their lives. He then shared these two statistics. Students who have a caring adult who is not mom or dad in their lives are 50% more likely to succeed and 50% more likely to stay away from things that are destructive. What he shared just continued to point to the importance of involving caring, Christian adults into the lives of our students.

The entire interview is a good as Josh shares his story of how mentors in his life made a huge impact on him. (The Mandisa interview which preceded his is good, too.). Check it out on the Catalyst website.

I’m so grateful for the adult leaders who have been (and still are) are a part of my own children’s lives and for the small group leaders that lead in our ministry. They are making a difference.

What Do You Hope For?

HeavensI’ve been catching up on my podcast listening (again) and was listening to some previous editions of the Catalyst podcast. There was an interview with John Eldredge relating to a talk he gave at one of the Catalyst events.

Several years ago I went through the “Wild At Heart” curriculum with some men here at church and then read some of Eldredge’s books. Epic was one of my favorites and I have always enjoyed Eldredge’s unique perspective on being a follower of Christ, a husband and how we look at heaven and the eternal life that God offers.

In his talk at Catalyst, his focus is how we look at heaven. He asked this question, “What do you hope for?” His question was meant to bring to the surface what we think about when we think about heaven. How we look at heaven and what we think eternal life will be like impacts how we live now. He said if we see heaven as “the never-ending church service in the clouds,” there’s not much to get excited about. If, however, we see heaven as the place where God makes all things news, where beauty is restored, where eternity is full of adventure, then we can long for that.

In the interview, the discussion went to what keeps us from being hopeful. The contrast was made between those of us who live in the US and those who live in poverty in other countries. It seems those Christians who live in poverty, especially compared to life in the US, live with more hope. Eldredge observed that most Christians in the states aren’t as hopeful because of our stuff as much from the fact that we are numb. We are so busy with all that we have and do in life, we don’t have (or take) the time to consider eternity. This life keeps us numb to the hope that God offers.

I think that question – What do you hope for? – is a good one to consider. We weren’t made just for this life, yet so often we live as if this is it. What do we hope for? What do we think God has in store for us? How does that impact how I live now?

Belong – Believe – Behave

Apple_Podcast_logo-642x642I was listening to the Catalyst podcast yesterday as I was driving between the house and praise team practice. As always I’m a few weeks behind on my podcast listening, but I enjoy the interviews Catalyst presents.

This particular podcast was from sometime in July and one of the interviews was with Jud Wilhite who is a pastor in Las Vegas. There were two things they talked about that I thought were especially valuable.

The first was about volunteers.  Due to the economic situation in Las Vegas, the church can’t afford to hire all the staff they would like to bring into a paid situation. So, they depend heavily on volunteers.  Jud Wilhite shared how they treat their volunteers and seek to honor them. Some of their volunteers are treated just as if they were paid staff.  He said they couldn’t do what they do without their volunteers. It was a good reminder of the importance and value of volunteers.  I am fortunate to have some great volunteers and need to make sure they are cared for and honored.

He also talked about their approach, highlighting the Belong – Believe – Behave model they seek to follow. Many times in churches, we communicate that the first thing that needs to change is how we behave.  Once we behave, then we can belong.  In Las Vegas they seek to keep the order of belong – believe – behave.  A person doesn’t have to it all together before they are welcome at church.  People are invited to have their questions answered and experience the love of God.  This leads to belief and then the change in how they behave comes as God works.  It was another reminder of how the church should operate and welcome those far from God.  It caused me to consider how we do as a church in this area and how I personally look at and treat those whose behavior is not like mine.  Sometimes I need help to keep things in order.

Do I Want What I Want More Than What He Wants?

casteA couple of weeks I posted about the series we were doing on God’s Kingdom in our High School class. We took a look at what Jesus meant when He talked about the Kingdom of God and what happens when God’s Kingdom bumps into our own kingdom(s).

We concluded our series this weekend by looking at the description of God’s Kingdom we see in Revelation. When Jesus returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, all pain and suffering will be gone, every tear will be wiped away and everything will be made new (Revelation 21:3-7). Also, in Matthew 4, Jesus told people to “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven was near.” We discussed the tension that exists as we strive to live out God’s Kingdom in a world filled with brokenness and pain, while waiting for the day all pain and brokenness will be taken away. What does it look like to live as if the Kingdom of Heaven is near?

Last week while listening to a podcast, I heard a good question we should ask ourselves. It will help us live as if God’s Kingdom is near. Remembering that God’s Kingdom means God’s will is done instead of our will, we can ask ourselves this question: “Do I want what God wants more than I want what I want?”

When I forgive, I’m living out God’s Kingdom. When I share with others or help meet their needs, I’m living out God’s Kingdom. When I love others like Jesus loves me, I’m living out God’s Kingdom.

This week, may we continue to ask ourselves that question: “Do I want what God wants more than I want what I want?”

Good to Great

good.to_.greatOne thing my wife enjoys doing when we are running errands is to visit a Goodwill store. Now, she has hooked me on it as well. In the past couple of visits I have picked up some nice, inexpensive dress shirts. The other thing I enjoy doing at Goodwill is looking at their books. You can get a good hardcover book for just under $2. Several weeks ago I saw a copy of Good to Great for just $1.99 and I couldn’t pass it up.

Good to Great by Jim Collins has sold over one million copies and has been read by many people in the business world. As I was picking it up I knew I was way behind the curve (it was published back in 2001).

While this is written about companies in the business world, there were several principles in the book that apply to all organizations, including the church.

The first principles is the Level 5 Leader. I listen to the Catalyst podcast and they continually use the phrase Level 5 Leader. Leadership plays a huge part in any organization being successful and Collins talks about that from the very beginning of the book. He identified several people who were able to lead their companies to be great and spelled out characteristics they modeled.

Another principle from the book was “First Who, Then What.” What Collins’ research team discovered was the great companies focused first on getting the right people in place, then zeroed on what they wanted to do. Some companies he highlighted hired people who were believed to be the right people before the company knew exactly what its main focus was going to be. The people in an organization are so valuable and Collins showed how it was important to start with the people first rather than some great business strategy.

I’m sure many people have already read Good to Great and know about the principles Collins identifies. If you lead on any level in any organization and haven’t read it, it would be worth your time (especially if you find it on the rack at Goodwill!)

Power of Proximity

Apple_Podcast_logo-642x642Last weekend as I was driving around to run some errands and hit up a girls basketball game, I was listening to some past episodes of The Catalyst Podcast. Back in January the podcast featured three interviews with individuals who had spoken at the TED Conference.

All three interviews were good, but the discussion with Bryan Stevenson really stood out to me. He leads the Equal Justice Initiative and shared these staggering statistics: In 1972, 300,000 people in the US were incarcerated. Today, there are 2.3 million. The US has 6 million people on probation and we have the highest rate of incarceration.

As he shared some of his thoughts on this issue, the gentleman doing the interview asked him how the church at large could engage with this issue. I thought his response spoke not only to this issue, but to so many more: “There is power in proximity to the things that matter.” In other words, as you get close to the issue, you are more able to understand it and be involved with it.

I thought how true that is in so many arenas of life. Once you are close to an issue, you have more compassion and awareness of it. If you have a family member go through a sickness or disease, the proximity makes you more aware of how it impacts others. I can think of many ministries, groups and causes that began because someone had a close friend or family member experience a life-changing event and it moved that person to action.

His response of the power of proximity speaks to our need to be involved in the lives of people. It can be easy to insulate ourselves, go about our routines and schedules, and miss out on what others are experiencing. While we can’t engage in every hurt and problem we see, there is something that changes in us when we experience life with others. There is power in proximity to the things that matter.

Jesus in the Cheese Sauce

The following is a funny story to help you start your week. Those who teach youth group or Sunday School will find this especially humorous.

Last week I was listening to Kyle Idleman on a podcast from Southeast Christian Church. He gave a great message on the upcoming election and some suggestions for Christians on how we should be engaged in it. (You can view the message on the Sermons page of Southeast’s website.)

He told this particular story with the idea that, at times, Christians can force Jesus into everything we say and do. He even commented that when we are in Sunday School, if we don’t know the answer to a question, we should just say “Jesus.”  The answer “Jesus” will at least get you a sticker or gold star.

Here’s the story: He shared about a youth minister he served with in a previous ministry that wanted to talk to his students about ingredients to a good friendship. He decided to use macaroni and cheese as the object lesson and brought the ingredients on stage.

The first ingredient was butter, because butter makes everything better. Butter is kind and encouraging words.  Every relationships needs kind and encouraging words so we should have butter in our friendships.

The second ingredient was milk. Milk makes the macaroni and cheese healthy and milk makes us strong.  We need to have healthy friendships that make us stronger.

The final ingredient he talked about was the cheese sauce. So he had all the students together say “cheese sauce.” Then he had them repeat it louder and faster, “cheese sauce, cheese sauce.” Think about it for a second . . .  You got it, it’s Jesus!  Jesus is the ingredient every friendship needs.

While I certainly don’t argue we need Jesus in our relationships, sometimes we work too hard to find Jesus in the cheese sauce.  Hope that story made you smile.

Good Insights for Parents

I have mentioned in previous posts some of the podcasts I listen to on my iPod. I started listening quite a bit a couple of years ago when I had about a 35 minute drive to work. It beat the radio and I was able to take in some good messages.

I listen regularly to Andy Stanley from North Point in GA and Dave Stone and Kyle Idleman from Southeast in KY. In May, Dave Stone did a series on the family and in September Andy Stanley did a family series as well. As they talked specifically about parenting, they both said similar things that obviously came from the same source. The first time I heard it I thought it was good. The second time cemented it. While no one has all the parenting answers, I thought these were good insights.

While I’m not sure of the original source, they both shared the Four Stages of Parenting.  I think Dave made the comment not to get hung up on the age break down, but to focus on the process.  Both of them remarked that the stages need to be done in order and it becomes very difficult to go back and cover a missed area.

  1. Discipline Years (ages 1-5)
  2. Training Years (ages 5-12)
  3. Coaching Years (ages 12-18)
  4. Friendship Years (ages 18+)

Both speakers who have children in the final stages, so they could speak with experience on going through each one.  They pointed out that each stage builds on the other as you see a progression toward maturity, independence and a change in the relationship between parent and child.  Andy and his wife shared one of their goals as parents was that when their children were adults, they wanted to come home and spend time as a family.

When it comes to discipline, there was an added insight thrown in.  Andy and his wife shared this from another couple’s philosophy of discipline.  As a parent with young children, you may feel you are disciplining all the time.  One couple shared their three nonnegotiable when it came to discipline.  Discipline was enacted for one of these offenses:

  1. Disobedience
  2. Dishonesty
  3. Disrespect

This is just an excerpt of what each speaker shared.  I think the four stages provide some good direction for parents.  You can listen to all the message online or through podcast.  You can listen/watch Southeast’s “Faithful Families” series on their website and listen/watch North Point’s “Future Family” series on their website.

This would be a great resource to check out and to share with others.

Power To Raise The Really Dead

On the way to the office today, I was listening to Louie Giglio on the Passion City Church podcast.  He was teaching out of John 11 about the resurrection of Lazarus. Louie was not only giving the background of Lazarus’ sickness and death, but also the larger story of Jesus and how He was heading toward the cross.

In talking about the burial practices of that time, especially as it pertained to the climate of that part of the world, Louie talked about how quickly decomposition set in, which lead to the use of the spices and perfume on the deceased.  If you know the story of Lazarus, you know Jesus didn’t arrive until four days after Lazarus passed.

Now, if you grew up in the church, you have heard this story numerous times.  You know how it ends.  Lazarus died, but Jesus brought him back.  For some reason, the reality of “dead for four days” really set in as I listened.

If you have seen the move The Princess Bride, you may remember when Wesley’s friends take Wesley to Miracle Max because they believe Wesley is dead.  Thus, they need a miracle.  After checking him, Miracle Max says, “He’s not dead; he’s mostly dead….mostly dead is slightly alive.”

Lazarus was really dead.  There was no mostly about it.  He had been in the tomb for four days and we have to believe that the decomposition has set in.  He was really dead.  Yet, after those four days, Jesus speaks and Lazarus walks out.

It was a good (and needed) reminder that Jesus has power to raise the really dead.  What is problematic to some about the story of Lazarus is why Jesus waited four days.  It doesn’t change Who He is and what He is able to do.  I need that reminder that Jesus has power to recompose what has started to decompose.  He can bring the dead back to life.