Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quote of the Day

The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord must be understood as follows: grace is the only thing that delivers human beings from evil; without it, they do absolutely nothing good, whether in thought, or in will and emotion, or in action. Grace not only makes known to people what they ought to do, but also enables them to perform with love the duty that they know.



When I was 9 my friends and I hit the jackpot. Messing around in the woods around our neighborhood we found a white plastic bag filled with Penthouse magazines. We where blown away by what we saw!

I'm not sure how much or how little the "jackpot" contributed, but that summer I began a life long struggle with issues of purity. I actually thought that when I turned 40 I would have been totally "set free" from temptation and struggle, that is simply not the case. Even today I have to be so careful not to allow a foothold for potential temptation.

God has been so gracious, I've never been involved in "scandalous" sin that would jeopardize my family or ministry but I do have a deep desire to grow in this area of purity.

I ran across something I wrote for myself several years back to help me battle impurity. It's very practical but also includes verbiage to remind me of the truth. Please, please don't see this as a moralistic attempt to do better. My hearts desire was to lean more into Jesus but also do some "no brainer" things to place me in a position to grow in grace.

It's raw and was designed for my particular situation at that time. Perhaps it will encourage you to design your own thoughts in this area.

Purity Action Plan

Titus 2:11-14
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

God has given us his grace to “tutor” us to say no to impurity. Although the process of becoming more and more pure is an act of God’s grace, he has given us wisdom and common sense by his grace to think through how to battle temptation. Dependence on rule and regulation does nothing to assist us in the battle against lust but it is wise to think through an intentional plan to utilize the gifts of God’s grace.

The following is an attempt, hopefully motivated by God’s grace, to grow in the area of personal purity. The following plan should be put into place immediately and be carefully followed for 2 months. At that time it might be wise to adjust and or change portions of the action plan. The plan should be shared with accountability partners who will daily and then weekly ask specific questions that relate to the plan. It is assumed that the person seeking greater purity will be honest in answering questions most the time.

What to do…

• Memorize and meditate on the following passages…

Prov 5:3-6
3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
4 but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
6 She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.

Rom 6:11-14
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

2 Tim 2:22-23
22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Heb 13:4-5
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

1 Cor 6:12-20
12 "Everything is permissible for me"-but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"-but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"-but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Job 31:1
"I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a girl.

Matt 5:27-30
27 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

• Call David and or Joe every night at 10:00 until August 27th

• Daily pray that God would “create in me a clean heart”

• Call David and or Joe during more vulnerable times
o Before times of heavy responsibility
o After times of spiritual victory
o When I notice an extra attraction to women around me
o When I am feeling rejected by Julie and or others
o Times of travel

• Strive to be diligent in normal disciplines

• Set parental controls on T.V. in our bedroom

• Seek to serve Julie and pursue her romantically

What to avoid…

• T.V. past 11 if everyone is in bed

• Computer past 11

Again, this was for me in that particular time in my journey. The issue of purity is important enough for each of us to take the time and energy to think and pray through how we should deal with this area of temptation. Our family, ministry and intimacy with Jesus are worth the time and attention.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Summer Intern Orientation

Rough notes on what we're sharing with our summer interns and staff tonight.

Summer Intern Orientation…

1. It’s about the Heart (C.H. Spurgeon quote)

“How diligently the calvary officer keeps his sabre clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God's sword, His instrument – I trust, a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses as much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God”.
The most important thing you can do this summer is care for your own heart.

• What are some ways you grow personally? You need both the table and the chair.
• Are you a writer? Take time to write what God is doing in your life and how he is using you.
• Attend “big church”
• God answers prayer
• Seek to experience God in the small things

2. It’s about the relationships
a. Build deep relationships with students you are naturally drawn towards
b. Use your “left hand” to build relationships with students who are a little more difficult to connect with. Actively pursue those who are on the peripheral.
c. Be creative and cheap with your activities.
d. Kidding around can get out of hand real fast and damage potential influence
e. Us your words to build up. Students rarely hear positive affirmation consistently.

3. It’s about wisdom
a. When in doubt be conservative
i. If there’s a question about what you’re doing the answer should typically be “don’t do it”. If you need to ask someone’s advice do it.
ii. Have deep relationships, but keep wise boundaries in those relationships.
1. Careful about driving someone of the opposite sex.
2. Careful about one on one time with opposite sex.
iii. Think about what you put on facebook
iv. Think about how you drive.
b. If you get into a conversation that seems to be over your pay scale, get help. (anything illegal, abuse, theological, intense battle with parents…)
c. Remember that you’re there generally as a partner with parents
d. Be very conscious about bringing parents in the loop. “Can I get a tattoo? Can I get this piercing? Can I go to this rated R movie? Those are questions only parents should answer.

Weekly Schedule
• Jump in and help
• Don’t be on the peripheral during activities. Model service and worship for the students. They learn more from what they see you do than what they hear you say.
• Find time to go to “big church”

Monday, May 23, 2011

End of school year email to adult leaders...

Lifegroup and 10:24 is over for the school year. What to do?

It’s a very common question. The most important point to remember is that relationship is not a program. Sure, we provide space for you to build relationships with students but just because the scheduled gathering has ended doesn’t mean your relationships end.

Some thoughts...

If you didn’t have a celebration last night you might want to go out for ice cream or something after this Sunday’s student led event. Talk about what God has done over the year.

Go to camp.

Show up on a Sunday night at least once a month over the summer. We don’t have life groups but your students are still around and would love to connect with you. (you’re welcome any time btw)

Go to camp.

Attend one of the special Wednesday night events.

Live on facebook. Yes it’s one of the easiest way to connect.

Go to camp.

Plan a summer outing with your group.

It’s been a phenomenal year of relational ministry. You have prayed, connected and invested in students this school year. It’s evident that God is continuing to do a unique work through our student ministry here at IBC. Thank you so much for your investment.

Did you ever know that you’re my hero?


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Youth Ministry Unconference Wisconsin

Youth Ministry Unconference is a gathering of youth workers who dream, collaborate and discuss how to more effectively reach and deepen students. There is no celebrity, special speaker or expert who dominates. Well, I take that back, everyone who attends the event is an expert in their own way.

Each person who attended last week's Wisconsin unconference brought unique perspective and genius to the table. God has gifted Wisconsin with sharp and passionate youth workers. This conference format allows for each person's giftedness and experience to encourage and challenge others.

Some brief thoughts...

Many youth workers are burned out and need time away to reflect and decompress.

Youth workers seem to be beyond the glitz of events and long for the supernatural movement of God in their ministries.

There seems to be a powerful and beautiful "handoff" of youth ministry from the older generation to the next.

Youth workers love to be together and are incredibly fun.

We're still trying to figure out the best way to get students connected to Godly adult leaders.

Youth workers need each other.

Fried cheese curds are delicious.

Although I came back to Texas exhausted it was the good kind of exhaustion. I was encouraged, challenged and blessed to be a part of the conversation. It's also pretty cool to have some new friends in Wisconsin.

I would highly encourage you to host and or lead a youth ministry unconference in your area. It's a unique angle on equipping and encouraging youth ministry that is as effective as anything I've experienced in 20+ years of youth ministry. You and those who participate will walk away challenged, encouraged and better equipped. It's also a great way for each one who is there to humbly encourage and equip others.

To learn more check it out...

Youth Ministry Unconferences

You can also follow on twitter @ymunconference

Sunday, May 15, 2011

At the Movies with Students Part 3

This is the third and final post on helping students think through movies, music and television. Messages from culture and media are more prominent today than ever before. Rarely do students unplug.

The word "amuse" is French and stems from the word "muse" which means "ponder" or "thought". The "a" negates thinking. So the word amuse basically means to be without thought or to simply put your brain in nuetral. We don't want students to simply be amused when they engage media. Our hope is they keep their thinking engaged as they interact with movies, television and music.

To help them better engage media there are seven questions we hope they will consider and utilize as they spend time watching or listening.

Here are the first 4...

1. Did I enjoy it. Why or Why not?

2. Does it teach anything about morality?

3. How does it portray authority?

4. Does it communicate anything about God?

You can check out the full posts at...

At the Movies with Students Part 1

At the Movies with Students Part 2

Now the final 3...

What is the "big point" in the movie, song or show?

Granted, not all media has a point but many times there is a theme, thought or philosophy that is highlighted. The other night I went to see "Thor". Not the greatest movie in the world, but I would say the strongest theme in the movie was that humility and teachability results in strength and wisdom. That's kind of a cool lesson to observe when perhaps going to watch what seems to be a thoughtless movie. Movies like "Crash", "No Strings Attached" and "The Kings Speech" all have strong central messages. It's fun and important to ask students, "what's that song actually about?" Same thing with movies and television. Most of the time they're not thinking about that because they've turned their brains off. We need to help them ask the right questions.

Can you find the "fingerprints of God"?

Most media is not directly about God but there are many examples that have echoes of his heart and plan. Again, "Thor". There are all kinds of references to sacrificial death and resurrection. Also, the strong theme of reconciliation with a father has God's fingerprints all over it.

The movie "127 Hours" is about a man who has an accident and has to take drastic measures to save his own life, but it's also about a person's independence and his admittance of his need for others. God made us communal and that truth comes out strong. I could go on but you get the drift. We need to help students sharpen their eyes and help them see that even people who don't now Jesus are made in the image of God and create media that reflects the deep longing of their heart which also often reflects the hand of God.

The final question,

What difference might this make in my life and the life of others?

Whether we like it or not, music, movies and television shape the lives of teens. Not every movie I've seen has impacted me, but many have. Some media opens the door for students to speak to other students about difficult issues. It's great when a show or song comes along that opens the door for conversation and reflection.

So there you have it. Some pretty simple questions to help them engage and avoid the temptation to simply be "amused". What are some questions I'm missing? If you serve students how do you help them fully engage and think through culture?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

3 Reasons I Love Rob Bell

Ok, I realize the twitter flash is over and fewer people are talking about Rob Bell. After a month to reflect and the task of discussing "Love Wins" with our young adults next Thursday I wanted to share some short thoughts on why I love Rob and why I'm struggling with "Love Wins".

Here's the first reason to love Rob...

1. He's a gifted creative genius.

God has gifted Rob in incredible ways. Back in the day we used "nooma" videos to help students understand and engage with truth. I'm so grateful for his giftedness and willingness to try something new. The first video we ever used was the one on "fire". Do you remember how powerful that was? Or what about the video when he was hiking and had his son on his back. I can still remember him saying, "it's ok buddy". Powerful stuff.

2. He's not afraid to ask tough questions.

Our churches and communities must be places where people feel the freedom to question. Let's face it, there is a lot of stuff we believe that doesn't make sense. Many of the questions that come up in "Love Wins" are important things for us to consider. People are asking questions about heaven and hell. They're asking questions about God's goodness and human suffering. They're asking questions about grace and forgiveness. I long for my church to be a place where questions come frequently without the fear of others condemning.

I don't believe Rob is afraid to ask questions, do you?

3. He's my brother in Christ.

As I wrote that I felt so "oldschool", but it's true. Rob loves Jesus and Jesus loves Rob. People should absolutely desire what is God's best for Rob and his family. This passage in 1st Peter has really grabbed my heart lately.

1 Peter 1:22-23

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

When we obey the gospel we automatically and supernaturally have "sincere love for your brothers". Rob is one of those "brothers".

Although I love and respect Rob and his ministry I have significant struggles with "Love Wins".

Here are 3 quick thoughts.

1. He belittles his would be critics.

Many have said they love the book because it creates great discussion. Great discussion doesn't usually happen if you cut off those who disagree with you at the knees. His use of exaggeration and sarcasm may cause the reader to feel that if they question or believe something different than Rob perhaps they've "hijacked Christianity" or "don't throw very good parties". Perhaps instead of using verbiage like "if your God is loving one second and cruel the next" it might be better to seek to understand God's love as it relates also to his holiness, righteousness and justice. Is God cruel? No. Holy? Absolutely. That would be a discussion worth having.

I love what Tim Keller has said...

"The first thing that disappointed me was not the content so much as the attitude. There is an immediate ridicule of apparent “close-minded” people. A conversation about conflict cannot begin with ridicule. We should not pit the doctrines of God against one another. At the cross, the love and holiness of God both win."

Perhaps it's just me but I've always felt better conversations resulted when respecting the thoughts of critics instead of belittling them.

2. His use of scripture is at best incomplete.

I'm no Bible scholar and I don't have my doctorate in Greek but I really do have a passion to handle the scriptures well and look at the whole council of God. In my limited understanding it doesn't seem Rob does that well. Perhaps it was an oversight on my part but there seems to be important passages excluded. Of course he couldn't or wouldn't put all the Bible in his book but there are a couple that seem crucial to his discussion.

Does he anywhere mention the whole "narrow road" passage of Matthew 7? There's no doubt I could have missed it but Jesus seems to believe there will be a few saved.

The other major passage strangely missing is the "lamb's book of life" and "lake of fire" passage in Revelation 20:14, 15. That's some scary *%$^%# right there. Take a look if you have time.

Scot Mcknight has this to say about omitting Rev. 20...

"The first one is fatal for his argument because he said “And that’s it.” He does not discuss the Lake of Fire, and it appears to me that it cuts across his central arguments."

It would be interesting to see Rob's thoughts on these and other passages.

3. He is clearly unclear in his position.

Some people I've spoken with say the book is very clear on it's position. Others have said they have no idea what Rob's position is and what he's trying to say. My struggle is that he says things very strong and then throws in a "get out of jail free" card. Kind of like 'it would be dumb to believe that God judges sin for eternity" and then turning around and saying "I'm not really sure what happens". (my words not his)

He does however say this...

"Will everybody be saved, or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices? Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don’t need to resolve them or answer them because we can’t, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires. (115)"

It's kind of like trying to nail jello to the wall. If he purposely is trying to be ambiguous he's done an ok job, maybe. I'm not sure. We can't know everything and there are many questions left unanswered. But when dealing with issues as important as a person's eternal destiny shouldn't we be as crystal clear as possible? Sometimes it feels he's purposely been as muddy as possible.

So, why is all this so important and why should we care? There are many answers to that question. Again, Tim Keller puts it well when asked if the discussion is important.

"Yes. It’s sort of like the bird in the ecosystem who if goes extinct throws off everything. Anything other than endless punishment lessens sin and the God who has been sinned against. If you take away the infinity of punishment, everything diminishes."

That's a strong statement and probably worth unpacking. The bottom line is this discussion on heaven and hell, God's holiness and his love is important and not going away. That's a good thing!

So, may we as people who love Jesus as the truth and learn to love and respect each other. Is it possible to love someone and also disagree with them? I sure hope so.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Feeling Stressed?

Morning - Day 6
"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."

It is a happy way of soothing sorrow when we can feel--"HE careth for me." Christian! do not dishonour religion by always wearing a brow of care; come, cast your burden upon your Lord. You are staggering beneath a weight which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden, would be to him but as the small dust of the balance. Nothing is so sweet as to "Lie passive in God's hands, And know no will but his."


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

At the Movies with Students Part 2

Over the next week we're continuing to think about how to encourage teens to approach media; especially television, movies and music.

As they live their lives in the middle of culture it's the parent's and pastor's responsibility to equip them to engage media through the lens of truth.

There are seven question I love teens to consider when engaging with media. For the first two questions check out

"At the movies with students part 1".

Here are questions three and four.

How does it portray authority?

Honestly, this question may stem from my growing up in the 80's, but it's still relevant for today. It seems that every movie in some way showed parents, principles, coaches and police as either stupid or evil. One of my favorite movies was "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". Remember how clueless the parents were and how vindictive the principle was? We all wanted Ferris to succeed in his rebellion. My son Zach gets up every morning 1 ½ early so he can watch at least 2 episodes of "Saved by the Bell". One thing about that show that’s very interesting is that you rarely see parents. All the time I ‘m watching it thinking “where in the world is mom and dad”? Recently movies like "The Social Network" subtly portray authority negatively.

Sure, much of authority is corrupt and disconnected, but authority isn't the "a" word. God has established it for our good. Students need to see it clearly and Biblically.

Does it communicate anything about God?

Not every movie talks about or mentions God but many do. From the "Book of Eli" to the" Adjustment Bureau" to "Bruce Almighty", there are many opportunities to watch and reflect on what media is saying about God and learn how our culture views him. One of my favorite "Glee" episodes is the one about "grilled cheesus".

"Grilled Cheesus Preview"

If you haven't seen it you should check it out. It's an episode that sheds light on how a student who is totally disengaged from religion might view God and prayer.

The point is when we go to the theater, turn on the radio or watch our favorite TV show, media is teaching us something about God. Our students must ask good quesions and filter what they're seeing / hearing with truth.

Students are living in a world where there they have more access than ever before. They are interacting with media on many different levels. May we be people that help them think through what they're seeing and hearing.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A question about tornadoes and God

Recently several tornadoes tore through my home town of Chattanooga. The result was incredible devastation and loss of life in Ringgold, Georgia, Apison, Tennessee and many other areas. I received an interesting but not surprising question on facebook about disaster. This question comes up so much, "if God is sovereign over all things why does he allow disaster and sickness and general bad stuff". I thought this might be good to ponder. The question will continue to haunt us as long as we live on this broken earth.

I have a question and you were always good at answering these kinds of questions. So as you know we had some big tornadoes here last week and I was thinking, why is it that God protected my parents house and it is pretty much completely fine, but their neighbors' isn't? And some people close to where they lived died, but they were fine and even their horses escaped without even scratch? So how do we rejoice that He protected them while some others weren't protected? Just kind of confusing to me. I would appreciate any insight you might have.


Humm, great question. The first thing I would say is this, it's very mysterious isn't it? God does have the ability to control tornadoes and everything else. Jesus said to the storm "peace be still" and it was. We know that disaster hits people who love Jesus and people who don't. So it does't seem that followers of Jesus are immune. The second thing to remember is that the world is broken. When sin entered so did crazy disaster stuff. As long as this broken world is in existence there will be tornadoes, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and the like. Anyway, I'm thankful there were just a few shingles off the top of your parent's house and sad about the people who lost their life. I think Piper's perspective on the tsunumi's might help a little...

Check it out...Tsunami, Sovereignty, Mercy

Please join me in praying for and showing mercy to all who are suffering. Whether in Japan, Haiti, or Apison, may we be people who feel and show great compassion to those who suffer.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Quote of the Day

We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Little Girl

Well, believe it or not my daughter Lauren turns 16 today. Now, having 3 boys that are older you can imagine the shock of dealing with a little girl. It's just plain 'ole different.

Trying to love her well has been a constant reminder of how much I need God's grace. And no, I don't have it down. God is still teaching me.

By the way, she is an incredible young lady in spite of me (thanks to her amazing mother).

Here are a few of the many characteristics I love about Lauren.

* She has a deep heart for those who are hurting.

She told me the other day she wants to become a special needs specialist / teacher. I think that's amazing. Sure, someday God is going to use her to care for people in need but God is using her soft heart today. Very rarely have I seen someone who cares about their friends when they're hurting the way Lauren does. God has truly given her a huge heart of compassion.

* She is incredibly honest about her feelings

Sometimes she could use a filter but you never have to guess what's going on in her heart, she'll tell you. This is so important in a world where people come across as fake. It's great that Lauren can simply be herself. She gets angry, sad and hurt just like everyone else. And yes, when those feelings are present most of the time we know it.

* She's really comfortable in her own skin

Sure, she spends time trying to make herself look prettier. By the way, I don't understand straighteners. It seems stupid to straighten hair that is already straight. All joking aside, Lauren seems to understand that beauty is something that ultimately comes from the inside. Yes, she's beautiful on the outside but Lauren knows there's so much more.

* She burps really loud

It's much louder than her brothers. Maybe this goes back to being comfortable raising boys? When she burps is grosses me out and makes me happy at the same time.

* She loves Jesus

Not perfectly, but her heart belongs to him. I can see the power of the gospel transforming her into the lady God wants her to be. I told her the other day that I want her to dream about how God might use her one day for his glory. (He already is)

She is so precious to me. There is nothing I wouldn't do to protect her and encourage her.

Happy birthday Alex. Know that you are loved and that your daddy is so, so proud of you.