Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kicking off Christmas

Well, call me a glutton for punishment, but I'm going to try and brave it. The last 3 years I've been one of "those people" who get up at the crack of dawn, or rather the middle of the night, and try to go and get some deals on Christmas gifts the day after Thanksgiving. It's not that I'm obsessed with it, I just like the challenge a little, I guess. The only part I really don't like about it is the other people who are on a mission and will do almost anything to make sure they get their way.

If my newspaper adventure is any indication how tomorrow may be, then I might rethink this shopping thing. I wanted a paper today to see what the ads were. I looked for papers at Wal-Mart, K-Mart and outside 6 convenience stores. They were all sold out of newspapers! Are you kidding me? When I got to the last gas station, I got the last paper in the machine there. I hope that this is no indication of what shopping is going to be like tomorrow.

My father-in-law was commenting tonight on something that happened at Lowe's last year. He said that 2 ladies got into a fist fight over a crock pot that was $20. Are you kidding me? That's the kind of stuff that crazy people do! It's a crock pot for crying out loud! But, I must admit and I've seen it myself, some people take this "black Friday" shopping thing WAY too serious. I think that it's "Black Friday" because of the way people act. When people get hurt over getting a good deal...I think that it's time to reevaluate your life's priorities. I want a deal as much as the next guy, but I'm not going to break someone's teeth about it! It's like we're shopping with a few obsessed "me monsters" who are all about themselves and their agenda and don't care about anyone else. Remember that tomorrow as you see them making a fool out of themselves with fire in their eyes running around pushing their way through the line trying to get the last crock pot. I just imagine them hollering at the top of their lungs, "ME! ME! It's all about ME!!!!!!!!" When I do that, I laugh out loud sometimes...then I pray for them.

What I'm most excited about is what happens to the Christian radio station tomorrow. 98.3 KLVV goes to all Christmas music!!! I love the Christmas music. It seems to brighten up every day. They play Jingle Bell Rock and all of the stuff, but they also play the Christmas hymns and songs that remind us all of the reason for the season.

So, have fun out there tomorrow, but beware the "Me Monsters". I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving with their families and friends. I got to get to bed...I've got to get up in like 4 hours, ya know!

Monday, November 23, 2009

For the Parent of a Wayward Child

This was sent to me via e-mail from a friend today. I thought it was too good not to post. If you are dealing with this as a parent, or you know someone who is, maybe this will be an encouragement to them.

12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child

By: Abraham Piper

My son Abraham, who speaks from the wisdom of experience and Scripture, has written the article that follows. I read it with tears and laughter. It is so compelling that I asked him immediately if I could share it with the church and the wider Christian community. There is no greater joy than to see your children walking in the truth—and expressing it so well. The rest is Abraham's untouched. -John Piper

Many parents are brokenhearted and completely baffled by their unbelieving son or daughter. They have no clue why the child they raised well is making such awful, destructive decisions. I've never been one of these parents, but I have been one of these sons. Reflecting back on that experience, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child.

1. Point them to Christ.
Your rebellious child's real problem is not drugs or sex or cigarettes or pornography or laziness or crime or cussing or slovenliness or homosexuality or being in a punk rock band. The real problem is that they don't see Jesus clearly. The best thing you can do for them—and the only reason to do any of the following suggestions—is to show them Christ. It is not a simple or immediate process, but the sins in their life that distress you and destroy them will only begin to fade away when they see Jesus more like he actually is.

2. Pray.
Only God can save your son or daughter, so keep on asking that he will display himself to them in a way they can't resist worshiping him for.

3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.
If your daughter rejects Jesus, don't pretend everything is fine.
For every unbelieving child, the details will be different. Each one will require parents to reach out in unique ways. Never acceptable, however, is not reaching out at all. If your child is an unbeliever, don't ignore it. Holidays might be easier, but eternity won't be.

4. Don't expect them to be Christ-like.
If your son is not a Christian, he's not going to act like one.
You know that he has forsaken the faith, so don't expect him to live by the standards you raised him with. For example, you might be tempted to say, "I know you're struggling with believing in Jesus, but can't you at least admit that getting wasted every day is sin?"
If he's struggling to believe in Jesus, then there is very little significance in admitting that drunkenness is wrong. You want to protect him, yes. But his unbelief is the most dangerous problem—not partying. No matter how your child's unbelief exemplifies itself in his behavior, always be sure to focus more on the heart's sickness than its symptoms.

5. Welcome them home.
Because the deepest concern is not your child's actions, but his heart, don't create too many requirements for coming home. If he has any inkling to be with you, it is God giving you a chance to love him back to Jesus. Obviously there are some instances in which parents must give ultimatums: "Don't come to this house if you are..." But these will be rare. Don't lessen the likelihood of an opportunity to be with your child by too many rules.
If your daughter smells like weed or an ashtray, spray her jacket with Febreze and change the sheets when she leaves, but let her come home. If you find out she's pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her twenty-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you've been forgiven, don't give him any more money, and let him come home. If he hasn't been around for a week and a half because he's been staying at his girlfriend's—or boyfriend's—apartment, plead with him not to go back, and let him come home.

6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.
Be gentle in your disappointment.
What really concerns you is that your child is destroying herself, not that she's breaking rules. Treat her in a way that makes this clear. She probably knows—especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she's doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is. So she doesn't need this pointed out. She needs to see how you are going to react to her evil. Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus.
Her conscience can condemn her by itself. Parents ought to stand kindly and firmly, always living in the hope that they want their child to return to.

7. Connect them to believers who have better access to them.
There are two kinds of access that you may not have to your child: geographical and relational. If your wayward son lives far away, try to find a solid believer in his area and ask him to contact your son. This may seem nosy or stupid or embarrassing to him, but it's worth it—especially if the believer you find can also relate to your son emotionally in a way you can't.
Relational distance will also be a side effect of your child leaving the faith, so your relationship will be tenuous and should be protected if at all possible. But hard rebuke is still necessary.
This is where another believer who has emotional access to your son may be very helpful. If there is a believer who your son trusts and perhaps even enjoys being around, then that believer has a platform to tell your son—in a way he may actually pay attention to—that he's being an idiot. This may sound harsh, but it's a news flash we all need from time to time, and people we trust are usually the only ones who can package a painful rebuke so that it is a gift to us.
A lot of rebellious kids would do well to hear that they're being fools—and it is rare that this can helpfully be pointed out by their parents—so try to keep other Christians in your kids lives.

8. Respect their friends.
Honor your wayward child in the same way you'd honor any other unbeliever. They may run with crowds you'd never consider talking to or even looking at, but they are your child's friends. Respect that—even if the relationship is founded on sin. They're bad for your son, yes. But he's bad for them, too. Nothing will be solved by making it perfectly evident that you don't like who he's hanging around with.
When your son shows up for a family birthday celebration with another girlfriend—one you've never seen before and probably won't see again—be hospitable. She's also someone's wayward child, and she needs Jesus, too.

9. Email them.
Praise God for technology that lets you stay in your kids' lives so easily!
When you read something in the Bible that encourages you and helps you love Jesus more, write it up in a couple lines and send it to your child. The best exhortation for them is positive examples of Christ's joy in your own life.
Don't stress out when you're composing these as if each one needs to be singularly powerful. Just whip them out one after another, and let the cumulative effect of your satisfaction in God gather up in your child's inbox. God's word is never proclaimed in vain.

10. Take them to lunch.
If possible, don't let your only interaction with your child be electronic. Get together with him face to face if you can. You may think this is stressful and uncomfortable, but trust me that it's far worse to be in the child's shoes—he is experiencing all the same discomfort, but compounded by guilt. So if he is willing to get together with you for lunch, praise God, and use the opportunity.
It will feel almost hypocritical to talk about his daily life, since what you really care about is his eternal life, but try to anyway. He needs to know you care about all of him. Then, before lunch is over, pray that the Lord will give you the gumption to ask about his soul. You don't know how he'll respond. Will he roll his eyes like you're an idiot? Will he get mad and leave? Or has God been working in him since you talked last? You don't know until you risk asking.
(Here's a note to parents of younger children: Set up regular times to go out to eat with your kids. Not only will this be valuable for its own sake, but also, if they ever enter a season of rebellion, the tradition of meeting with them will already be in place and it won't feel weird to ask them out to lunch. If a son has been eating out on Saturdays with his dad since he was a tot, it will be much harder for him later in life to say no to his father's invitation—even as a surly nineteen-year-old.)

11. Take an interest in their pursuits.
Odds are that if your daughter is purposefully rejecting Christ, then the way she spends her time will probably disappoint you. Nevertheless, find the value in her interests, if possible, and encourage her. You went to her school plays and soccer games when she was ten; what can you do now that she's twenty to show that you still really care about her interests?
Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, and he wasn't even related to them. Imitate Christ by being the kind of parent who will put some earplugs in your pocket and head downtown to that dank little nightclub where your daughter's CD release show is. Encourage her and never stop praying that she will begin to use her gifts for Jesus' glory instead her own.

12. Point them to Christ.
This can't be over-stressed. It is the whole point. No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn't to help them know Jesus.
It's not so that they will be good kids again; it's not so that they'll get their hair cut and start taking showers; it's not so that they'll like classical music instead of deathcore; it's not so that you can stop being embarrassed at your weekly Bible study; it's not so that they'll vote conservative again by the next election; it's not even so that you can sleep at night, knowing they're not going to hell.
The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, email them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Christ.
And not only is he the only point—he's the only hope. When they see the wonder of Jesus, satisfaction will be redefined. He will replace the pathetic vanity of the money, or the praise of man, or the high, or the orgasm that they are staking their eternities on right now. Only his grace can draw them from their perilous pursuits and bind them safely to himself—captive, but satisfied.
He will do this for many. Be faithful and don't give up.
© Desiring God. Website:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Praying in Your Group Time

One of the struggles I see with many Christians is how to facilitate a prayer time in groups. It bothers me to see people struggle with prayer. Prayer is simply communication and conversation with God. What's so hard about that?

In a group setting when we share in prayer together, there seems to be a switch that's flipped from time to time. People pray for trivial things. You take prayer requests for 20 minutes, but all of the requests are simply to make lives easier and better. When was the last time that you prayed for life change and repentance in your group? When did you pray for spiritual healing more than physical healing for someone? In a group setting, people pray for many things non-spiritually (and non-essentially) related to life. Some begin to pray in the old King James language, as if God might understand that better?!

It pains me so as a pastor to see so many struggle with prayer in a group setting. Many people never utter a word in corporate prayer times. Here's some quick tips that I use with group prayer times to make them more how I think God would like them to be:

1. Be real. Don't fake it. You are not fooling God or anyone else in your group with your spiritual condition. If you can't be real with brothers and sisters in the Lord, who can you be real with? God wants authenticity in prayer, even with a group of Christians.

2. Speak English. No King James. Practice conversational prayer in group time. Allow yourselves to cry out to God...just cry out to Him in normal verbage. God isn't interested in who can pray the most flowery words. He's more concerned with the condition of your heart. Pray from the heart.

3. Lay ground rules for requests. Yes, you can have ground rules and still be spiritual. Keep requests real and personal. Try to stay away from superficial "Santa Claus" requests in group time. It's okay to pray for freedom from pain, but let's avoid the requests for "a bigger house" and "a new television". Pray for what God wants more than what you want. Bear one another's burdens through prayer. Don't allow all of the requests to become superficial. Pray for life change in people, yes, even yourself.

4. Keep it simple. Praying with one another shouldn't be hard. Talk to God and intercede on behalf of your brothers and sisters in the Lord. There's no right or wrong way to pray (well, except for the King James "holier than thou" prayers). Don't ramble if you don't have much to pray for. Instead, use those times to thank God for all that He has done and is doing in lives.

We must remember that prayer is our lifeline to God. We cry to Him and praise Him in our prayers. He can handle your anger or disappointment, but also wants the adoration and thankfulness. Praying with a group of people should be no different than prayer between you and the Lord personally. If you find yourself putting up a mask or trying to be or talk or act like someone you are not, settle down and make it about God and not about you. As Christian brothers and sisters, we must be able to keep our prayer life real, even when we share and pray with others.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Dinosaurs & the Wedding!

We just finished loading out and setting up the dinosaurs. Incredible! Absolutely incredible! I can't believe how big they are and how cool it is to see them up close and personal. (Wait till you see the sanctuary!) If you haven't caught on yet, (or you've been under a rock), Creation Truth Foundation with Dr. Tom Sharp is going to be here Sunday morning through Wednesday night of next week. I talked to their guys today. This conference will be a huge faith builder for anyone who has questions about how dinosaurs fit into the biblical story, the truth about creation and evolution, and how the flood has impacted our world even till today. You will find your questions answered and your faith built stronger. Plus, you will be equipped with the knowledge you need to speak clearly about these things. It will be great. Don't miss it! And...bring ALL of your friends!

Now for the dinosaurs and the wedding. With the remodel and all of the events of October (Festival of Light, concert, Christmas in Action, etc.) this pastor's brain hasn't been its sharpest. (That's probably putting it nicely). goes. They are setting up the dinosaurs in the sanctuary today. I've got my day planned out. I know that I have remodel stuff to do. I know that I have a wedding tonight at 6PM and all of that.... Wait. I have a wedding in the sanctuary at 6PM tonight and the sanctuary is infested with dinosaurs! My wife came in and was checking it all out about noon and she said, "Honey, are you forgetting you have a wedding tonight at 6?" And I'm thinking, duh! No! I know I have a wedding sweetheart. Who do you think I am? (I'm still not getting it!) Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. We have dinosaurs all over our stage that we just spent hours setting up and.... Anyway, it's just too funny now. At that moment, I'm not laughing. I kept trying to tell myself, it will be okay and laugh it off. But now I'm nervous. Now...I have to call the bride.

So, I call the bride and she is handling it really well, but I know this will make for some challenging wedding photos for sure! Anyway...thus it goes. Keeps it real. Keeps me humble. I'll be doing a wedding tonight with dinosaurs as the maid of honor and the best man! And there's even dino-poop on stage (see picture above). I'm thinking, is this book material or a sermon illustration or what?

Come and see the dinosaurs...after the wedding, of course!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Maybe It's Time to Move

I laugh when I read these church funnies, but sometimes I wonder if they could be true in rare cases. If you are used to sitting in the same place in your church, and you've been sitting there for 42 years, then maybe you should move. Change is painful, but most useful! Maybe you would meet some new people and get a new perspective on some things. If we church folk are stuck in our ways, how can we expect the world not to be stuck in theirs?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mike's Home

Mike got out of the hospital this morning. What a turnaround! To God be the glory for this miracle. Please continue to pray as he still needs to rest and clear those lungs. Going home is going to feel great to Mike! PTL!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

FOL & Mike's Turnaround

Our Festival of Light was a huge success! We had more than 3,000 people come through and share with us that night. We had several opportunities to share with people at the event and it was great! Please continue to pray that God will bless the seeds that were planted at FOL. All of our volunteers did a tremendous job making everyone feel welcome!

At around 10:45PM Saturday night, the elders and myself went to the hospital to pray with Mike, our drummer. If you don't know Mike, he's been a member at Oakwood for 20+ years. His daughter and wife had called during FOL and asked for prayers because Mike was not progressing as they would have liked. He was in ICU on a ventilator and had been for a week.

The elders and I did what the Bible says in James and prayed for Mike and anointed him with oil. If you haven't heard by now, there was almost a complete turn around in Mike by Sunday morning. He was off the vent (which is a story in and of itself) and was breathing on his own with oxygen. We got out of bed for the first time in a week. When I called up there Sunday afternoon, his sister told me that he was sitting in a chair watching football.

We need to continue to pray for Mike and for his healing. He is doing very well, but still has a long rode ahead as he rehabs and gets his lungs healed. But we must also acknowledge the turnaround that God did in him early Sunday morning. Thank the Lord for his provision and healing for Mike. He is still our greatest physician and healer!!!