Success, Identity, and Glory in Teenagers: Pt. 1

This weekend was the 10 year anniversary for my idea of the “glory days.” I spent the week prior to this weekend writing articles for my cities newspaper. It was the culmination of leading my football team for 12 years of intense practice, strength-training, and victory. Let’s be clear here, I was not the star athlete, coming in at 155 pounds I struggled to maintain my position!! But, we were the winningest football team in our long school history due to some great players and coaching. We entered the playoffs ranked #1 in the State. With the memories of calling complex offensive plays at eight years old, professional level sports medicine, and elite football gear, I wrote about the biggest week of my life. That Saturday was game day. We loaded up on a 56 passenger Charter Bus. We drove to downtown Atlanta, passed by billboards with our football team on them, and pulled into the lower Charter Bus bay at the Georgia Dome. On January the 30th of 1994, the legend Emmitt Smith ran for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns to help lead the Cowboys to victory, the score was 30-13 over Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills. It was Super Bowl XXVIII and it was played in the Georgia Dome. The SEC Championship was played on that field. The infamous 1998 Atlanta Falcons with the Dirty Bird and Jamaal Anderson played on this field!!! Legends. When I stepped into the same locker room that legends used, that my heroes had used, I felt the glory of victory. When I stepped onto the field, I felt the glory of victory. When we began to pull ahead substantially, I felt the glory of victory. With my grandparents, parents, and girl-friend in the stands, I felt the glory of victory.

In the teenage years, your son or daughter transitions physically, psychologically, spiritually, relationally, etc. These transitions tend to account for many issues amongst the familial unit. It also accounts for a new found success that many have either not experienced, or not comprehended the weight of glory that comes from their success. In the childhood years, victory is sweet, but as they get older, victory becomes associated with glory and defeat with shame.

These are natural byproducts of victory and defeat, but the hunger for glory can become unhealthy for both teenagers and parents.

Dance recitals, playoff games, all-state competitions, and the competitive theatrical production of the year, these all afford students the opportunity for both glory and shame. Glory and shame function in teenagers lives to create identity. What brings me glory? What brings me shame? For some, sin brings glory; for some, sin brings shame. Also, some enjoy attention as glory; yet for others, attention feels like shame because of their insecurity. You have a unique individual that you call your child. I want to encourage you today with one simple concept: teach your teenager to give glory to God.

We lost that game in the Georgia dome. We cried. I feared life without the glory that defined me. I learned to seek glory in places other than football. Not every student is like me. But, one of the most glorious moments in my life now remains as a pile of garbage. The Georgia Dome, after 25 years of glorious usage, was demolished in 2017. At my next anniversary for this glorious moment in my life, most people won’t even remember the Georgia Dome.

You can see the demolition here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7HL8DymfSo

The successes of my high school years were not in my sports, my intellectual achievements, or my popularity. Those are all fleeting. So what remains after my High School career, after College, after my physical health begins to decline and my intellectual abilities subside (if any were ever present)? People remain. The impact that I had or did not have on people remains in their life on earth and life in eternity. So, what is the point of this discussion? Help your teenager to invest in people’s lives. Selfish teenagers bask in their own glory, while selfless teenagers give glory to God through loving others. Teaching teenagers to invest in others helps students to become selfless and ultimately to bring glory to God. In heaven, no State Championship will remain, but those who were on the team that received Jesus Christ will remain. Sadly, I gave away many chances to invest in others in exchange for the glory of victory.

I do not think intellectual, competitive, or societal achievements lack any purpose, these are valid aspirations! I simply want to contend that there is a bigger purpose to success in a teenagers life, and that true success comes when lives are changed. What if those who see your teenager see the glory of God in them, and then turn to God for salvation and hope in this life. That is a bigger purpose, that is true success!

Your child should be the best student or athlete or singer or architect (etc.), but it should not be for their own glory.

Their identity is not defined by their success (which is conditional), but by the success of Jesus Christ (which is unconditional)! Teach them to bring glory to God, for His salvation and unwavering love for us, in their hard work, their victory, and their defeat; then they will have a confidence that is healthy and can sustain them through the good and bad times of life! Identity is defined by God. Glory to Him.

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Hope Unleashes, Fear Inhibits

Fear arrests, it is debilitating. It will rob you of your passion and dreams. Fear is a hindrance to otherwise healthy individuals who have been called to great tasks for the glory of God. Fear is cloaked in a false realism, and watered down by the ability to just get by in America. Fear is deceitful, it can turn an exciting plan into a fictitious night time story. Fear arrests, but hope frees. Hope allows for dreams to become realities, it allows for insane ideas to become game changing products, it allows for grandeur life plans to become realizations. Hope allows for children stricken by poverty and disease to embrace life after hell on earth. Hope enables the dying to find life, and the living to die to their addictions. Hope is encouragement in the midst of failure. Does fear cripple you? If so, I would encourage you to check out lasts weeks sermon below:

https://livestream.com/accounts/17529735/events/4814604/videos/161202677

I want to encourage you to pray this prayer every day as we lead up to this Sunday’s message in the ‘to live is Christ’ series.

I am royalty, and a servant,

I am forgiven, and being made holy,

I have a purpose, you guide me in all things.

I have needs, you provide all of them.

Compassion moves me, and hope keeps me going.

I will not fear death, but I will bring life to those who are dying.

Your Word is scandalous to the world, unashamed I will preach.

Let my words be loving to the world, never backing down from truth.

If I’m hated, it’s all for your glory.

If I’m loved, it’s all for your glory.

I will go wherever you call me, trusting you will be beside me.

Let me see hate, but love haters.

Convict me of my own evil.

Compel me to go conquer evil.

Here am I, I am yours, send me.

A Christian Parent’s Guide to ’13 Reasons Why’

              Should you let your teen watch “13 Reasons Why?” Our teens are struggling. Teens who are part of the kingdom of God are battling these temptations. They are struggling. Suicide, depression, and self-harm are NOT merely attempts for attention, this justification is rooted in a lack of compassion and understanding that is only furthering the problem. Suicide and self-harm can be used for attention, but to a large degree, they are an escape route from pain, stress, and death. Yes, life is now death, and death is now life for many teenagers. Suicide is a release from death. How? Because, to many of our teenagers, including your own, the world we have created for them, is hell on earth (what the Bible has traditionally called ‘death’).

But, what if self-harm and suicide were meant for attention? It has been my experience that when a student is participating in self-harm or talking about suicide, they are communicating an inner pain that is REAL. These methods are not the most effective means of communication, but they are the ones they are using, and it should elicit compassion and action, not frustration. If you find a self-harm note, or suicide note, in an obvious location, it is likely that they were trying to communicate with you without actually having to verbally say those tough words. Communication is taking a beating in our world of technology, but we must understand how teens are communicating instead of simply becoming frustrated with their inability to communicate in the ways we once did. In summation, we ought to take seriously self-harm and suicide since they are both communicating an inward reality of pain and a sensation of relief.

              Here is a summary of the show: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteen_Reasons_Why Simple answer: don’t let them watch it. Chances are they already have. But, if they haven’t please put necessary steps in place to not let them watch the show. Most teenagers plan to watch the second series if available!! Don’t let them. Instead, let’s be better at engaging these tough topics with our teens. There are some great truths in the show, but they are mixed into dangerous thoughts and actions. The show wouldn’t affect many teenagers, but for those who are struggling, it is detrimental. Psychologist, Pastors, and Counselors are raising their voice against this type of strategy. There are some benefits from the T.V. show, especially the discussion of how to engage these topics! But, I wish it did not take something unhealthy to bring about this healthy conversation.

              So what do we do? First, I want you to know that you can do this. Not all teens are on the brink of suicide, and not all parents are failing. You are trying hard, and you feel spent. You feel like nothing works. It is so hard. They are so frustrating. You aren’t perfect, and that’s okay. But, you are still called to a beautiful task. The most important thing you will ever engage. And, you are given the presence of God to enable you to accomplish your task. Don’t be discouraged. You are never as bad as they say you are, and they are never as bad as you say they are. Remember, you will always see them at their worst. And, they will always see you at your worst. Extend grace, and they will extend grace to you. You can do this, with the power of our almighty God.

              Below are ten tips on how to engage your teen in discussion of suicide, depression, and self-harm: (my intentions are to write a blog on many of these tips because there is too much to say, check back to see more)

1.       Listen to them:

a.       Teenagers need to be heard. But it feels like you are pulling teeth trying to get them to communicate to you. Check out these two blogs: How to Communicate to my Teen pt. 1; How to Communicate to my Teen pt. 2

2.       Fight for them:

a.       Great parents defend their children. Of course, if your child is in the wrong, help them to learn how to apologize and take responsibility. But, they MUST know that you are their valiant defender. If anyone unjustly accuses them or hurts them physically/emotionally, you will not sit by idly. Stand up for your teen.

3.       Encourage them:

a.       The logical next step is encouraging. In a world that makes them feel worthless, you can point them to their true worth. Their worth is found in their identity in Christ. But, you need to communicate that to them, in its entirety. Look, if you do not help them understand their worth, they will find it somewhere. Daddy’s, if you don’t date your daughter, but tell them they can’t date a boy, expect them to go around your back. They have to find worth. Show them. Let your boy understand that his worth isn’t found in what he does, but who he is. Otherwise, when he doesn’t make the ‘team,’ he will turn to other pleasures. Those are small suggestions, but I can help you with more case specific suggestions if you will come sit with me in my office!

4.       Teach a healthy world-view:

a.      This might be the most important tip. Every teenager has a worldview. Shape it constantly. Feed the homeless, spend time with the poor, help your cities needs as a family, encounter different views and beliefs. If you want your teen to be thankful, wise, and loving, shape their worldview. Blog coming soon.

5.       Offer better resources:

a.       13 Reasons Why is essentially a teaching resource. Everything they watch, hear, smell, taste, and feel is teaching them something. Offer better teaching opportunities. There are some good Christian movies related to suicide prevention, watch their music, and in a big way know what they are reading!! Books and T.V., are changing the landscape of teenage worldview.

6.       Play with them:

a.      Workout. Hike. Read. Listen to Music. Play instruments. Many teenage frustrations are alleviated by physical and relational activity. Including: stress, anxiety, depression, sexual acts, porn addiction…

7.       Encourage healthy relationships:

a.       This is your decision, but don’t make it without wise counsel! Healthy relationships are much better than hidden unhealthy relationships. Try to give your kiddo the opportunity to spend time with friends in safe environments.

8.       Remove pressures:

a.       Pushing your kiddo harder isn’t always bad, but it also isn’t always good. Understand their capacity, as each person is different. Consider these areas for determining pressures: classes, friendships, sports, arts, jobs, pleasing people (including parents), and others that are specific to your teen. I know many teens who feel pressured to look different, be funny, have ‘cooler’ friends, and have certain clothes/possessions. These pressures are real, regardless of their validity. The best way to change most of these is to change their worldview.

9.       Remove unhealthy societal influences:

a.       Music is meditation. What they hear often becomes what they believe. If you want your teen to believe rightly, help them to listen rightly. Don’t let your teen watch reality T.V. shows. They simply are not reality. Not only are they not the reality of those people’s actual lives, but they also aren’t ever going to be the reality of your teen (not exactly). It simply sets up false expectations and unrealistic expectations; because they aren’t real!! Are all of them bad? Well, no. So you can use your wisdom in differentiating these shows. Other societal influences: magazines, posters, books, social media apps.

10.   Become “mommy” or “daddy” again:

a.       Late nights and early mornings changing diapers, feeding, carrying, training, and loving a baby are hard. But, so is parenting a teenager. With a baby, you must feed them food, or they will die. With a teenager, you must feed them truth, love, grace, patience, kindness, respect, and wisdom or they will die. You are their mommy or daddy, and you can do this. They need you as much now as they did when they were 6 months old; don’t give up!!!

Extra tip: It is amazing how much food influences mood. Keep them away from sugars and unhealthy carbs. Promote good eating habits and healthy living. It seriously helps!! Science, psychology, and scripture approve of this thinking.

              The gospel message of Jesus Christ offers hope for those who feel like there is no hope. Our hurting world needs to hear about Jesus. If you are struggling with depression, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a local Church or if you are in the Dallas area, please call: 972-495-4818

Why Won’t My Teen Listen To Me? Batman vs. Superman Edition

Batman Vs. Superman is the story of two great Superheroes who find themselves protecting the same city. Batman doesn’t have the authority and success that Superman experiences, so he proceeds to become jealous and buy into the city’s fear that Superman might be an evil superhero. Then comes the fighting. Two great superheroes fighting for power and authority in a city that is falling apart. Does this sound like your home?

Teenagers are becoming adults, and they feel it. They feel the freedom to make decisions. They feel the urge to be off on their own. They think they know everything (as did I, just ask my Dad), and they think you are old and out of sync with reality. Yet, they do know a great deal. I mean, at least compared to what they knew 5-10 years ago, they feel like geniuses. They have grown taller and smarter, and they have been given more responsibilities. The only problem is, you stand in the way of their growth, at least that’s what they think. You are viewed as the one who is holding them back from doing what they want to do! “Mom won’t let me go to my friend’s house.” “Dad won’t let me watch an ‘R’ rated movie.” “Dad won’t let me wear a bralette and short shorts!!” Well duh, you are protecting them. And, because they are so wise and smart, they listen to you, right? No. Fight the urge to say, “if you are so wise and smart why do you do dumb things?” That won’t help them grow and make wise decisions.

These kids are old enough to feel the freedom and growth happening in their lives. To them, they are functionally adults. They actually think—I’m serious!—that they could survive on their own. But, in reality, they are growing young men and women who live with actual adults that they depend on.  That is a recipe for disaster just like Superman vs. Batman.

Flash back a couple centuries ago and it was normal for a ‘teenager’ to live independent of their parents, work ‘full-time,’ and be starting their own family. Those same age ‘teenagers’ who used to be parents, now still live with their parents. They want authority, but you have it. They want freedom, but you hold it. This is a primary reason why teenagers and their parents fight. It’s Superman vs. Batman, in the same house!! So what can we do about it?

Practical tips:

  1. Acknowledge their growth.
    • Your little babies aren’t babies anymore. You have to change how you view them. They will not “act like adults,” until you treat them like an adult. If you continually tell your teenager they are immature, they will start to believe it. Dads, if enough boys tell your daughter she is ugly and worthless, she will start to believe it. You must counteract the teenage boys. So maybe they aren’t as wise as you would hope right now. But, don’t fall into the trap of pointing out every mistake without acknowledge the great things they do. If you encourage how good they are at basketball or band, but don’t encourage their wise decisions, you might find yourself with an athlete or musician who is unwise. Boost them in the important areas.
  2. Help them understand that you aren’t holding them back, you are helping them move forward.
    • This is simply one of the hardest things to communicate to a teenager. They are unable to see that your wisdom is actually good for them. But, we suffer from the same fault as it relates to God. We often want to do our own thing instead of what God wants for us. So then, you should model a healthy relationship with God, where you submit to what He wants for your family, and your children will be more apt to follow suit and submit to your wisdom.
  3. Establish your authority.
    • Clearly outline areas where you are the authority figure. If you aren’t clear, they will push you. For instance, this process of justification will happen in your son’s mind, well dad said that I can’t take Lauren into my room, but he didn’t say we couldn’t go into John’s (the brother) room.
  4. Establish their authority.
    • Give them clear areas of leadership in the home and in their life. Why not? You are training them to lead well. Give them a private area to manage.
    • Potential Idea: Instead of forcing them to keep their room clean, let them own their room completely. That means if it is going to be clean they clean it, but it also means they can make it look however they want! That means if their laundry is going to be clean, they have to do it because they have authority.
    • Potential Idea: They get to decide what T.V. show to watch on certain nights/days. Other nights, it is your decision
    • Potential Idea: Let them play a bigger role in budgeting. But, don’t make them feel like they are a nuisance because they use your money. Show them your diligence to make great financial decisions, and how they fit within that. They will feel like they are a part of the effort to be smart financially. Always remember: Teenagers often need to be shown why they should do something. Telling them to do something is not effective because they have not bought into it.

Now, I can understand the question: well I am the authority, shouldn’t they listen to me? Well, yes, since you are the parent. But, that stance towards parenting can, if the right steps aren’t taken, develop teenagers who make bad choices once they don’t have parents telling them what to do (or if they can go around your back while you are around!) We aren’t simply developing followers, though they must follow well, we are developing the next generation of wise leaders in our world and the Kingdom of God. Teach them to obey by showing them why it is important to obey. Give them places of authority and leadership in your home, because they will have their own home very soon (hopefully!). Let them discover their own abilities as a leader and ‘adult.’ This does not mean they should be commanding you to do things, but instead it means giving them the opportunity to make decisions in certain areas. Try not to go against their decisions, but afterwards come back and debrief on the decisions they make.

The most important next step that I have to make daily, and that I want to challenge you with is this: Will we put aside what we want, and the things we want to say, in order to be the best at leading teenagers to become godly young men and women? If so, patience and humility will allow us to address situations how they NEED to be addressed instead of how we WANT to address them. Our teens need this, our world needs this, and the Kingdom of God deserves it. Fight for them!

Grace and peace, Matt.

 

Why won’t my teen listen to me!? Pt. 1

“Stop talking, or you will go to detention during lunch.” “Here’s your homework, do even problems only and show your work.” “Be on time to your sister’s recital on Friday, you need to wear nice clothes and fix your hair.” Let’s go, three miles, move, if you stop you will not start Tuesday, regardless if you are a senior or freshman.” These are the words that 21st-century teenagers hear every day. Regardless of how you feel towards the new generation of teenagers, this is their reality, and it is best we understand how to help them grow into godly young men and women rather than being frustrated with an unrealistic nostalgia for the old days when teens were better. These teens are my passion, and I have devoted half of my life to serving them in the local Church. These teens are remarkable, they are intelligent, insanely athletic, competitive, hungry to make the world better, and longing to be successful. I may be partial to them, but I truly want to help parents and mentors understand how to be more effective in their relationships with ‘turn of the century’ teens (those born around 2000’s).

After working with over a thousand students, I still have to fight the urge to say, “I told you so” every single day. Why won’t they just listen to us? Don’t they know we have their best interest at heart? Why is it so hard to speak into the life of a teenager and see lasting change?

One reason, and the point of today’s blog is that you are one voice among many who are telling them what to do, and how to do it. Even more, what you are saying is often not the same as what other adults who pour into them are saying. Think about your teenager, from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep they are surrounded by adults who are telling them what to do. Here are a few examples: teachers, lunch room staff (seriously though), Coaches, stop lights, speed limit signs (at least they listen to you more than these…), pastors, Any worker at any retail store or restaurant when the teenagers are not ‘acting their age,’ mentors, and finally, parents. But that does not happen to you. You are an adult. You still have some people who tell you what to do, but it is dramatically less than a teen. Your parents, typically, are allowing you to create your own family and make your own decisions. You do not have teachers, coaches, lunchroom staff, etc. For many parents, the role has actually switched. Instead of you being told what to do, you are now telling lots of people what to do.

It is estimated that adults make a minimum of 30,000 decisions a day, while kids make around 4000 decisions a day. Teenagers are in the transition and they need your help. Sometimes they do need you to tell them what to do, sometimes they need you to teach them how to make right decisions, and then sometimes they need you to let them fail. Your job is to balance these three responsibilities as it pertains to parenting and mentoring teenagers.

So, fight against the thought that you are the only one telling your teen what to do. Consider using a different approach to communicate the same necessary truth. Instead of telling your teen, “Go take out the trash,” say “Would you take the trash out for me?” or show them what happens if the trash does not get taken out. Let them see the ‘why’ of life. Let your teen ask questions, tons of them. Because, if you can communicate the why of a decision, you have trained them to make good decisions instead of simply making good decisions for them. Over time they will respect you for this and it will help develop a servant’s heart. There is a time and place for imperatives, of course, but when you can let it be their decision or let them see the ‘why’ of decisions, give them the opportunity to do so. If they do not listen well, it might just be because they have been told 1,263 different things to do today and made potentially 30,000 decisions!!!

Next steps:

      1. Ask your teenager if they feel overwhelmed with being told what to do. Often times laziness is simply the inability to react to all the new requests. It isn’t being lazy, it is feeling unable to handle all the decisions and demands they face each day. This leads to stress, feeling overwhelmed, and often depression. Seriously, I see it often, please don’t think it is not a big deal!
      2. Set up parameters that allow their brains to rest. T.V. does not rest your brain, nor do video games, music, and other electronics. You can do this by creating a time of protected rest for your family. No activities, no electronics. You are not too busy for this because this is why you are busy. Work hard to rest well.

I intend to follow up this blog with another thought on why it is hard for teens to listen to their parents and mentors. It will revolve around the idea that teenagers are aspirational adults but still functionally children. This is so important to understand when communicating with your teen.

10 Things Great Stu. Ministry Mentors Do

It is really hard to recruit leaders for Student Ministry. You are asking adults to hang out with teenagers. It is one thing if they are chaperoning a pizza party with lots of activities and a short Bible lesson that they do not have to lead, it is a completely different scenario if you are asking them to sit down weekly with a small group of teenagers whose emotions are all over the place, and mentor them. That is hard and time-consuming. You are putting your mentors in a very difficult role. So, what are some things that you should look for/train for in great Student Ministry leaders?

    1. Great SM mentors are consistent.
      • Students are longing for consistency in their life. They are often consumed with changing relationships, especially with friendships and dating. They have transitioned from one teacher to another since kindergarten, which creates a real potential for master manipulators. If they can just get by for an hour a day with the same teacher, they can move on to the next, testing the patience of each teacher. But, mentorships create relationships that are enduring, it diminishes their ability to manipulate and creates an environment where students can be real about their life.
    2. Great SM mentors are counter-cultural.
      • The tendency for SM leaders is to dress and act like students. DON’T. They don’t need mentors to be like them, we need students to be like mentors (If the mentors are like Christ)! Great mentors exegete their context and understand what is appropriate and will not distract from the attention of students. They don’t listen to their music to be cool, watch their movies to relate, and smoke cigars with them because they will relate better to the leader. We don’t want leaders to relate to them, we want students to relate to Jesus. Want students to be like Jesus, so we need leaders who can call students to be like them because they are like Christ. Remember that it is a mentors job to make disciples of Christ, not to become like teenagers in order to prevent them from making dumb moral decisions.
    3. Great SM mentors are available.
      • Set up parameters, but… Mentors must be available because students need help making great decisions. Students are impatient and quick to act. They will make a decision that could change their life without playing out the consequences. Of course, you cannot take the weight of their decisions on your shoulders, but you should make yourself available for critical decisions and rare situations. And yes, student ministry is busy. You know that but think about the advances in technology and access for students. At the click of a button, they can contact you 24/7. Many students are able to drive or get to your house via transportation. Even more, they often have access to where you are and what you are doing via social media platforms. Great mentors will take advantage of this. They will utilize social media for large group conversations, and restrict texting and phone calls to crucial conversations and intentional mentees. *If you feel overwhelmed with communication, train leaders and hand off mentees to other mentors. This way you can be available to students, with great parameters, and you aren’t abusing time with your family and God.*
    4. Great SM mentors are patient.
      • Students are flaky and often ‘speak the right way before they act the right way.’ It is easy to get frustrated with mentees if you are not patient with them. The majority of anger I have seen in SM leaders comes from a lack of patience with students. Their job is not to change students, that’s God’s job. They should be faithful to mentor well, and let God change a student’s heart in His timing.
    5. Great SM mentors are thick-skinned and soft-hearted.
      • Want to get beat up physically and emotionally? Get involved with Student Ministry. Train your mentors of students to brush off sarcasm and mean comments. The students are testing you to see if they can push your buttons and get you to engage in their humor. A good rule is to not get excited about their encouragement of discouragement. They don’t need the kids encouragement, they should seek encouragement from God, for we seek the applause of God and not man. Appreciate and admonish students to be encouragers, but do not become dependent upon their encouragement. Now, we don’t need hard-nosed mean leaders, so look also for the soft-hearted. They speak gently, with sincere compassion, while showing students that their heart is filled with a loving God who speaks with grace and truth.
    6. Great SM mentors are intentional.
      • You will not blindly lead students. They will call your bluff. If you do not know where you are leading them, you will lead them nowhere. Be intentional about everything you do with them. If you are going fishing with a group of young men, take the time to point towards biblical principles of being a man, or the story of Jesus calling fisherman to follow Him. Redeem every moment by being intentional. Now, intentionality is not the same thing as structure. You do not need to make your time with students super structured and rigid. Be flexible, but intentional.
    7. Great SM mentors are compassionate.
      • Ok, so a mentor does not think that the note Molly sent to Tyler about how he has a big nose is that big a deal, but guess what, it is to most teens. A mentors job is not to determine what is a “big deal” to them in the moment. Their job is to show compassion and give wisdom when the student is humble and ready to hear it. Over time it is important to change their worldview, but it is not the time to change their worldview when they have just gone through a breakup and the mentor does not think it’s important. Mentors value their feelings, and then at an appropriate time teach them a biblical worldview which enables the student to endure tougher things.
    8. Great SM mentors are pursuing God.
      • Mentors who aren’t pursuing God will burn out quicker than a candle in space. It is not the responsibility of a student to grow you spiritually, so make sure your leaders are being filled up with the Spirit of God and not by teenagers. Weariness is a symptom of something, make sure you diagnose it before it overtakes the mentor.
    9. Great SM mentors own the mission of the SM.
      • Mentors must see and own the mission of the SM. If they do not, the students will quickly stray from the biblical community and find a relationship with one leader as their sole growth. Owning the mission allows for mentees to see the transition as part of the plan versus an enemy to the plan. If you wonder why students struggle when their mentor leaves, it is because they are following a mentor only instead of engaging in the mission.
    10. Great SM mentors are great mentees.
      • The best way to train a mentor is by making them your mentee. Let them see what biblical mentorships look like. When mentors ask me how they can mentor students I always say, just do what I do with you. Mentoring is reproducible, or in the way of the Word, disciples make disciples. If your mentors aren’t being mentored, then they probably aren’t mentoring well. Invest in your leadership and your leadership will invest in students.

Great resources: Mentor by Chuck Lawless; Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden; The Complete Book of Discipleship by Bill Hull.

Not all leaders will have all of these qualities, and not all great qualities are listed! What are some of your thoughts?

My Experience Buying a Car and Trying to Honor the Lord

I live in Wylie Texas. The American hub for hail. As I am writing this I look outside at a storm predicting to bring baseball size hail and tornadoes. In the past month and a half we have experienced two hail storms, including one with larger than softball size hail, that have destroyed many homes and cars; both of my family’s cars were totaled in the second storm. With no vehicles to drive, two jobs, graduate school, and a 3 month old baby, I began searching for a vehicle for my wife and I. I am writing this because the Lord has been teaching me truth in the midst of purchasing a car! I love how He communicates to His people. Here are some steps that helped me come to find peace in the midst of the storm known as “Buying a Car.”

Step one: Be patient.

  • Suggestions:
    • Wise decisions often come from a patient lifestyle.
    • Be careful to not rush your decisions, lest you make an unwise one.
    • Dealers will rush and pressure you, but step away to clear your mind.
  • Our story:
    • The first dealer I visited made a deal that seemed too good to be true. But, instead of jumping at the deal, I left the dealership; I am so glad I did. Even after following all the steps listed, go home, pray, and talk with your spouse about the family decision.

Step two: Consult wise counsel for initial steps.

  • Suggestions:
    • Talk to people you trust.
    • Listen to their advice, and humble yourself/your desires.
  • Our story:
    • My father, father-in-law, and executive pastor are three men who intentionally pour into me. Why would I not consult them on: how much to spend, what to look for in a car for a growing family, and what specifications of the vehicle matter most. They have previously walked through these same situations personally, sometimes making mistakes but often making great decisions! I value their wisdom. Who can you seek for wisdom pertaining to buying a car?

Step three: Examine your needs

  • Suggestions:
    • Car? Van? SUV? Truck?
    • How many seats do you need?
    • Do you live in an area where you need 4wd/AWD, or does your lifestyle demand 4wd?
    • How many miles do you need it to be with you?
      • Use the reliability rankings to make a wise decision on how long the vehicle will last based on its miles.
      • Are there any major life changes you can foresee that will change your needs in a vehicle? i.e. location change, growing family, or job needs.
      • What is the lowest safety rating you are comfortable with buying? ***Every year model is different, use your resources to make sure you get great safety equipment on your vehicle.
    • How much money do you need to not spend? Do not let yourself spend too much money for the amount of years/miles you are willing to keep it!
      • A helpful way to look at it is to divide the cost by the amount of months you are going to keep the vehicle. I recommend keeping it under $200/month.
      • If you buy a $30,000 vehicle, then you would need to drive it about 12 years to get it near $200/month. If you buy a $20,000 vehicle then you need to drive it about 8 years. In other words, for every $10,000 you spend, keep the vehicle for 4 years.
  • Our Story
    • Our Highlander cost $11,000 and we will keep it for about 10 years(4-6 with Rachel, and 4-6 with me). A Highlander will last around 250,000-300,000 miles. It has 120,000. The average adult drives about 15,000 miles a year. So the Highlander will have about 270,000 miles when I am done with her!
    • Consider the “Cost to Own” information in your decision. For instance, you could buy a $2000 vehicle that breaks down so much that it actually becomes ineffective in relation to finances. If you have to spend a small amount, find a really ugly car with low miles. Or, see if you can buy a totaled vehicle for cheap that is still mechanically sound (my first vehicle was a totaled white 1995 Toyota Tacoma, I made $3,500 from restoring it back to health) But, you could also buy a $30,000 vehicle and only keep it for 8 years, and then it becomes ineffective in relation to finances (consider how much you might could sell it for after the years you own it too!). If you keep a $30,000 vehicle for 8 years, and then sell it for $8,000 then you will have spent $22,000 on the vehicle, which is still a tad too high per month ($229/month)!
    • Don’t forget gas mileage!! I bought my 2010 Ford Focus SE in 2012 for $12,000ttl. Since then I have saved $12,000 compared to the SUV I owned before the Focus. It literally paid for itself, and has started making me money (I haven’t replaced one part on the FOCUS)!!! If you find two vehicles that both meet your needs, and one has better gas mileage than the other, let that help you make a wise decision. At the end of the year, my per month cost will reach $200/month! But, GEICO gave me about $6,000 for the car. So, I have now only spent about $100/month for a vehicle.

Step four: Acknowledge your wants

  • Suggestions:
    • What color are you looking for, and is it a deal breaker?
    • What added options do you want, and is it a deal breaker?
      • i.e. CD Player, Sunroof, Bluetooth audio, Navigation, Leather… etc.
    • Don’t let your wants restrain you from being able to obtain your needs!
  • Our story:
    • When I began looking for vehicles my wife told me that she didn’t care what her vehicle looked like (she is so awesome). But, you should have seen her face the first time she saw the 2009 Equinox and 2008 Highlander. She thought they both looked so elegant. Although she knew she didn’t NEED a nice vehicle, she still wanted a nice vehicle. It is important to distinguish wants from needs and to be willing, if necessary, to submit wants if they will prevent your needs from being met.

Step five: Use great resources to find the vehicle/vehicles.

  • Here are a couple internet resources to utilize:
    • www.truecar.com
      • Honest pricing evaluations of cars at dealers near you, O, and free Carfax!!
    • www.autotrader.com
      • Vehicles near you at dealers and private parties.
    • www.craigslist.org
      • ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS, here are a few important ones to ask:
        • Are you a dealer (in Texas and other states you have to technically be a dealer if you sell more than 6 cars in the year)?
        • Do you have the title on hand and in your name?
        • Why are you selling the vehicle?
        • Are you okay with me taking it to my mechanic, because I am going to do that? And, will the mechanic find anything that you have not told me?
      • Always looks at the Carfax, or even better, look at the Autocheck.
    • http://www.autocheck.com/vehiclehistory/?siteID=0
      • Look at the history of the vehicle. If damage has been done to the body or structure of the vehicle, make sure that your insurance company will still cover it!
    • http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/
      • Find safety ratings, reliability reports, and a great ranking of vehicles in your price range.
    • http://nadaguides.com/
      • Find out what the car is worth that you are looking at. Also, consider www.kbb.com
    • http://www.dealerrater.com/?__v4=1
      • Look up the dealer you are using, and make sure they don’t have too awful of reviews.
      • Dealer tips:
        • On the initial call, ask if the vehicle has been serviced and is available to purchase today (if it has not been serviced, they may find an issue that prevents it from being sold, and occasionally it can take a while to get the parts to fix the vehicle; it has also not been cleaned and can’t be test driven typically.
        • Don’t give them your name, number, and email until you find out if it is ready (or they will continually contact you, they will ask for your info early on in the convo, typically saying “in case the call drops,” tell them if they call is dropped then you will call back. I realize this is so that they will make the commission for helping you, so be respectful of their time and remember their name in case you do actually move forward).
    • If you live in the Dallas area, I highly recommend Toyota of Rockwall. If you want to work with the same guy I did, I will give you his contact.

Step six: Seek God, and reveal your heart’s desires

  • Suggestions:
    • This step should really be able to sort out needs and wants.
    • Ask God to reveal your heart. Are you desiring a vehicle for your own status/pride? Or, are you seeking a vehicle for the glory of God/to accomplish His will for your life? Buy a vehicle to do what God has called you to do.
    • Remember, if the lives of millions are at stake, then these financial decisions matter.
  • Our story:
    • So, as my search for my wife’s car came to a close, we had two vehicles she really liked and met our needs. They were a 2009 Chevrolet Equinox and a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The Highlander was not as luxurious as the Equinox in order to accommodate our price range (Toyota is more expensive than Chevy). The Highlander had better safety ratings, but the stats were similar on durability. So, did we want the safer Highlander, or the more luxurious Equinox? We went with the Highlander for the sake of our future.

Step seven: Make a wise decision

  • Suggestions:
    • Gather all of your information together and revisit your “wise counsel.”
    • Discuss the decision with your spouse, and come to a place where you feel at peace together with your decision.
    • Seek the Lord in prayer, biblical meditation, and honest self-evaluation.
    • I would encourage you to look at what vehicle brings glory to God in your finances, provides a safe and reliable vehicle for your family, and fulfills your life transportation needs.
  • Here is our story:
    • GEICO gave me money for both my vehicles, but I decided to buy them back from GEICO “as-is.” I retained mine for $900, and my wife’s for $1000. We used these vehicles as our rental cars until we could find the right vehicles (enabling patience). We fixed the windows on both vehicles and I sold my wife’s car, making a $1000 profit and also providing someone with an inexpensive vehicle that will hopefully meet their needs (I was very honest with its problems on Craigslist). I am keeping my Ford Focus ($900). It has great fuel efficiency, good enough safety ratings for myself, and will last a solid 100,000 more miles without a major mechanical problem (yes, it looks bad, but that is not a NEED of mine). This allowed me to spend $11,000 on my wife’s vehicle. So, I took the money that GEICO gave me in a total loss settlement, added in the profit from selling my wife’s car, and found a vehicle under that total, that met our needs. The 2009 Toyota has a 9.7 safety rating and a 5 star reliability rating (I don’t need the other stats listed on USNEWS, but they factor into wants). We debated on the third row, but decided that we would buy a 3rd row vehicle after we adopt our third child and estimated that we would do that in about 5-6 years. We also decided that in Dallas there is virtually no need for a 4wd vehicle. Therefore we went with the 2wd version so that we could focus on reliability and safety.

 

So, why stay under $200/month? Why give up certain “wants?” There is a generation of believers who will be so surrounded by the “American Dream”and it will be near impossible to see the true gospel in the midst of the temptation to prosper at the cost of others. We must reject this lifestyle. We must reject passivity. We must do something about the urge to get what we want by sinking into debt. We must show the next generation that it is possible to give excessively instead of giving out of our excess. What if a car buying experience could actually be a gospel presentation? What if you pictured self-control, patience, and simplicity to your children and those you mentor by the way that you spend money on your vehicles? What if you denied your desires in order to meet other’s needs? This isn’t about you not getting what you want, this is about others getting what they need. This is about the gospel. We need to stand out in the midst of a consumer driven generation.

 

 

 

preaching wrath and the gospel

It seems to be quite contradictory to present the wrath of God while proclaiming the good news that God has brought His reign into the world through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is, in western Christianity, far too popular to exclude God’s wrath for the sake of bolstering His love. Even prominent preachers proclaim the truth of God’s grace while altogether forsaking the reality of God’s wrath. The reality is that, God’s grace towards humanity is found in His willingness to bring about all His wrath upon His son Jesus instead of us so that we might become His sons.

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I began engaging this concept in my undergraduate at Ouachita Baptist University when I was studying the Psalms. Particularly the fifth chapter where it reads, “The boastful cannot stand in Your presence; You hate all evildoers.” (Psalm 5:5, HCSB) I had been taught my whole life that God loved everyone. Nonetheless, I had been raised conservative, and knew that the whole Bible was to be taken as truth. To me, either the Bible was wrong, or God loved His children and hated those who weren’t His children. This journey has lead me to a question I have been asked continually by members at every church I have served. The question goes something like this, “Why does God kill people in the Old Testament, but the New Testament says that He loves the whole world?” (ex. Deuteronomy 8:20) or “How can God say, ‘kill all the women and children in whole cities?'” (ex. 1 Samuel 15:3)

Wrath does not thwart love, it reveals it. “Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7, HCSB)

Consider this: How can we know God’s love without seeing His wrath? You cannot understand how much someone loves you unless you know how much someone can ‘not love you,’ or have no amount of care for you at all. Those who study the mind call this a “baseline.” What is the “baseline” of God’s love if he never reveals His wrath? What if after centuries of God destroying nations, wiping people off the planet, and eliminating the evil from the world, God chose to take out all His wrath on one man? Why doesn’t God still destroy entire nations? Because He took His wrath out on Jesus. Why doesn’t God still kill humans when they disobey Him? Because He took His wrath out on Jesus. The next time you think about how God could destroy entire nations because of their evil, remember that He killed His own Son because of your evil. What sounds more radical to you? The fact that God destroyed entire cities, including women and children, because of their evil, or that God sent His own Son to die on a cross for your own evil. We need to be a generation that feels the entire weight of God’s wrath coming down upon His Son. If you can see all of God’s wrath so clearly displayed in the brutal beating and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, then you can catch a glimpse of how much God truly loves you. Since the fall, God has been working in the world to save you. That is love. God has taken His wrath out on sinful humanity, but protected you. That is love. God has taken His wrath out on Jesus, instead of you. That is love. God has loved the world in this way, that He sent His son to die for you. God can love the world, and be patient with them to turn to Him, but still take out His wrath on those in the world whom do not turn to him.

“And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction? And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory — on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:22–24, HCSB)

If you want to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, you must preach the wrath of God towards unrepentant sinners. For good news exists because of bad news. Love sent wrath so that wrath could reveal love. Your people need to hear about the depth of God’s wrath towards humanity before they can understand the unmeasurable amount of God’s love for His people.