Consider that this season brings an opportunity to remember just how much we have in common with those “common” folks Christ spent His life and ministry with. He walked and talked with an unlikely group to show that His ultimate sacrifice and message of grace was for “all people.”
Saturday, December 7, 2013
On Wednesday night I shared with your students about the “insignificant” community of people who were a part of the birth of Christ. Simple people without much money, poor actually. Dirty shepherds who were known for not being very trustworthy. It really was a hodgepodge of humanity into which Christ was birthed.
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
Saturday, November 2, 2013
I've had the opportunity to overhear (not eavesdrop) on a few conversations lately regarding bullying. Without unpacking all of the minutia of those discussions, the long and short of it from folks in my generation, and those ahead of mine, seems to be somewhat disconnected from the current narrative coming from those in education or working with children and/or students on a regular basis.
The typical statements include, "We had bullies at my school, but we never had to have a program to tell us how to deal with it." Or, "I don't understand why we have to keep hearing about this all the time. Kids are kids - bullying is a part of growing up."
I want to offer just a few counter points to these views to help bridge the gaps for those who, like me at one time, have a difficult time grasping what's "new" with bullying.
1 - We are right in the middle of the "trophy" generation.
The Millennials, or Generation Y, have been told since birth that they are exceptional. Every team member gets a trophy in sports. The lines between those who excel at something and those who do not are increasingly blurred. I'm not saying that's necessarily wrong; it just can't be ignored that this generation is being told they can do anything and that they will be great at it. When bullies confront - their message is quite the contrary.
2 - We celebrate the smallest achievement yet we value life, itself, less.
I don't want to be political AT ALL - that's not the driver here. But the fact is we have lessened the value of life in the past generation more than ever before. The voice of the unborn has been completely lost to the point that terminating an unborn life seems an acceptable/alternative contraceptive. The relativism permeating our theological views suggests that there is no morality, a view that leads to no "wrong or right" which, ultimately, means you can do whatever you want. If I value life that's fine for me; if you do not that's fine for you. It violates the overarching moral law that lives in us that tells us, deep down, that there is such thing as right and wrong. Life is of the utmost value. We just do not treat it as such.
3 - Playground fights have been replaced by weapons and blanket judgment.
Back in the day when a couple of kids had an argument it was often settled in a fight during school on the playground or in the bathroom...or right after school in the parking lot. Today more students are bringing weapons to school and when pushed to their breaking point, they lash out at a group rather than an individual. Again, I would revisit the fact that life has become less valuable - to the extent that when students are troubled they do not value the life of the one causing their pain more than the need to equalize (in their minds) the pain they have felt with retribution in the highest form imaginable to them.
4 - The issue is, seldom, the issue
I can't deny that I agree with some of statements I have heard about bullying because it has, truly, happened to all of us in some form. I remember all to well the young man I most feared, and hated, during and well after high school. It was nearly two decades after my high school graduation, though, that I learned what this young man's childhood was like. He lacked the caring family that I had and, in fact, lived in an abusive environment that I could not possibly relate to. The pain driving him, and those like him today, was very real and inescapable. My hatred for him has turned to compassion and forgiveness...a posture I'm certain Christ would have had me adopt a lifetime ago for this troubled soul. Sure, it's not just an abusive home that leads to bullying. But you can bet that the pain that is the source of the rage in bullies does not completely rest in their bullying target(s).
5 - Social media makes bullying available 24/7
When my generation struggled with bullying, at least we had a few hours of peace when we were away from school. Today, students are so connected digitally that the bullying they experience is not limited to school hours or those who are present to witness their humiliation. Cell phones are at the ready to record every dehumanizing action and the slurs that accompany the Twitter, Vine, YouTube, and Facebook videos are willing to keep the verbal and written punches flying around the clock.
This is far from an exhaustive list on the nature of bullying and conveys my opinion on the matter - not facts I've gleaned from years of training on the subject. My hope, though, is that parents and grandparents of this generation can get a glimpse of how the choices we have made on behalf of the future (the Millennials) have made a contribution to what we are experiencing with bullying. Bullying today is not what it was in my generation - it's worse. And my generation helped, albeit unintentionally, to make it that way.
If there's anything I can pray about for you or your family - please let me know. Also, if your child is struggling with bullying please check out the Stop Bullying Website and seek out a meeting with your school counselor.
Friday, September 27, 2013
For the past two weeks on Wednesday nights I have been having a conversation with your students about "Why I Am Not An Atheist." Our discussion began last week by looking at truth - can two opposing statements about faith be true at the same time? What are the implications if the answer is no? This past week we took a look the Cosmological argument and the Teleological argument...reviewing facts about the universe that point to design.
Although there are a few differing beliefs represented in the room, we have not had unmanageable conflict arise as a result of discussing these different beliefs. In fact, we are fostering an environment where dialogue is encouraged about areas in which we disagree. Our intent is to get students thinking critically about their faith and the "why's" behind their belief systems.
Don't forget that next week we will be heading to New Orleans for our fall mission trip. Please be praying for our safety as we travel and that we would well represent Christ to our friends in the New Orleans area.
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Hi Highs School Parents!
Last night we had a communion service in our high school area. Small group leaders knelt before their students and washed their hands, served the bread and cup to their students, and finished the night by worshiping together.
This coming Sunday we will be talking about how the holiness of God undergirds all of His other attributes. His holiness forms the basis for His righteous character, His commitment to justice, and His jealous love for His people. God's love for us is the motivating force for our joining Him in His mission of seeking and saving the lost.
Don't forget that girls groups are meeting on Sunday nights at Jimmy and Faith Whatley's house. Guys groups begin this coming Sunday night at 6:00 PM with our Fantasy Football draft, pizza, and group study/discussion. We will meet at the church in the Student Life Center (Annex 2).
Please let me know if there's anything I can pray about for you or your family.
Friday, July 19, 2013
The Body Of Christ
God in His infinite wisdom has given all of us unique gifts. Sometimes that's frustrating because we can't understand why God didn't gift others with the same things He gave to us…we don't "get" how those "other" people aren't wired the way we are. We struggle to make sense of why they aren't like "us."
That is until you get to witness what I saw this week: ALL of God's unique gifts for individuals coming together to form the Body of Christ for the sake of bringing Him glory and making Him famous.
What I watched unfold at our New Orleans mission trip this week is nothing short of amazing. Each individual brought a significant contribution to make KidzDays in the Parish work like a well-oiled machine. If we had all come down here with the same talent - we would have experienced HUGE gaps in what God wanted us to accomplish. What we experienced, though, was a diverse set of gifting, talents and calling that contributed to the transforming power of Jesus Christ being conveyed through sport, dance, song, proclamation, and example.
The more organized among our group found a home in registration and bringing order to what could have easily been chaos. Those who are dreamers found a place to share ideas and make a contribution to the larger scope of our mission. Those who are preachers and teachers were able to share and communicate God's Truth. Those who are encouragers had countless opportunities to uplift and encourage those who were participating in our camp this week. And the list goes on.
It's humbling to see God at work in such a powerful way. We are the Body of Christ. We need all of our parts to work!
Remember these important dates:
Illuminate - Both services on August 4
Back To School Bash - Wednesday, August 7
Friday, June 7, 2013
A lot of times I get into a rhythm at work or other places that gets me out of a rhythm at home. Of all the resources our New Generations Team prays over, produces, and suggests for families - taking our own advice is difficult at times. We sit right where you do, as parents, trying to lead godly lives and be godly parents.
This week I did something that I should do much more often; I took time to stop and smell the roses. Well, in this case - it was actually taking time to stop and look at the water, rocks, and trees of Burgess Falls. I took time off from work to go with my family to a state park (free!) and just enjoy them. We prayed for safety. We thanked God for His creation. And we were "just" together. We were His family, in His creation, on His time. It was amazing!! One bonus to the state park - really, REALLY bad cell service!! Yay!!
We did all of this because I took time to be a dad. Kelley took time to be a mom. And Carver had both of his parents undivided attention. We took time to be a family. That wouldn't have happened if any of us had decided to do something else or be somewhere else.
Take some time this week to focus on your family in a godly way. Men - it's easy for us to get distracted...trust me - I'm the poster child of distraction! But give it a shot and unplug to just be together with your family. Honor them. Treasure them. Pray for them. Love them. Stop and smell the roses - it's not girlie!
Friday, May 3, 2013
This past Wednesday night we completed our 4 week focus on Morality. We took a look at an Old Testament text, Genesis 39:1-10, where Joseph had found favor in his Egyptian master's (Potiphar) house. This was all well and good until Potiphar's wife became attracted to Joseph. She cornered him and asked him to sleep with her. We can learn a lot from Joseph's response to this opportunity to please himself and his reasoning for not engaging her.
Joseph told her that Potiphar had entrusted him with everything…that no one in Potiphar's house was greater than he. In fact, the ONLY thing withheld from Joseph was the master's wife. Joseph told her that she should not ask him to do such a wicked thing…that it would be a sin against - are you ready for it… God!
Joseph builds his case with the master's wife by stating all that he has been given and entrusted in Potiphar's house. The next logical statement would be that he would not want to sin against this earthly master who had so blessed and trusted him. But that wasn't the case at all; Joseph did not want to sin against God.
I shared with your students that we tend to get the object of our sin wrong. We think about how it affects other people we care about or how it affects us when, actually, we should focus on the fact that the One we are sinning against is the One who has pre-wired within us to know what sin is in the first place. Since God has already predefined what is sacred to Him - THAT is the measure we are to use to guide our actions.
I attempted to make the point more clearly by attaching it to a figure in history - Hitler. Consider the heinous nature of all of the killing that happened under Hitler. It would be easy for us to look at his actions and judge Hitler by labeling his sin as having happened "to" the Jews. That assessment of his actions, however, would be incomplete. The subject of Hitler's wrath (Jews and other ethnicities) did not give human life value - God did. We have worth and value for one reason - God has given it to us.
So when we look at Hitler's actions, we are certainly distracted by the cruelty of it against humanity; our hearts ache for the over 6 million people who were annihilated by him. Yet his sin was not against them - Hitler's sin was that he violated 6 MILLION TIMES what God considered to be sacred. He violated what God considered to be sacred 6 MILLION TIMES! That is what made the killing "morally" wrong - that the "Moral Law Giver" had declared it to be wrong. And that declaration comes from His very being…from His character…from who He is.
I suggested to your students that we should consider this when faced with moral decisions. Every action or reaction has with it a consequence - sometimes good and sometimes bad. But if we look at our actions with the mindset of consequences to us or others, our view is, at best, incomplete. We have to consider that our actions, when in violation of what we know to be morally right, are violations against what God has declared to be sacred. After all, He is the "Who" behind our internal moral compass.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Hello HS Parents!
This past Wednesday night we finished up the third week of Morality. We focused on "war" and how we reconcile with our morals/values the horrible things that happen as a result of war. We also talked about the issue of evil and that if God created everything - did He create evil? I would be interested in hearing how your students convey the topics of our discussion that night.
This coming Sunday we will be looking at "The Power of the Kingdom." We are going to look at the miracles of Jesus and how, through signs and wonders, He demonstrated the truth of HIs proclamation that the Kingdom of God was coming through His ministry.
Now - if you have been reared in a hard-core, "old school" Baptist church (as I was), you probably have a little bit of an issue with this. You might think that God doesn't work that way anymore. You might even believe that not all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are, or should be, present in the "modern day" church. You won't find me attempting to sort that out in the context of this email. I will, however, let you in on how I will be teaching these Truths this coming Sunday.
I believe that the practices and tenets of our faith found in the New Testament are still alive and active. I believe that God still performs miracles and that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are present in His Church today. Having said that, I would also confess that I have not experienced all of them. So I can believe in tongues without having never spoken in them. I can believe in miracles having never been healed of a horrible illness.
What I'm suggesting is that we have absolutely nothing to fear from what we read in the pages of God's Word. I will be teaching students that God is still all powerful to work as He did then. Our struggle is getting past our own "stuff." We have to get past physical (the things we have), mental (what we "know" to be based on our experience), and spiritual (are we putting ourselves in places where God can speak to us as He would wish). That's where we'll be going this coming Sunday. I hope your teenager can make it to participate.
Friday, March 22, 2013
Hey HS Parents
Our mission trip to New Orleans last week was INCREDIBLE!! Our students painted the exterior of a home in Orleans parish, built a gazebo for Chalmette Elementary School, roofed a gazebo we built at Joe Davies Elementary last year that had been damaged in Hurricane Isaac, painted and pulled carpet for our host church (Metairie Baptist), gutted a home in Plaquemines parish, and led team building/character building games in St. Bernard Parish Elementary Schools. It was a PACKED week!
I want you to know that your students, as always, were amazing. They jumped in selflessly to complete each mission as unto the Lord. In the evenings we were able to unpack their experiences and hear their stories of ministry to children and families. As alway, it is so humbling to watch God work in and through them.
This past Wednesday night we were blessed to have middles schoolers in our high school meeting since Robert and the rest of the MS Ministry were in Rogersville. We talked about the power of words and that there is no such thing as neutral speech. All of our words, no matter how insignificant we may think they are, have some kind of impact. We closed the night with Psalm 19:14, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Please let me know if there is something I can pray about for you or your family.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Hello HS Parents!
Well…spring break starts TOMORROW for most of your students. That means a large portion of them (about 80 or so) are heading south tomorrow for sunny New Orleans! We'll be working in the St. Bernard Parish school system as well as working on homes in Orleans Parish.
Be praying for our trip and for what God will do in the lives of students while we are away. Those who are not able to go this time will meet for Sunday groups in Annex 2 with Dillon Shaw. On Wednesday night they will meet with the middle school students in the District.
Don't forget about our Easter services coming up on March 30 and 31. If you or someone you know has made a profession of faith and is interested in being baptized in one of our four Easter weekend services please contact us at email@example.com.
Let me know if there's anything I can pray about for you or your family.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Hello HS Parents!
This past Wednesday night we entered our second week on "Purpose/Meaning" in our ASK series. Our focus was on all of the beauty around us and how we tend to just walk past it. We also discussed how God's definition of beauty and our definition of beauty is very different.
For example, let's say you walk into a restaurant and sit down to a meal. When the waitress brings it to you, you might notice how delicious the meal looks (beautiful sight), how the aroma of the food makes your mouth water (beauty through smell), or even how good it tastes when you take the first bite (beauty through taste). You've done a great job of noticing the meal, but God has not. The beauty He is focusing on is the one who served it.
Here's a challenge for us - the next time you're in a restaurant and your meal is served…look past your need for steak sauce and ketchup and into the heart of the person who brings your food. Notice the beauty that God created in him or her and know that if both of you are standing before Him, you are EQUALLY beautiful to Him!
Don't forget to be praying for our mission trip to New Orleans. We will be leaving next Saturday at 7:00 AM. Please let me know if there's anything I can pray about for you or your family.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Hello HS Parents
Tomorrow will mark the halfway point for the new content we've been discussing in our Sunday Bible study groups. We will be 7 weeks into "The Gospel Project" and have 6 more to go. We started in Genesis and have been moving our way through the Old Testament.
The subtle teaching here (behind the obvious Old Testament content/foundations) is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is found throughout the entire canon of Scripture. Much of our teaching is typically focused on New Testament passages that reveal the life of Jesus or the teachings that follow His resurrection. What we find in the Old Testament, though, is that there is a constant thread pointing to the Messiah - it is all, truly, about the Christ.
Tomorrow we will be looking at this more directly and talking about Jesus as a faithful Son. We will be jumping ahead, a bit, and looking at prophesies that He fulfilled and the way He fulfilled His calling/purpose. This teaching lines up perfectly with what we're covering for the next few Wednesday nights as well: "Purpose…Why Am I Here?"
Please let me know if there's anything I can pray about for you or your family.
February 24, ManUp at Floyd Center
March 9 - 16, Mission Trip to New Orleans
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Hello HS Parents!
This past Wednesday night your students completed the fourth and final week of "Origin" from the Ravi Zacharias "ASK?" study. The study focuses on Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destiny. Next week we will have a night of worship and communion together; we will begin the first week of "Meaning" a week from Wednesday night.
Tomorrow we continue into week 5 of The Gospel Project and will be focusing on God's laws. Naturally, this will plant us firmly in the book of Exodus. We will be looking at this from the standpoint of the freedom God's law provides - not the captivity that many believe His law place us in.
Lastly, Cynthia Hopkins is a freelance writer and speaker who lives in Texas; she is a gifted communicator and a friend. I've had the privilege of writing with her on some projects with LifeWay. She has recently written a three week series on her blog about social media. Below is the link to Part 3; it is a MUST READ for all parents. I think you'll find that reading Parts 1 and 2 will be a must for you as well.
I hope you've had a great week. Let me know if there's anything I can pray about for you or your family.
Girls of Grace - February 23
Man Up Event - February 24
Spring Mission Trip to NOLA - March 9-16
Spring Retreat to Gatlinburg - April 19-21
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Hello HS Parents!
This past Wednesday we finished week two of our study on the Origin of Man. This week we focused on "Reason and Order." We watched some video from mathematician John Lennox who is well respected in the scientific community AND a devout Christian and apologist. Be sure to ask your students their thoughts on his comments.
Tomorrow in our Bible study time we will be on our fourth week in The Gospel Project. We will still be in Genesis and discussing our trust in God's Word. It seems that instead of trusting it, we tend to question it, belittle it, and disobey it. Your high school student will be challenged in these areas and their responses to God's Word in their lives.
Don't forget that tomorrow is the deadline to register for Winter Jam which takes place next Saturday night. If your student has not yet registered for the Spring Mission Trip to New Orleans, please have them fill out a card tomorrow.
Let me know if I can pray about anything for you or your family.
Friday, January 25, 2013
Hello HS Parents!
We are in our second week of looking at Genesis on Sunday mornings (keeping with the church wide Bible reading plan), and the Origin of Man on Wednesday nights. The material is proving to be challenging for some and frustrating for others.
This past Wednesday proved to be the most challenging yet. We discussed cause and effect and the fact that our universe is pointing back to a cause of our Almighty Creator. We focused on three little words in Genesis that cover a LOT of supernatural happenings: "And God said." These three little words throughout creation have such power. Think about this - when God spoke in Genesis, some things had not yet been created. Things like air, breath, vocal chords - yet God "spoke" these things and "said" words that had power ONLY because HE is the One Who said them.
This coming Sunday we are going to be talking about Scripture and the fact that it is inspired by God, reveals His expectations, and glorifies Christ. Some of the questions we'll be asking are:
1 - In what ways might Christians be tempted to supplement the Bible's authority with something else?
2 - Do you agree with the statement that, "In all God does, His first aim is to glorify Himself."
3 - What part of your life is working counter to God's intentions?
PRAYER AND FASTING RETREAT
We have 12 students who are joining us for our Prayer and Fasting Retreat tonight and tomorrow. If you would like to join us in the fast (at your home or wherever you may be), we will be fasting for the entire day on Saturday.
OTHER UPCOMING EVENTS
WINTER JAM - February 9th. Register by February 3rd. Cost: $10
GIRLS OF GRACE - February 23rd. Cost is $50. Cost after February 3rd is $65
MAN UP EVENT AT FLOYD CENTER - February 24th. Cost is $10
SPRING MISSION TRIP TO NEW ORLEANS - March 9 - 16, Cost is $175 and covers transportation, lodging, and food.
Let me know if there's anything I can pray about for your family.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Hello HS Parents!
This past Wednesday we had our first "official" Wednesday night meeting of 2013. I challenged your students to take a close look at their walk with Christ and ask themselves if they are at the same place spiritually as they were last year or the year before that. We looked at 1 John 1:5-10 and discussed that Christians should "look" like Christians and that our encounter with Christ should be pushing us to be more like Him. I shared some radical transformation stories with them from some former students. Then we received communion together.
Next Wednesday we will begin a study that will focus on our worldview. All questions of faith and philosophy can be boiled down to four categories: Origin, Meaning, Morality, & Destiny. We are going to walk through all four of these for the next several months and inject into your students' worldview the biblical response to them. This will happen on Wednesday nights in Annex 2.
On Sundays we are beginning a new study that is different from what we've done in years past. It's not a biblical look at topics that teens might encounter. Rather - it's a Bible study. Every week, in every passage, your students will encounter the gospel through the in-depth study of biblical theology, apologetics, missions, and the grand narrative of Scripture. For those of you who have students telling you that they want to go deeper in God's Word - this is it. We will be on this journey for the next several months as well.
Please let me know if there is anything I can pray about for you or your family.