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Reaching A Generation For Christ #2, November 29, 2020: Putting Youth Ministry in Perspective

As I indicated in the introductory article to this new series, “Reaching a Generation for Christ,” I am planning to publish a new article the 4th Saturday of every month. As I struggled with the content for this series, I did not make my own deadline and missed the October issue. The series will be loosely based upon the book of the same title, edited by Richard R. Dunn and Mark H. Senter III and published and copyrighted in 1997 by Moody Press. We will examine some of the thoughts and ideas presented in this book, compare them with Scripture and try to draw some applications. The articles will be written primarily by me, with perhaps a guest article periodically. I would appreciate your comments and feedback on the articles, and if you think they contain beneficial content, please share the posts with others.

Richard R. Dunn begins the first chapter in the book with a story describing the experience of Steve, the first youth pastor at Easton Community Church which is also Steve’s first assignment. “In the candidating process Steve had felt quite confident of his readiness for youth ministry. Now, on the occasion of his first day as a youth pastor, several questions are beginning to threaten that self-assurance. These questions include: How can I ever meet the needs of students from such diverse and social backgrounds? How can I build maturity into the lives of the twenty junior high and fifteen high school students who attend youth Sunday school? How can I build bridges to the other five thousand students who attend schools within five miles of the church? What changes should I be making right away?” (p. 26).

Mr. Dunn says that everyone in youth ministry has a perspective that is “based upon their past church, ministry, educational, and personal spiritual experiences” and that they have a “preconceived set of ideas about what is important in terms of values and practices in youth ministry.” He also suggests that, because no one has perfect 20/20 vision, as it relates to youth ministry, there is the opportunity to bring that perspective into clearer focus. He further suggests a process through which this refocusing can be accomplished, that includes the following three frameworks:

Theological Framework: A “God-View”

Dunn describes this framework as one’s understanding of “the way God sees.” He says, “Based upon biblical knowledge and theological reasoning each person has a perception of who God is and how He views the created world, including people and relationships” (p. 29). He then describes six benefits of this framework:

1. “It provides the basic rationale for youth ministry….

2. “It guides the ministry Godward….

3. “It guides the ministry into the faith community….

4. “It critiques ministry practices….

5. “It determines the context and shapes the delivery of the teaching….

6. “It provides ministry motivation and challenge for service….” (pp. 29-33)

Developmental Framework: A “Youth-View”

The second framework, Dunn labels developmental and defines as one’s “understanding of the way the world is experienced in the life stage of adolescence: ‘the way youth see.” He says, “’How do students experience and make sense of their world?’ is the central question to be answered” (p. 34). He then describes four reasons that this framework is important:

1. “It overcomes inaccurate stereotypes….

2. “It informs theological understanding of spiritual maturity….

3. “It provides tangible “touch points” for intangible spiritual ministry….

4. “It shapes the discernment of outcomes and process of assessment….” (pp. 36-38)

Sociological Framework: An “Inside-View”

The third framework, Dunn labels sociological and defines as how the teenager’s environment shapes their perspective into a worldview. He says, “The socio-cultural framework is formed by the youth leader’s understanding of (a) the student’s views of social roles, networks, groups, and interpersonal affiliations and (b) the student’s relationship to cultural symbols, myths, rituals, belief systems, and worldviews” (p. 39). He then describes six reasons that this framework is important:

1. “It bridges generational assumptions….

2. “It bridges cultural assumptions….

3. “It informs a holistic understanding of an individual’s personal and spiritual development….

4. “It provides a framework for exegeting behavior….

5. “It critiques the relevance of practices for a moment in time….

6. “It identifies, in concert with the developmental lens, tangible “touch points” for incarnational ministry among youth….” (pp. 40-43)

After presenting these frameworks, Dunn draws some conclusions, which I have summarized with the following four quotes:

1. “Developing one’s ministry perspective is a long-term process of focusing theological, developmental, and sociological lenses (see Getz 1988 for a similar development).”

2.  A youth minister assignment will serve as “a catalyst for intentionally broadening and sharpening his particular understanding of the nature and practice of youth ministry.”

3. “Ultimately, it will be his daily commitment to listen to students, to seek wisdom in God’s Word, to pray with and for the students, to reflect upon successes and failures, and to submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit that will help him form an increasingly mature ministry perspective.”

4. “Steve came to Easton to make a difference by ministering the gospel to students in the community. Little did he know that the ministry of the gospel in that community would make such a difference in him.”

How Does the Teaching of This Chapter Compare with Scripture?

I am afraid that many who believe strongly in “youth ministry” will not appreciate what I am about to say, but say it I must. As you study the subject of Bible Authority, you understand that there are three ways to establish the truth on any topic. Those three ways are: 1) direct command, 2) approved apostolic example, and 3) necessary inference. As you apply those to “youth ministry,” you find no authority for a separate program labeled such to exist within the local church. Now, if you want to form an organization separate from the church that seeks to guide young people, that is perfectly fine. I have personally been associated with various works of this kind.

Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL operates the Florida College Summer Camp program with camps scattered throughout the country. I have been a counselor at one of those camps. Those camps endeavor “to provide future generations with a glimpse of the Florida College experience, full of opportunities to grow spiritually, make memories and build lifelong relationships. With more than 20 camps across the country, volunteers with a passion for the mission of Florida College make it their aim to provide what many campers call the best week of the year” (https://www.floridacollege.edu/about-fc/summer-camps/).

Another program that I have personal experience with is The Heart of a Champion Character Development Program. The stated mission of that organization is “to transform culture by providing the necessary resources to educate, motivate and empower students, teachers, families and groups in core principles essential to lifetime personal development and maximized performance.” This program is conducted within the framework of a High School or Junior High School. In describing the program’s approach, they say, “Heart of a Champion teaches students about character using a program that consistently reinforces positive character traits by giving examples of persons with high character. These stories are told through quality print and video stories that engage all students. Our program focuses on nine core character traits – Commitment, Leadership, Perseverance, Teamwork, Respect, Integrity, Responsibility, Self-Control and Compassion. Each month students learn about a different trait that is broken down into four weekly lessons. Each lesson involves one video story, one print story, one group activity, and group discussion questions” (https://www.heartofachampion.org/aboutus.html).

A third program that I have personal experience with is YouthFriends. I served as a mentor to two young men while living in the Kansas City area. Youth Friends described its work, “YouthFriends volunteers are caring adult role models from the community who volunteer with young people in schools, grades K-12. The goal is to help students achieve success, both academically and socially. A child is matched up with a YouthFriends Mentor through his/her school district. YouthFriends will meet for one hour, once a week, either one-on-one or in a small group.” I was saddened to learn, as I prepared this article, that YouthFriends shut down on May 31, 2013. An article by Joe Robertson that appeared in the April 10, 2013 Kansas City Star, described their difficulties, “After 18 years and some 300,000 students served, YouthFriends is calling it quits. The nonprofit agency recruited and screened thousands of adult volunteers for more than two dozen area school districts, sending them into lunchrooms and classrooms to spend time one-to-one mentoring a youth friend. But signs of financial strain had been mounting, as the agency this year required participating school districts to begin bearing some of the program’s costs. This week, the agency notified the districts that the service would end by May 31” (https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article317512/YouthFriends-school-volunteer-program-shutting-down.html).

Kert Wetzig gives a good history of the development of youth ministry in his 3 part series titled “A PERSPECTIVE FOR YOUTH MINISTRY” at http://www.gracebiblestudies.org/resources/web/www.duluthbible.org/g_f_j/2000GFJ.htm. But a significant note is this statement in part 1, “It is interesting to note that there is no historical precedence for youth ministry. As you read through the annals of church history, you do not find any mention of youth ministries or programs before the nineteenth century (but then again, you also do not find Sunday schools, nurseries, ushers, etc.). There is virtually no mention of the role of children or teens in the church.2

2 In some instances it appears young children were discouraged from attending church at all. Elmer T. Clark, in his book The Small Sects in America (New York: Abingdon Press, 1949), pp. 202-203, tells of a written attack directed towards a man who insisted on taking his children to their rural Baptist church in the 1880’s. The letter said, “I do not object to seeing young people to meeting providing they behave themselves; and of course, it is especially encouraging if they seem to have an interest in gospel truth; but Mr. Gold goes farther than this, seeming to hold it as a sacred duty for Old School Baptists to take their children; even their babies to their meeting and see that they ‘give what attention they can to the preaching.'”

Is Youth Ministry Killing the Church?

Interestingly enough that is the title of a recent article that appeared in The Christian Century (https://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2010-02/youth-ministry-killing-church). Kate Murphy in the February 4, 2010 article says, “Kenda Creasy Dean and others warn that when our children and youth ministries ghettoize young people, we run the risk of losing them after high school graduation. I saw evidence of this in Jonathan. Over the years I’ve worked with young people as passionate and serious about their faith as Jonathan is. I think I’ve done youth ministry with integrity. But I may have been unintentionally disconnecting kids from the larger body of Christ. The young people at my current congregation—a church that many families would never join because “it doesn’t have anything for youth”—are far more likely to remain connected to the faith and become active church members as adults, because that’s what they already are and always have been.”

Another article, written in 2013, “Christian Teens Abandon Faith Because of Youth Groups, Not Despite Them,” says, “According to a new 5-week, 3-question national survey sponsored by the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC), the youth group itself is the problem.  55% of American Christians are concerned with modern youth ministry because it’s too shallow, too entertainment focused, resulting in an inability to train mature believers.  But, even if church youth groups had the gravitas of Dallas Theological Seminary, 36% of today’s believers are convinced that youth groups themselves are not even Biblical. (https://churchexecutive.com/archives/christian-teens-abandon-faith-because-of-youth-groups-not-despite-them)

A more recent article written November 20, 2017, “The Flawed History of Youth Ministry in Less than 400 Words,” says, “Scholars have dedicated much ink to youth ministry’s problems in its initial generation. In particular, the field has drawn much criticism for its failure to form students with lasting faith. Some surveys estimate that as many as seventy-percent of young people left the church after high school (Lifeway, 2006). However, youth ministry has learned a great deal in the last decade, and continues to move forward.” According to author Cameron Cole, there are 3 problems that plagued youth ministry in the past: (1) Youth ministry had the wrong purpose, (2) Youth ministry used the wrong provisions, (3) Youth ministry operated in the wrong place. He claims that if these problems are fixed that youth ministry can be effective.

So What Is the Application We Need to Make?

I concur wholeheartedly with the answer given by the website GotQuestions.org to the question “What does the Bible say about youth ministry?” Since I already cited this article last month, I will only copy the first paragraph of the article here.

“Although youth ministry is a fixture in the modern church, there is no biblical model for such a ministry. However, biblical principles can and should be the model for all ministries in the local church, including ministry to youth. Sadly, too many youth ministries are built not on biblical principles but on fads, hype, and shallow youth culture. For this reason, many are asking the question: Is youth ministry even something God wants the church involved in? If the church wants to follow the model of fads, hype, and shallow youth culture, then the answer is a resounding no! However, student ministry, at its core, should be evaluated on the same biblical basis as any other functioning ministry in the local church…. (https://www.gotquestions.org/youth-ministry.html).

So the application of the principles in Reaching A Generation For Christ by Richard R. Dunn and Mark H. Senter III are fine for organizations like the three mentioned above, but their application to our work with the young people within our local churches is not appropriate. The Bible is to be our standard of authority in those instances. In future articles in this series, then, I will reflect upon and note my observations as how they might relate to Florida College Summer Camps, Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, and other similar youth-oriented programs.

Thanks for reading …

–Randy

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Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #7, November 21, 2020: Perseverance

 

If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must develop the attribute of perseverance. Perseverance is “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” (www.dictionary.com). The word “perseverance” appears 25 times in Scripture in 10 translations (https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/words/Perseverance). Other words, similar in meaning, that are used by some translations in these 25 verses include: patience, patient continuance, endurance, longsuffering, steadfastness [your unflinching endurance, and patience]

 

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says of the word, “Rare in Hellenistic Greek, prokarteresis occurs in the NT only at Eph. 6:18, where it refers to persistent, persevering prayer as part of the Christian’s spiritual armor. The related verb, proskartereo, underscores the element of steadfastness in the Christian life (cf. “devote oneself,” Acts 2:42; 6:4) and especially in prayer (cf. Acts 1:14; “to be constant,” Rom. 12:12; “continue steadfastly,” Col. 4:2). Throughout the NT Christians are exhorted to persist in prayer (e.g. Lk. 18:1-8; Phil. 4:6; IThess. 5:17” (p.776).

 

Perseverance is one of the attributes that the Heart of A Champion Character Development Program (http://www.heartofachampion.org/) strives to develop in young people in its outreach program. Their written and video programs approach this under 4 subtopics: in adversity, in failure, against the odds, and with emotions. We shall use that same approach in discussing it here. Please consider …

 

Perseverance in Adversity

 

“There is no doubt that life is challenging. We will face trials, adversity, tragedy and failure at some point in our lives. Many of us will have bad things said about us that are untrue. Many of us will be hurt at some point, either physically or emotionally. If you have ever been discouraged; if you’ve ever felt like the odds are stacked against your; if you’ve ever wanted to quit, then remember you are not alone. Everyone around you has experienced one of those emotions at least once. Unfortunately some people in these circumstances simply give up. They walk away from their family, quit their job, leave their friends, or check out of life altogether. None of these are productive options. The fact is many people who walk away, quit, or check out have stopped just one step short of reaching their goal. The number one factor to succeeding in anything in life is perseverance. Everyone fails, but how many keep on going? Everyone falls down, but how many get back up? No matter who you are, no matter what you are facing, no matter how big the obstacles seem or how hard life feels, you can reach your goals, if you keep pressing on and don’t quit. Life is not a short sprint to the finish. It is a marathon, and those who endure to the end will receive a champion’s reward. Remember, it doesn’t really matter how or where you start, rather what matters most is that you finish. No matter how big the challenges in your life, you can make it if you NEVER GIVE UP!” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Perseverance, Volume 3, p.3)

 

Rudy Garcia-Tolson is an example of one who has overcome adversity to achieve his athletic goals. “Rudy was born with popliteal pterygium syndrome, resulting in a club foot, webbed fingers on both hands, a cleft lip and palate and the inability to straighten his legs. As a 5 year old wheelchair user, after 15 operations, he decided he would rather be a double amputee and walk with prosthetics. He had both legs removed above the knee…. In 2003, Garcia-Tolson was named one of Teen People Magazine's "20 Teens Who Will Change the World". He was the subject of The Final Sprint's December 2006 "Success Story"; a monthly column that aims to highlight remarkable and factual accounts of runners who have overcome major obstacles and/or changed their lives via running.[18] He has won several awards, including the Arete Courage in Sports Award and the Casey Martin Award from Nike.[12] Following his success at Ironman Arizona, he was nominated for an ESPY Award in 2010.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_Garcia-Tolson#Recognition_and_awards)

 

Olivia Bennet is another example of one who has overcome many obstacles to become a world-renown artist. She also was named by Teen People Magazine as one of the “Twenty Teens who will Change the World when in 2004 when she was 15. Olivia was just 5 years old when doctors gave her parents the news that she had leukemia. Olivia immediately began chemotherapy and to take an experimental medication, Vincristine, which caused her hands to curl up into claws. Painting, though difficult at first, became a form of therapy for her. Eventually, at the age of 7, her hands healed and doctors said she was cancer free. “Olivia’s artistic talent blossomed into a passion and now it is her full-time profession. Olivia’s work received almost immediate critical acclaim. She sold her first painting at age 8 and had her first art show at age 10, where she sold 24 more paintings. Since then, Olivia’s status as an artist has taken on superstar proportions. She and her artwork have been featured in numerous magazines and newspaper articles, as well as appearing on television shows such as Oprah and the Today Show….. Olivia grew up in Southlake, Texas, where she was homeschooled through high school in a K-12 program offered by Texas Tech University….. Olivia’s story and artwork are featured in Mark Victor Hansen’s latest book, The Richest Kids in America….. Visit Olivia’s official website at http://www.oliviabennett.com to view an online gallery of her paintings.” (http://homeschoolingteen.com/2009/08/olivia-bennett-homeschooled-teen-artist/)

 

Perseverance in Failure

 

“Everyone deals with failure. The most well-known people in the world have all failed – world leaders, business executives, educators, celebrities, and even parents! But all have gone on to accomplish great things after those failures. That is because they all realized that one thing everyone on the face of the planet has in common is failure. They also understood that failure is the training ground or foundation for real success. If you get knocked down by life, and stay down, you are always looking at things from the perspective of being down. But true champions always get up one more time than they have been knocked down. From that perspective, things always look better and you won’t miss opportunities. It all depends on your perspective. Persevere and let your failures become the foundation for future success. Never Give Up!” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Perseverance, Volume 3, p.7)

 

Tommy Maddox is an example of one who did not throw in the towel when he experienced failure. He was a #1 draft pick out of college in 1992, and was seemingly headed for stardom but then he failed. “At UCLA, Maddox played collegiately for two seasons and led UCLA to the John Hancock Bowl in 1991. The Denver Broncos drafted Maddox in the first round of the 1992 NFL Draft. Originally thought to be the successor to Broncos star quarterback John Elway, Maddox had an unimpressive record in his rookie year and saw limited playing time in his early NFL career. Before the 1994 season, the Broncos traded Maddox to the Los Angeles Rams, and Maddox would later join the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Atlanta Falcons. Maddox played under Coach Dan Reeves with the Broncos, Giants, and Falcons.

 

After being released by the Atlanta Falcons in 1997, Maddox became an insurance agent before making a comeback in professional football with the New Jersey Red Dogs of the Arena Football League in 2000. Maddox later became starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Xtreme of the XFL, a league that folded after one season. With the Xtreme, Maddox led the team to the Million Dollar Game championship and became league MVP for the season. Later that year, Maddox signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Originally as backup to Kordell Stewart, Maddox became the Steelers' starting quarterback in 2002 and led the Steelers to a 10–5–1 record and a postseason run. For his achievements in 2002, the NFL named Maddox Comeback Player of the Year. After a 6–10 season in 2003, and an injury in week 2 against the Ravens in the 2004 season, Maddox again became a backup quarterback to Steelers first-round draft pick Ben Roethlisberger. In this backup role, Maddox earned a Super Bowl ring when Pittsburgh won Super Bowl XL after the 2005 season, beating the Seattle Seahawks. The 2005 season was also his final season as a professional football player. After retiring from football, Maddox became a youth baseball coach in his native Dallas/Fort Worth area” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Maddox). Tommy didn’t let failures stop him; instead he kept working and took advantage when other opportunities arose.

 

Abraham Lincoln is another example of one who continued to try in spite of repeated failures. “Below is one version of the so-called "Lincoln failures" list, shown in bold type. It's often used to inspire people to overcome life's difficulties with Lincoln as a model. Then look at the right column with other facts from Lincoln's pre-presidential life. History professor Lucas Morel compiled this comparison from the Chronology in Selected Speeches and Writings/Lincoln by Don E. Fehrenbacher, ed., 1992.

 

YEAR FAILURES or SETBACKS SUCCESSES
1832 Lost job
Defeated for state legislature
Elected company captain of Illinois militia in Black Hawk War
1833 Failed in business Appointed postmaster of New Salem, Illinois
Appointed deputy surveyor of Sangamon County
1834   Elected to Illinois state legislature
1835 Sweetheart died  
1836 Had nervous breakdown Re-elected to Illinois state legislature (running first in his district)
Received license to practice law in Illinois state courts
1837   Led Whig delegation in moving Illinois state capital from Vandalia to Springfield
Became law partner of John T. Stuart
1838 Defeated for Speaker Nominated for Illinois House Speaker by Whig caucus
Re-elected to Illinois House (running first in his district)
Served as Whig floor leader
1839   Chosen presidential elector by first Whig convention
Admitted to practice law in U.S. Circuit Court
1840   Argues first case before Illinois Supreme Court
Re-elected to Illinois state legislature
1841   Established new law practice with Stephen T. Logan
1842   Admitted to practice law in U.S. District Court
1843 Defeated for nomination for Congress  
1844   Established own law practice with William H. Herndon as junior partner
1846   Elected to Congress
1848 Lost renomination (Chose not to run for Congress, abiding by rule of rotation among Whigs.)
1849 Rejected for land officer Admitted to practice law in U.S. Supreme Court
Declined appointment as secretary and then as governor of Oregon Territory
1854 Defeated for U.S. Senate Elected to Illinois state legislature (but declined seat to run for U.S. Senate)
1856 Defeated for nomination for Vice President  
1858 Again defeated for U.S. Senate  
1860   Elected President
     

 

(http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/education/failures.htm)

 

Perseverance Against the Odds

 

“At some point we all come up against odds that seem too great to overcome. Many of us have been told we are not big enough, not smart enough, or just don’t have what it takes to achieve what we are after. Remember, anyone can tell you what you’re not. But true friends tell you what you are, and what you can become. A wise king once said, ‘As a person thinks within their heart, so they are’ meaning how we see ourselves is typically what we become. Do you see yourself as an overcomer? The seeds of greatness reside in everyone. Often is the very process of overcoming obstacles that builds us into life’s champions. The journey to get to the goal is always more significant than the result, for in the journey we recognize what we are truly made of, and who we really are. Don’t let obstacles deter you. Great things will come from the process, and even the pain associated with it. Press on and be an overcomer” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Perseverance, Volume 3, p.10).

 

Dana Bowman is an example of one who persevered against the odds. ”Dana Bowman has astounded the nation and the world with his drive, determination, and will to succeed. He is a retired Sergeant First Class with the U.S. Army where he was a Special Forces Soldier and a member of the U.S. Army’s elite parachute team, the Golden Knights. Dana Bowman is a double amputee. He lost his legs in an accident during the annual Golden Knights training in Yuma, Arizona, in 1994.

 

On February 6, 1994, Bowman gained worldwide attention when he and his teammate Sgt. Jose Aguillon collided in midair during the team’s annual training. Bowman and Aguillon were practicing a maneuver known as the Diamond Track. The maneuver calls for the jumpers to streak away from each other for about a mile and then turn 180 degrees and fly back toward each other crisscrossing in the sky. Bowman and Aguillon had demonstrated the Diamond Track more than fifty times without a mistake, but this time was different.

 

Rather than crisscrossing, the two skydivers slammed into each other at a combined speed of 300 miles per hour. Aguillon died instantly. Bowman’s legs were severed from his body, one above the knee and one below the knee. Bowman’s parachute opened on impact. He was taken to a hospital in Phoenix where doctors closed his leg wounds and stopped his internal bleeding.

 

Nine months later, he turned this tragedy into a triumph when he became the first double amputee to re-enlist in the United States Army. Bowman re-enlisted in the United States Army airborne style, skydiving with his commander into the ceremony, making his dream a reality. This achievement is just one example of Bowman’s many successes under adverse circumstances.

 

After Dana’s re-enlistment, he became the U.S. Parachute Team’s lead speaker and recruiting commander. Dana has been fortunate to have the opportunity to let his speeches touch so many from the physically challenged to the able-bodied. He strives to show physically challenged people can still work and excel in today’s society and military. Dana emphasizes the words amputee and uselessness are not synonymous.

 

 Dana has given more than 400 speeches in the last few years and has been featured in magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Reader’s Digest, People and many more. There have also been numerous television programs which focused on Dana and his story. Some of the programs include: Dateline, A Current Affair, Real TV, NBC Person of the Week, Day and Date and Extra.

 

Dana retired from the United States Army in 1996. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in commercial aviation at the University of North Dakota in May of 2000.

 

Dana spends a great deal of his personal time working with other amputees and disabled or physically challenged people. Dana inspires other amputees to walk again. His future plans are to continue to speak to the public and fly helicopters” (http://www.danabowman.com/dana-biography.php).

 

Perseverance With Emotions

 

“When you were faced with your most difficult emotional challenge, what did you do? What thoughts crossed your mind in finding a solution? What did you do? Did you respond or were you emotionally paralyzed? Fear often does paralyze us, and most often the emotional challenges we face are more difficult than the challenges that are physical. However, nothing is ever really too big that you can’t find a solution. In every challenge, there is always a way out without a life being lost. It’s ok to wrestle with your emotions, and it’s ok to talk with someone about your feelings. But even in the most dark of days, things will get better. It’s normal to wrestle with your emotions. If you experience some tough emotional times, you can persevere, and it’s ok to ask for help. So don’t hesitate to talk to someone trustworthy … about what you are dealing with. Remember you are valuable, unique, and one of a kind. This world needs you! So, when things are emotionally difficult, don’t give up!” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Perseverance, Volume 3, p.13)

 

Laura Hillenbrand is an example of one who persevered with emotions. Hillenbrand is the author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which was published in 2001 and then became the basis for the feature film Seabiscuit in 2003. She was able to write despite “suffering through a terrifying 10-year cycle of health problems” that began in 1987.

 

“She was diagnosed with CFS or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Experts describe the illness as a complex disorder characterized by debilitating fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. It affects blood pressure, weakens the immune system and can make mental concentration all but impossible. Victims often feel useless and defeated. Many give up hope of regaining a normal life. Because of her illness, Hillenbrand had to drop out of school and was unable to handle the rigors of full-time work. She was in despair.”

 

But as she researched the book, she identified with characters she encountered. She already had a love for horses and wrote for equine magazines. “Hillenbrand attacked writing the story with all the passion she could muster. Writing was a way to momentarily escape her circumstances and the pain of her existence. ‘I got very emotionally involved in telling this story,’ she remembers. ‘Living in my own subjects bodies, I forgot about mine. My emotions would mirror whatever part of the story I was researching on a particular day.’ In addition to the numerous honors and critical acclaim that her book gained, she was provided a platform to spread awareness of CFS. It gave her renewed hope and purpose. “She had found a door of opportunity for a new life. ‘When I was writing, I became a storyteller, not an invalid. My entire life wasn’t oriented around my body. My life had a purpose to it … I felt like I was living for the people I was writing about … The whole world is new to me.’” ((Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Perseverance, Volume 3, p.13)

 

Think about what it takes to persevere in adversity, in failure, against the odds, and with your emotions. I hope that, after reading this month’s article, you know a little more about perseverance and how you can further develop that attribute to Become The Man God Wants You To Be. Thanks for reading…

 

Randy

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The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #13 – Disdain

“Is not this the carpenter?” (Mark 6:3)

Introduction

As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at our response when we encounter disdain from others. I believe there are some valuable lessons to be learned as we notice what Raymond V. Edman has to say about this discipline and how it is illustrated by David and by Jesus.

Edman says regarding the words of Mark 6:3, “These quiet and inconspicuous words do not convey the caustic and causeless criticism contained therein. It was in no complimentary sense that our Lord’s fellow countrymen spoke of their neighbor in Nazareth as ‘the carpenter’; rather it was in consummate and contemptuous disdain that they thus depicted Him. They knew Him as a carpenter; ‘From whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands (Mark 6:2) was their query. A carpenter, indeed! (Edman, p. 181)

As many of us might attest, “The discipline of disdain tries our mettle as do few searchings of the soul. We may be able to defy intrigue, to disregard innuendo, to deny insinuation; but we find it difficult to endure invective. We dislike to be despised. We cringe at contumely; we become quarrelsome when under contempt” (Edman, p. 181)

As we stated earlier, both David and Jesus “illustrate admirably the discipline of disdain. David met the test many times; and his reactions were not identical in each case. The differences may be accounted for by the occasion or the personalities involved, or possibly by the age at which he endured the discipline. Like him, we all face the cutting contempt that quickens the pulse and kindles the spirit, and by the same token creates the opportunity to show a quiet and Christlike calm (Edman, pp. 181-182).

Please consider with me the first example from the life of David …

David Defied the Disdain of the Giant (1st Samuel 17:41-46)

David had come from the solitude of the sheepfold, and from the struggle with the lion and the bear. He was an inconspicuous nobody, unknown and unheralded, with no reputation to maintain nor reward to gain. The text says, “Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy…” (vv. 41-42, NLT), and then he said, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with a stick? Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” (vv 43,44, NLT).

David replied to the ridicule with a statement of reliance upon God (v. 45). He had no fear because he knew God would enable him to defeat the giant! Edman says regarding David’s stand against the giant and what it teaches us, “Disregard for despising, disinclination to defend self, dependence upon divine aid, this is the discipline of disdain…. Out of disdain comes distinction to him that endures its discipline ” (Edman, p. 183)

Next, consider from the life of David …

David Nearly Succumbed to the Cynical Disdain of Nabal (1st Samuel 25:2-13)

The text describes the arrogance of Nabal, “Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is?” (v. 10). Nabal compared him to a runaway slave. At this reception, David lost his temper became embittered and was about to send his army to attack Nabal (vv. 12-13). But God Met the Embittered David in the Person of Abigail (1st Samuel 25:23-31).

What are the lessons to be learned from this Bible account? “Would that we might remember in the fire of the injury and the fury of the insult that it is foolish to answer the fool according to his own folly. Therein we become ‘like unto him’ (Prov. 26:4).” The fool passes away, his foolishness fades, his sneers cease. By disregarding his disdain and doing our own duty we are masters of ourselves and mindful of tomorrow. David’s son could say, ‘He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that a city’ (Prov. 16:32). Yielding to disdain can destroy us; disdaining to yield can delight us” (Edman, p. 184).

And then a third example illustrating David response to the disdain of his own wife…

David Met the Disdain of Michal (2nd Samuel 6:20-23)

“He led them to Baalah of Judah to bring back the Ark of God… from Abinadab’s house (v2-3). After the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out to steady the ark and the Lord in his anger struck Uzzah so that he died, David decided not to move the Ark of the Lord into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. After 3 months, he retrieved the ark from the house of Obed-edom and, amongst much rejoicing and celebrating, he brought the ark to the City of David.

“Perhaps he was overly exuberant, unduly excited. Perhaps he needed some restraint in his rejoicing. A smile of approval would have pleased him, a word of kindness would have cautioned him, a note of gratitude to God would have gladdened his heart; instead there was the measured and miserable meanness of Michal’s mimicry,” (Edman p.185) “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!” (v. 20, NLT)

Nothing hurts like that which comes from one’s own family. David could have expected sympathy, assurance, expressions of love. Instead he was greeted with cynicism and sarcasm. And David, wounded in spirit, responded, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!” (vv.21-22).

As much as David was subjected to the disdain and responded in an honorable way, he did not hold a candle to the way our Lord was disdained and ridiculed and despised but responded in a way to leave us the perfect example. Consider that …

Jesus Knew, Above All Others, the Deep Discipline of Disdain

“He went everywhere doing good unto all, and in that ministry of mercy He came to His native village of Nazareth” (Mark 6:1-6)(Edman, p. 186). “There also He offered to be helpful with words of wisdom and healing touch. His efforts were ineffectual, for his hearers would non of Him; rather ‘they were offended at him’ (v. 3) (Edman, P. 186). “They summed up their scorn in the caustic query, ‘Is this not the carpenter? (v. 3). To them He was a carpenter, not the Christ; the son of Joseph, not Jesus the Lord. And who can measure the depth of wound caused by the contempt of countrymen and kinsfolk, the known and loved whom He would fain help? (Edman, p. 186).

“Disdain that damages or destroys – unless we determine to dominate our spirit, and to follow in the footsteps of the Saviour. He could reply with gentleness of spirit, ‘A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house’ (v. 4) (Edman, p. 187). “No censure nor sarcasm in return – only civility and sweetness. He did what good He was allowed by their antagonism, but no might deed (v.5)” (Edman, p. 187). “Their unbelief filled Him with astonishment; but He went onward (v.6). There were others to help, the hungry, the helpless, the heartsick in other villages” (Edman, p. 187)

Conclusion

“That is enduring the discipline of disdain: no harsh reply, no self-justification, no rendering evil for evil. Rather it is by gentleness, goodness, graciousness under provocation, that we prove ourselves true apprentices of the Master Carpenter” (Edman, p. 187).

Maybe you have been the object of someone’s disdain and ridicule and it has hurt you deeply. We definitely live in a time where much of that spirit is alive and well. I hope these thoughts might help you to respond appropriately if and when that happens.

Thanks for reading …

Randy

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 181 – 188)

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Violations of God’s Marriage Law (II): Types

In the first article, we sought to establish (1) God does have a marriage law; (2) it can be and often is violated; (3) the consequences of that violation is sin; (4) unless that sin is forgiven one is lost and cannot enter heaven; and (5) to have those sins forgiven, one must comply with God’s terms of forgiveness, if he is a child of God or an alien. Now, we would like to focus our attention on types of violations. You may be surprised to see us point to this aspect of the subject. However, I suggest to you that herein lies the potential for prevention. Knowing is not enough; an essential part of being able to avoid mistakes and wrongs is to know what mistakes and wrongs are.

I. Default (withholding or deprivation, 1 Cor. 7:2-5). Every man is to have his “own wife.” Likewise, every woman is to have her own husband. A husband that does not give himself to his wife is not observing God’s rules! Likewise, a wife that does not give herself to her own husband is violating the law of God. Worse things have occurred in the marriage relationship due to this basic violation. Prostitutes have recognized this (some have said that if wives served their husbands well they would be put out of business). Such is true. I am convinced that if some husbands had endeavored to satisfy their wives as they deserved, then “another man” would not and could not have entered the picture.

Marriage is designed to meet a very basic need of man, the sexual drive, which is a part of every “normal” man and woman. Paul, the inspired apostle of the Lord pointed to that and specifically charged each not to “defraud ye one the other;” he pointed to the danger that one is placed in when he has withheld from him that which is to be supplied in the marriage relationship. “Satan” is well aware of that basic need and will. take advantage of the deprivation to “tempt you . . . for your incontinency” (v. 5). Abstinence in this area is to be done only with the “consent” of both, only for a short duration, and for a higher purpose (“that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; . . .”). I suggest that a violation of this basic need has led to many a broken home and broken lives; it will produce a multitude of souls in hell for an eternity.

“Love” of the wife by the husband is demanded by the Lord (Eph. 5:25). He who withholds this is violating God’s law, depriving his wife, and injuring his potential for happiness here and now and forever. Submission of the wife to her “own” husband is, likewise, demanded by the Lord (Eph. 5:22). She who withholds this is disobeying God, hurting her husband as well as those who view her life as a Christian, and playing in the flames of hell. May we, beloved, see the Lord’s law. Believe it. Be careful that we apply it, speak it, and love it! Be not violaters of God’s law, least ye be broken by it!

II. Triangle (creating a three party system 1 Cor. 6:16-18). By bringing in a third party, one is guilty of turning a two-party-God-approved relationship into a three-party-God-disapproved relationship. At this point, it is necessary that we look at the meaning of two words: adultery and fornication. English generally distinguishes between them on the basis of being married or unmarried; (1) “fornication” being defined as sexual intercourse between unmarried individuals and (2) “adultery” being between a married person and one other than the one to whom he is married. The Greek words from which these words are translated are: (1) Porneia-fornication; it is the general term that is used to describe all kinds of illicit sexual intercourse; (2) Moicheia-adultery is the specific act of illicit, unlawful sexual intercourse between a married person and another. So, in the New Testament, the ford fornication is the broader term and would, at times, embrace the concept of “adultery” too. But, I suggest to you that there are at least three types of “adultery” spoken of in the New Testament (Matt. 5:28 “heart”; Matt. 19:9 “marry another”; Jn. 8:4 the “act”).

Fornication is a unique sin (1 Cor. 6:16-18). Paul mentions that “every sin” that a man commits, other than fornication, is “without the body;” but fornication is sinning “against his own body.” This verse tells us something about the meaning of being “one flesh.” So, the point, if I understand it, is that when people are “joined” together in the sexual union they are the “one flesh.” This is not saying necessarily that fornication is the worst sin that can be committed, or that it is really any worse than another. But it is saying that it is different from all others, or else I am missing the point completely.

He who will serve God cannot tolerate this sin. God did not tolerate it with Israel (Jer. 3:8). A person who commits fornication in weak moments and then asks to be forgiven, should be forgiven (Lk. 17:3-4). However, when one continues to commit this sin and does not repent and turn to God, a person who is dedicated to God must withdraw from that relationship. A person who will continue to allow such sin to be committed without withdrawing and denouncing it will become a party to the sin (1 Cor. 5:6). Evil is to be recognized, denounced, and separated from (2 Cor. 6:15-18). In our land today, the concept that extra-marital sexual relations is being advanced as being “good” and necessary to “save” some marriages. Such is ungodliness at its peak!

III. Divorce (Putting away a person who has not been unfaithful). Jesus said to “put away,” saving for the cause of fornication, is to cause “adultery” to be committed. Thus, that person who puts away for any other reason would be guilty of violating God’s law. He who so acts, places a person in a position that he is deprived of a need and, thus, tempts him to become a part of a relationship that is not approved of God. Marriage is entered so as to fulfill this need, along with other needs that we have already mentioned. So, let every person who is about to take this step think! Look and see where it will lead.

God tells us that He “hateth putting away: . . .” (Mal. 2:16). Paul dealt with the same concept, as we have noticed before (1 Cor. 7:10-11). First, determine to never depart, but if that step is taken, then be sure that you remain unmarried or be reconciled to the one from whom you departed. Not, enough is spoken about this by teachers and thus young people grow up ignorant of the Lord’s teachings. Therefore, they plunge head-long into something that is to be for life, thinking if it does not work we will “try again.” Are Christians guiltless who allow this to happen, without having done all to advocate the truth of God’s word? I think not!

IV. Remarriage (Matt. 19:9). If a man puts away a wife without her having committed fornication and then marries another, the Bible is as clear as can be that he is guilty of “adultery.” If the one that is put away marries another both she and the one she marries is guilty of adultery. In other words, if two people are married, they divorce and remarry without fornication being committed, then there are four people guilty of “adultery.” This principle is disregarded by many and denied and denounced as “untrue” by many others; some of them claim membership in the “Church of Christ.”

Paul deals with this point in Rom. 7:2-3, not using the exception. If while her husband lives, she be married to “another man” then she is an “adulteress.” Question: a woman marries another man while her husband is alive, so the Bible says that she is an adulteress; now ten years passes, is she any less an adulteress than when it first occurred? What about after twenty years? In fact does time have any bearing on the matter? No! It does not matter if it is fifty years later, she is still an “adulteress.”

Some try to say this woman would be guilty of polyandry. However, the Holy Spirit did not cause Paul to call her a polyandrist; rather he called her an “adulteress.” However, the people who charge her with being a polyandrist would admit that she could not remain such and be pleasing to God; the extent of time she remained would have nothing to do with taking the guilt away. She would have to cease being a polyandrist, if she wanted to become a “saint,” one sanctified by God’s grace and cleansed in the blood of Christ.

There are many theories regarding the violations of God’s marriage law, the consequences, and/ or application of the truth. The next two papers shall be an effort to examine those different theories which are presented by brethren on this matter. I hope that your interest will continue, and that you will give a fair hearing to the things that are said. Then after you clearly understand these concepts, you will evaluate them in the light of God’s word. Having done that, you will then decide what is required of you as an individual; also, you will need then to decide what you feel is required of the congregation of which you are a member.

In closing, however, let us ask the question: Have you violated God’s law in regard to this or any other matter? If so, have you met the requirements to have the transgression forgiven? If not, will you not meet those requirements before it is too late, and you have to suffer the consequences? My prayer is that you have complied with God’s requirements.

Truth Magazine XXI: 44, pp. 697-698

November 10, 1977

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THE STORMS OF LIFE (Lk. 8:23; Acts 27:15-20;Heb. 12:18; 2 Pet. 2:17)

      “24  And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25  And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26  And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.” Matt. 8:24-28)

      “23  But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. 24  And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.

25  And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.” (Lk. 8:23-25)

Introduction: We have just witnessed a great storm, destructive of property and lives. As I heard of, saw, and  listen to discussion on the matter, it appears to me to look at the matter.

1. There were storm in of the New Testament time, and

2. There are storms of different kinds today.

3. In that dangers are surrounding us, and we need to be prepared to react. However, some of the most dangerous, are spiritual rather than in the weather.

Wind (STORM) of doctrine (Eph. 4:14).

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

A. One can be, and many are tossed  to and fro by

B. Carried about by

C. Nature of” Slight of men cunning craftiness “2940. kubeia, koo-bi'-ah; from  kubos (a "cube", i.e. die for playing); gambling, i.e. (fig.) artifice or fraud:--sleight.”

D. Lie in wait to deceive

     1. Aim

      2. Means

Understand that as people feel and find shelter of safety, we need to thus flee and find protection in the safe provision of God --In Christ.

A. He was there able to calm the sea

     1. He was able

     2. He did

B. The disciples were amazed that he was able, and so should we SEE

     the advantage of being there too

     1. He has invited all of us Matt. 11:28-30

     2. His grace has appeared to each/all Tit. 2:11-12.

Paul and His captures were in a storm with much damage, because the people in charge didn’t listen to his advise --being an apostle. (Acts 27:10-44)

Some storms --with destructive forces involved, from which we need to FLEE!

A. Immorality

     1. Works of the flesh listed  (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21)

     2. All are tempted, but must understand and thus flee! 1 Cor.

         6:18;210:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22

B. Family forces at times lead and push away from the Lord --in   

     Various way.

     1. Must not allow love for to keep from serving faithfully the Lord

         First (Matt. 10:36-38)

     2. Must not all desire for pleasure or material things to keep from

         serving the lord faithfully!

C. Church problems can develop and push or pull us away from faithful service to the Lord.

D. Lose of loved ones. -- one can become bitter at the lord for allowing

     such to happen.

    1. Boys who lost father

    2. WE may not understand everything, but BY FAITH we must               

         listen to, trust, and obey the Lord in all things!

Conclusion: Beloved, are you aware of some of the difficulties that may have forces to destroy you most valued possession --you soul?

1. Have you faith to flee to the place for safety --In Christ (Eph. 1:3)

2. You can by believing in Christ, repenting of your sins, confessing your faith, and being baptized, and then walking uprightly, being faithful to the Lord.

3. If you are not in that shelter of safety, now is the time to act! Become a member of the Lord’s body or be restored to that position!