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Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #11: Teamwork

If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must develop the attribute of teamwork. Teamwork is “cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause.” (www.dictionary.com).

“It takes a true team effort for any group to be successful in any endeavor – a family, a business, a sports team or a community group. When individuals are truly focused on the good of the group or team, they are willing to place their own individual success second to the success of the team. This is what sets apart the greatest, most successful and most enduring teams or groups of all kinds through history. The greatest champions of sports, business, entertainment, politics, and service have humbled themselves and become ‘team players’, working to make their entire unit great. That is true teamwork.

Today, so much attention is given to individual expression and individual performance. Yet experience tells us that the greatest things have been accomplished by a group of individuals working together for a common cause. Those who have the most profound impact on the world and gain the greatest significance in life are those who know that it takes a team working together to achieve. They also know that sharing the reward is also most rewarding. Team players strive to make their entire group great. No team sport athlete wins a championship on his or her own. No business leader is solely responsible for the company’s success. No individual alone carries a group to victory. Groups and teams cannot function properly and healthily without the participation of every member filling his or her role. You are a part of some type of team – whether in a school group, a band, a sports team, a family, or a group on the job. You may not realize it, but the members of your team are looking to you to fill your role and help them reach something greater. How will you respond?

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.3).

Teamwork 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: Teamwork in a Group Setting, Teamwork in the Family, Teamwork Means Thinking Team 1st, and Teamwork in Trust Relationships. We shall use that same approach in discussing it here. Please consider …

Teamwork in a Group Setting

“We live in a world today that focuses on individual achievement. Yet in reality most great or even good things are accomplished by a group of individuals working together for a common cause. This is true of governments, companies, sports teams, and families. The best of these have learned that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and that it takes a group effort to achieve the greatest success. The people in groups with this approach have been able to work together to realize greater things as a unit than they could on their own. Real teammates pull for those around them when they are doing well, encourage them when they are struggling, help them when they are hurting, and speak the truth in love when they’ve done wrong. Be a great teammate for someone else, and you will find that others will help you reach your goals and dreams too. REMEMBER, TOGETHER EVERYON ACHIEVES MORE!”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.4).

Chris Paul

“In just a few years, Chris Paul has become one of the NBA’s brightest stars. As a point guard, Chris’ job is to be a leader on the court and to make his teammates better. Chris’ teammates agree that he excels at both. Not only is he known for his tremendous ability and creativity on the court, but also for his commitment to helping others in the community.”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.4).

Nicknamed “CP3”, he has won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, an NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award, two Olympic gold medals, and led the NBA in assists four times and steals a record six times. He has also been selected to eleven NBA All-Star teams, nine All-NBA teams, and nine NBA All-Defensive teams. He currently plays for the Phoenix Suns. Off the court, Paul has served as the National Basketball Players Association president since August 2013.

USA Women’s Softball Team

“The USA Softball team was nothing short of amazing during 2004, as they went 53-0 in a pre-Olympic tour against the best collegiate and amateur softball teams in the nation. Then, in Athens at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, they defended their gold medal in overwhelming fashion, winning all 9 of their games by a combined score of 51-1.

But their story of teamwork goes beyond the scoreboard. The support they gave each other and especially their coach during the most difficult time in in his life may have been the team’s biggest accomplishment of all.  For their dominance on the field, they were called the “Real Dream Team” on the cover of Sports Illustrated during its pre-Olympic coverage. Looking at the stats, it’s not hard to see why.

Once they hit Athens, they broke 17 Olympic records (nine of which they already owned or shared) and tied another on the way to their third straight gold medal. The pitching staff registered microscopic 0.12 ERA and threw 55 2/3 straight scoreless innings. They pitched eight consecutive shutouts with five straight one-hitters. Their nine straight wins (a record in one Olympics) extended their international winning streak to 79 straight, dating back to July 13, 2003.

But if you ask the team’s head coach Mike Candrea, he’ll tell you that their biggest accomplishment in 2004 was carrying him through the biggest struggle of his life. Less than two weeks before the team was scheduled to leave for Athens, they were in an airport in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, waiting to catch a flight to Stratford, Connecticut, for the final stop in their pre-Olympic tour. Candrea’s wife, Sue, suddenly became ill, with what was later determined to a brain aneurysm and was rushed to the hospital. She died two days later. Sue had quit her job as an accountant to travel with the team and had become the ‘team mom.’ Her death was devastating to the entire team.

‘Coach Candrea is a second father to all of us and Sue was like our mom on the road,’ said star pitcher Jennie Pinch. ‘It was incredibly hard for all of us, but we leaned on each other for strength as each of us searched for answers to this unbelievable tragedy. We knew Sue would want us to continue and travel to Athens to take home the gold.’

Ten days after Sue Candrea’s death, the team boarded the plane bound for Athens without their head coach, who arrived a week later, after dealing with his wife’s death and funeral arrangements. While the players mourned the loss of their special friend, rather than just go through the motions during the Olympics, Team USA bonded even closer together through the adversity. They vowed to help fulfill Coach Candrea’s goal for the team. ‘I don’t want to just win (the Olympics),’ he told them on many occasions, ‘I want to dominate.’

Candrea drew strength from his team, and the memory of his wife’s goal for him to coach in the Olympics. He stressed to each of the players to treasure each moment. He also reminded them that his memories of his wife kept him focused in pursuing their shared dream.

His final encouragement to his teas was stirring: ‘I don’t want you to play for me or Sue during these Olympics, because this is about representing your country and playing for the United States of America.’ The team responded. Beginning with a 7-0 victory over Italy, Team USA ripped through the tournament, not allowing a run until the gold medal game against Australia in their 5-1 victory.

‘To me courage doesn’t mean you’re brave,’ Mike Candrea said following the Olympics. ‘Courage is something that allows you to get through tough times. I told this team from day one that they could be special athletes. They proved to me they’re not only special athletes but special people.’”

 (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.6).

Teamwork in the Family

“Every family is a team, no matter if the family consists of 2 or 20. For the family to succeed, each member must be working for the good of the family. When a family member has a dream, what do you do to help them to see that dream fulfilled? Are you willing to sacrifice some of your individual desires so that your family can reach their goals? Many experts feel the family is the world’s most important team, and that if families break down, then society will as a result be broken down as well. What can you do to see to it that your family doesn’t break down? You are a key member of your family team and have many important roles to play in the success of the team. Look for ways to help your home team win, by helping other teammates in your family reach their goals and dreams. You will realize big time rewards if you do. Remember, Together Everyone Achieves.

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.7).

Joseph Jones

“Pursuing a career in the arts takes a great deal of time and commitment. As an accomplished actor, dancer, teacher and choreographer at the regional level, Joseph Jones knows just what it takes to be successful. With his own children also pursuing activities in the theatre, managing the needs of everyone in the Jones family requires a great deal of teamwork. This has been most evident during the serious illness of one of his children.”

In 2001, then 3-year old Olivia was diagnosed with Leukemia. As they began treatment for her, family members came together to help. Part of the treatment involved bone marrow transplant and brother Tyler was the donor. Older sister Caitlyn, who had been performing on a Disney cruise ship chipped in to help as well, as she “laid it all down for the sake of the family.” Her father says, ‘No one forced Caitlyn, she saw the need and knew where she needed to be.’ The family pulled together to provide incredible strength. Joseph worked two jobs. Every member pitched in.

 (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.7).

Dick & Rick Hoyt

“They are the endurance sport family, and they are truly amazing. Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father-and-son team who together compete in just about every marathon race they can find. And if they’re not competing in a marathon, they are likely entered in a triathlon: 26.2 miles of running, 112 miles of bicycling, and 2.4 miles of swimming. Together they have become a model of endurance. But more than their amazing achievements of endurance, they are the epitome of a team.

Rick Hoyt can’t walk or talk and is confined to a wheelchair. For the past twenty plus years, his father Dick has pushed and pulled his son across the country and over hundreds of finish lines. When Dick runs, he pushes Rick in a wheelchair. When Dick cycles, Rick sits in the seat of his wheelchair, attached to the front of the bike. When Dick swims, he pulls Rick in a small, stabilized boat. On land or water, they carry on.

In 1962, Rick was born with the umbilical cord coiled around his neck, which cut off oxygen to his brain. Doctors told Dick and his wife, Judy, that there was no hope for Rick’s development. ‘It’s been a story of exclusion ever since he was born,’ Dick said. ‘When he was eight months old the doctors told us we should just put him away – he’d be a vegetable all his life. Well those doctors are not alive anymore, but I would like them to be able to see Rick now.’

Convinced Rick was every bit as intelligent as his two younger brothers, the Hoyts were determined to raise him as normally as possible. Local school authorities didn’t agree. ‘Because he couldn’t talk they thought he would be able to understand, but that wasn’t true,’ Dick said. So, the parents taught Rick the alphabet, and through the efforts of some Tufts University engineers, equipped Rick with an interactive computer that allowed him to use sight head-movements to highlight letters and spell out words. Within a brief time, Rick was ‘writing’ out his thoughts and communicating clearly.

In 1975, Rick was finally admitted into a public school. Two years later, he told his father he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run. Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished next to last, but felt they had achieved something significant. ‘Rick told us he just didn’t feel handicapped when we were competing,’ Dick remembers of that night. And so, ‘Team Hoyt’ was born. Dick and Rick began to compete in more events. The competitions became the most meaningful experiences in Rick’s life. ‘What I mean when I say I feel like I am not handicapped when competing is that I am just like the other athletes. Now many athletes will come up to me before the race or triathlon to wish me luck.’

Early on, that wasn’t the case. ‘Nobody wanted Rick in a road race,’ recalls Dick. ‘Everybody looked at us, nobody talked to us; nobody wanted to have anything to do with us. As time went on, though, they could see he was a person – he has a great sense of humor, for instance. That made a big difference.’

After 4 years of marathons, Team Hoyt tackled triathlons. For this, Dick had to learn to swim. ‘I sank like a stone at first’ he said. With a newly-built bike adapted to carry Rick in front, and a boat tied to Dick’s waist as he swam, the Hoyts came in second-to-last in a competition held on Father’s Day 1985. They have been competing ever since, and inspiring those around them and themselves.

‘Dad is one of my role models,’ communicates Rick. ‘Once he sets out to do something, Dad sticks to it whatever it is, until it is done. For example once we decided to really get into triathlons, dad worked out, up to five hours a day, five times a week, even when he was working.’

‘Rick is the one who inspires and motivates me,’ Dick said. ‘People just need to be educated. Rick is helping many other families coping with disabilities in their struggle to be included.’

Rick has continued to inspire. He graduated from high school and moved on to Boston University, where he earned his degree in special education in 1993. While continuing to compete with his father in numerous events, including the prestigious Boston Marathon, they have also climbed mountains together and trekked more than 3700 miles across America. Rick also secured a job at the Boston College computer laboratory. There he has worked to help develop a system through which mechanical aids, such as a motorized wheelchair, can be controlled by eye movements when linked to a computer. Team Hoyt’s impact is profound. Together, this father and son have inspired people all across America to see that when people work as one, noting is impossible.”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.9).

Editor’s Note: The above article was published in 2009. Dick Hoyt passed away March 17, 2021 and The Boston Athletic Association, which puts on the marathon, released a statement that afternoon mourning Hoyt’s passing, with the organization writing he “personified what it meant to be a Boston Marathoner” during his more than three decades of races:

The B.A.A. is tremendously saddened to learn of the passing of Boston Marathon icon Dick Hoyt. Dick personified what it meant to be a Boston Marathoner, showing determination, passion, and love every Patriots’ Day for more than three decades. He was not only a fan-favorite who inspired thousands, but also a loyal friend and father who took pride in spending quality time with his son Rick while running from Hopkinton to Boston.

As a leader of Team Hoyt, Dick Hoyt and his son Rick quickly became Boston Marathon legends after their first run in 1980. Pushing Rick in a custom racing chair, Dick and Rick completed 32 Boston Marathons together, including a final finish in 2014. The pair’s bond and presence throughout the course became synonymous with the Boston Marathon. Team Hoyt’s 1,000th race together came at the 2009 Boston Marathon, and in 2015 Dick served as Grand Marshal of the race in recognition of his impact on the event and Para Athlete community.

Dick Hoyt was one-of-a-kind. We will sincerely miss Dick, and are keeping his many family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.”

(https://www.boston.com/sports/untagged/2021/03/17/dick-hoyt-dies)

Hoyt was also honored by a tribute written by Dave McGillivray, former Boston Marathon Director that appeared on the boston.com website on that same date (https://www.boston.com/sports/boston-marathon-2/2021/03/18/dick-hoyt-tribute).

Teamwork Means Thinking Teams 1st

“Teamwork sometimes means letting go of something that will you but will hurt the team. Often times we don’t see how our choices affect others until after the consequences of those decisions play out, and then it’s too late. Often what is good for us individually is not good for the team. Most of the failures you see in teams or groups are a result of not thinking team first. The corporate scandals that have been in the headlines can be traced back to individual selfishness of the part of a few, and the same is true of sports teams, leadership of nations, and even celebrity families. When societies, teams and families operate with ‘me first’ mentality, they nearly always fail and are filled with regret. So always Think Team 1st. The rewards are much greater and much more lasting.”

Connor Cruise

“In 2005, Connor Cruse was just like any other five-year-old boy. He loved sports, pizza and super heroes. But after he complained of a stomachache for two weeks, Connor’s parents took him to the doctor, who informed them that Connor had Stage 4 Neuroblastoma – a devastating form of cancer. From that day on, the Cruse family spent every moment committed to helping Connor get well; which required great sacrifices from each member of the family. In the process, they learned that true teamwork means thinking team first.”

They became very transparent, as they realized it would take a team effort to address Connor’s needs. A friend helped them start a website; connorcruise.com where people could keep up with what was going on with Connor They came to realize that the true teamwork of friends and family gave Connor the best chance to win this fight. That fight gave them 4 additional years with Connor that they would not have otherwise had.

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.10).

Nick Moretta

“Nick Moretta had a choice, but in his mind, there really was only one choice. No other option would work. His wife, Debbi, had slipped into a coma during treatment for leukemia. She was in the hospital, and Nick wanted to be by her side. When she was released from the hospital, Nick knew she would need to be cared for over an extended period of time. He didn’t want to pass that responsibility to anybody else.

So he took a vacation from his job as a lineman – or an apparatus technician – for Southern California Edison, the company that supplies electrical power for the greater Los Angeles area. But the days off quickly turned into weeks off, and soon it became clear that the weeks off would eventually need to turn into months off the job for Moretta.

When Moretta’s vacation time was used up, Debbi still needed around the clock care. So, at the risk of losing his job, Nick decided to stay with her. It was clear if Moretta was going to provide his wife the help she needed, then he would need help. That’s when Nick’s friends from work, and many other co-workers who didn’t even know him, jumped in to help out.

In an amazing display of unselfishness and teamwork, Moretta’s co-workers volunteered to donate their own yet-to-be-used vacation time to Nick Moretta. All together they donated a total of more than one year’s worth of vacation time so Nick could stay at home with his wife.

‘This is valuable time, time they could be spending with their own families,’ Moretta told the Los Angeles Times. ‘A lot of people opened their hearts to us.’ What made the donation from the 300-plus SC Edison workers so amazing to Moretta is that most of the employees had never even met the Morettas. It was just a case of individual workers coming together to help out a co-worker.

An unwritten agreement between Edison and electricians union allows employees to donate up to eight hours of vacation per year. However, Edison employees requested permission to donate additional time. Supervisors approved the move.

‘Guys over the years, don’t mind coming in and working an extra day,’ said David Barstow, the foreman of Nick Moretta’s crew and his crew partner. ‘Sometimes it’s all you can do. Sending flowers is nice, but what they really need is time with their family.’

The idea was suggested by a couple of supervisors, who sent out a department-wide e-mail detailing Moretta’s situation and asking employees if they would consider donating any of their vacation days. The supervisors were overwhelmed with the response. Moretta received more than 2,500 hours of donated vacation time from more than 300 co-workers. Amazingly, even after employees had given the total of 2,532 hours of paid leave time, they told their supervisors they wanted to give more.

Nick Moretta spent the time away from work helping his wife regain her strength after she came out of the coma and returned home. His daily routine included crushing pills and pouring them into water; pouring nutritional shakes into her food bag; bathing her; reading to her; stretching her legs, arms, and hips; and helping her learn how to stand once again.”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.12).

Teamwork in Trust Relationships

“Nothing is more important or valuable in our lives than relationships. Money may come and go, jobs may end, material possessions may lose their value, but relationships can last for a lifetime. Our closest and most important relationships require mutual trust. Those relationships should be valued above all our possessions and positions. What people need most is to know that, as the military motto states, that some has their back – meaning someone is looking out for them. What are the most important trust relationships you have? What have you done to keep trust in those relationships? What can you do to deepen the trust between you and that person? Once you give up trustworthiness in a relationship, that relationship will never be the same. Pay special attention to your trust relationships and you will have the opportunity to have the opportunity to have great teammates who will always be there for you. This is a crucial part of Teamwork!

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.13).

Tommy Sansom

“Tommy Sansom was a teacher and coach in the Waco, Texas school district. One day, Tommy noticed that student Jesse Allsbrooks seemed to be having trouble adjusting to his new school. So Tommy decided to reach out to Jesse. A friendship developed that became valuable to both Tommy and Jesse.”

Tommy noticed that Jesse was hanging around his classroom at lunch time rather than going to the lunch room and eating with the other kids, so he checked with Jesse’s mother to get her permission to take an extra sandwich and eat lunch with him every day. Jesse began to look forward to this time every day. It was an opportunity to share what was going on in his life – both the good things and the bad. Tommy’s wife also started putting notes in the lunch she fixed for Jesse, asking him about his day. Jesse eventually moved to East Texas but on Father’s Day the next year he called Tommy to wish him a happy Father’s Day. Tommy says, “Teachers aren’t lucky enough to see the fruits of their labors. It’s hard to see the harvest. But you know when that student walks out of your class the last day of school if you’ve impacted that student’s life. I want to be remembered as a teacher that the kids look back on and say, ‘Mr. Sansom respected me and loved me, and he loved me to the point that he pushed me to be successful.’”

 (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.13).

Jessica Lee

“As a high school student, Jessica Lee had a secret. For over two years she endured physical and emotional abuse from her boyfriend. Rather than seek help from those around her, Jessica was afraid to tell even her closest friends and family.

‘I wrestled over telling people what was happening to me because I was ashamed,’ said Jessica.

Jessica felt as though she had nowhere to turn. Only after her boyfriend burned her with cigarettes and broke a bottle over her head did Jessica speak u and bring an end to the violence. Looking back, Jessica wishes she had sought help sooner.

‘I was in denial. I blamed myself,’ she said. ‘I wished there’d been somewhere to turn besides my family or friends – a hotline with someone I didn’t know but who understood.’

After living in an abusive relationship for over two years, Jessica was determined to help other girls suffering in similar situations. So at age 19, Jessica founded the first nationwide hotline specifically designed to combat the widespread problem of teen dating violence.

The new hotline is overseen by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which had previously served primarily adults. Calls to the new hotline are answered by teens and other young adults in the hope that young abuse victims will be more comfortable confiding in someone their own age. So far, it’s working. The hotline receives an estimated 1,000 calls per week.

Research has shown that many victims of abuse – no matter what age – are afraid to speak up because they feel alone and ashamed. According to a recent study, it is now estimated that half of all teenagers in the U.S. have experienced dating violence. Jessica is providing these young people hope by giving them a place to turn, and a way out. Today she has teamed up with thousands of young people from all over the United States to help end the cycle of violence in relationships between teenagers.

If someone you know is involved in an abusive relationship, you have an opportunity to team up with them at a time when they need your help most. Visit www.ndvh.org for information on how to take a stand for yourself or your friends.

And remember, with a friend at their side, anyone can be helped.

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.15).

Conclusion

Think about what it takes to demonstrate teamwork in your life: in a group setting, in the family, that it means thinking team 1st, and in trust relationships. I hope that, after reading this month’s articles, you know a little more about teamwork 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 #17 – Diversion

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 The Discipline of Diversion. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, many of the things he has written resonate with me.

As he begins the chapter on Diversion, Edman says, “Duty to be performed may be difficult, dreary, even dangerous; but it is delight when done. There are many dangers between detail of duty and ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’; and not least among the dangers to be defined and denied is that of diversion. We remember the old fable of the race between the tortoise and the hare; and while we admit we are not so patient as the plodder who won the encounter, we disagree that we are as stupid as the sleepy-head that lost. The danger of diversion from the plain path of duty is always with us; and at no time should we be over confident of our powers and progress toward the goal” (p. 211).

Please observe, as Edman points out, that Diversion from Duty may come from sheer carelessness on our part, or from dangers of the way, or from undue emphasis on the unnecessary details of the duty, or from preoccupation with the past. We shall now notice each of these in turn.

Diversion from Duty May Come by Sheer Carelessness on Our Part

An illustration from scripture can be found in 1Kings 20:39-40 where the prophet, who has been entrusted with a responsibility, proves unreliable, and thus endangers both himself and his country.  “As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, ‘Sir, I was in the thick of battle, and suddenly a man brought me a prisoner. He said, ‘Guard this man; if for any reason he gets away, you will either die or pay a fine of seventy-five pounds of silver!’ But while I was busy doing something else, the prisoner disappeared!’ ‘Well, it’s your own fault,’ the king replied. ‘You have brought the judgment on yourself.’

Young people are often guilty of this. A number of things compete for the youngster’s attention. “Diversion, however, lurks in the uphill climb to success, not necessarily wicked things, just carelessness, idleness, day-dreaming, the radio, a bull-session, a magazine article, even a long letter that has its place, but not first place when duty calls. There was every intention to do the work, to finish the assignment, to be faithful to one’s trust; but they were undisciplined in denying themselves leisure or luxury, just ‘busy here and there’ with trivialities until the hour-glass of opportunity had emptied itself and the task was unfinished. The better is often the enemy of the best; and we are  busy with good things, important activities, helpful enterprises, but not the duty we are to do now. College students are tempted to substitute the extra-curricular for the curricular, the social for the academic, the easy for the difficult, the interesting for the essential, the recreational for the creative, the better for the best. Everything worthwhile has its time and place, but not the same time nor place. Beware lest by being ‘busy here and there’ we get nowhere” (pp. 212-213).

Diversion from Duty Can Come Through Dangers of the Way

Daniel of Scripture was faithful and effective in the execution of his duties, both secular and divine. This caused great envy with the court politicians and they caused the king to make illegal the worship of any kind for a period of 30 days, with a penalty attached for violation. This threat did not deter Daniel from maintaining consistently that the living God was his helper. He said “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you your dream and the visions you saw as you lay on your bed” (2:28). He told Nebuchadnezzar, “You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses” (4:25). And again, “Daniel answered the king, “Keep your gifts or give them to someone else, but I will tell you what the writing means. Your Majesty, the Most High God gave sovereignty, majesty, glory, and honor to your predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar… or you have proudly defied the Lord of heaven and have had these cups from his Temple brought before you. You and your nobles and your wives and concubines have been drinking wine from them while praising gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone—gods that neither see nor hear nor know anything at all. But you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny! (5:17, 18, 23).

We know well the rest of the story, that Daniel faced the threat of the lion’s den but he maintained his faith and his integrity. We may not face anywhere near the threat that Daniel faced but we do face the possibility of diversion from our duty by danger to ourselves or those we love. “Happy is that heart that is faithful in his responsibilities to God and his fellowmen and that can say, ‘The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me’ (Heb. 13:6). Disciplined to do one’s duty despite any danger!” (p. 214).

Diversion from Duty Can Come from Undue Emphasis on the Unnecessary Details of the Duty

The story of our Lord in the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha illustrates this point. As you recall, Scripture describes, “As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42). The contrast is made in the passage between these two women. Martha is chastised by the Lord for being overly concerned about the physical details of serving. Edman offers this comment, “Many efforts have been made to discern deeply what our Lord meant in His word to Martha, but those I have read miss the point of His statement. He knew the woman’s heart, and her desire to do her very best for her Guest; but He preferred more fellowship and less food, more conversation on things everlasting and fewer courses, more listening and less luxury…. Diverted from duty and delight by details, interesting but necessary. Too occupied with the trees to see the forest, too fussy about food to have fellowship with our guests, too much serving to listen, too many good errands to run a straight course, too much Martha and too little Mary. We can do much, and yet miss ‘that good part’” (p. 215).

Diversion from Duty Can Also Come from Preoccupation with the Past

The Apostle Paul illustrates this point perfectly. He had both successes and failures from his past that he could have allowed hinder him from doing his duty. He says, “…though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law” (Phil. 3:4-5).

Edman says, “He could have dwelt in detail on the advantage of the Jew in knowledge of the Old Testament, in the promises, in the orthodoxy of the Pharisee… The opposite can also be the case: we can be so grieved by the mistakes and galled by the failures of the past that we have no heart for the present or the future” (p. 216). Paul announces his decision, as he looked at his past life, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Conclusion

“Disciplined not to be diverted from the pathway of duty by present carelessness or impending dangers, by multitude of daily details or the long shadows of the past; this is the discipline of diversion we need that we too can say, ‘This one thing I do!’” (p. 217).

The chapter closes with this poem by George Matheson.

“Make me a captive, Lord,

And then I shall be free.

Force me to render up my sword,

And I shall conquer be.

I sink in life’s alarm

When in myself I stand;

Imprison with Thy mighty arm,

Then strong shall be my hand.

My heart is weak and poor,

Until its Master finds;

It has no spring of action sure,

It varies with the winds.

It cannot freely move

Till Thou hast wrought its chain;

Enslave it with Thy mighty love,

Then deathless I shall reign.”

Thanks for reading.

Randy

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 211 – 218)

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Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #10: Self-Control

If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must develop the attribute of self-control. Self-control is “control or restraint of oneself or one’s actions, feelings, etc. Synonyms are self-discipline, self-restraint, willpower, levelheadedness.” (www.dictionary.com).

“Being a person who is self-controlled means demonstrating serious strength of character. Throughout history, man has encountered his most significant downfalls and tragedies through his inability to say one very small word – “no.” Our conviction, or lack of it, will greatly determine the outcome of our lives. The choices we make are clear markers of the depth of our self-control. Of all the flourishing cultures that have crumbled over the past thousands of years most have been marked by a general lack of self-control among the people. Having self-control means having an inward strength and restraint. Living a self-controlled life requires far greater strength and courage than living a life of random experimentation. Many things in life seem like they would be fun or interesting to experiment with, yet the result of just one experience can mean total destruction of family, fortune or future. Is anything worth the dramatic changes in your life that will come about as a result of seeking momentary pleasure? Whether it is drugs, alcohol, food, anger, or other physical desires, if you don’t want to become a slave to any of these things like so many others have before you, you must exercise self-control! You don’t have to be controlled by anything in your life, if you can just control yourself. Stay in control!

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.3).

Self-control 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: Self Control with your Body, Self-Control with Emotions, Self-Control with Speech, and Self-Control with Freedom. We shall use that same approach in discussing it here. Please consider …

Self-Control with your Body

“Think about all the ways we face pressure to have our bodies measure up to societal or cultural standards. We measure our bodies in relation to how fat, how strong, how appealing, or how good they feel. We face opportunities to take performance-enhancing drugs, to use drugs or alcohol, or to diet to the point of risking our health. We know what the boundaries ae to help control our choices, but how do we find the strength to function within those boundaries?”

“There is an old truth that says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people cast of restraint.’ What that means is that when people don’t have a vision for their lives, they tend to have a lack of restraint, and that’s when they get into trouble. Self-control is about strength – being strong enough to stand in your convictions, and not be swayed to do otherwise even when nearly everyone else is. It’s also about being strong enough and wise enough to take proactive steps so you will not get yourself into a situation where the temptation can overwhelm you. Make a strategy and Stand Firm!

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.5).

Kimiko Saldati

“Kimiko is an amazing young woman. She is a champion diver who represented the U.S. in the 2004 Olympics. To do so, Kimiko had to overcome any fears of jumping from a platform 33 feet above the water. But she had to overcome an even greater struggle.”

Her identity and sense of self-worth was totally wrapped up in her diving. So when she sustained a serious injury that sidelined her for 3 years, it almost devastated her. She began to suffer from an eating disorder because she came to believe that in order to perform better, she had to be thinner. It became an obsession with her, worrying about what others were thinking about her body. She finally decided to seek help. Counselors helped her to realize that the underlying cause of her eating disorder had nothing to do with eating; it had nothing to do with food; and it had everything to do with emotions; and it had everything to do with self-worth.

“Typically, disorders such as Kimiko’s are the product of an unhealthy self-image. Most of us either see ourselves as either too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, having too much of this or not enough of that. Yet each one of us is exceptionally and wonderfully made. We can’t judge ourselves by the standard of beauty set by the world around us. What we see in movies, television and advertisements is not reality. It is filtered, airbrushed, and special-effected. As Kimiko learned, true beauty is really reflected by what’s on the inside, and that is where all of us have control. See yourself for how great you truly are and don’t sacrifice your health or your future trying to live up to an altered state of reality. U R special!

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.4).

Mike Huckabee

“Mike Huckabee feared he was in serious trouble. During 2003, the Arkansas governor had consistently been feeling tired. He also experienced chest pains and shortness of breath, and was on medication for diabetes. All the signs pointed to issues with his heart. As the 48-year-old politician sat in his doctor’s office that spring, preparing for a heart test that would show if there was any blockage, Huckabee wondered if he was about to receive news he dreaded. To his relief, no heart problems were found, but Huckabee still found himself in the midst of a serious wake-up call.

Huckabee had been presiding over a cabinet meeting during that same year, overseeing things from the relative comfort of an antique chair in the newly restored conference room in the state’s capitol building. Under the weight of the governor’s then 280-pound frame, the chair collapsed, sending Huckabee crashing to the floor.

‘It was an awkward moment for all of us,’ Huckabee said. ‘They’re thinking, ‘He’s our boss. Do you laugh?’ I tried to make light of it, but it was humiliating.’

Humbled and concerned for his health, the governor got up off the floor and resolved to radically change his life. Over the next 100 pounds in a successful battle against the bulge the earned him admirers in his own state and across the nation. He has since chronicled his story in a book titled, Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork.

‘I couldn’t go out there and urge our state to live a healthy life if I were a poster child for unhealthy living,’ Huckabee said. ‘A lot of people come up to me and say if I could make this radical change, they can do it too.’

Huckabee developed some mottos during his crusade against his waistline. ‘If it comes through the car window, it isn’t food’ is one. ‘Stop ignoring signals from your body’ is another. All simple truths he had to face if he was going to shape up. ‘I realized that I was headed toward an early death, and I would have no one to blame but me,’ he said.

Huckabee went on a medically supervised diet with dramatic results. For 15 weeks, he didn’t consume any solid food. Instead, he drank five packets of powder each day, which constituted his allowance of 800 calories. ‘From the time I started, I had very little hunger feelings,’ he said. ‘I was very focused to succeed and was surprisingly not tempted to cheat as much as I was determined not to.’

He also underwent counseling on behavior and lifestyle changes and exercise. The key was programming himself into a lifestyle that emphasizes fitness and treats food as fuel, not reward. ‘A lot of addictions are dealt with in a 12-step process,’  he said. ‘I discovered it’s not the steps I need to take, it’s the stops I need to make. The real breakthrough wasn’t what to do, it’s how do I stop doing what I’ve been doing.’

Huckabee’s book details his ’12-stop program,’ including: stop procrastinating, stop making excuses, stop expecting immediate success, stop making exceptions, and stop whining. Huckabee instituted an exercise regimen of at least 30-minutes every day, and completely changed his eating habits – both changes he says are for the long term. ‘I’d dieted before and lost weight before, but I’d never built a healthy life-style,’ he said. ‘There’s got to be a mind change before there can be a life change.’

Huckabee’s transformation was so substantial, he was able to reverse his diabetes and run a marathon. As he told the Associated Press, ‘My body chemistry has completely changed from an unhealthy middle-aged guy headed toward a heart attack to the body chemistry of a healthy person.’”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.6).

Self-Control with Emotions

“Strong emotions can cause us to react without thinking through the consequences of our choices or action. When our emotions are the strongest – either high or low – we should not immediately react, but rather carefully and rationally think through the situation and how we should best respond. To be self-controlled emotionally, means we won’t let our emotions overcome our rational thought process. Emotion and passion are good and necessary, but without self-control they can be destructive. Channeled the proper way, emotion can be the instigator of great change. Remember, U need to B wise. (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.7).

Air Force Colonel David Eberly

“Air Force Colonel David Eberly served in the Gulf War. In 1991, while flying an air strike mission over Iraq, David was shot down and became a prisoner of war. Through days and nights of torture in captivity, David never lost hope. Neither did his wife, who waited for her husband to return.”

After his capture, he spent the next 43 days in 4 types of prison. Food became an issue, as David and other prisoners were slowly being starved to death. Hours of endless interrogation tested David’s sanity. He was sustained through his ordeal by his sense of peace. He retired from the USAF in November, 1997, but continues to work independently for the US government. His book Faith Beyond Belief details his experience as a downed airman and prisoner in Baghdad.

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.7).

Len Roberts

“In 2005, after nearly 13 years of running the daily operation of Radio Shack as the company’s CEO, Len Roberts made a transition to the role of Executive Chairman, where he is an ambassador for the company. Joining Radio Shack as CEO in 1993, Roberts experienced great success heading one of America’s most well-known companies, yet after spending 20 years leading various companies, he decided it was time to spend more time at home with his family.

The most significant step in that life change was actually set in place some 15 years earlier. It was near midnight one night in 1990 when he received a call at his home informing him that his oldest daughter Dawn, then 20, had been struck by a drunken driver and was hospitalized on life support. Doctors urged Roberts and his wife Laurie to come to the hospital immediately as they were not expecting Dawn to live through the night. The couple jumped in their car and started off on the 90-minute drive from their home in Atlanta to the hospital in Athens, GA. ‘It was the longest drive of our lives,’ Roberts said. ‘We cried all the way.’

Against all odds, Dawn eventually made a full recovery. She endured two emergency brain surgeries and months of rehabilitation. She went on to finish college, get married and start both a career and a family in Chicago. The experience became a defining event in Robert’s life and changed his perspective dramatically. ‘I don’t know of anything else that I think of every day of my life,’ Roberts said. ‘One aspect or another always comes to me. Something will happen that will remind me of some of the pain, or some of the joy, or some of the gratitude we have.’

Dawn was injured while walking through a parking lot at the University of Georgia, when the driver slammed his car into her from behind. The drive, who was later sentenced to 3-and-a-half years in prison, did not stop. He drove off, parked, and ran to hide in his fraternity house. Dawn’s injuries were severe: a serious brain injury, fractured pelvic bone and jaw, a crushed left leg, and facial lacerations. When Roberts and his wife arrived at the hospital, the doctor told them there was nothing more that could be done for Dawn. Her brain was hemorrhaging and no on in the area was qualified to handle that type of injury. A neurosurgeon who was vacationing nearby was located. He operated on Dawn and kept her alive. Many difficult days followed, but the Roberts family continued to see progress they described as miraculous.

While his daughter recovered, Roberts did not. Still hurting emotionally, he developed a steady family routine: Everyone was to stay upbeat while visiting Dawn, and then let loose when they came together afterwards. As Dawn began to improve, Roberts struggled with the fine line between joy and despair. He was feeling intense anger toward the man who had injured his daughter. He dealt with his emotions by writing a long letter to a probation officer, in which he detailed Dawn’s injuries and his fears that she might not be able to have children. He urged he maximum prison sentence for the driver. He also wrote a note to the driver’s parents, in which he condemned the boy for driving while drunk, for not stopping to help, and for not apologizing. He also told them that his family may never forgive their son for the way he injured their daughter. It was harsh, but true to Robert’s feelings at the time.

To help get over the anger Roberts threw himself into Dawn’s rehabilitation. He studied intensely about her injuries, joined support groups, and worked with Dawn throughout. It helped her recover and helped him pull through the emotional roller coaster. In the end, the most important thing he had to do was let go of the anger. When he did, he found emotional freedom. Today, he is surprised by the tone of his letters. ‘I was hurting so bad, I guess I wanted him to hurt too,’ he said.

Now 15 years past the incident, Roberts has healed emotionally and has learned to focus on the positives. ‘This is a story of a close family becoming closer,’ he wrote about the ordeal. ‘Oh how fortunate we are to have and love one another.’”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.9).

Self-Control with Speech

“Sometimes we are quick to speak out of frustration or anxiety, but often words said in those times can create bad situations for us and we regret what we have said. People clearly recognize that true moral authority is seen in those who can control their tongue. Those who use words carelessly do not demonstrate power or authority. Rather, it is self-control in speech that demonstrates true authority. An old truth tells us the most difficult thing to tame in our world is not a wild animal, but our own tongue. But you can do it! Remember, to be a person of true authority and impact, U need to tame your tongue!

Tim Howard

“Tim Howard was a goalie for the most popular sports team in the world, Manchester United Football (soccer) Club in England. Tim is also American, which means he’s had to make a transition to a different culture and a different type of fan following. Tim also has Tourette’s Syndrome, which creates other challenges. However he has learned how to manage it all.”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.10).

McKay Hatch

“How do you react when you stub your toe? How about when you receive a bad test grade? What words do you use to express anger or frustration? The words we use are one of the most important ways that we represent ourselves to the people around us. However, experts estimate that swearing among young people is at an all-time high. In fact, the average high school student uses about 80-90 swear word each day.

So just what in the &%$#@ can be done about all this vulgar language?

Well, one young man had an idea.

14-year-old high school student, McKay Hatch had had enough of the profusion of profanities that his friends were using “to fit in.” He told his friends that if they wanted to hang out with him they had to stop cussing.

‘Most of my friends were cussing and it really bothered me,’ said Hatch. ‘So I challenged them that, ‘Hey, I don’t like the language you are using,’ and I told them if they wanted to hang with me then I didn’t want hear them cuss.

‘They came back to me in the 8th grade and told me, ‘It’s because of you that we don’t cuss.’ So we started a No Cussing Club.’

Hatch’s stand started something that caught on. Eventually 50 Pasadena High School students stood with him, and last summer held their inaugural No Cussing Club meeting. Nine months later a Web site was launched, which now identifies several chapters and 10,000 members across the U.S. McKay has been featured in countless newspaper and magazine articles, and has even been a guest on the Tonight Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Dr. Phil.

‘This all started with five of my friends,’ McKay said. ‘Now we have about 20,000 members nationwide.’

Hatch’s efforts not only affected his school, but also his community. Hoping to promote civility throughout the city, South Pasadena (CA) Mayor Michael Cacciotti and the city council declared the first week in March as No Cussing Week. ‘It’s part of exercising self-discipline,’ Cacciotti  told the Pasadena Star-News. ‘It’s about treating each other with love and respect.’

‘My mom and dad always taught me good morals, good values, and not cussing was one of them,’ Hatch told the Associated Press when asked about his efforts. His parents are co-authors of the family handbook Raising a G-Rated Family in an X-Rated World.

But not everyone is demonstrating the same love and respect back to McKay. His stand has infuriated the pro-cussing crowd, many of whom have sent false pizza deliveries to his house and profane hate messages and even death threats to both his email inbox and voicemail.

Still, McKay is undeterred.

‘It’s definitely worth it,’ he says. ‘Now we have members in all 50 states and 30 countries. People are signing up with our Web site and they’re taking the pledge to use language to uplift and make people feel good about themselves.

‘That’s what this whole club is. It’s about talking to people with civility and respect, and making people feel good about themselves. That all starts with your words and how you choose to use them.’

No Cussing Clubs can be started at any school in America, or abroad for that matter. If you’re interested in starting a chapter at your school or organization, check out McKay’s website at www.nocussing.com.”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.12).

Self-Control with Freedom

“Many throughout the history of our nation have died defending our right to be free. From their sacrifice, you have the right to freely choose how you will live within certain legal guideline. While the price has been steep, those who gave their lives envisioned a people that would rightly govern themselves; a people who would make wise choices and exercise restraint. It is when people cast off restraint, that chaos ensues. Our laws can’t truly provide self-restraint, because restraint comes from within. Only you can restrain yourself from abusing the freedoms you have been given, not just by our country, but also by your family, school, friends and community. Live under self-control and be truly free. Remember, exercising restraint means U R really free!

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.13).

Courtney Kupets

“Courtney Kupets is a gymnastics champion. She was a member of silver medal winning U.S. women’s Olympic team in 2004. But with traveling the world, competing in front of thousands of spectators, and experiencing great success, Courtney has learned where she needs to draw the line when it comes to her freedoms.”

Her focus was on maintaining a normal childhood while still enjoying the sport of gymnastics. Neither she nor her parents were obsessed with her becoming and Olympic champion. They viewed that as “icing on the cake” if it happened, but it was not “the be all, end all” of her life. She learned that she could balance the rigors of training and a normal lifestyle. She made it to the top because she understood how to not let either world control her. Rather in exercising self-control, she found true freedom to enjoy all of her experiences. Through it all she has learned valuable lessons that will last her a lifetime.

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.13).

Ashley Smith

“She was the wrong person, in the wrong place at the wrong time, she thought. It turned out she was the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Had it not been for her quick thinking and courageous actions, or her having learned her own lessons in self-control with her freedoms, Ashley Smith may not have been alive to tell her story.

Authorities say the 26-year-old Smith’s calmness and gentleness contributed to Brian Nichols’ peaceful surrender after he held her hostage for more than seven hours in her suburban Atlanta, GA apartment in March of 2005. She believes the alleged murderer was brought to her door so he couldn’t hurt anyone else. ‘I feel like I met him for a reason,’ Smith said of Nichols. ‘If that was for myself not to get killed, or any other police officers not to … (then) my purpose was fulfilled.’

The day prior to the encounter, Nichols, a jailed defendant, escaped with a gun from an Atlanta jail and went on a shooting rampage that left four people dead before taking Smith hostage. He put the gun to her side in the parking lot outside her apartment about 2 am and forced her into her apartment.

‘He said, ‘I’m not going to hurt you if you just do what I say,’’ she said. ‘I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt anybody else.’’ Nichols then tied Smith up with masking tape, a curtain and extension cord and told her to sit in the bathroom while he took a shower. ‘I thought he was going to strangle me,’ she said. But by 9 a.m. the next morning, Smith had convinced Nichols to let her go and peacefully surrender. ‘I honestly think when I looked at him that he didn’t want to do it anymore,’ Smith said in a televised statement in the aftermath of the incident.

Throughout the night Smith talked to Nichols about her own personal story, read to him from a popular book called The Purpose Driven Life, and told him he could have hope and a future despite his crimes. Smith told Nichols that he must surrender and be held accountable for what he did, but that his life still had a purpose and that he could affect the lives of other inmates in prison. She also told him about her 5-year-old daughter and the death of her husband four years prior. ‘I told him that if he hurt me, my little girl wouldn’t have a mommy or daddy,’ Smith said. She added that Nichols ‘just wanted some normalness in his life…He said he thought I was an angel…and that he was lost,’ said Smith.

It was a feeling Smith was familiar with. Her own life had taken a sharp left turn when she hit adolescence. She began to explore her freedom, partying with wild friends and using drugs and alcohol. Although she was raised in a good home, she couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble. Between 1996 and 2003, Smith had pled guilty to shoplifting, become pregnant, dropped out of high school, was arrested for drunk driving, and watched her husband die in her arms following a brawl. She also voluntarily gave up custody of her daughter because she couldn’t provide a stable home for her.

Just when it seemed Smith couldn’t go any lower, she found hope. She checked in for a six-month stay at a substance rehabilitation center and came out a different person. What was deposited in her during that time changed her life and gave her focus. She moved to Atlanta in 2004, hoping to start over and possibly regain custody of her daughter. With new friends and a new perspective, life was heading in the right direction. Smith understood what it meant to have true freedom – freedom from the things that had once kept her in bondage. It was that freedom she spoke of to Nichols. ‘Most of my time was spent talking about my life and experiences in my life – things that had happened to me,’ she said in a CNN interview. ‘After I started to read to him, he saw – I guess he saw…what I really believed in.’

During the night, Smith gradually earned Nichol’s trust. ‘I told him I was supposed to see my little girl the next morning at 10,’ Smith said. Eventually Nichols untied Smith, and then he opened up. He told her he felt like ‘he was already dead,’ but she encourage him to consider the fact that he was still alive a ‘miracle.’ ‘I said, ‘Do you believe in miracles? Because…you are here for a reason,’’ she said. ‘I said, ‘You know, your miracle could be that you need to – you need to be caught for this.’’

An hour later, Nichols gave smith $40 and let her leave. She got in her car and called 911. Police surrounded her apartment complex. Nichols gave up peacefully, waving a white towel in surrender.

Smith’s actions were a testament to the work that had occurred in her own life. In learning self-control, she gained an understanding of real freedom – a truth she shared with Nichols. Said her former stepfather Larry Croft, ‘This has put an exclamation mark on what her character is all about.’”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.15).

Conclusion

John Maxwell says that self-discipline is one of the “indispensable qualities of a leader. He says this about self-discipline: “If you want to become a leader for whom self–discipline is an asset, follow these action points:

1. Develop and Follow Your Priorities

2. Make a Disciplined Lifestyle Your Goal

3. Challenge Your Excuses

4. Remove Rewards Until the Job Is Done

5. Stay Focused on Results”

(The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader, pp. 128-130)

Brian Biro believes that self-control is one of the 15 key building blocks in the Pyramid of Success that leads to effective leadership and life. His book is based on legendary Coach John Wooden’s structure for personal growth based on real success. Biro says this about self-control: “Self-control is perhaps the single most important ingredient in leading by example. One individual who exemplified remarkable self-control in the face of tremendous pressure was Jackie Robinson. When Robinson broke the color barrier in major-league baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, he was subjected to unbelievably intense abuse from fans, opposing players, and even his own teammates…. Jackie Robinson epitomizes two key facets of self-control. The first is maintaining self-control during the toughest times, even when the most difficult obstacles appear before you…. Jackie Robinson also provided us with a brilliant example of the second key facet of self-control – patiently sticking to your own game.

(Beyond Success, pp. 92-96)

Think about what it takes to demonstrate the proper self-control in your life: with your body, with your emotions, with your speech, and with freedom. I hope that, after reading this month’s article, you know a little more about self-control 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 #16 – Distinction

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 The Discipline of Distinction. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, many of the things he has written resonate with me.

As he begins the chapter on Distinction, Edman says, “There are disciplines of the soul that are deeper and more difficult to learn and that determine character more than do those that are obvious. To be sure, there is the discipline of dismay when we know not which way to turn, but there is also that of delight when the pathway is picturesque and appealing; there is the discipline of darkness when we stand humanly alone in the shadows, and also that of light when we think we walk by sight and not by faith; there is the discipline of difficulty when the road is uphill and when heart fails, but also that of ease when we are drugged into a false sense of security, and like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress we sleep in Pleasant Arbor, with consequent loss of time and testimony for Christ; there is the discipline of disease, when in weakness and pain we make  our tryst under the shadow of His wing, and also that health when we seem sufficient to ourselves and think we have little need of Him; there is the discipline of obscurity and neglect when we are overlooked by others, but there is also the discipline of distinction when we come to a place of rare opportunity and responsibility.” (pp. 203-204).

Edman adds further evidence to substantiate that disciplines must be learned by citing Paul’s statement, “… for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11-12).

King Uzziah Illustrates the Discipline of Distinction (2 Chronicles 26)

A good summary of his life is given in 2Chronicles 26:15b-16a where it says, “And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction…” We might title his story, “A Tragic Conclusion to a Promising Life.” The chronicler says of King Uzziah, that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but goes on to describe that after a time he made choices that resulted in calamity for him and for his legacy. It would seem that the Lord is providing us warning that how we live, the decisions and the choices that we make, matter a great deal. To begin well is not enough. The Lord wants us to finish well, too

In verses 2 to 15 the chronicler provides us a substantial list of achievements that made King Uzziah great:

  • He rebuilt Eloth and restored it to Judah after Amaziah’s father died (v. 2)
  • He took on several long-term enemies of Judah, the Philistines, the Arabs, the Meunites, and he defeated them all. In doing so, he also gained the fear and tribute and perhaps the vassalage of the Ammonites, and as a result we read in verse 8 that Uzziah’s fame spread as far as the border of Egypt because he had become very strong (vv. 6-8).
  • He built towers in Jerusalem, at several of the gates entering the city. He built towers in the wilderness, in the foothills, and coastal plains around Jerusalem. He also constructed many cisterns for water retention for the large herds of livestock that he owned. The towers Uzziah built in Jerusalem and all around Judah provided fortification and protection for royal workers as well as storage. We read that he employed farmers and vinedressers in the hills and the fertile lands, for we’re told he loved the soil (vv. 9-10).
  • He had a well-trained army that was highly ordered with capable leaders. This was no simple militia. It was a large army of 307,500 who could make war with mighty power. Add to that Uzziah made very significant provisions for his army. In biblical times it was typical for soldiers to provide their own weapons. Not Uzziah’s army. The writer mentions that Uzziah made shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows and stones for slinging for every soldier. Uzziah also had what the ESV calls engines invented by skillful men to be used on the towers to shoot arrows and great stones. This was a very modern and enviable army that would put fear into Judah’s enemies. And one more we read in verse 15 that Uzziah’s fame spread far (vv. 11-15).

The chronicler also explains how Uzziah was able to accomplish his remarkable achievements. We read in verse 4 that Uzziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. In those years that Uzziah flourished, he set himself to seek God….But secondly, Uzziah had help. We also read in that same verse that he had a religious advisor named Zechariah who taught Uzziah to fear the Lord. He was to Uzziah what Jehoiada was to Uzziah’s grandfather Joash. In addition to teaching Uzziah to fear the Lord, one can assume that Zechariah appropriately held Uzziah accountable for his life with God.

God helped Uzziah fight his battles with his enemies (v.7), and Uzziah’s fame spread far for he was marvelously helped until he was strong (v.15). But something went dreadfully wrong. Who would have anticipated anything from King Uzziah but the continued favor of God, and success in all his pursuits? We must now ask what happened.

Verse 16 says, “But when he was strong he grew proud to his destruction, for he was unfaithful to the Lord.” Something radically changed in Uzziah’s life. It seems likely that Zechariah was no longer an influence in his life and had not been replaced by another mentor. Uzziah was ambushed by pride, and with that he ceased fearing the Lord. He was at the top of his game as a king. He had great power. His enemies feared him. He had achieved great things for Judah, and at some point he forgot that it was the Lord’s doing, not his. His pride swelled and he forgot the Lord, and Uzziah fell away.

The chronicler goes on to describe in detail how King Uzziah’s pride manifested itself in verses 16 to 21. Uzziah in his pride was not satisfied to be a great king. He determined to take to himself the responsibilities of the office of priest as well by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. This duty was strictly limited to the priests in Exodus 30 and in Numbers 16 and Numbers 18. To violate this was a capital offense.

Rather than repent, what does Uzziah do? Verse 19 tells us: He became angry with the priests. And although what Uzziah had done was worthy of death, the Lord spared his life, but there were severe lifelong consequences for him. Verse 20 we read that the Lord struck Uzziah with a skin disease described as leprosy that rendered him unclean and unqualified to continue as king for all practical purposes. In verse 21, the chronicler says Uzziah remained a leper the rest of his life and was required to live in a separate house, away from his residence and the temple. Jotham, his son, became a co-regent to rule the people from that time forward. If living the rest of his life as a leper and removed from exercising his duties as king wasn’t enough, we read in verse 23 “and Uzziah slept with his fathers and they buried him with his fathers in the burial field that belonged to the kings, for they said he is a leper.” Uzziah rested in royal land, but not in the tombs of his fathers. It’s a final dishonor. Even in death, says one commentator, Uzziah did not lose the shame of the skin disease which he received as a result of his infidelity.

The Discipline of Distinction Comes to Us When We Have Achieved

Edman says, “The discipline of distinction comes to us when we have achieved a place of prominence, a plane of privilege, a plateau of prosperity, and pleasure of plenty. In prominence do we have the humility of heart that marked us when we followed closely after the meek and merciful Man of Sorrows? … In privilege do we have the concern for the rights and feelings of others that we had when we were ourselves obscure and unimportant? … In prosperity do we have the same tenderness, even tearfulness, of heart and trust in the provision of the God of all grace and comfort that we had when we were penniless in purse and poor in spirit? … In our pleasure of plenty do we remember that once we were in painfulness and weariness, that it was of the Lord’s mercies that we were not consumed, that His grace was sufficient, that ‘every good gift and every perfect gift … cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness’? (Jas. 1:17) (pp. 206-207)

Edman says the real test of character comes when we are exalted and extoled. This certainly is confirmed by the account of Uzziah. Edman says of Uzziah, “He could stand poverty but not prosperity, work but not wealth, toil but not triumph, struggle but not success, duty but not distinction. His heart was lifted up, only to his destruction” (p. 207).

The Discipline of Distinction Speaks When We Can Answer “Yes” to These Questions…

“The discipline of distinction speaks thus: Are we as tender toward sin as when we first were lost? As thankful toward the Saviour as when He saved us? As thoughtful toward others as when we shared a cup of cold water, all we had? As thorough in our study and our service as when we began to tell others about His grace? As trusting in His promises as when we were poor? As trustworthy in our stewardship as when we tithed joyfully our meager resources?” (p. 208).

The Best Preparation for the Discipline of Distinction is Contrition of Heart

Edman says that this contrition of heart “will keep one always contemptible to himself, contrite before the Lord, cautious to hear any appreciation for others, concerned ever with the welfare of others and oblivious of his own pleasure” (p.208).

Conclusion

“May God grant to us the stern discipline that will enable us to regard distinction as a stewardship to be used in His service, bringing with it deepened dependence upon Him, more definite devotion to duty, c. disinclination to hear the adulation of others, distaste for the praise of men, death to self-interest, and daily delight in doing His bidding” (p. 208).

The chapter closes with this poem (Edman does not cite source nor author but many on the internet credit Meade MacGuire, a prominent Adventist leader and author who lived from 1875 until 1967.

“Father, where shall I work today?”

And my love flowed warm and free.

Then He pointed me out a tiny spot,

And said, “Tend that for me.”

I answered quickly, “Oh, no, not that.

Why, no one would ever see,

No matter how well my work was done.

Not that little place for me!”

And the word He spoke, it was not stern,

He answered me tenderly,

“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine;

Art thou working for them or me?

Nazareth was a little place,

And so was Galilee.”

Thanks for reading.

Randy

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 203 – 209)

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Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #9: Responsibility

If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must develop the attribute of responsibility. Responsibility is “the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management.” (www.dictionary.com).

Responsibility 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: Responsibility to Work, Responsibility to Family, Responsibility to Others, and Responsibility to Serve. We shall use that same approach in discussing it here. Please consider …

Responsibility to Work

“Work is seemingly the center of our lives. We work at our jobs, we work at school, we work in our interest, we work at our relationships; everywhere, in everything we seem to be constantly working. Yet success in any of these areas comes down to the amount of responsibility we accept and act upon. An old truth tells us that, ‘whatever we sow (or plant) we will also reap (or harvest).’ The greater the effort we put into a process, the greater the results will be. Jobs, school, relationships, sports, the fine arts – no matter what it is, the results we see are in direct correlation to the effort we put in. Hard work produces results. The responsibility we each have is to use our gifts and talents to the fullest and give every situation our all. When we do that, we will have the opportunity to see amazing results. Be reliable in the work before you, so that you can realize a great harvest of success, be rewarded and be given new and greater opportunities (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.4).

Christina Bernal

“Christina Bernal was like any other student, faced with the difficulties of school and trying to get good grades. But one day, a special teacher began to share with Christina a vision for how she could become successful. Inspired by the challenge to work harder, Christina responded and her hard work produced great results” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.4).

Stephen Shaw, her fourth-grade teacher, introduced her to a program called Odyssey of the Mind. The spark that this program ignited in her, stayed with her throughout high school and she became valedictorian of her graduating class at Lyford High School in Lyford, Texas. Near the end of her high school career, she was also notified that she was receiving a full scholarship to the school of her dreams. Christiana attended Texas State University in San Marcos in 2004 as one of that year’s recipients of The Terry Foundation Scholarships.

Al Hollingsworth

“Al Hollingsworth is a business leader, international speaker, minister, author and founder and CEO of Aldelano Corporation and Aldelano Solar Solutions. A successful entrepreneur of 50 years, Hollingsworth’s heart is to help others succeed in the visions, dreams, and ideas God has given them. Hollingsworth founded Aldelano Corporation in 1968 as a young man living in Los Angeles. Today, Aldelano is a nationwide provider of packaging and staffing services with a client list of Fortune 500 companies.

In 1985, Al and his wife Hattie founded B.O.S.S. the Movement Ministries—a program dedicated to mentoring youth in both business skills and spiritual disciplines. Al and Hattie also started Vertical Leap, an adult training program which allows others to start B.O.S.S. programs in their communities. Today, B.O.S.S. the Movement is a series of training curricula that have been planted in nations throughout the world, producing thousands of successful leaders and entrepreneurs.

As Al and Hattie traveled throughout the world with their ministry they experienced first-hand the struggles stemming from the lack of infrastructure. The lack of power, refrigeration and clean water – particularly in remote areas – was creating a daily living crisis and continuing a cycle of malnutrition and poor health, poor living conditions, educational setbacks, poverty and the inability to expand business and resources. The Hollingsworths saw that the governments were not addressing the issues fast enough and other countries who claimed to invest in the regions were getting rich while the countries themselves remained poor. Al’s heart for ministry combined with his business acumen led to the development of his most recent innovations including the Solar ColdBox – a solar-powered, industrial-sized cold storage unit that offers both refrigeration and freezing temperatures; the Aldelano Solar WaterMaker – which produces drinkable water and ice from the moisture in the air, and the Aldelano Solar PowerPak – a line of industrial-sized solar power generation systems. These products are designed to provide Instant Infrastructure to remote and underdeveloped areas, empowering small farmers and businesses to convert and monetize their own natural resources through the Power of Solar.

Today, Aldelano is a global leader in introducing solar technologies to developing areas around the world and Al and Hattie are committed to aiding developing countries in eliminating waste and creating economic independence and growth for their people and communities.” (https://solarcoldbox.com/biography-alfred-d-hollingsworth-ceo-aldelano-corporation)

Describing the B.O.S.S. program, Hollingsworth says “The program trains youth ages 7-19 to develop self-esteem, self-confidence, public-speaking ability, and virtuous business skills through 20 weeks of classes in two-hour blocks after school and on weekends. Subjects include poise and leadership, motivation, virtuous principles of business and economics, and entrepreneurship and finances. Young people develop positive thinking habits, create business plans and engage in Internet entrepreneurship, where they are allowed to earn income from products they sell through web-based businesses they set up. Many of those involved in the program are fatherless and poor, the typical targets for urban gangs. These kids – and all other types of people – can be trained to work for success without sacrificing principle. That’s really the heartbeat of where we are vested. If you take a look where the young people are moving and running toward, they’re attracted to economics. In order to stay potent, we’re going to have to be able to address that in the lives of our young people…. Work is not a job, it is a purpose… Working is not something that I do because it is a task. I do it because it is a love. I work hard, and I have great joy – the joy of purpose” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.6).

Responsibility to Family

“In today’s culture there are so many people who have denied their responsibility within their families. Family discord and disunity are more common than ever today. Yet it is not supposed to be that way. Rather than finding fault and being critical, a better way is for family members to join together and each take responsibility to do their part in the family. Responsibility is not just doing what you say you will do, but doing what you know you should do – even when it is difficult. But that is needed in families to keep them functioning as effectively and efficiently as possible. It takes a contribution from every member, including you. How will you respond? (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.7).

Don Hooten

“Don Hooten has experienced great heartache through the death of his teenage son. Don is convinced that steroid use led Taylor Hooten to commit suicide. Taylor’s death inspired Don to reach others kids who are experimenting with performance-enhancing drugs. He feels a sense of responsibility to his son to do everything he can to help save other kids” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.7).

Taylor began using steroids, without his parent’s knowledge, in hopes of making his high school baseball team, the Plano Westside Bombers. Changes in his behavior brought the steroid use to the attention of his parents. When they confronted him about it, he promised to quit. But the prolonged use had taken its toll, and about six weeks after he had told everyone that he had stopped using, he hung himself. Don says, “There are no words that I can use to describe what the impact of losing a child is, let alone losing one to suicide for any cause.”

Don started the Taylor Hooten Foundation (https://taylorhooton.org) in hopes of helping other kids. Don has become a national voice to educate about the dangers of steroid use. He has spoken to schools and parent groups across America and testified before congress. He says that users deceive themselves into thinking that they are not “doing drugs.”

Just Think Twice is a United States Government, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) website.

It tells Taylor’s story,

“Taylor Hooton was a star pitcher on his high school team, a handsome teenager who had everything going for him. Until steroids caught up with him, and he took his own life.

It took a while for his parents to connect Taylor’s recent weight and muscle increases with his uncharacteristic mood swings and violent, angry behavior. Like most parents, they didn’t know that these and other symptoms, like the acne he had developed on his back, were signs of steroids use. Taylor had always been a good son, a terrific athlete and had his act together. Taylor just wanted to make the varsity baseball team, and steroids had been recommended to him as a way to get bigger faster.

At first, his parents didn’t know what was happening, but they were alarmed. They took Taylor to the family doctor and asked that he be tested for drugs, not knowing that steroids were not part of the screening panel. He got a clean bill of health, but things continued to worsen. Even though he’d been using a cocktail of steroids and other hormones to bulk up, the drugs were wreaking havoc on his body and emotions. In one of his increasingly frequent rages, he told his mother he would take a knife and kill himself. His parents insisted that he see a psychiatrist.

After many sessions with the psychiatrist, Taylor mentioned his steroids use. Part of his treatment was to tell his parents about his problem and he promised to stop using. Later, when Taylor stole a digital camera and a laptop computer, his whole family confronted him about his unacceptable behavior. Taylor was grounded. After tearful apologies, Taylor begged his mother to lift his punishment, but she said no. Taylor went to his room and hanged himself. It was only after his death that the whole picture came into focus for Taylor’s friends and family.

The police and Taylor’s dad found the steroids and syringes in his room, and the medical examiner found them in his body—even though it was long after Taylor had stopped using. What Taylor’s parents and Taylor himself did not fully understand was the deep depression that steroids users experience when they suddenly stop taking the drug. (https://www.justthinktwice.gov/true-stories/taylor-hooton-17).

Pamela Thomas-Graham

Thomas-Graham began her career at Goldman, Sachs & Co., where she was a summer associate in the investment banking division while she was student at Harvard Business School. In 1995, she was the first African American woman to become partner at the international management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. [9]

In 1999, Thomas-Graham joined NBC as president of CNBC.com and in 2001, she became chief executive of the cable TV network CNBC. Her successful launch of the network’s business website became a Harvard Business School Case study authored by Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. In September 2005, she left CNBC [10] [11] and was hired as president of Liz Claiborne, Inc. [11]

In January 2010, Thomas-Graham joined the Executive Board of Credit Suisse as Chief Talent, Branding and Communications Officer. [12] In August 2016, she was elected by Clorox to serve as the Lead independent director of its board…

Thomas-Graham serves on the board of the New York Philharmonic and the Parsons School of Design. She is a member of the Economic Club of New York and the Council on Foreign Relations. [13]

Thomas-Graham is the author of a three-title book series, “Ivy League Mysteries”, published by Simon & Schuster: A Darker Shade Of Crimson (1998), Blue Blood (1999),[14] and Orange Crushed (2004).[5]

Thomas-Graham is the creator and owner of Dandelion Chandelier, a blog that explores the intersection of luxury, wellness, marketing, and technology. [15] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamela_Thomas-Graham).

But as the Heart of Champion article says of her, “Among a myriad of accolades, she still considers her most important role to be that of Mom.” At the time that the HOC article was written, these words were used to describe her, “Running a big business and writing mystery novels would seem enough to handle, however Thomas-Graham still sees each of those duties as secondary to raising her three young children. She and Larry have a son and twins (a boy and a girl) who are three years younger. Creating enough quality time to spend with the children is a focus of Thomas-Graham’s life. She wakes up at 4:30 every morning to write, so she can reserve time to spend with her children in the morning before heading off to work. After work, she is home to spend more time with the kids, playing and reading. On the weekends most days are especially centered on fun outings with the kids, taking them to museums and the ballet” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.9).

Responsibility to Others

“Have you ever realized how much other people need you? There are so many people around us who are hurting and in need, with nowhere to go to get help. Yet, you have something to give, something you can do to help meet the needs of others. You may not open a shelter for battered women, but there is no reason why you couldn’t. Whether it is cutting a homebound person’s grass, or conducting a car wash to raise money for the local homeless shelter, you can do something to make a difference. Others need you; they need what you have to give. When we all realize that we each are equally responsible for the community around us, then we can truly make a difference in the world. But all it takes is one person with passion to get it started. Will that person B U?” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.10)

Kris Hogan

“Kris Hogan is the Head Football Coach for Faith Christian School in Grapevine, Texas. During the 2008 football season Faith played a team from Gainesville State School, a maximum security facility for violent juvenile offenders from across Texas. Prior to the game, Coach Hogan and the Lions players recognized a unique opportunity to impact their opponents in a positive way” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.10)

From the perspective of the Gainesville State School Tornados, it had been a discouraging season. After suffering through a 2008 season that saw them lose eight consecutive games, and after scoring just fourteen points all season long while giving up over three hundred, the Tornados traveled to Grapevine to finish their season against private-school powerhouse Faith Christian.

Kris Hogan had developed a game plan for that night that had nothing to do with football. He sent an email to the entire Faith community asking fans, students, and parents to do something out of the ordinary, cheer for Gainesville and make the boys feel like they were their own. They set up a “spirit line” for the Gainesville team to run through and fans sat on their side of the field. It made the Gainesville team feel like they were the home team!  Though Gainesville lost the game by a score of 33-14, they went home winners!

Justin Gregorich

“At just 5 feet 3 and 130 pounds, 14-yearold Justin Gregorich couldn’t lift as much weight as other aspiring football players at Clearwater (FL) Countryside High School. In fact, his perceived lack of strength became a target for some of the other students, who have him a hard time about it.

On the afternoon of January 28, 2005, the teasing made Justin so upset he left practice early and began walking home. He was dejected and worried. As he walked, he thought about calling his mother, who normally gave him a ride home from school. But for some reason, he just kept on walking.

As he walked alongside Florida State Road 580, his mind raced with thoughts. Why did I leave? Will the coach be mad? Should I go back? Suddenly, a gold Lincoln Town Car came around the bend in the road. Justin watched as the driver lost control of the car, which careened off the road right in front of Justin, flattened a chain-link fence and barreled into a retention pond. Justin began running toward the care. ‘It happened so fast. I turned my head and bam! – the car was in the water.’

As he watched the car sink toward the bottom, Justin quickly dropped his backpack and dove into the frigid water. He is, by his own admission, an average swimmer. ‘I knew there were alligators and snakes in the pond,’ Justin said. ‘But right then, I just wanted to get to that car. Nothing went through my head except that I had to save that man, so I took my shoes off so as not to be weighted down, and dove right in. I didn’t even think about what I was doing…I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I have to save this guy.’

Two other passersby, Michael McBrayer and Shawn Brady, who also saw the incident jumped into the water after Justin. One of them opened the car door. Justin grabbed the driver’s right arm. The other man took the left arm, and together they swam 50 feet to the bank, pulling the driver to safety. The three had saved the life of 82-year-old Raymond Kane, who was taken to a nearby hospital where he made a quick recovery from minor injuries. ‘The weird thing was, I didn’t really want to leave football,’ said Justin. ‘I just left because I got this urge.’

‘It’s amazing – there are snakes and there are alligators and it’s cold, and it’s amazing to see people, with no regard for their own safety, all three of them just jumped in right after that guy, said Mike Eash, a paramedic for Safety Harbor Fire Rescue.

What followed for Justin was a whirlwind of national media attention, pats on the back at school and phone calls from strangers who were touched by his story. What made the story even more poignant was the revelation that Justin has Tourette’s syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. His story spread from the Tampa Bay area to newspapers across the country, NBC’s Today show, and just about every broadcast and cable news and talk outlet. In a statement read on the Today show, a recovering Kane called Justin’s actions ‘heroic and unselfish.’

But Justin remained unfazed, ‘Everybody’s making a big deal of it,’ Justin told the media at a surprise party in his honor, just days after his heroic feat. ‘I don’t really think it’s a big deal.’ He said he felt Kane’s real saviors were McBrayer and Brady. ‘They’re more heroical than me,’ he said.

Justin’s father Jim Gregorich said the experience has been a boost for his son, who is in a program for learning-disabled students. ‘God made him the way he is … and I think he is realizing that there is a lot of good in that,’ the father said. ‘When you get knocked down a lot, sometimes your self-esteem gets really hammered. He’s realizing that to a lot of other people, he’s special.

Justin’s mother wasn’t at all surprised by the actions of her son, whom she says has a ‘kind soul’ and is a hero not for what he did, but simply because of who he is. ‘He would do this for anybody,’ she said.”

” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.12)

Responsibility to Serve

“Each of us has a responsibility to serve in one form or another, and each of us will be presented with opportunities to do so throughout our lifetime. Like Roger, you have a chance to make a difference – whether in your local community or neighborhood, or around the world – whether with just one person or among many. It all begins with one person with a heart to serve someone else. Follow your heart and find a way to serve someone. Take the responsibility to serve and make a difference. Remember, U R needed!”  (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.13)

Roger Staubach

”In the 1960’s, Roger Staubach was one of the most popular people in America. A star quarterback at the U.S. Naval academy, Roger won the Heisman Trophy and was on his way to a pro football career. But he had made a commitment to serve his country in the armed forces, which is what he did during the conflict in Vietnam. For Roger, he was simply fulfilling his responsibility to serve.”  (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.13)

The responsibility to serve your country is important to many people, even if you’re a star. And that was Roger’s priority, even though he had been drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. After serving his country in Vietnam, he came back to play for the Dallas Cowboys, eventually leading them to a 24-3 win over the Miami Dolphins is Super Bowl VI. That win turned the Cowboys into an NFL dynasty and elevated Staubach to place as one of football’s consummate quarterbacks, a role that Staubach inherited from his own role model Bart Starr.

Clay Walker

“Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has not slowed down country music star Clay Walker. In fact, it’s sped him up a bit. Walker was just 26 when he was diagnosed with MS in 1996. At that point, he had released two albums, which included five No. 1 hits.

He had been an athlete when he was younger, playing high school football, but his music career had taken him away from his physical regimen. The MS diagnosis made him recommit to physical activity. ‘Before, all I did was sing,’ Walker told Parade Magazine. ‘Now, I want to do everything. I’m so much more active. At the same time, I’m more introspective, both as a person and in my music.’

The disease also didn’t slow down Walker’s music career. He now has nine albums, for of them platinum and two of them gold, with more than eight million copies sold from just those six albums. Among Walker’s 11 No. 1 singles are: ‘Live Until I Die,’ ‘If I Could Make A Living,’ ‘This Woman And This Man,’ ‘Then What,’ and ‘Chain Of Love.’ He is one of only a few artists to have one of his songs included five years consecutively in Billboard’s year-end Top 10 country list. He’s also been one of the country’s top 10-grossing touring acts several times.

Walker knows that he has been fortunate among MS patients in the fact that he recovered most of his physical and mental capacities. The disease affects some 2.5 million people worldwide, including 400,000 Americans. It affects the brain and spinal cord resulting in loss of muscle control, vision, balance, sensation or thinking ability. The nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged by one’s own immune system. The immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, the two components of the central nervous system, which decreases the transmission of nerve impulses, or messages, between the brain and other parts of the body, messages that control muscle movements, such as walking and talking.

A recording artist without the transmission of nerve impulses to his extremities seems unrealistic. But Walker has regained 95 percent of the functions he lost when the first symptoms appeared. He now rides horses in competition and lives on a ranch outside Houston. His life is nearly ‘normal.’  If you count making your living performing on stage normal.

‘When you’re young, you feel like you’re going to live forever,’ Walker told Parade Magazine. ‘I don’t know at what age people realize that they aren’t always going to be here, but I’m grateful that the process was sped up for me. It pushed me to enjoy life more fully.’

The oldest of five kids, Walker started performing country music at local clubs at age 16. By the age of 23, he had his first recording contract. Three years later, he was diagnosed with MS. Now, he feels a responsibility to use his experiences to touch the lives of others. He now sees his purpose as connecting with all the people with whom he comes in contact, and encouraging fellow patients. ‘I really want to make connections with everyone, from family and friends, to strangers and fans,’ he said.

As far as fans, he’s most touched when fans with MS want to meet him after a concert. It bothers him when he hears that those patients aren’t doing everything they can to fight the disease. So in February 2003, he started the Band Against MS Foundation. Merchandise sold at his concerts helps fund it, plus Walker is hoping that fellow entertainers will help as well.

He wants people to know that MS doesn’t have to be disabling. ‘Having MS has changed the way I look at every person in the world,’ he told Parade. ‘But I never let MS stop me from performing or recording. I want people to know that you don’t have to give up your dreams with this disease.”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Responsibility, Volume 3, p.15)

Conclusion

Think about what it takes to demonstrate the proper responsibility in your life: to work, to family, to others, and to serve. I hope that, after reading this month’s article, you know a little more about responsibility 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 #15 – Detail

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 The Discipline of Detail. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, many of the things he has written resonate with me.

As he begins the chapter on Detail, he says, “Life has its occasional crisis that crashes into its commonplaces, but it is more largely made up of details that seem in themselves to be insignificant and unimportant. In the multitude of many duties we may fail altogether to see any pattern to the details of life, and thereby we may miss much of its meaning, not to mention its melody. Details can give the motif, as well as the music, to any life” (p. 129).

Others have spoken of the value of being concerned with the details of life. The English Designer, William Morris (1834-1896), said, “The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”  And legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Life Can Be Likened to a Sentence

In this lesson, Edman likens life to a sentence. He says, “A sentence is ‘a combination of words which is complete or expressing a thought, and in writing is usually marked at the close by a period; a sense unit comprising a subject and a predicate, especially one with both subject and finite verb expressed.’ Incidentally, that sentence is complicated and perhaps difficult to comprehend at first sight. How much like life it is! (p. 129).

“Life, like a sentence, should have its subject, expressed or implied. To have self as the center of one’s life sentence is to have narrow horizons, shallow objectives, unsatisfactory achievements, in brief, a life that is wasted (Mark 8:35)…. On the other hand, “The life with Christ as its grand subject is the life with wide horizons, worthy aims and entirely satisfactory accomplishment. It is the life defined by the Apostle Paul, ‘For to me to live is Christ’ (Phil. 1:21) (pp. 129-130).

“The details of a sentence have their significance in life. The Most High puts punctuation marks into our lives, to make them comprehensible and complete…. A comma indicates a slight change in the direction of the sentence, and an addition to its meaning or enlargement and enrichment to its description…. The semi-colon indicates a more abrupt and basic change in the direction of the sentence…. Parentheses are indicative of even deeper perplexity than that caused by the semicolon…. Then there is the period that brings the sentence to its completion. Of course the sentence can conclude with a question mark if life is essentially an interrogation rather than a statement of fact…. Also the sentence may end in an exclamation point, with its surprise and astonishment, but hardly with its success. Life should not be an incomplete sentence, whose completeness and disobedience will not escape the Master” (pp. 130-134).

There are as many kinds of sentences as there are lives.

As Edman concludes this lesson, he says, “The sentence may be simple, not necessarily short, but without complication; it may be compound, with two or more independent clauses; it may be complex, with modifications qualifying the main clause; it may be loose, complex and yet with its meaning appearing early; it may be periodic, also complex, but with its meaning not apparent until the last word or almost the last word has been reached; or it may be balanced, characterized by symmetry and evenness of flow. Whatever may be the structure of the life, however short or long it may be, wherever it may meander or keep to the beaten track, however many modifications may be made, however confusing it may seem for the time being, it should be meaningful and complete when the conclusion is reached at the period” (p. 134).

Conclusion

And finally, “Comma, semicolon or colon, parenthesis, modifiers, clauses independent and dependent, every detail of the sentence is designed for some purpose. We may be confused when God puts a comma in our life or sigh inconsolably at the semicolon; we may be utterly perplexed by the apparent irrelevancy of the parenthetical portions which seem to have no connection with the past nor place in the future; we may be muddled by modifies and be in consternation over some clause; but if our life is His handwriting, if for us ‘to live is Christ,’ then every detail can be a delight. The Lord of Life is the Schoolmaster of our life, to make its meaning clear” (pp 134 – 135).

Thanks for reading.

Randy

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 129 – 135)

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Reaching A Generation For Christ #3, December, 2020: A Theological Framework for Youth Ministry

As we continue this series, “Reaching a Generation for Christ,” we look this month at the ideas presented in Chapter 2 of the book Reaching A Generation For Christ, edited by Richard R. Dunn and Mark H. Senter III and published and copyrighted in 1997 by Moody Press. Chapter 2 is written by Richard R. Dunn. 

Mr. Dunn begins the second chapter in the book with a story describing the experience of Elizabeth during a typical week as a youth minister, to identify the “heart and soul” of her youth ministry. On Saturday morning, she talks with a student who is “wrestling with spiritual doubt.” Over lunch on Monday, she helps another student who is dealing with a “profound sense of personal inadequacy.”  And finally, on Wednesday, she consoles a mother distressed about her daughter’s unplanned pregnancy. This type of schedule leads Dunn to say, “Relationships, human need, and questions about how to find meaning in the midst of life’s circumstances – these are the heart and soul of Elizabeth’s youth Ministry” (p. 45).

MISCONCEPTIONS CONCERNING THEOLOGY

Theology is not often recognized as the primary resource for the challenges faced by the youth minister, says Dunn. Dunn further states, “While most youth ministry texts do provide some biblical basis for their strategies and practices, theology is arguably the least written about aspect of youth ministry” (p.46). He says that there are three misconceptions that cause this to occur: that theology is too big, that it is too impractical and that it is too divisive. He deals with each of these in order, and then concludes, “Theological issues emerge in the living of life and the doing of ministry. Discouraged by the factors just mentioned, leaders may conclude that the best approach is simply to deal with theological concerns as they surface. A preferred response, however, is to pursue theological learning before, during, and after the emergence of critical questions that explicitly demand God’s wisdom. This chapter is designed to encourage youth ministry leaders toward this end by presenting the purpose and impact of intentional theological learning” (p. 47). He calls this the RATIONALE FOR INTENTIONAL THEOLOGICAL LEARNING.

Purpose: Why Pursue Theological Learning?

I have summarized Dunn’s definition of purpose with the following quotations.

1. “The true purpose of theological study is knowing God….

2. “Too often Christians limit their concept of theological learning to the formal, systematic theological studies found in Bible colleges and seminaries….

3. “To balance the picture, it is crucial to recognize that disciplined systematic study of theology is an important component in theological learning….

4. “The discipline of theology – the formal and systematic elements of theological study – is an essential tool in the Christian’s process of coming to a greater, truer personal knowledge of God.”

5. “Rigorous, systematic study is necessary to form and defend orthodox doctrine for the church of Jesus Christ” (pp. 47-49).

Impact: What Differences Does Theology Make?

I have summarized Dunn’s answer to this question with the following quotations.

1. “Impulsively one might be tempted to identify ‘increased accuracy in the teaching of the Scriptures’ as the only substantial ministry result of disciplined theological learning….

2. “The impact of theological learning is not limited, however, to proper hermeneutics and teaching. As we have seen, the depth of one’s personal relationship with God is directly affected by the authenticity of one’s factual knowledge of Him…..

3. “Every believer has a theological perspective – a ‘life lens’ based on his internalized concept of God. In fact every person has a worldview out of which he interprets life” (pp. 49-50).

CONSTRUCTING A THEOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK

According to Mr. Dunn, “A theological framework for doing youth ministry consists of three components: theological foundations, personal implications and ministry applications.” He defines each of the components as follows:

  • “Theological foundations are the raw materials necessary for developing a life and ministry that reflect true knowledge of God.”
  • “Personal implications address the impact basic theological foundations should have on the life of the leader. Because the leader’s life is the primary teaching tool in ministry, how the leader’s theology shapes her life will be what students learn most about God through her ministry.”
  • Ministry applications are principles and practices that directly follow from the theological foundations. The youth ministry leader should seek to make the ‘why’ of youth ministry explicit in the ‘what’ of youth ministry” (pp. 50-51).

With this as a base, Dunn describes six “theological topics” that he says can be used as the “basic building blocks of a theological foundation for youth ministry.”

  • Building Block #1:God
  • Building Block #2 Scripture
  • Building Block #3: Humanity
  • Building Block #4: Sin
  • Building Block #5: Salvation
  • Building Block #6: Faith Community: The Local Church

Regarding the structure of the discussion of these topics, Dunn says, “Immediately following the discussion of each building block are representative personal implications and ministry applications. These brief sections provide examples of how theological foundations shape the life and ministry of a youth ministry leader. The examples by no means exhaust the implications and applications that arise from each topic. Rather, the suggested results of sound theological thinking illustrate the process and product of constructing a disciplined theological framework.” (p. 51)

As I read through each of these building blocks, I found some very encouraging principles that can help me as I work with young people and attempt to influence them to follow Jesus. If I can influence young people, I want them to understand that God is concerned about them, wants them to succeed and will be there for them, even when they turn away from Him. I want them to understand that their first priority is to develop their own personal relationship with God. I want young people to understand and believe that Scripture is the inspired Word of God. That it is His instruction manual on how to live this life to prepare for that eternal life with Him after this physical life is over. It is my desire that young people truly believe that the Bible is very relevant to the issues and decisions that they make in their lives. I want young people to have good self-esteem, understanding that they are made in the image of God. I want to help young people to understand that they sometimes sin because they are human. But I also want to help them understand that when they sin, they can be forgiven by a loving God, when they turn back to him in repentance. I want them to understand the terrible nature of sin – that it separates them from God. And the supreme importance of repentance – that it reconciles them to God. I want them to understand God’s truth about salvation. That it matters not what some man might tell them. What matters is what God tells them. I want them to understand the importance of the faith community – the local church and how important it is for them to be active and working as a member of a local church.

But in spite of the excellent material that I found in this chapter I must agree with another reviewer of this book: “My biggest problem with Reaching a Generation for Christ: A Comprehensive Guide to Youth Ministry from a personal perspective is that anthologies of essays and short stories offer too many convenient spots for setting the book aside and pausing. That’s good when the essays, stories, or fables are deep enough to force one to cogitate upon them for a significant time. For me (and it may just be “for me”), the essays in this book are designed to be so basic that, even when they offer worthy observations, they don’t engender the thought process that would help me put the ideas to work in my situation.” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3093289546?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1) .

One of my favorite fiction authors is Irene Hannon. I like what she said in a recent interview when asked,  “What do you hope readers take away from your books?”

“I have three goals with every book I write. First, I want to entertain. People need wholesome ways to unwind in today’s stressful, fast-paced world, and I do my best to write books that help them put aside their cares for a few hours. Second, I want to leave people with hope; with a belief that no matter how tough life gets, a happy ending is always possible. And finally, I want people to close the last page with a better appreciation for the tremendous power of love—both human and divine—to change lives. To sum up my goal in three words: entertain, enrich, uplift.” (https://www.irenehannon.com/bio.html)

I think maybe that is what we want to accomplish with young people: entertain, enrich, uplift.

In this same interview, when asked, “Any parting words?”

“I’d like to say a few words about Christian fiction. For years it’s had a reputation as being too preachy and heavy-handed in terms of evangelizing. In truth, some of that is deserved. But the genre has changed considerably over the past few years. Now, Christian fiction refers more to books with a certain worldview. As a result, any reader who likes fiction that features traditional values would enjoy many Christian fiction books. I would love to find a way to convince more secular readers to wander into the Christian fiction aisle at their local bookstore. I think many of them would be very pleasantly surprised.” (IBID)

And maybe that is what we are trying to do with young people; convince the secular student to wander into the Christian sphere and experience a taste of traditional values that would impact their worldview and bring them more lasting joy and happiness than maybe what they have experienced thus far.

Those are my thoughts on youth ministry for this month. As this year winds down, and you set your sights on a new year, won’t you take time to pray that we all do our part in Reaching a Generation for Christ? Thanks for reading dear friends …

–Randy

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Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #8, December 2020: Respect

If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must develop the attribute of respect. Respect is “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability; deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment” (www.dictionary.com). The word “respect” appears 356 times in Scripture in 13 translations (https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/words/Respect).

Respect 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: Respect for Others, Respect for Self, Respect for Those Different From You, and Respect for Authority. We shall use that same approach in discussing it here. Please consider …

Respect for Others

“What does it mean to be a person of respect? To respect someone means you respect who they are and what they stand for, even when you may not agree. Respect their ideas and philosophies, respect their freedoms, respect their standards and convictions, respect their boundaries, respect their possessions and property. Sometimes that even means respecting your opponent, adversary or competitor. That respect must be extended not only to those in authority or those who are not like you, but also to yourself.  At the heart of respect is an understanding of assigning value to everyone. Everyone is worthy of your respect, including yourself. An old saying tells us that we will ‘reap what we have sown’- meaning that we will receive whatever we give to others. Do you give respect? A life without respect given out will be a life without respect received. Respect is one of the most important traits for success in life today. It is also a trait that is missing from many aspects of our culture today. Through respect, we can show other they have value! How will you respond?” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Respect, Volume 3, p.3)

Woodstone Elementary School

This school in San Antonio, Texas has created a plan to learn respect together. They created Courage Teams to stand up against bullying. Part of the program included a pledge that they created, committed to memory and recite every morning. The result has been A+. Their Pledge says,

“We are not just a class.

We are a COURAGE TEAM.

We promise to:

STAND UP against bullying and teasing.

STAND TOGETHER for anyone who is getting bullied.

STAND UP AND TELL AN ADULT to make sure the bullying stops.

We are a COURAGE TEAM.

We have the COURAGE TO STAND.

Dr. Michael Hall

In 2002, Dr. Michael Hall published a book, The American Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Chivalry. C. Everett Koop, MD says of the book, “It has been said that the character of a man is like a tree and his actions, good or bad, determine the fruit. The American Gentleman strives to make life more fulfilling and is written to inspire men to adopt a personal philosophy for growth and maturity. Through observation, integrity, spiritual philanthropy, altruism and knowing reality is perception a state of character can be formed for self-improvement, but more than anything else, we learn how to consciously become more considerate of others. You will not find a thousand-and-one rules of etiquette or a guide to hedonism in this book. Instead, you will find a gentleman’s manifesto based on the life experiences and considerations of a cultured and professional American man seeking social civility and greater personal character.”

(https://www.amazon.com/American-Gentleman-Contemporary-Guide-Chivalry-ebook/dp/B07934BF4T/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=The+American+Gentleman&qid=1608395665&s=books&sr=1-2)

Readers’ reviews include words similar to this one, “Refreshing and wonderful guide for all men, young and old. Mothers, this book should be required reading for your boys. They will thank you throughout their lifetime for exposing them to these ideals and so will their future wives. Ladies, this book will help you raise your standards and hold men accountable for their behaviors. The author has smartly balanced themes of history, medical and psychological reference, spirituality, morality, with a twist of eroticism. I have a renewed and uncompromising hope in finding a proper gentleman to share my life with.”

Dr. Hall’s quest was “to write a book that provided answers to his own questions and discover the qualities necessary for developing personal character…. Hall believes that developing sound moral character is a key to social civility. He also says a gentleman must stand up for what he believes is right – at all times. By Hall’s definition , a gentleman walks through life in what he calls a ‘state of character,’ observing the needs and concerns of people around him, giving of himself freely without expecting anything in return and always doing what he believes to be right, recognizing his character is linked to his deeds. ‘Trying to achieve chivalric ideals is something we just don’t talk about,’ says Hall. ‘I think this idea of trying to assign gender-specific behavior is something we’re not comfortable with.’  … Hall’s book looks to past tradition to develop a current guide towards civility and respect. He encourages readers to improve their personal character and promotes this idea by asking the reader to focus on what is truly more important: loved ones, family and community. ‘Many men and women have become preoccupied with their own needs and have forgotten about others,’ he explains. ‘It’s time for men to rethink their priorities and make necessary changes to become an American gentleman.’ … Hall specifically points to the need for men to show respect for women – no matter who they are or what role they have in society – something he says has been largely abandoned in today’s culture. ‘By celebrating womanhood, a man remakes himself.’” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Respect, Volume 3, p.6)

Respect for Self

“You are special, unique, and one-of-a-kind. There is no one else in the world just like you. Nobody else will ever be able to fill the purpose that you will fulfill. The world needs you and what you have to offer. One of life’s greatest challenges is to see yourself NOT as you perceive people view you. Rather, you need to see yourself for the true gifts and talents you possess, and see what you are on your way to becoming in the future. Each of us is a ‘work in progress’, so be patient with yourself. Don’t give up on yourself, and don’t give in to pressure to become something you’re not. Remind yourself that UR special, unique, and one-of-a-kind! U really R!” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Respect, Volume 3, p.7)

Cheryl Green

Cheryl was born with a rare birth defect that left her unable to walk. For the first seven years of her life, The Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children became Cheryl’s virtual home. She underwent numerous surgeries that never really corrected her physical disabilities. She also had a childhood filled with abuse at the hands of her parents. In her twenty’s she was diagnosed with major depression. But Cheryl has fought to regain and maintain her self-respect despite these disadvantages. She says, “Through it all nothing ever took away the spirit to persevere.” She wrote a book, Child of Promise, in which she tells her story and of her motivation and dedication to overcome these disadvantages. She is now an advocate for those who are underrepresented. She graduated from Yale University with honors and has gone on to receive an advance degree in Psychology and serves on several boards of several non-profit organizations.

Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch

“She is a woman with a gift to lead and a passion for young people. Retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch rose from very humble beginnings to become a woman of significant influence. However, before she could have an impact on others, she needed to learn respect for herself.

Born and raised in a tiny port barrio in Laredo, Texas, Kickbusch overcame the severe challenges of poverty, discrimination and illiteracy to become a model of success. Breaking barriers and setting new standards in the military, Kickbusch rose to the position of senior officer and became the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in the Combat Support Field of the United States Army. Known as a charismatic, passionate and entertaining speaker, Kickbusch today takes her powerful life message of respect and leadership to colleges, corporations and government institutions in the United States and abroad….

During her distinguished military career, Kickbusch held a variety of demanding and critical leadership positions ranging from Executive Officer for Information Systems Command to Technical Advisor to the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center to Company Commander of an all-male platoon….

In 1996 Kickbusch was selected from 26,000 candidates to assume the post that would put her on track for General Office rank. She declined the honor, retired as a twenty-year veteran and founded Education Achievement Services to realize her personal dream of helping people of all ages succeed….

Such a distinguished career looked unlikely during Kickbusch’s upbringing. One of 10 children growing up in a poor family, she says she learned that self-respect has little to do with wealth or poverty…. ‘I grew up with what I call a set of core values. They were never negotiable.’

Much of Kickbusch’s foundation of values came from her mother who worked as a maid. Her model served to instill in Kickbusch a clear sense of self-respect. She recalls her mother telling her, ‘I don’t expect you to clean toilets. I expect you to, whatever you go after, to do it to the best of your ability.’

Her immigrant father also had a profound impact on her self-esteem and her perspective. ‘He said, ‘This is not my country, but it is yours. If you can give nothing to it, take nothing from it. We don’t come here for handouts. And if you must sacrifice something for it, even your life, then so be it.’

These words of wisdom stuck. From a core of self-respect, Kickbusch has not only realized personal success, she has also passed the lessons on to millions of others. ‘We can all make our dreams come true, to not give up hope, but rather to take charge of your lives,’ she says. ‘Make a real difference in your families and communities and follow a disciplined road map to success.’” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Respect, Volume 3, p. 9)

Respect for Those Different From You

“We live in a world of labels. There are designer labels on jeans, and brand labels on all kinds of products. In the world of buying and selling, labels are often how we can tell a good product from a bad product, but we also use labels on people. We label them by color, socio-economic status, and appearance. If we view them to be unlike us, they receive one label. If we see them as like us, they receive another label. Like clothing, one brand is accepted and the other is not. Yet people are not jeans or soft drinks. We talk loud and long about tolerance in our society today. But what does it mean to live a life of tolerance? It means that you accept someone just as they are, even if they look, act, or live in ways that are different from you. This is unconditional acceptance and it is what we all desire. Respect in someone means accepting them unconditionally and even celebrating their differences. Every day you have an opportunity to show respect to someone different than you, and in doing so, attach to that person true value. You can speak life and hope into them and you may be the only one in their life that will do so. How will U respond?” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Respect, Volume 3, p.10)

Jerry Traylor

Jerry Traylor’s message is, “It’s not bad to be different.” Jerry has climbed mountains, run 35 marathons, and jogged across America from San Francisco to New York, all on crutches! He says, “I am a mirror. I want people to look at me and see their incredible potential!” Jerry is now a motivational speaker, traveling the country telling his life-changing story, to motivate others to believe in themselves and to let them know that a handicap does not need to hold them back from achieving their dreams.

Jerry was born with Cerebral Palsy. He spent more than a decade in the hospital going from one corrective surgery to the next. Even though Jerry was separated from his family, he always felt their love. After fourteen years of surgeries, Jerry went from not being able to walk, to being free to move with crutches. Even though his crutches allowed him to move around, he struggled for years with comparing himself to others.

Though he was different, Jerry soon realized that he too had a gift. Once he had his crutches, he knew his possibilities were endless. He says, “With these crutches, I’ve run a mile in 9 minutes and 29 seconds. With these crutches, I’ve climbed Pike’s Peak to 14,000 feet, I’ve jumped out of airplanes, and I’ve jogged across America. These crutches are a symbol of my ability. So you and I have to look at what we have regardless of what society thinks.”

Jerry says, “The incredible thing is that in our lives you and I tend to look at what we can’t do. We listen to everyone telling us what we can’t do. Why? Live Life, and love life, and learn! I do love exploring my potential and I do love being a role model for someone who says, ‘I don’t think I could do that.’ None of us are handicapped. We just need to remember that and go for it!”

Osama Shofani

“United States Marine Master Sergeant Shofani and his family moved in late 2001 from one community of California to another. MSgt. Shofani went through the usual routine of getting his utilities turned on at his new home. When he told the operator what he wanted to do, she asked him his name. When he responded, there was an extended pause on the other end. MSgt. Shofani knew the reason. His first name is Osama.

Two months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Shofani experienced prejudice for the first time in his life, all because he shared a first name with Osama Bin Laden, leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group. ‘Osama is a common first name in the Arab culture,’ MSgt. Shofani said. ‘It means Lion. In the Arab culture, you have the Catholic and Muslim religions.’

That MSgt. Shofani had served for more than 15 years in the Marine Corps at the time and had fought in two foreign conflicts, including the first Gulf War, did not help much. ‘In the beginning I was very frustrated,’ he said. ‘I had never faced prejudice. I had heard that it was out there, but I have never believed that it should stand in the way of achieving any goals you want to achieve. I still don’t. So that hit me hard. A year or two later, I started maturing. I decided that I could only educate, not retaliate. I started to ignore some of the things and educate people on the differences. I tried to take the high road.’

MSgt. Shofani was born in Jordan. His family moved to the United States when he was 10 years old. He says his parents taught him and his brother and sisters that it’s important what’s on a person’s inside, not his or her appearance….. MSgt. travels often for the Marines, and to lecture on Arab culture and language to soldiers…. He feels it’s his responsibility now to teach people about respecting others who may seem different. ‘I feel almost like an ambassador between two cultures. First of all as a Marine, teaching the Marines about the culture and sensitivity of that. Helping them understand what they think and why they do things. It’s a great position I’m in now. It’s taught me a lot.’” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Respect, Volume 3, p.12)

Respect for Authority

“At times it can be a challenge to respect a person in authority. Often, we see authority figures as not respecting those whom they ae in authority over. We don’t feel they respect us. Still, respect comes under the law of ‘sowing and reaping,’ meaning whatever seed you plant is what you will grow. If you give respect to someone else, particularly one in authority, you will get it back in return. When authority figures are worthy of your respect, show them that respect and they will end up building positives into your life and give your respect back. These authority relationships we can grow from and grasp lessons that will last.”  (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Respect, Volume 3, p.13)

Torii Hunter

Torii Hunter was one of the most electrifying players in baseball. He played both center field and right field. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Detroit Tigers from 1997 through 2015. Hunter was a five-time All-Star, won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards as a center fielder, and was a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner. He was known for his jaw-dropping defensive plays. Many say he was the best defensive outfielder in the game during the years which he played.  

“Teammates, coaches, fans and even members of the media have consistently recognized Torii as one of the ‘good guys’ in sports. Not only did he have the natural ability to excel at baseball, but he is a man of great character. He is recognized as a man who demonstrates tremendous respect, both toward the game and toward people of all kinds….

Growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Torii and his family didn’t have very much money or material possessions. In a difficult situation, Torii’s mother made it a priority to instill respect in her children, believing it would take them far.

‘My mother taught us a lot about respect when I was growing up,’ says Torri. ‘She was determined that no matter what we had or didn’t have materially, one thing we would definitely have is respect.’

Much of Torii’s success in life can be traced back to the lessons he learned as a boy. Those who know him well say it is obvious Torii has not forgotten his humble beginnings. He frequently visits his friends and family in Pine Bluff, and helps out there through the Torii Hunter scholarship program which provides college scholarships to high school graduates from Pine Bluff and other parts of the country. Torri has learned that respecting others is the fastest way to earn their respect.” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Respect, Volume 3, p.15)

Conclusion

Think about what it takes to demonstrate the proper respect in your life: for others, for yourself, for those different from you and for authority. I hope that, after reading this month’s article, you know a little more about respect 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 #14 – Disease and Disillusionment

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 disease and disillusionment. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

The Discipline of Disease

Sometimes we take our health for granted. We fail to be grateful, and then when disease strikes, we do not know how to handle it. But if we properly prepare, then when we come to the discipline of disease, we may face it with greater faith and strength that will sustain us. But even then, we may be perplexed, asking is this illness the result of my sin because ….

Sickness May Be the Result of One’s Own Sin

As a case in point, the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda was told by Jesus  “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). Also, we find that Miriam became leprous because she criticized Moses for marrying a Cushite woman (Numbers 12:1, 10). A third example from Scripture is Gehazi and his sin of deceit in receiving Naaman’s reward, that had already been declined my his master, Elisha (2Kings 5:27). The punishment for that deceit was spelled out by Elisha, “Because you have done this, you and your descendants will suffer from Naaman’s leprosy forever.” When Gehazi left the room, he was covered with leprosy; his skin was white as snow.”

Today we see this when one who has been an alcoholic most of his life, dies from liver disease. Or perhaps we know of those who have lived an immoral life and the die of aids, or some other sexually transmitted disease.

Not Necessarily, However Is Our Sickness the Result of Our Sin – It May Be “For the Glory of God”

Much injustice and grief has been caused “because of wrong judgment on the part of the friends or critics of the sick” (Edman, p. 191). The disciples were guilty of such improper judgment of the man born blind. When they asked Jesus, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” Jesus responded, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:2-3). Jesus’ dealings with Lazarus is another example. “But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 5 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days. Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea” (John 11:4-7).

The Sickness We Suffer May Be from the Enemy

Job’s suffering was hard for him to understand and sometimes it’s hard for us to understand God allowing him to be tried by Satan (Job 2:6). And Satan began immediately, and so intense was his suffering that even his 3 friends sat speechless. “So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot…. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words” Job 2:7, 13)

The Demon-Possessed Man in the region of the Gerasenes was troubled by many evil spirits taking over his body and forcing him to be “homeless and naked, living in the tombs outside the town” (Luke 8:26-39). The woman that Jesus encountered in the Synagogue on the Sabbath: “One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight” (Luke 13:20-11). Notice also His justification for healing her on the Sabbath, “But the Lord replied, ‘You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?’” (Luke 13:15-16)

And now let us turn our attention to …

The Discipline of Disillusionment (Luke 24:19-21)

The account in Luke 24 is interesting as it relates to our second point. Notice the disillusionment expressed by the words, “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.”

We Had No Assurance That the Results of Our Obedience Would be Happy – Nor Did the Disciples

“They had left fishing net and counting table, father and mother, household and goods to follow One Who had called with ineffable tenderness, Who spoke as none other with authority and yet with gentleness, Who fed the hungry and stilled the sea, Who announced a kingdom and its principles, Who provided for every need…. But now He was dead, dead, and buried, three days ago! Their Messiah, dead; of course they were disillusioned” (Edman, pp. 197-198).

And we were not promised that all would be perfect after becoming a Christian. Some have felt the personal experience of the possibility mentioned by Jesus when He said, “I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ (Matthew 10:35-36).

Disillusioned With Jesus. Perhaps we have even become disillusioned with Jesus. When we expected Him to be there for us, we did not feel His presence. He let us down. “It seemed that He had failed us, forsaken us forever. Our hears said mutely, ‘We trusted it had been He’” (Edman, p. 198)

Disillusioned With Others. We sometimes become disillusioned with others. We were attracted to form friendships with them because of their love, laughter, devotion, thoughtfulness. We found protection and comfort and peace in their presence. But then things changed. “Then came the forgetting, the failure, the forsaking….. Because they were human they were subject to frailty, even with the best of intentions; and because we are human, we suffered because of their failure. Without them life had neither meaning nor motivation, love nor laughter. We were disillusioned” (Edman, pp. 198-199)

The First Phase of Disillusionment. Edman says, “To face fully the fearful fact of utter loss is the first phase of the discipline of disillusionment” (p. 199).

Abraham learned this discipline on the slopes and summit of Moriah (Genesis 22:2)

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

Ruth learned it in the land of Moab (Ruth 1:16)

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.

The disciples learned it at the Mount called Calvary (Luke 24:19-21).

“We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.”

The Second Phase of Disillusionment. Edman says, “To find that God’s hard word is not His last word, that ‘weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning’ (Psalms 30:5) is the second phase of the discipline of disillusionment” (Edman, p. 200).

For Abraham on Moriah there was not only the restoration of Isaac, but also the promise (Genesis 22:16-18)

”Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[a] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”

“For Ruth there was not only Boaz, little Obed, and a home in Bethlehem, but also beyond them, David and the Bethlehem Bab, the Saviour Himself after His humanity” (Edman, p.200).

“For the disciples there was not only the exposition of the Word on the way to Emmaus so that their hearts burned with them (Luke 24:27, 32), there was also the opening of their eyes to see in reality it was the Lord Himself that walked with them, and broke bread in their home” (Edman, p. 201).

 “And for us, in our despair and disillusionment, what provision does He make? Restoration of lost hope and love ones like Isaac, with larger promises and deeper acquaintance with Jehovah-jireh, the Lord Who provides; perhaps new blessings, undreamed in our night of sorrow, like Boaz and Obed and the Babe of Bethlehem; perhaps the burning of heart because His Word and the breaking of bread with day by day in life’s pilgrimage” (Edman, p. 201)

Conclusion

Disease is indeed a hard disciplinarian; and only those under its dominion can know the depths of its discipline. The frailty and futility of it all , the weariness and painfulness, the tears and testings, the long days and longer nights, can cast us into deep gloom, or the can cause us to know the word of the Lord, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2Corinthians 12:9) (Edman, p. 194).

Disillusionment, designed by the Most High for our good, leads to delight, indescribable and enduring. It is a searching discipline of the soul. It leads to sorrow, suffering, silence and solitude, to the apparently utter loss of the Cross; but beyond that Cross it leads to everlasting gain and good, in time and in eternity. Therefore, let us follow Him fearlessly, obediently, trustingly, until disillusionment is dissolved by delight” (Edman, p. 201).

Disease and Disillusionment … two important disciplines for the child of God to be prepared for, if and when the situation calls for.

Thanks for reading.

Randy

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 189 – 201)

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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