Parents, our teenagers are screaming, but we may not be listening.

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I am sitting here this morning thinking, I do often, but more so this morning about the parents of my students that make up Fusion and the ministry that I get to do all over this community in which I live. My thoughts are overwhelming and have been for the past few months. I realize more and more each month that goes by how deeply important parents are in the lives of their kids, especially the spiritual lives of their children. I used to think early on in student ministry that when I met a teenager who came into my ministry, that if they came from a spiritually malnourished home, that it didn’t really matter, as long as that student wanted to change, it could happen, and would without too much struggle. I don’t believe that so much anymore. When I speak of a spiritual malnourished home, I think about fathers who are not the spiritual leaders of their families, I think about families who are not involved in the local church, attending regularly, serving often, and taking risk with what they call theirs. I think about more devotion given to sports and outdoors than the Word and Worship of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. What I hear that students are witnessing and hearing in their homes troubles me and leaves me up OFTEN at night wondering, “How Lord”?

There is a definite broken attachment from God in many families today, and for whatever reason, we wander away. We wander slowly at first, but progressively drifting faster and faster overtime, until we have gotten to the point where we have drifted so far from what is truth, that we don’t even think subconsciously that our decisions are eternally effecting our children. This is where I hurt and hurt often for teenagers. Why? Because so often they desperately want to change, they want to be involved in the local church, they want truth, they want to do something that has purpose and significance, but their greatest battle begins at home, with their mom and dad. I can’t tell you how many times over the past year that a teenager or group of teenagers have wished that their mom and dad would go to church. I even sat across the table from a teenager who looked over at his father who had just arrived to pick him up and said, “Dad, we need to start going to church.” His dad changed the subject.

A mentor of mine told me, “Gumption corrects drift”. It’s gumption that corrected drift in the prodigal son. In Luke 15, we find him at the end of himself, desperate, and instead of tossing life to wind and just living for the moment, he realizes there is more to his life.

“That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.” Luke 15:17-20

He humbled himself and realized that he needed the mercy of a father, no matter the cost. He never expected to receive what his father gave him.

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’“But the father wasn’t listeng. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

I love it, “his heart pounding, he ran out and embraced him…the father (God) wasn’t listening. He was calling everyone out for a party…’my son is here, given up for dead, now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.” (bold mine)

Look, I know that families are experiencing deep struggle and deep pain. There is divorce, addictions, the loss of loved ones. Some are even discovering they missed out on their teenage years, grew up too fast, but yet they have found some free time to make up for it. Just in the last month I have had three teenagers explain, through pain, how they wish their parents would quit drinking. Whatever the reason parents, I pray gumption for you! I pray, much like the prodigal, that you come back home, and bring your kids with you. Gumption reprioritizes what’s important, gumption comes back early on Saturday nights, gumption prays with your teenagers, gumption begins Christian counseling, gumption says “Enough!” I pray that you come to your senses, and when you do, that you find the Father WAITING for you, to run and embrace you, ready to throw you a party. How incredible the love and mercy of the Father, who will take us from the crap house to the dance floor in an instant if we humble ourselves and throw ourselves at His mercy. For the desire of your teenagers who want truth, I pray gumption over you for this 2017 year. May the prodigal come to their senses, realize that they are not themselves apart from God, and come home. Whether you know it or not, your kids are screaming for you to come, and the Father is waiting to see you.

Make The Hike

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Two weeks ago we kicked of the 2016/17 Fusion school year with a simple, yet, massive challenge, “Make The Hike”! Over the summer the word “movement” kept coming into my mind. All I could think about was wanting students to make some kind of move this school year toward God. It’s one of three values that we have in our Life Group Ministry, this word movement. So two weeks ago we sought to challenge movement in the life of every student this school year by beginning to “Take The Hike”!

How? I am glad you asked!

There are three specific things that I do before I go on a hiking trip that may last for a few days. First, I chart my destination, where do I want to be by the end of my journey? Typically, for section hikers, it can be 30 to 40 miles north of where they start, especially if on the Appalachee Trail. The destination tells a lot about what I need to pack.

We asked our students in Fusion, for this school year, where do you want to be in May of 2017? What is your destination? And I ask the same of you reading this blog, where do you want to be in May of 2017? Do you want to lead your family spiritually, start a bible study at the office, be serious about the local church, or develop a love for the Bible? Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10 that we are created in Christ to do good works which God prepared for us long ago. What are those good works for you? God has plans for you this year. He has created you to do awesome things for His fame! Don’t you want to experience this? So, first, where do you want to be in May of 2017?

Secondly, hikers prepare, they map out a plan and decide what they want to pack to help them achieve getting to their destination. We asked students to list 3 things that they know they have to take with them. some listed a bible, others said they needed to have a conversation with a coach about missing practices to be at Fusion, others said a conversation with their parents to begin bringing them to church on Sunday mornings. What about you, what would you need to pack in your bag to help you get to your journey. Maybe it’s and accountability partner, or joining a Southern Hills Life group, getting into soul care, or having a conversation with your family. Joshua 1:9 tells us to be strong and courageous about this plan, that the Lord will be us wherever we go. I would ask, what do you, yourself need to bring for your journey? Make a list now!

Lastly, experienced hikers always do a pre-hike, with their pack. They do this to determine what can hike without, mostly because the weight of the pack they are carrying. Little weight is priceless when hiking long distances. Again, we asked our students to list three things they felt they needed to unpack before making this hike. It could be everything from a season in sports, instagram, or even a friend that has been extremely unhealthy for them. What about you, what do you need to unpack in your life to make this hike? Do you need to unpack fear, anger, bitterness, a relationship, a habit. In Colossians 3:5, Paul says to put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking in us. What are those for you?

Look, I am on this hike with our students this year and I want you to join me. My destination is TRUST! I have to trust God with more of Him and less of me. May you join me and our students and make this hike.

To watch the message, “Make the Hike”, you can on the SoHills app in the android and apple app store.

Are you living in the right neighborhood?

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Paul was a stud and he had every reason to be a stud. He was a social elite, an intellectual genius. He was the cherry on top of the creme when it came to Jewish standards. Every parent wanted their kid to be like Paul, pre his encounter with Jesus! Wives would say to their husbands, “Why can’t you be more like Paul?” Husband’s got sick of hearing about Paul. But in Philippians 3 Paul does his own introduction speech, not because he is obsessed with himself, but because he has every reason to speak into the lives of the Jews. No one, and we mean no one, has the credentials that this dude is carrying, and in an instant, all that had meaning, clout, among a nation that worshipped the Mosaic Law and being religiously elite, Paul wrote off everything he had achieved as cow dung! “I consider everything a loss.”

This word loss is translated to mean scraps thrown to a dog, and from a medical term, excrement! Appealing right? As Barclay says in his commentary on Philippians, “I found the Law and all its ways of no more use than the refuse thrown on the garbage heap to help me to get into a right relationship with God. So I gave up trying to create a goodness of my own; I came to God in humble faith, as Jesus told me to do, and I found that fellowship I had sought so long.”

“A goodness of my own” Man, how many of us have been caught driving in that neighborhood. Forget driving, how many of us have bought a house in the neighborhood of credentials, empty worth built by human hands, of which we stand back and say, “look at what I have done?” Creating a goodness of my own!

These are offensive words that Paul writes here!

Willam Barclay goes on to say, “Paul had discovered that a right relationship with God is based not on Law but on faith in Jesus Christ. It is not achieved by any man but given by God; not won by works but accepted in trust.”

BUT,

what gets me fired up is when Paul says, I consider everything a loss, because of the surpassing worth of KNOWING Christ Jesus…I want to KNOW Christ and the POWER of his resurrection, being like him in his suffering.”

What is he saying?

The greek word here for know is gnosis and let me tell you what it means. We can take it back to Genesis 4 when “Adam knew Eve; and she conceived and bore Cain” Yep, the night they knew each other is the night they did the dirty, but it wasn’t dirty because they were married and holy. The verb of this word KNOW indicates the most intimate knowledge of another person! It was Pauls desire to know Christ in the most intimate way he could know Jesus, and for Paul, that meant suffering in what ever form God saw fit for Paul. NOW, who wants to buy a house in that neighborhood…I know what your thinking, “uhhh, not me, I don’t want to suffer!” Yea, it’s ok, I get that.

BUT,

to know Christ is a guarantee that the same POWER that resurrected Him from the dead lives in you and me! It’s a guarantee that Christ is ALWAYS with us, not matter what. It’s a guarantee that there is always HOPE. It’s a guarantee that in suffering there is PEACE which surpasses all understanding. It’s a guarantee that death is not the end and Heaven awaits. It’s a guarantee that we will always be UNITED with Christ. It’s a guarantee that we will BARE FRUIT in all circumstances.

Who wouldn’t want to know Christ?

I immediately think of Joesph and Job. These guys were on to something long before Paul said “I consider everything a loss.” Joseph ended his trail with the words, “what you meant for evil, God intended for good” and Job’s words have deeply rooted emotions, “the Lord gives, the Lord takes away, but blessed be the name of the Lord” The had been brought to place where nothing mattered but the Lord, NOTHING!

Are you there?

If not, neither was Paul yet.

Philippians 3:12 “Not that I have already obtained this, or that I am already all complete but I press on to try to grasp that for which I have been grasped by Jesus Christ.”

Paul had pulled up into the neighborhood of wanting to KNOW Jesus and he was ready buy a house. It was the most unattractive neighborhood in the city, but the amenities where eternal!

May you be willing to buy in that neighborhood.

How do I respond to what’s happening in America?


Often times, I have this strong fleshly desire to post on Facebook or Twitter regarding personal feelings that I have toward social and political issues, especially in the current emotional climate that we are in leading up to the 2016 presidential election! Everything from political speeches, to what is and isn’t politically correct anymore, I’m wanting so badly to jump in with my opinions and remarks, hoping to make some kind of sting into those that I don’t like or disagree with. I feel like everyday I am making statements like, “this is unbelievable” or “who is going to stop this”? Much like you, my mind wonders if any candidate can be trusted! I wonder, where is my voice, my platform to tell all how I feel? Is it Facebook, is it Twitter, or Wednesday nights to bunch of teenagers who are more concerned with Instagram likes and selfies than they are of Donald Trumps misquote of 2nd Corinthians! I don’t know that it’s any of these!

Our culture has become inundated, by way of social media, with heavily opinionated broadcasters abusing the character of people and in someway, trying to promote their own agendas! Us Christians are so desperate to have a voice, that often times we post and share feelings and emotions, disregarding and forgetting the effect that the Gospel ought to have in our life. We respond to people and issues the opposite way that the Gospel has responded to us. As if we have this right.

Please hear that I’m not saying we can’t have feelings, emotions, and beliefs about social issues and others. Clearly, all throughout the Gospel, Jesus carried such things and even communicated this to others. But, I think a more proper question to ask is, how are we filtering what we text and verbalize? What lens are we honestly looking through as we communicate to others.

I have been thinking about this long and hard over the last couple of years, and the prevailing thought that stays at the forefront of my mind is the belief that Christians are struggling to find a platform where their voice can be heard and received, and regardless of how we feel about being respected or not, what we do say will begin to carry some weight in our culture, even among those who have no regard for the Gospel. I believe in some small way we saw this play out when certain media outlets begin broadcasting the way Planned Parenthood was dealing with abortion. Through all of the undercover footage that was released, I believe that many began to see how disturbing sin truly is, even those who do not believe, and for a brief moment in time, in the social sector of America, Christianity had a voice that held traction! Not that I think this is our goal, because I do believe that truth reigns and is prevailing across the world, but I do believe there’s a way to respond from our emotions and feelings that keeps the Gospel centered in our life.

So how should we respond? The greatest answer that I can ever give you is to look at Jesus. I challenge you to read the book of Luke! I can tell you that there are moments where He responded with love and truth, moments that He responded with grace, moments where He responded with a righteous anger, and moments where He said nothing, he stayed silent, withdrew, and prayed. For some of us, our greatest struggle! In every way Jesus stayed absolute to himself! So I ask you to read this Gospel this month with me and see that Jesus is your filter, your lens! May you see this His way is always perfect! There are times to speak, but I wonder if there are more times to be silent, to withdraw, and pray?

Who is your determining voice?

About 4 years ago, a sophomore in high school asked me what was so bad about him wanting to drink alcohol, especially if he can be responsible. This question often comes up in youth ministry, everything from alcohol, to sex and drugs, more so marijuana. I knew that he was expecting me to talk about the negative reasons why not to, but I asked him one simple question, “Who is your final authority?’ Surprisingly, he didn’t have to think long about the question and immediately answered “God!’ I asked him what God say’s and pointed him to Romans 13, where Paul tells us to obey the law of the land and if God is his final authority, then his answer lies in what he believes about God.SM 456

This is a question I have been asking a lot lately of our students and it’s one that I ask of you. Who is your final authority? Another way to put it is, who is the determining or deciding voice in your life that drives you to make the decisions and choices that you make?

All our life we have been making decisions that directly effect the path we are taking and the outcome of situations that we find ourselves. John writes in chapter 16:13 of his gospel, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” Of the many truths that exist within the text, the one that applies to the direction of this blog is that the Holy Spirit is our guide. He only speaks what hears from the Father. The Holy Spirit is the determining voice in our life. The Lord speaks to us through His word, the church, prayer, and circumstances by way of the Holy Spirit.

As long as we allow the media, social networking, books, friends and family to be the determining voice in our life, we will always drift away from the truths of God, we will walk on wide paths that lead to destruction and effect many others close to us and far. Look no further than Genesis 2 when God gave the command to Adam, “ you are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Yet, the voice that Adam chose to listen to in Genesis 3 was the voice of deception, of what was easy and desirable, and the path is death. Who did his decision effect, all of us!

So as you read this, this morning, today, or tonight, ask yourself, who is the determining voice in my life, who am I influenced by, and where is it leading me, “for narrow is the path that leads to life and few find it.” Matthew 7:14.

Social Is The New Parent

A few months ago, a mentor of mine said something that I believed was extremely profound, “This is the first generation that will not learn from their parents.”  Leaving his house for a 2 hour drive home, I grappled with that statement.  I kept thinking about the students at Southern Hills and student culture as a whole. My mind kept going to parents and the calling that is on their life to disciple their children. I was flooded with emotions. “This is the first generation that will not learn from their parents.”  The weight of this statement is deeply significant and deserves attention.

Teenagers, our children, are gathering data while online and through social media to determine truth. The data they are getting is rarely filtered and typically insufficient.

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Nielsen, a consumer watch group, recently shared this research concerning teens and social media, “Connected youths aged 2-15 years are spending an average of 11.5 hours with the Internet each week, increasing three-fold since 2007. And the older they become, the more time they spend online. Teens 13 to 15 years spend 18.7 hours in an average week online – equivalent to more than three days at school. By the time kids reach their teens they are dedicating more time online than their parents.”

Compare Nielsen’s research to an article online by Pew Research in March of 2013 that says, “Mothers spend about twice as much time with their children as fathers do (13.5 hours per week for mothers in 2011, compared with 7.3 hours for fathers).”  I believe that both pieces of data quoted here are generous in their findings. In my opinion, I believe teens spend MORE time online and social media than stated.  In either case, it’s safe to say that on average, teens spend more face-to-screen time learning through online sources than face-to-face time learning from their parents. 

Regardless of what the data shows, this fact is true, parents are still the most influential people in the lives of their children.  I don’t need a study to prove this to me or to convince you, because I hear it everyday.  I see it in every student, the longing and desire to be led by their parent, to be noticed, and even disciplined.  As a parent, you have have the incredible privilege to disciple and to lead your kid into truth.

In Deuteronomy 6:7, God says about his truth to “impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (NIV) I pray that you take this verse and memorize it, ask the Spirit to lead you in walking out this verse in the lives of your teens and children. In your own home, reverse the statement my mentor made, “My child will be discipled and led by me and the Holy Spirit, which lives in me.”

Love Your Neighbor

We’ve learned that love has conditions. I’ll love you if you let me hang with the boys this weekend. The world defines love as being based on something. I love you because you’re such a good husband. 

There are three words in the New Testament that are used for love: eros, phileo, and agapeErosis a romantic love where the focus is on personal happiness. Phileo is a brotherly love that we offer most people and is focused on “our” happiness.  Agape love has no conditions; is limitless. Agape love is the only love that God commands of us have for each other. It is the love that can be the most difficult to give, because oftentimes there is little return for a fleshy desire.

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Paul writes in Galatians 5:14, “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love [Agape love] your neighbor as yourself.’” 

The Greek word for neighbor is geiton and it means “one living in the same land.” The adjective of this word is plesion and it means “near.” It kind of has this urban tone to it, doesn’t it?

So how does this look in our culture? Who is your neighbor? Who is in the same land, who is near? 

If we take into consideration the meaning of these two Greek words, it’s not just our family, our neighborhood or street.  It’s our city and our county.  That’s our neighbor.

I remember a number of years ago hearing someone say, “We have become garage door communities.” We drive up, ignoring our neighbor next door working in the yard, pull our car in the garage and shut the door as quickly as possible, hoping the neighbor is not following shortly behind. When I didn’t have a garage, I shamefully admit that I have acted as if I were on my phone, hoping my neighbor would not bother me before I could get into my house and shut the door behind me. We have adopted this mentality in public as well, avoiding people that want connection and looking the other way when we see a need. 

We do this because it’s hard to love, especially people that we don’t truly care for, and we subconsciously think, “There is no return here; there is nothing in it for me.” This is anti-gospel. This mindset is far from the precept of Galatians 5:14. It’s far from Jesus.

We must declare war on this mindset. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul reminds you and me that “you do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.” We belong to him, our time is His time, our possessions, His, our money, His, and our love from His love. I would simply say that we ask God, “My Lord, I want your love to be my love. Guide me God, as I am selfish, conditional, and mostly unwilling. Only because of you and from You, I can love like you.” 

Let’s do this!