Conflict

16Nov

6 Marks of Good Evangelism

This post first appeared as a sermon I preached at The Table: a Christ-centered, outward-focused, community of friends (20’s and 30’s) in Austin, TX. You can watch or listen to that sermon by clicking here

When you hear the word “evangelism” what comes to mind?

  • TV preachers?
  • Emotionally manipulative end-of-sermon invitations?
  • Intrusive door-to-door visitors?
  • angry street preachers?

Evangelism done poorly by some does not negate evangelism as a command for all.

Evangelism is also not a spiritual gift that only some are good at.

Some Christ-followers have also criticized specific methods of evangelism, which is fine, as long as you’re actually telling people about Jesus as well. My hunch is that most of us realize that evangelism is just a churchy word for telling others about Jesus. However, I also have a hunch that most of us simply are not doing it.

Some Christ-followers have labelled things like evangelism as legalistic but it’s not legalistic to insist Christians obey the commands of Christ. 

Evangelism is among the final commands given to us by Jesus before he ascends into heaven. (See: Matthew 28:18-20)

When people we love speak their final words, we lean in to hear them and hang on to them. Why have we done the opposite with Jesus’ final words to us?

With all the confusion swirling around evangelism, what does good evangelism look like?

6 Marks of Good Evangelism

1. Friendship

1 Thessalonians 2:8, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”The 1st century Greco-Roman idea of self was all encompassing. It meant something similar to what we mean now when we say “soul” – the very core of who you are.

Notice, too, that Paul notes that he didn’t just want to share a list of beliefs for the intellectual assent of the Thessalonians people. Even before they believed, they had become very dear to Paul and his team.

Do you have friends that don’t follow Jesus? If you don’t, find some new friends!

If you do have friends that don’t follow Jesus, don’t give up on them because they don’t believe at first. Allow them to become dear to you.

 

2. Personal Proof

You know who doesn’t care that you know a few verses from Romans? People who don’t follow Jesus. 

But if they care about you, they’ll be much more likely to listen to how Jesus ha changed your life. Furthermore, they’ll know you’re telling the truth because they’ll see the proof in your life, especially if they may have known you before you started following Jesus.

When describing how Jesus has changed you, speak in positives instead of negatives.

  • Example: Jesus has changed me so now I live for him by trying to think of others as more important than myself.
  • BAD Example: Jesus has changed me so now I live for him by not going to drinking parties.

Both statements should be true of people who follow Jesus but only one is primarily helpful in evangelism. It’s simply a matter of emphasis.

 

3. Saying “Jesus”

Times have changed. When sharing about your faith, if all you say is, “I believe in God” most of America will agree with you even though most of America does not in fact follow Jesus. But you say the name of Jesus – and it becomes more clear who and what you’re talking about.

When then topic of evangelism comes up many Christ-followers cite a quote that many have attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (although there’s rampant skepticism around the source), “Share the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.

That makes zero sense.

Let’s say a Christian, a Muslim, and a Mormon go on the same mission trip. They work on the same roof, pain the same house, help the same person – but none of them ever say a word. If they all looked about the same, how would you know who believed what? – YOU WOULDN’T!

To share the Gospel, you must use words and you must say “Jesus.”

4. Being prepared

The first part of 1 Peter 2:15 reads, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew the conversation was turning toward faith but you weren’t ready? Have you ever felt like God was pushing you to bring him up in a conversation but didn’t? We have to be ready!

Prepare now for a conversation you’ll have SOON. 

 

5. Humility

The second part of 1 Peter 2:15 reads, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 

“Bad evangelism says, ‘I’m right; you’re wrong; and I would love to tell you about it.’” – Tim Keller

Good evangelism says, “Jesus is right; we’re all wrong; and I would love to tell you about it.”

When you remember that before Christ, you were “dead in your sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1) you remember just how much God has saved you from. You remember how you did nothing to deserve grace so the only proper response to someone who has not yet experienced saving grace is not arrogance but humility.

 

6. Bible

Like we said before, a lot of times you can’t start here. However, you can never accurately share the truth about God if you don’t open the Word of God.

Click here to see 10 Gospel Passages that are great for evangelism conversations. I would suggest committing a few to memory so that you are always ready (see #4 above: be prepared).

 

What are other marks of good evangelism?

When’s the last time you told someone about Jesus?

27Sep

Proverbs and Politics

Lately, it seems like we’ve bought into a lie that our words don’t matter, or at least that’s the only way I can explain how some of my friends, as well as myself, are acting on social media. We’ve all but lost the ability to engage in civil discourse as we furiously type things on social media we would never have the courage to say/scream at someone’s face.

Below are 23 verses from Proverbs – a book all about wisdom in practical life. They’re broken up into 5 general categories – don’t miss the last one. It’s the most prevalent and possibly the most dangerous. 

See: How to Read Proverbs

I’m committing to read through all 23 verses before I post something on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Would you join me? Our words matter. Jesus says that what we saw reveals what’s in our heart. Remember, our first allegiance as Christians is to King Jesus. See: God Doesn’t Need America

 

On Putting Trust in Politics, a Party, and/or a Politician

“Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” – Prv. 1:19

“but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Prv. 1:33

“Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” – Prv. 29:26

 

On Engaging Political Opponents

“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” – Prv. 9:7-8

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” – Prv. 10:12

“Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” – Prv. 14:7

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” – Prv. 15:18

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.: – Prv. 18:2

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” – Prv. 24:17

 

On Thinking/Knowing You’re Right and Humility

“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” – Prv. 3:7

“Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” – Prv. 3:34

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” – Prv. 14:12

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Prv. 21:2

 

On the Power of Words

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” – Prv. 10:19

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Prv. 13:3

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Prv. 15:1

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” – Prv. 17:28

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Prv. 18:21

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Prv. 27:6

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?

There is more hope for a fool than for him.” – Prv. 29:20

 

On Lying 

This is by far the most pernicious. Think about it – every time you share an article that you’re not sure is really true but you like because it furthers your own opinion while pushing down your opponent, you’re lying. The Bible often calls that “bearing false witness” and it’s the 9th commandment.

See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” – Prv. 6:16-19

“Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right” – Prv. 8:6

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” – Prv. 19:9

 

What verse(s) would you add to this list?

23May

When Being Still Isn’t Enough

We all know it. You can feel it. Even Darth Vader knows it.

We all know that our pace of life is simply out of control. In an effort to do more and be better we’re doing less that matters and becoming worse. (See: Do More Better)

It seems like every bit of our time is spoken for and a never-ending bidding war ensues from all sides. Some of this chaos is simply a product of our culture today. For many, the 40-hour work week is a figment of past imagination, like waking up from a really good dream you can’t quite remember.

However, most of this chaos is self-imposed.

Maybe you’re a people-pleaser and struggle with telling people “no.” You end you end up helping someone move every weekend and take on projects at work that are outside of your normal scope simply because someone asked.

Maybe you’re a parent and your kids are all involved in 3-4 activities at a time…each! I have regularly witnessed the anxiety this produces in teenagers as school starts to get more challenging and college looms a mere few years away. I worry that we’re teaching the next generation to live life at even more frantic and chaotic pace than we are.

Maybe you’re a procastinator and your unwillingness to stick to a schedule is constantly leaving you scrambling to finish tasks at the last minute.

 

In short, we all feel stressed, hurried, and a bit overwhelmed at times. You don’t have to follow Jesus to know that.

A popular solution: meditation

Recently, meditation has experienced an undeniable resurgence as a solution to our unbridled hurriedness, an addiction to production.

The world is recognizing our need to be still.

I love when our culture catches up with the Bible. 

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

For thousands of years, the people of God have practiced meditation as an integral part of prayer. This is not primarily an Eastern Buddhist practice, but a distinctly Christian practice.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” – Joshua 1:8

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:2

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 119:15

…and many more.

 

The world is learning in part what God has always fully known. 

The world knows we need to be still, but that’s not the full solution.

Slowing down isn’t good enough. We need something else on which to fix our gaze, away from ourselves and our busy schedules and our endless striving.

The world knows the first half of Psalm 46:10 but not the 2nd. 

Being still isn’t enough. The solution to our obsession with ourselves is an obsession with God. 

Once we actually slow down, we need to remind ourselves who’s really in charge of our lives. 

Spending time with God isn’t complicated, but it’s also not easy. See: What a Dentist Knows about Faith

It takes time. See: It Takes Time to Take Heed 

But once you get started, it can become an obsession, one that will actually save you from yourself. See: What Christians Can Learn From Cross-Fit.

If you don’t know where to start, click here for a free 10-day study called Jump Start through the book of James.

This week, be still, but remember that being still isn’t enough. Be still and know that he is God!

27Dec

4 Reasons to See a Counselor This Year

This is the year…or is it?

I think it can be if you go see a counselor.

A new year is dawning and goals are being made, life changes being imagined.

I’d like to suggest that the key to seeing those goals accomplished might be you seeing a counselor.

Last year I sought out a counselor for a few reasons. My wife and I needed an outside source to help us see some things a bit more clearly. We both had some changes at work that we wanted to process through with a qualified professional and we were both in a season of life where we just needed some encouragement.

I am so grateful for the Church – the body of Christ. Some reasons are obvious but one subtle reason for my gratitude has been a shift I’ve noticed over the last decade or so – Christians are speaking out loudly about the need and help that professional counseling provides. In doing so, pastors and other notably visible leaders are helping to shatter the negative stigma counseling has carried for far too long.

Seeing a counselor doesn’t make you weak. It proves you’re strong.

A few notes:

Pastors are not counselors.

I’m a pastor and am trained for a lot of situations – but serving as a professional counselor is not one of those areas. I am not qualified or capable. If you find a pastor who claims to be without the required credentials and education/experience, run. As a pastor, I can provide spiritual direction and some sense of general wisdom – but most of my job relationally is simply to be with them and remind/help them to see that God is with them.

See: 7 Questions to Ask on Date Night: From a Pastor and a Therapist

See: 7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night: From a Pastor and a Therapist

Counseling is affordable

We had to adjust our budget to accommodate for the expense but we didn’t have to make a drastic change to afford counseling. We just stopped wasting some money. When people complain about not being able to afford counseling my first response is usually, “How can you afford not to get help?” Then, I ask if they have cable or satellite TV service. One of those two responses usually solves the problem.

However, if the financial burden sincerely is great, there are options. Churches may be able to help defer the cost and in my town there are fantastic counseling options with income-based payment options. Basically, there is simply no good excuse.

 

4 Reasons to See a Counselor This Year

1.) To help you see blind spots.

Sometimes all you need is an outside perspective with the skills to see into your situation. It is easy for us to get tunnel vision in certain areas of life and fail to see a simple solution because it might not be as obvious to us and it is to a counselor. A lot of answers to our problems lie just outside of our sight. Counselors can help you see the blind spots.

2.) To be encouraged for what you’re doing right.

As long as you’re making a sincere, full effort, counseling should never feel like a beat-down. It can feel emotionally draining but that part if often necessary. Think about whatever issue you’re struggling with right now. Maybe your marriage is strained or you’re struggling with feeling inadequate as a parent – maybe you are still dealing with some hurt in your past. Whatever it is, imagine how good it would feel if you could share that part of your life with someone and be encouraged that it might not be as bad as you have made it out to be.

Maybe you’re doing more right than you realize.

Some of my favorite moments of counseling have been receiving encouragement for what I didn’t realize I was already doing well. That give you motivation to work on whatever you’re currently not doing well.

3.) To achieve better work/life balance.

Everyone says they want this but nobody really wants to make it happen.

Too many lazy people talk about work/life balance but they’ve never really learned how to work too hard in the first place. Too many workaholics talk about work/life balance but have no real intentions to stop making work an idol in their life.

Seeing a counselor this year can help you actually achieve work/life balance because they can help you achieve what matters most.

Counselors tell you the truth about you.

If you’re lazy, they’ll tell you. If you need to stop and rest, they’ll tell you.

4.) Strengthen the most important relationships in your life.

This is the best reason to go to counseling. Whether it’s your spouse, kids, or your parents – these are the most important people in your life. Or at least they can be. Maybe counseling is just what you need to repair or renew those relationships.

See: 13 Questions to Gauge if You Need Marriage Counseling

9Dec

An Open Letter to American Muslims from a Christian Pastor

To All Muslim Americans,

I’ve had it.

There are a lot of political issues and current events about which I have formulated certain opinions. Collectively they don’t neatly place me in any specific category of political thought. Labels like “conservative” or “liberal” don’t fit the sum of my thoughts.

Moreover, I am a grateful pastor in a church where a wide range of political opinions are expressed. Even if those opinions were homogenous I would not share my political opinion because I greatly appreciate the separation between church and state. Thank you, Baptist up-bringing.

But I simply cannot remain silent on this issue.

I am a white American male. Statistics prove over and over again that based simply on surface level impressions, I get the benefit of the doubt more than any other gender/race combination. Based solely on my gender and skin color I am usually the most easily trusted and the least suspected person in any given situation.

I am also a Christian pastor. As a grateful follower of Jesus Christ, I could not disagree more with Islam.

I do not appreciate, and I don’t think you should either, the efforts of some Christians to synthesize our two distinct faiths, making them appear more similar than they actually are.

I believe a saving relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to know lasting, true life with God, the God who lovingly created us all in His image. I hope you do not hear my expression of faith as anything akin to arrogance. Instead, I simply believe what Jesus said when he was the way we come to know the Father (John 14:6) and that he and the Father are one (John 10:30), along with the Holy Spirit distinct but equal members of the Triune God.

However, even though we will disagree on many theological issues, I must tell you…

Donald Trump does not speak for us and he definitely does not speak for me.

One of the greatest strengths of Protestant Christianity in America is its diversity. It is simply impossible to think about that diversity, even with its unity in Jesus Christ, being personified and represented by one person, especially that person.

I cannot begin to understand how we are even having this conversation. The First Amendment clearly gives you the right to believe in whatever religion you choose, “and the free exercise thereof…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

It is the definition of hypocrisy when so many people want to ignore the First Amendment when it does not further their own position yet embrace the Second Amendment when it does.

Donald Trump’s comments the last two days have been absurd. He wants all lawful Muslim immigration to stop, calling for a “total and complete shutdown.” He wants all Muslims to be forced to wear some sort of ID badge. Absurd.

America is as much yours as it mine.

 


 

We realize that what it means to be a Christian has absolutely nothing to do with what it means to be an American.

To say otherwise is to insult the 2 billion Christians who do NOT live in America, claiming that they have are practicing an inferior form of Christianity because it is not wedded with some syncretistic form of nationalism. God Doesn’t Need America

We realize that religious liberty only exists as actual liberty for all religions, not just the most popular religion.

We don’t think American mosques should be shut down, as Trump does. This would obviously be a gross violation of the Constitution but we also don’t want American mosques to be shut down because we don’t want American churches to be shut down one day, or any type of peaceable religious assembly.

One of the pastors at our church wrote recently, “As Christians restrict the religious practice of Muslims, secularists will begin to restrict the religious practice of Christians. And we will not have a logical argument to stop it. We must choose a better way.”

As Christianity, and religion in general, continues to move to the margins of American society, we will all soon be in the minority. As secularism continues to gain more and more ground, how dare Christians approve the words of someone like Trump when they could just as easily be used against their own faith one day.

We realize that radical Islamic terrorism has little to do with mainstream Islam.

We would ask that you consider how little Donald Trump’s words match up with any tenant of mainstream Christianity.

We realize that ISIS is a perversion of true Islam even in their pursuit of true Islam.

We realize that Islamic terrorists also target Muslims who they deem unfit for true Islam, which is nothing more than their ruthless form of brutal radicalism.

We realize that we have a shared responsibility to call out radicalism from within our own ranks.

It has been so powerful to see so many Muslims denouncing Islamic terrorism as radical violence they want no part of. Thank you. As Christians and your fellow Americans we also commit to do the same.

Donald Trump is not our voice just like ISIS is not yours.

I was glad to see Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan condemn Trump’s comments with four simple words, “This is not conservatism.”

Ryan also said that freedom of religion is “a founding principle of this country…What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and, more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”


I am grateful to share this great country with you. I am grateful for the ways in which you enrich our cities, neighborhoods and schools. As a Christian, I am choosing a better way than what Donald Trump proposes.

Question: What do you think the Christian response should be to Muslims in America?

3Dec

The Anti-Vax Mom was Right and Donald Trump was Wrong

Over the past few days I have said the following words/phrases in perfectly normal conversation:

  • ding-a-ling (a crazy person)
  • cattywampus (crooked, out of place)
  • yonder (over there a ways)
  • feeder road (a road to merge on the highway)

Some of these might make sense to and some might not. I use some of these terms more frequently than others but a few phrases that don’t come out of my mouth as much they should are:

  • I’m sorry.
  • I was wrong.
  • I made a mistake.

Those are usually tough things to say to someone because they always mean two things:

1. You’re about to be humbled.

(Notice: a lot of people speak about the value of pursuing humility but not as much about humility pursuing you). Luke 14:11 says, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Sometimes humility finds you, whether you like it or not.

2. You messed up.

Nobody likes making a mistake, but you can tell a lot about a person by how they respond after making one.

What an Anti-Vax Mom Got Right

Earlier this year, the Washington Post ran a story about Canadian mom Tara Hills. Hills and her husband have seven children and were passionate anti-vaccine advocates until all seven of their children contracted pertussis, or whooping cough.

As Hills started to research further she learned how the study she was basing her skepticism on was in fact a debunked 1998 study that falsely linked the measles vaccine to autism. Both Canada and the U.S. have suffered large outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in recent years.

Her children were ordered to home confinement until their antibiotics were completed.

But that’s not why this mom’s story made the news. Plenty of other families feel the same way. It was her loud admission that she got it wrong that drew attention from people on both sides of this issue.

“I set out to prove that we were right,” Hills said, “and in the process found out how wrong we were.”

After years of getting it wrong, quite publicly in fact (Hills was a blogger in the anti-vax community) she boldly admitted what more of us need to: I got it wrong.

What Donald Trump Got Wrong

What the anti-vax mom got right, Donald Trump got wrong.

On November 22, 2015, presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Among topics of discussion was Trump’s November 21, 2015 assertion that he witnessed footage on television of large crowd of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the September 11th attacks.

Trump claimed “I watched thousands and thousands of people cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

Stephanopoulos told Trump that Jersey City police at the time were aware of the rumor and investigated it proving it false. The rumors of said celebrations were traced back to an Internet claim that was also proved false.

Trump doubled down on his original claim and insisted further the he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating.

A simple Internet fact check proves his claim was incorrect and thus, a lie.

At best, Trump suffered from an exaggerated memory that stems from deciding to react to a tragedy with confidence instead of fear. It’s a noble trait but one that often produces false memories.

But almost fifteen years later, Trump has all the information he needs to respond honestly yet he refuses. He won’t do what the anti-vax mom did, admit he’s wrong and apologize.

It’s easy to point out others successes and failures in this arena but what about your life? What about mine?

I’m still learning to say those phrases. They sting. Often, humility is still pursuing me instead of the other way around but I’m trying to learn from mistakes and get better each day.

I never thought I’d say this but…

I want to be more like the Canadian anti-vax mother.

2Dec

The One Regret You Never Have to Feel

It was 3 A.M. and he would not stop beating on my door.

I stumbled toward the door, simultaneously stubbing all my toes on the trappings of a college dorm room along the way, and flung it open.

His face was as red as his hair. He had  just sprinted all the way down the hall.

Our rooms could not be farther away and still be on the same wing  yet our friendship was closer than most.

We were in a group together, a small group of college boys trying to become the men we felt God calling us to be. That calling meant a lot of things to all of us but one thing was the same: our desire for purity.

We had all struggled with it as various levels. Some struggled with moving too fast with girlfriends. Others struggled with how fast you could see any type of girl you wanted on the Internet. All of us felt the longing to be better than we currently were and through several years of mostly failure we had collectively realized we needed one another.

We met once a week to encourage and pray for one another. As we ended our meeting each week in the cramped common room upstairs we reminded each other of one of the pillars of our group: If any one of us felt a temptation coming that we did not feel strong enough to resist on our own, we could always…always go to another person in the group and that person would stop whatever they were doing to be with the one fighting off temptation.

Over the years we met there were dates cut short, workouts missed, papers not completed. Whatever it took; it didn’t matter. We were there for one another. Anytime, day or nightt.

The whole concept was centered around four simple words:

“Flee from sexual immorality.” – 1 Corinthians 6:18

I love when the Bible’s simple. You don’t need to know Greek to know exactly what this verse means.

On this particular night, one of the guys was struggling with the temptation of pornography. His roommate had unexpectedly gone home for the weekend and he knew that temptation is magnified in isolation.

So at his greatest moment of need, he didn’t just try to resist for awhile and ask for forgiveness later. He literally (and I hate when people say that word but don’t actually mean it) literally ran down the hall and started beating down my door at 3 A.M.

I didn’t greet him with anger or a lecture. That wasn’t how the group worked. We supported one another with the gifts of time and presence, two things that are even more valuable to me now.

Nothing super spiritual happened except everything.

We didn’t have a Bible study on purity right then and there. That’s what we did to prepare to flee. I let my friend in and we made popcorn and watched the Sandlot until morning when we crashed.

My friend woke up after lunch the next day with…no regrets.

He didn’t care that he woke up half the hall, at least not enough to fall into sin. He didn’t care that his hallway dash was caught on the security cameras and the RA’s probably watched it back later laughing. He didn’t care about giving into a temptation only he would have ever know about.

He cared about becoming a man of God. He cared about purity. He cared about our future wives that we were already praying for but hadn’t met yet.

Nobody in the group was or is perfect and of course we all have regrets but none of us have ever regretted resisting temptation.

In a world that is bombarding us with the message that we should never say no to a new experience or a thrilling rush, our group helped each other do just that. The ethic of the kingdom of God, humble self-denial, flies in the face of the rampant “you deserve it” “treat yourself” culture that’s especially being marketed to millennials.

You might miss out on a thing or two but speaking from my experience, those things aren’t worth the baggage or pain they cause, if not immediately then soon there after.

What helps you resist temptation?

1Dec

How to Connect With a Younger Generation

It’s one of the biggest paradoxes in my world: often the most qualified adult volunteers in student ministry feel like the least qualified because they think they’ll have trouble connecting with students. Additionally, the younger college students that are typically seen as the best youth volunteers may connect well with students on a relational level but have little maturity or experience to guide them once they do.  See: What the Next Generation Needs from the Church

Maybe it’s not teenagers you’d like to understand. Maybe it’s 20-somethings. Millennials. We might be the most talked about generation except so few of the people talking about millennials regularly spend time with millennials. See: 5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

Maybe you’ve added someone new to your family and you’re trying to figure each other out. It doesn’t really matter who the person is.

So how do you connect? What does it take to build meaningful relationships with people decades younger than yourself?

Two simple things:

1.) Love

11059600_10153456077491001_6317721647227367480_oMy Grandpa is over 50 years older than me and our lives are very different. Outside of a general love for Jesus, sports, and family, we have very little in common yet I’ve never had trouble connecting with him because I’ve never wondered how he felt about me.

He has always made it abundantly clear that he loves me. He made a consistent effort when I was growing up to be a part of my life. He attended endless baseball games over my illustrious baseball career…and he hates baseball. When we moved 6 hours away almost three years ago he has made it a point to come visit on a regular basis.

He doesn’t need to know what the latest apps on my phone are or who Adele is to love me and connect with me.

2.) Authenticity

This is where older generations most often make mistakes in their efforts at connecting with a younger generation. They try too hard, which younger people see right through and it’s embarrassing for everyone.

One of the things I consistently try and thank my mom for is not being my friend when I was a teenager. She was constantly there for me, but always a parent first. I never confused who was in charge. It’s heart-breaking watching some parents try so desperately to win the approval of their kids or their kids’ friends that they start being a friend first and ditch their job as parents. My mom knew that being a parent was more important than connecting as a friend.

A few months ago, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was trying to connect with a younger generation. You could argue that Barack Obama’s success in doing so was one of the keys that propelled him to the White House. She sent a series of tweets specifically targeted at recent college graduates (early 20s) asking them to…get this…describe in 3 emojis or less how they feel about the national student crisis.

hilary-clinton-emoji-tweet

 

 

 

 

Predictably, the move backfired.

She got thousands of tweets criticizing her woeful attempt at connecting with a younger generation. Several people even compared her to a mom trying to look cool in front of her daughter’s friends.

Here’s the big drawback to this approach: several members of her key target audience were offended they weren’t simply asked the question. Why the emojis? Are college graduates incapable of using words and forming full sentences? Hillary should have simply asked the question like she would have to any other demographic.

To connect with a younger generation, you need to do more than just care for them. You need to be YOU. Be authentic. Don’t try so hard.

Try hard at love. Try hard to be the version of you God made you to be. THAT will always work.

30Nov

How to Survive Finals Week in College

Can you remember? Back to that very first day of class when you got the syllabus. You were thinking, “This is going to be awesome. I’m going to work ahead, knock out those papers early and be super prepared for all my labs.” See: Start College Right

Well, maybe you did…maybe you didn’t. But no matter what the bulk of the semester brought your way, it’s crunch time now. Finals week is finally here.

Finals are stressful even for the most prepared student because they hold so much weight. So much of your semester grade is contingent upon your performance on several comprehensive tests over a mere handful of days.

At this point, you know you should have studied more earlier in the semester and you’re probably aware of general stress-reduction techniques but that’s not what you need. You need to manage the crazy.

How to Survive Finals Week

1.) Log off all social media.

Delete the apps from your phone. You don’t need to have that tab open on your laptop. GO DARK. What was a fun way to connect with new friends over the course of the semester has become your number one enemy during finals. Nothing has the power to distract and derail you more.
See: When the Cool Kids Grow Up

2.) Figure out how you study best…and DO IT.

For me, it actually depended on the subject. I had a friend in college who learned best by teaching. In the subjects where I best studied in a group session (history, theology, philosphy, ethics, etc.) I always made sure to put myself in the same room as my teaching friend. It worked out best for both of us.

But some subjects I learned best by studying by myself. Figure out what works best for you and do that. Don’t waste time in group study sessions you don’t need or trick yourself into thinking you’re studying because you spent 3 hours making note cards.

3.) Eat and Sleep

If you were performing surgery at the same time as your final tomorrow the hospital wouldn’t let you binge eat all the Doritos and drink the entire caffeine contents of your local grocery store. At some point, you have to stop and sleep. Take care of yourself. Take breaks. This is why studying before now is so important. There’s only so much you can cram in a week.

My trick: Study hard for 2 hours, take a 5-10 minute break. Study hard another 2 hours. Take an hour break to eat a meal and go for a walk. Rinse and repeat as needed. Watch one episode of something on Netflix…not ALL the episodes. Pizza rolls are your friend, though…even if Mom’s not there to make them for you.

4.) Pray

One semester I set up a bean bag chair in the corner of my dorm room. It was gross and I don’t think it moved or was cleaned all year but it was my prayer spot. Finals are tough because they help you believe a lie, that all your identity is caught up in passing this test so you can graduate ahead of the person next to you so you can get a better job than the person you graduated next to so you can get a raise instead of the person next to you, etc. etc.

Don’t forget who made you, who gave you the opportunity to learn where he’s placed you. Don’t forget who holds the whole universe in his hands. Finals are important, but Jesus doesn’t check your transcript at the pearly gates. For some of you, the first words you need to focus on are Jesus’ last words, “It is finished.”

Study hard so you can succeed out of response to all that God has done for you, not to earn his love or admiration. God isn’t impressed with your 4.0 or bummed by your 2.0. He simply loves you. Don’t waste an opportunity to carve out some time to remind yourself of the simple truths of the Gospel in the place of prayer. See: On Prayer: Pews and Plastic Tables

5.) Spend (a little) time with friends.

Finals also signal the end of a semester. And every semester some students never return. Some graduate, others transfer to other schools. Some study abroad and some enter the work force or go back home, maybe for good.

Maybe on one of your study breaks you need to grab coffee with a friend or go on a date. I met my wife during finals week! You never know who you might meet that could potentially change your life. Friendship gets a lot harder after college – something about the real world, I don’t know.

6. Call your mother.

This has nothing to do with finals. Just do it. Because you should. Every day.

P.S. – when you rock a C instead of a B you can tell Mom you just couldn’t focus because you missed her so gosh darn much and that’s why you called so much. It works. And she’ll bake you cookies when you get home.

 

What other tips help(ed) you survive finals week?

22Oct

Love Your Enemies

The barbershop was like every other barbershop.

The war had gotten bloody, confusing, and anger toward the enemy had been growing steadily for years.

As the barbers cut and shaved and talked, one man getting his hair cut proposed a simple solution to the war protesters who had come to town, “They ought to round up every one of them sons of b*%ches and put them right in front of the damned communists, and then whoever killed who, it would be all to the good.”

This story, as told by Wendell Berry in his novel Jayber Crow took place during the Vietnam War. As the men in the barbershop echoed their passionate agreements, Jayber, the barber, spoke up and said,

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.”

The first man, Troy, jerked his head up and widened his eyes, “Where did you get that crap?”

Jayber responded, “Jesus Christ.” (Matthew 5:44)

Troy said, “Oh.”

Then Wendell Berry penned a cutting indictment on the entire conversation that I, unfortunately, have been a part of far too often,

“It would have been a great moment in the history of Christianity, except that I did not love Troy.”

You see, the verse Jayber quotes might be one of the most difficult Jesus ever uttered, and possibly the most misunderstood and I’m in no way claiming to have it understood.

When Jesus says, “love your enemies” you know what he means? LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. It sure seems like we’ve tried all the hermeneutical gymnastics we can muster to make Jesus say anything except what he actually said.

When Jesus says love I wish he said teach or correct. That’s how Jayber operates and I know the feeling all too well. It’s hypocrisy in its purest form, when a Christian criticizes someone else who doesn’t love their enemies and in the process the criticizing Christian fails in the exact same way.

Love your enemy doesn’t mean teach, correct, convert, change, or hate your enemy. When Jesus spoke those words, he was very aware that those of us alive today would be living in a “drop-the-mic” culture that overvalues one’s abilities to shut down anyone who might disagree with us but it’s time for a change.

It’s time to start taking Jesus seriously.

Love means love, in every language.

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