December 9, 2011

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10 – “Keep using My Name in vain and I’ll make rush hour longer.”

9 – Don’t wait for six strong men to bring you to church!

8 – Free coffee, everlasting life – Yes, membership has its perks!

7 – Forgive your enemies, it messes with their heads!

6 – Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out!

5 – Try Jesus – If you don’t like Him, the devil will take you back!

4 – Stop drop and roll does not work in hell!

3 – So you think its hot HERE?!

2 – Soul food served here.

1 – Got an hour for God?

December 9, 2011

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1.  Make Yo Own

Several churches have chosen to fashion their own screens with alternative materials that are cheaper than purchasing screens.  Here is a summary of a DIY Screen from projectcentral.com.
Simple Steps
1.  Cut poplar boards to  frame out the designated size of your screen area.
2.  Cut the ends of each board to a 45 degree angle.
3.  Cut velveteen fabric into four strips to cover boards.
4.  Lay each fabric strip on a clean, firm surface and center the corresponding section of the frame on top of it. Wrap and stretch the fabric around the board and staple it into place, so that the fabric is positioned with a small gap of bare wood showing down the center of each section of the frame (the fabric will lay over the back side of the frame sections with about ¾ inch on each edge.)
5.  Carefully trim the fabric at the ends to match the 45 degree angle of the boards. If necessary, use Elmer’s glue to tack the fabric to the board at each end so that it is held flush with the 45-degree cut.
6.  Lay out the fabric-wrapped frame sections face down in a rectangle so you can join them together. Use one L-bracket on each corner and affix accordingly.
7.  Roll out the seamless paper, and lay it over the frame. Starting at one of the sides, staple the end of the paper into place along the exposed wood area.  One staple every 9″ is adequate.  Once you reach the opposite end of the frame, trim the paper from the roll, and staple the final edge into place.

2. Paint Yo Wall

Many people have thrown aside the big budget and the hammer for painted solutions.  Almost every major brand of paint now carries reflective paint specifically made for the video projection industry.  Churches, schools, and even several movie theaters have switched from fragile, expensive fabric to reflective paint.  Be sure to locate the correct paint before beginning your project.  Simple gloss paints will leave hot spots in your final project.
Simple Steps
1.  Mark off your display area according to your chosen projector.  Use painter’s tape to accurately mark your lines.  Be sure to put something down over the floor just in case you get messy.
2.  Once the area is ready, paint the area with video reflective paint.  Be patient as reflective paint takes longer than usual to dry.  You will notice lots of lines until it dries thoroughly.
3.  Frame out the area using trim, cloth, or black paint.  Make sure the color of the “frame” contrasts with the color you choose.

Suggested Paint:
Behr Silverscreen Paint
screenpaintsupply.com
goosystemsglobal.com

3.  Do They Make Spandex The Big

For those of you looking for an affordable mobile screen, try the WEE solution.  After searching endlessly for an affordable mobile screen ,  we discovered a priceless jewel that could set up in multiple locations quickly.  For less than a hundred dollars, we chose to go with a dense spandex screen.  Our set -up time is literally about ten minutes and we can carry the entire screen wadded up in a backpack.  It  is also easy to clean.  You can throw the screen in the washer with grandma’s spandex, just be sure to use the gentle cycle.  The screen also looks really cool.  Instead of a boring rectangle, you can stretch the screen into just about any design you can imagine.  Trust me, the picture is amazing, the set-up is simple, and we don’t have to own a trailer to carry it to our next ministry location.
Materials Needed
1.  Dense Spandex  or cross-soven lycra
2. Trussing System (Find a cheap one on EBAY – we spent $79.99)
3.  Bungee Ties

December 9, 2011

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Is it okay to have some “fun” with my lessons by using illustrations, object lessons, skits, etc?

Hey Entertainer,
Ask yourself this question. Am I trying to find an object lesson to help illstrate the message the Lord has spoken? Or am I simply trying to gets laughs out of a funny skit, illustration, or object lesson? Your plans should not be centered around these things. Illustrations must flow from the word, not vice versa.

I have personally done and also seen people do things just for the sake of fun and have no purpose whatsoever. After the Lord has given you something specific to teach, ask him to give you things to compliment your message instead of distract. Illustrations that further “drive home” the Word the Lord has given you can actually be lasting and benficial. However, always keep these things as compliments to your message, never letting the majority of your preparation be centered around them.

My wife wants to be more involved with ministry but doesn’t know where to start, any advice?

Hey Lesser Half,
Talk to your wife and see what she is comfortable with doing. Don’t just plunge her into a situation without first talking to her and seeing how she feels about it. Ministers’ wives can be great blessings. Allow your wife to counsel girls in your youth group, talking about issues that you can’t really talk about–ya know–girl stuff. Your wife can be a great extension of you, and making sure your students feel this way will greatly benefit both you, your wife, and your ministry.

I’m starting a new ministry, where should I begin?

Hey New Guy,
Ask the lord for a vision for this ministry. Though experience in youth ministry will help you, this is a new group of people with new needs and different paths, so make sure to ask the Lord for direction for this particular group of kids. Don’t just assume your last method will work again. Plus, even if the model might “succeed”, if it is not the path the Lord desires for this group, the eternal significance will be diminshed.

Make sure everything you do has a purpose. Plan out an entire year, alongside a ministry team, taking into account all the previous ministry did. You don’t want just a missions heavy ministry, or a discipleship heavy ministry, or one based only on evangelism. Obviously, all of these wil be a part of your ministry. The point is not to focus solely on one or the other. Lastly, one of the most important things you can do is to find one student to disciple, and begin to pour everything you have into them. The results will be amazing and will have a huge effect on your entire ministry.

December 9, 2011

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A.W. Tozer’s ability to capture complex thoughts with simple, yet profound explanations can be found all throughout this book. It is a very quick and easy read, but you will gain invaluable knowledge and understanding of the nature of God.
Each chapter deals with a biblical teaching of the nature and character of the Lord in short, concise ways. However, unlike some short reads, nothing presented in this book is a “watered-down” version of the truth. Tozer simply displays a gift for teaching about the character of the Lord revealed to us throughout the Scriptures. Tozer provides a book that can help you achieve what he says is one of the greatest things a Christian can do: think rightly about God.
This book will not only give you more understanding and knowledge as a student pastor; it will be an unbelievable resource for your students to grow in their personal walk with God. Few books will give your students a more solid foundational teaching on the nature of God. Tozer’s topics range from the holiness of God, all the way to his love and mercy. While some books focus only on certain characteristics, he does an amazing job of weaving together
a beautiful picture of who our God is: just, yet full of grace, holy and all-knowing, yet loving and intimate. The Knowledge of the Holy is a must read for you and your students!

December 9, 2011

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Article by: Will Watson

For a while it has seemed like the Lord has been kind of silent in my life. I guess He does this to everybody, and I can’t say it’s always easy to understand His reasoning behind it. Some will say, “It’s to show you that He’s always there to lean on,” while others might say, “He wants you to prove your faithfulness to Him.” I made the mistake recently of jumping to one of these conclusions in a conversation I was having. We have to be careful with regards to God’s character and actioins unless He chooses to reveal this to us.  We cannot explain why an infinite being does anything. He just does because He is. If He chooses not to speak, I’m absolutely cool with that. If He does speak, I’ll still feel absolutely ok with it. He can do whatever He wants, and we cannot forget that.

But when He does speak. . . Wow!

I guess He just decided to turn my radio back on, and I’m so glad. He hasn’t been audible and He hasn’t really spoken words into my heart, but He’s moving and shaking things in my life that I never saw coming. And this is good. Very good. It all started when I read Psalm 27, and He hasn’t stopped talking since. It would be hard for me to get into any details of exactly what He did/said, but just know that He will always find a way to get your attention. He basically rerouted my mindset by making me realize that I just need to wait on Him. I need to trust Him. I need to seek His face. I need to just desire to be with Him. There’s no use in walking around feeling condemned because I don’t think I’m doing “enough” for His Kingdom. Truth is, I’ll never be able to do “enough.”

Regarding how quiet He had been in my case, I can come to just one conclusion: He wanted me to be quiet enough to hear Him.  Sometimes all He desires for us to do is sit and be in His presence, even if it feels and sounds as if nothing is happening. We may sit in silence and not hear from Him at all. But coming into His presence does not always mean simply waiting for Him to speak. It often means getting yourself recharged. So, if it seems like He has been silent recently in your life, keep pressing forward and believe that He is either wanting you to get quiet enough for you to hear from Him, or He is simply trying to say, as David found out, that the beauty of seeking His face is more than enough!

December 9, 2011

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Are you singing yet? Christmas carols! Its the time of year when it seems they are heard on the radio, in shopping malls, television commercials and every where in between. Although we know the Messiah  wasn’t actually born in December, it is the time of year recognized by our culture to focus on His birth. This miraculous story, put into a multitude of songs, is proclaimed around the world during this period. If you are like me, I am sure you have your favorites…O Come  All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, Away in a Manger. The list goes on and on!  As I heard one of my favorites recently, I began to listen intently to these words:

“It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold. Peace on the earth goodwill to men, from heavens all gracious King!”  As I hummed along I started thinking about the Scriptures from which it was    composed. Although I could quote it by heart, I sat down to read the passage again. The familiar recitation I had in my mind came from the King James Version. This is the one I had always heard used in plays, read in my home before we opened presents, and preached from the pulpit at church; however, this particular morning I picked up an NIV edition to read. Luke 2:14 said something slightly different than the song I had been singing and the story I had memorized. This     text proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Interesting! Quickly, I checked another translation. The NASB read  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Did this indicate there wasn’t peace on earth for all  men?

As I researched further into the original manuscripts, I discovered the peace is directed toward those with whom the Father favors. It resembles the     promise in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  The Greek word for “love” in this verse means “those who have been faithful to”. As I began to ponder these concepts, I realized the Father supplies his peace and goodness as we demonstrate our faithfulness.  We often assume even when bad things come, God is always working out things for everyone’s good. The proclamation of the Messiah’s arrival did  indicate a potential for all to find peace; however, this peace is only rewarded to those who wholeheartedly receive this Messiah and faithfully walk in accordance to his instruction. The promise of peace isn’t distributed to those outside His umbrella of favor. Fortunately, through repentance and surrender, we can find this peace the Father desires for us to encounter. The great news is if you are walking daily in this position, you are assurance of indescribable peace that surpasses all fear and anxiety.

This time of year also brings to remembrance a period we went through about three years ago. Our eight week old daughter had to undergo surgery to remove the entire upper lobe of her lung due to a large tumor that was basically crushing here heart. Not only was the heart at risk, but we had no idea whether or not the tumor was malignant.
After weeks of worrying, crying, and pleading for the life of our child, a  peace finally came over me that cannot be explained. When I finally let go of the situation as it appeared on the surface and embraced the peace that came from my relationship with Christ, my tears were replaced with comfort. It may have even seemed to outsiders that I wasn’t living in reality or that perhaps I wasn’t concerned enough. This was not the case at all. God took me to the place where I could honestly say as Job did, “The Lord gives and takes away, but blessed be the name of the Lord”. I had unexplainable peace that whether or not our daughter made it to the point of birth, was born with cancer, or was miraculously healed, I was going to be okay. However, by the grace of God, she was born without requiring in  utero surgery, and later had the mass removed. The biopsy came back benign and her lung has almost grown back completely. The doctors said she would most likely have breathing problems, but today she is an absolute picture of health without any problems at all! Truly a miracle!

The peace of Christ is an unmatched privilege and comfort for any situation you may be facing.  Your scenario might be different from anyone else’s, but the same Jesus can bring  ultimate, perfect peace to your situation, no matter how uncertain it may be. As we sing about peace on earth and the arrival of the Messiah, it is an incredible time to reflect on all He brought to those who would embrace it. Let this time of the year be an opportunity to point people to the Prince of Peace and the availability of peace as a result  of a commitment to Him.

December 9, 2011

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I remember standing in front of a Sunday school class a few years ago. I was halfway through college and interning at a church in my hometown. While teaching one Sunday morning, I remember saying, “You guys need to become students of the Word”. While this statement is true, my motives for saying this were completely off base. We were walking through the story of the Flood and instead of discussing spiritual applications or even historical context, I was asking questions such as “Had it rained before? How old was Noah when he got off the ark?” Questions that, honestly, had no relevance to what the Lord was doing with our youth group. At that time, becoming a student of the Word meant gaining as much knowledge of Scripture as possible so that in any situation, I would be able to give a sound biblical answer. Yes, Scripture does tell us to be ready to give a defense of the hope we have inside of us. However, the way I was presenting this principle, it meant little more than simply this: gather as many biblical facts as you can and stuff them into your mind.

My desire to memorize the Scriptures, know the ends and outs of theology, and ultimately, become what I believed to be a student of God’s Word was not grounded in wanting to know God more. It was based on the fact that my relationship with the Lord centered on gaining more knowledge about Him. In essence, more knowledge of Him meant growing closer to Him. Again, while there are elements that are true about that statement, it is still slightly off base. Gaining more knowledge about God is essential to discipleship and that can’t be missed. In fact, without knowledge Scripture tells us people perish. However, growing in knowledge of God can only take you so far. It must be followed with personal, deep understanding for it to be fruitful and lasting. While this may sound like a ridiculous thought, let me explain. Knowledge and understanding may be similar in connotation, but, in reality, I have found them to be very different. Often times, I have come to the personal understanding of something about God, even though the knowledge might not have been present. I understood in my heart what was going on, but my mind didn’t have the proper knowledge to put it into words.

Memorizing verses like Psalms 16:11 where the psalmist proclaims, “in your presence there is fullness of joy” is a prime example. I had the knowledge of this verse, I believed the Word of God when it made this statement. But had I ever experienced this “fullness of joy” for myself? No! I lived with knowledge about this verse, but had no understanding of what it actually meant until I experienced this type of joy within myself; a joy David raved about all throughout Psalms. Then, and only then, did it mean something deep inside of me. Another good example comes from Philippians. Paul writes how after one encounter with Jesus, he looked at everything he had in the flesh- knowledge, passion, bloodlines, and even righteousness by the law- and said it now meant absolutely nothing to him. It was all rubbish compared to the beauty of his newfound relationship with the Creator. That used to sound crazy to me! How could you have everything, and then basically leave it all behind simply because you met this guy named Jesus? I could have had these verses memorized, but until I got to a level of closeness with the Lord where nothing on earth mattered but being next to Him, they would have meant absolutely nothing. They would have been knowledge void of understanding. I could go on for pages about other passages of Scripture that have only come to life when the Lord provided understanding. Lyrics to songs, past situations, and old sermons that I have heard only made sense after the Lord brought them to life. Am I saying that we’re going to understand everything in this manner? Is every bit of knowledge we ever gain about the Father going to be understood fully? Probably not, but I can promise one thing. The pursuit is more than worth it!

My goal is not to simply drive home this point. Undoubtedly, you have probably experienced what I’m writing about at least in some capacity throughout your ministry. So my goal isn’t just to inform, but to present a challenge. I’m challenging you as a leader to ask the Lord to give you understanding that will change lives. Teaching and preaching only out of head knowledge will not bring lasting fruit. I also believe if you are honest with yourselves, the greatest joy in ministering comes when you get to preach something that you have experienced on a deep, profound, personal level. It is hard to tell someone to trust in Yahweh Jireh (God our Provider) when you have never had to rely on Him as sole Provider.  However, if you’ve truly had a season during your life where He had to be Provider or you would not have made it, preaching a message about Yahweh Jireh will come out dripping with the power of God.

Those are the testimonies that are incredibly powerful and lasting! If you preaching out of overflow about God being our Provider could change someone’s situation, shouldn’t we desire to preach out of that overflow . . . on every subject? An overflow that results from personal experience can change lives. Dry, stale head knowledge will never be received in the same manner. So my challenge to you is simple (it might sound crazy too), but I believe it can lead to changed lives. One thing is certain; it will give you the opportunity to be a part of someone else’s story, a story that can result in redemption and joy.

As a shepherd of God’s people, you are called to lead. Begin to ask the Lord to give you understanding in areas that have never been made real to you. Stop just singing about God being our Healer and ask Him to give you understanding of what that truly means. Am I saying ask God to allow sickness to come upon your life? Maybe.  Tell the Father you do not want to speak to another person about joy that is unspeakable and full of glory until you have felt that joy penetrate every fiber of your being.  Ask the Lord to give you supernatural insight into what is going on in your student’s lives. If your students lack compassion, don’t teach on it until you’ve asked God to fill you with real, true biblical compassion. Make it your goal to preach out of overflow instead of obligation. Is this going to be “cookie-cutter” perfect? Maybe not.  The Lord may not always decide to show you. But this will also push you to seek the Lord before you decide what to teach or preach. The Lord sometimes has purposes that are higher than ours and may decide to take you a different route. This is simply a challenge for you. One that I believe can potentially change the way you preach when the Father begins to bring greater understanding to different areas that have previously been stale head knowledge. Even if the Father decides not to take you this route, I believe He will still reward you. Blessings will flow out of this, not simply because you decided to do something different, but because the Father rewards a heart that is willing to be transformed. A heart that is sincerely open to being molded and shaped for His glory.  While this may sound tough, every moment will be worth it after the Lord allows you to preach out of overflow that only He can provide.

 

December 9, 2011

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Anyone who turns on a television in the next year is sure to see the ever-so-elegantly dressed politicians making speech after speech, holding debate after debate, all promising to “get America back on track” or screaming “this country needs a president who will (insert grandiose promise here).” Only a few viewing minutes are necessary to understand that speech communication is everything. Politicians are known for their ability to essentially say nothing at all, while making it sound as grand as ever. To say most of them have mastered communication would be an understatement! Many times, our only impression of them will be from these encounters, so crafty, persuasive communication is essential.  But no one expects anything different from politicians. After all, they are trying to get votes.
However, change the scene for a moment from a nationally televised political debate to a Sunday morning worship service. There should be a distinct difference, right?

Nobody is trying to manipulate anyone for their votes; nobody is trying to persuade others with promises of change, or an increase in job opportunities, or a brilliantly proposed plan to finally bring our country out of enormous debt. Yet, sadly many of our churches look very similar. They are full of well-versed speakers who know how, when, and what to say in order to keep the masses entertained and comfortable. Unfortunately, the similarities don’t just stop here. Often times, they are forced to “play by the rules” of the “party” in which they belong. You don’t often see a Democrat treated too well for voting on a bill proposed by the Republicans. Likewise, in the world of Christianity, a Baptist joining up with a Pentecostal . . . wait, I can almost sense them fighting just by placing them in the same sentence! They are forced to stay within a certain framework of beliefs or they are usually ousted. Regardless, the similarities between some of today’s preachers and politicians are staggeringly similar. Crafty speech, spiffy dress, and short leashes.

So now back to my original point. This article really has nothing to do with slinging mud at politicians or talking about Baptists and Pentecostals. The crux of the matter deals with the verse mentions earlier. When Stephen spoke, his powerful speech wasn’t found from mastering speech communication, but from the power and wisdom of God. As ministers of God, it is time to stop believing our influence comes from how well we speak, but how much the power of God flows through when we speak.  If it sounds like a fantasy, take this passage to heart. They could not resist the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke! There is a place we can get where our preaching draws crowds not because of great illustrations, clever communication skills, and polished three point sermons. In today’s church, we are not short on these things. Many of our pastor’s are schooled in the art of communication and can cleverly pull the right strings to draw crowds.

But if you want the power that draws people to you, or to the Power in you, God wants to show you it is truly available.  The flip side to this can be seen in this passage as well. Stephen was so full of power, wisdom, and Spirit that his words had influence . . . such influence that it lead to his martyrdom. But it was not this stale, status quo, “well church was good today, preacher made me laugh a few times” mentality that is all too prevalent in the church culture of today. Ask the Lord to bring influence that only he can bring. Influence that draws lines in the sand and screams, as a close friend of our ministry says, “God is ratcheting things up.” Time is too precious to keep wasting. If the Lord has placed you in a position of influence, start doing just that-influencing people by the power and presence of God that can flow out of you daily. Ask the Lord to fill you with the same Spirit, power, and wisdom that made Stephen’s words meaningful enough for the writer of Acts to say “they were not able to resist the wisdom or the Spirit by which he spoke.”

 

December 9, 2011

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Turn on the television or the computer and you will guarantee the bombardment of a 97 billion dollar industry that has preyed on the innocent eyes of our students since its infancy.  Some might think that the communication age has been the greatest innovative feat of our generation, but it has been coupled with the largest production and dissemination of pornography to ever interact with our culture.  In 2006, every second, $3,075.64 was being spent on pornography, 28,258 Internet viewers were viewing pornography, 372 Internet users were typing adult search terms into search engines, and every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video was made in the United States (Internet Filter Review, 2006).  Unfortunately, the statistics have done nothing but grow.  80% of 15-17 year olds have been exposed to sexually mature content in the last year alone.  We live in a new day; a day when the alluring temptress preys not merely on the sides of street but on every computer, every television, every over priced data plan.  And in a world saturated with media, the problem cannot simply be ignored; it must be confronted.  Every one now walks down the street that houses the adulterer.  The temptations are many, so our response must be as explicit as the source.

He stares endlessly at the computer wanting more, wishing the screen would somehow satisfy the endless void that has plagued his life for years.  It is not merely boredom; it isn’t even purely depression, it is way deeper.  With every click, every downloaded pixel his heart wanders even farther from purity, farther from the Lord.  Slowly, he becomes drunk with the intoxicating poison of the tempter.  Like fine wine, it appears harmless, but slowly and surely every drink penetrates his mind, prematurely awakens love, and rattles his emotions.  As he embraces the erotic, the erotic devastatingly clinches every fiber of his being, altering his reality, and ultimately controlling his very outlook on life.  Though we do not like to openly discuss it, the entrapment of pornography has snared the lives of many people all around us.  If you have been serving in youth ministry very long, you have undoubtedly encountered masses of students captured by the sin of pornography.

The statistics are absolutely alarming:
• 79% of youth unwanted exposure to pornography occurs in the home (Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later, 2006).
• The largest group of viewers of Internet porn is children between ages 12 and 17(Family Safe Media, December 15, 2005.)
• Nine out of 10 children aged between 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet. In most cases, the sex sites were accessed unintentionally when a child, often in the process of doing homework, used a seemingly innocent sounding word to search for information or pictures. (London School of Economics January 2002).
•    70% of 18-24 year old men visit pornographic sites monthly
•    87% of young men report using pornography is acceptable
•    Out of all countries, the United States is the top producer of both pornographic websites and pornographic videos.  In fact, the United States has produced 89% (244,661,900) of the pornographic web pages in the entire world.  The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11.
(http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html)

The Disturbing Delay

The response of the church has unfortunately been seriously delayed.  Like Jews dismissing their children as Song of Songs passages are read during Passover, we have intentionally avoided conversations that could develop a healthy perspective of sexual relationships in our students.  Because of our silence, our culture has become inundated with provocative entrapments.  Though God’s word is full of teaching concerning the sexual relationships between a man and a woman, we have dodged all teaching on the subject.

Why the Delay?

Though outrageous, 29% of born again adults in the U.S. feel it is morally acceptable to view movies with explicit sexual behavior and 57% of pastors state that pornography addiction is the most damaging issue to their congregation.  A proper and anointed teaching must flow from our churches.   Perhaps the problem is equally rooted in unhealthy leadership.  In 2001, Christianity Today reported that 37% of pastors say pornography is a current struggle in their ministry.  Though disturbing, over half of evangelical pastors admit viewing pornography in the last year and 33% of all clergy admit to having viewed a sexually explicit website.  Parched vines whither up and die, and they certainly never bear fruit.  Unhealthy pastors cannot produce healthy members…period!
Whether from ignorance or infected leaders, the topic of sex has been taboo for far too long in our straight-laced religious clubs.  As a result, students are garnering their understanding from health classes, department of health organizations, and their wandering minds.  Couple this with the fact that 63% of parents never talk to their children about sex and you have an immediate recipe for disaster.

The Addiction of Pornography

Victims of pornography say that it is more alluring than any drink and more addictive than any substance they ever tried.  In fact, research shows that the psychological effects of viewing pornography are far greater than that of abusive medications or even illegal substances.  Apart from Christ, the chains of pornography cannot be broken off of someone.

Twisted Delivery

With the onslaught of data access on mobile phones, the enemy has found yet another venue for transmitting this perversion.  In 2005, Google reported that more than 20% of all mobile phone queries and 5% of personal digital assistant queries were searches for adult entertainment.  Couple this with the craze of text messaging, and a whole new problem has risen.  In fact, the problem has become so rampant, we know have a new term created to describe the problem: sexting.
Sexting is the exchange of sexually suggestive or nude images between minors via cell phone.  1 in 6 teens (ages 12-17) with a cell phone have received a sexually suggestive image or video of someone they know.  20% of teens overall have sent or posted nude or seminude pictures or videos of themselves.  71% of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent/posted this content to a boyfriend/girlfriend.

The Effects of Pornography

According to the Anti-Pornography Task Force, as little as 6 hours of exposure to soft porn is enough to:
1.    Destroy satisfaction with his or her spouse
2.    Decrease in the value of faithfulness
3.    Decrease in partner satisfaction
4.    Increase in the though that women enjoy rape
5.    Lose ability to be with one person and cherish that one person
6.    Increased attitudes of sexual exploration
7.    Increased feelings of loneliness and depression

Practical Steps to Avoid Confrontation

1.    Talk with your senior pastoral staff to make sure you have their full approval of what you are going to be teaching.
2.    Include Your ministry team in the planning so you have the full support of your entire team.  Keep your inner circle informed.
3.    Send out a letter/email to parents notifying them of the upcoming teaching.
4.    Allow parents to ask questions about what you are going to be teaching prior to the service.
5.    Give the parents some talkback sheets to help engage in conversation with their children after they have went through the service.

The Answer for Pornography

By all means, please do not avoid the issue because the subject makes many uncomfortable.  How long will the shackles of sexuality continue to entrap our students before we overcome the awkwardness of speaking about sex?  Speak clearly, pointedly, and directly on issues regarding sex.  Topics as explicit as sex do not need cowardly responses that skirt around the problem.  We must not simply state that sex is bad.  The perversion of what God created is bad, but God did not create the act of sex as something inherently wrong.  There is, therefore, a need for the restoration of the purity of what God created.  Make sure you teach the Word and not merely opinions fostered in response to the epidemic of pornography.
The last thing students need is another person standing on the streets with a megaphone jeering at their infidelity.  However, that does not mean we blatantly ignore this sin.  As for that matter, laws apart from a real relationship, are nothing more than pure legalism.  The embracing of a “No” to sexual impurity is a lot easier when one has committed themselves to an authentic, heartfelt “Yes” to the Lord. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3, KJV).  Our teaching has centered on the laws of God rather than God, Himself.  When directing students in the Way, we cannot simply meditate on rules, we must focus on the intimacy one can attain with the Divine Creator.  Teach students how to commune with God, and demonstrate it in your own life as well.
Practicality aside, we do not war against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).  Though there are many safe proofs, and accountability helps, a person must be delivered from their addiction by the power of our Holy Father.  Pornography is a spiritual issue that demands supernatural intervention.  Offer times for counseling, prayer, and intervention for those suffering.  Apart from Christ, the habitual nature of pornography will completely consume a person.  In Christ, they can receive a freedom which words cannot even begin to describe.

Practicality

GotQuestions.org lists some great
steps to overcome pornography
Here are some steps to victory:
1) Confess your sin to God (1 John 1:9).
2) Ask God to cleanse, renew, and transform your mind (Romans 12:2).
3) Ask God to fill your mind with Philippians 4:8.
4) Learn to possess your body in holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).
5) Understand the proper meaning of sex and rely on your spouse alone to meet that need (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).
6) Realize that if you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
7) Take practical steps to reduce your exposure to graphic images. Install pornography blockers on your computer, limit television and video usage, and find another Christian who will pray for you and help keep you accountable.

May we bring the power of God into the world of pornography and watch it crumble.  May the Father replace mental hard drives that have been contaminated with perverse images.  And may the Father replace false intimacy embellished by our computers with true intimacy hidden in the Divine Wonder.

Tools to Help With Pornography
PureOnline.com
BSafeOnline.com (Blocking Software)
X3watch.com (Accountability Software)
Every Man’s Battle – Stephen Arterburn
Pure Freedom – Mike Cleveland
The Game Plan – Joe Dallas

October 5, 2011

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By Mikey Osborne

Early in marriage, I learned a valuable lesson I simply will never forget (which is the nice way of saying – I messed up royally).  Apparently, the depths of marital wisdom had not yet been engrained into my mind.  As I sat in a ministry-planning meeting with a host of volunteers, student leaders, and other staff members, we laid out our elaborate plans for the next twelve months of ministry.   From dodgeball to work camp, we seemed to strategically plan every single aspect of the ministry with which we had been entrusted.  We even managed to acquire both school and community calendars early in order to avoid any and every pitfall that could have entangled us.  We were veterans; administrators of all that came our way…or so we thought.  With the perfect balance of events, we seemed to be more adequately prepared for the next year than ever before…until I got home.
On returning home, I began to excitedly share every minute detail with my wife.  Though she listened intently, there seemed to be a look of wonder on her face.  Not by our simulated bungee jumping, toilet bowl hockey, or even our monthly widow projects.  No, that was not what incited my new bride’s perplexing look; there was definitely something greater, something this noob was missing.  Maybe it was our lack of focus on orphans or the interns we were planning on hiring?  No, that wasn’t it, it certainly wasn’t it.  With each word, the “look” grew a little more intense, more explicit.  So after about an hour of rambling, this bewildered begotten finally asked her, “What’s wrong baby, you don’t seem that excited?”

At once everything made sense.  Her wonder seemed to penetrate my heart as I was faced with a stark reality.  Her eyes, her countenance spoke louder than any words she could have ever spoken.  In all of our planning, our calendar gathering, and listing of community happenings, I had failed to acquire the schedule of that which in creation meant the most to me – my new bride.  My obvious neglect of her spoke volumes.  Was it intentional?  Absolutely not!  But it was indicative of a great problem, I was not operating as “one” with my wife.  In all of my busyness, I began operating independent of that which was joined to me.
As I sat outside mulling over my mistake an even greater revelation hit me.  As profound and blatant a neglect I had shown to my wife, I had shown an even greater abandonment of my Father.  We read volumes of youth ministry journals, scores of student literature, but never once had we really stopped to ask the Father what we should do with His ministry.  Oh, we began our meeting with prayer – and even asked Him to instruct us on what we were doing…but we were not operating as “one”; we were operating independent of the Head.  In all of our planning, we had overlooked the single most important factor in ministry, not just our spouse…but our Father.   In our professionalism and strategizing we futilely planned as kingdom orphans though the advice, provision, and wisdom of our Father was readily awaiting us.  If we were going to accomplish anything for His glory, we had to stop, re-evaluate, and listen.

The implications of this neglect seemed to have kingdom deficiency written all over it.  Even if we chose to do good things, if they were apart from the Father then they were simply…nothing.  Why?   You can feed an entire country, but if it is not done in accordance with the leadership of Christ, then it is ultimately deficient of kingdom influence, and therefore, not eternally profitable.  Scary? Yes!  That is why we must walk in intimate communion with the Father.
In Acts 16, Paul and his companions attempt to preach the gospel in several regions that desperately need deliverance, completely void of the good news.  Every strategist and book would have led them to those specific areas.  The harvest seemed to be plentiful, but it was obvious that it was not the Lord’s intent.  The scripture clearly states, they were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia” (Acts 16:6).  Even after trying to enter Bithynia, “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them” to cross over  (Acts 16:7).  Wow, their heart’s desire was to preach the Gospel and to carry it to the ends of the earth, but the Spirit would not allow them to go to those areas.  Why?  Because there was a Macedonian man about to have an appointment with the Divine Wonder (Acts 16:9).  Did the Word need to be preached in the other regions?  Absolutely.  The task however was not for Paul and his companions at this time.  It did not mean the task wasn’t admirable, worthy, or even doctrinal; it simply meant that area was not the intended place of ministry for Paul and his companions at that particular moment in time.
What if Paul had not gone to Macedonia?  What if the call of the disciples was left up to their intellect, reasoning, and rationalizing, instead of the Spirit of God?  What if the province of Asia had received the preaching of the gospel instead of Macedonia?  They might have done something admirable, maybe something even worthy of being mentioned in bestseller books, but it simply would not have been eternally profitable because it ultimately would have been rooted in disobedience.  The results would have been…well…human, not Divine.

John 15:5 seems to be pretty clear, Jesus says, “apart from me you can do NOTHING…” Nothing.  You may conquer hunger, social injustice and a hosts of other things, but apart from Christ it has absolutely no eternal significance.  Does it make the pursuit of these things wrong – absolutely not, but for eternal implications they must be done as “one” with Christ.  We definitively know one eternal implication of Paul and his sojourners listening intently.  A slave girl, a jailer and their entire families came to the miraculous grace of our Savior.   The results were certainly not human; they were Divine!
How would it disrupt our planning meetings if we asked God first?  If we listened before asking God to bless what “we” are doing?  What if God did not want us to do our annual back to school rally which always proves to be the most successful thing we do?  What if God said, “not now, not you, or not here?”  What if we were supposed to be at a location that didn’t make sense? That was less attractive?  Our actions must be dictated by the Father if they are going to have the kind of impact we read about in scripture.  Otherwise, all we will have succeeded at doing is building a teenage country club complete with all the bells and whistles anyone can handle.

We wonder why God doesn’t bless what we do when we never take the time to seek His guidance on what we should do.
We wonder why our planning isn’t having kingdom results.
We wonder why our preaching in the area of Bithynia hasn’t prospered.
It is because the ministry of the Father has become “our” ministry instead of His.
We are not operating as “One”; we are operating apart from the One.
Why do you do what you do?
Why do you do what you do when you do it?
Is it because the Father has led you to do such things? Or because you need to?
Are we willing?  Are we willing to abandon good things in order to participate in great things?
Are we willing to take the time to listen before planning?

If there is any motivation outside of our Father’s leading, prompting, and strength we may need to re-evaluate our intentions.  After all, it is His work not ours.  After my clash with reality, I asked every single member of our ministry team to bring calendars back to yet another meeting.  As the meeting started, we read, we prayed, we repented, and threw every single calendar we had planned in the trash.  Two weeks later, our new plan had the handiwork of the Master, complete with a list of Macedonian people crying out to be reached.  It was, by far, the most successful year of ministry I had experienced up to that point in my life.
I wish I could tell you that I had instituted a foolproof plan that has led me to be prompted entirely every moment of my life by the Father’s voice, but I simply cannot.  Even as I think on this article, I am evaluating our own direction in ministry.  It is okay to make mistakes, but it is not okay to continue to operate the same way after being convicted.  Allow the Father to lead you like he did Paul.  If we are ever going to operate in the power of YHWH, we simply have to function as one with the One.
There’s a great work in Macedonia, but we must first turn our attention to His voice in order to receive instruction.

Prayer

May everything we fashion be knitted under the delicate placing of His hands.  May the symphony of our life be the response of his heartbeat.  May we abandon every thing we plan as orphans, and may we embrace the instructions of a loving Father waiting to lead us in the path of kingdom productivity.  May we hear the voice of instructions, beckonings, and warnings.  And may our ministries be a reflection of Divine whispers spoken to us as we intimately seek His presence.

This is part 4 of a series called “Out of Order”.