The FULL Armor: Righteousness Is Safe

The second piece in this series of armor is the "breastplate of righteousness."  This would have been made from hard and durable materials like metal or tough leather sewn together.  The breastplate covered everything just below the neck down to the naval, extending as far as each side.  It's purpose is simple: to protect the vital organs from a forward attack.

Note that the breastplate did not protect against rear attacks, because a good soldier kept the enemy always before their face.  Should the soldier turn away and attempt to retreat, they left themselves vulnerable to a sword or arrow.

In the Biblical realm,  the breastplate is made of "righteousness."  This word, dikaiosynē most literally means "a condition acceptable to God," or "right with God."  While we recognize "there is none righteous" in and of themselves (Romans 3),  2 Corinthians 5:21 shows us that we can be made the righteousness of God.  Just as Ephesians 6 suggests, we can wear HIS righteousness.

Why would righteousness be a breastplate?  Because sin's primary target will be the seat of your emotions, the source of life.  Sin targets the heart.  Holiness is the ultimate protection against sins of the heart.  But there's a catch:  It only protects from the front.  Keep moving forward.

Righteousness is not a cloak we put on once.  It is a daily fight, and death to self.  It is a city of refuge and impenetrable wall save a personal choice to remove oneself from its protection.  In order to utilize its strength a soldier must face the battle head on.  Turning a blind side to the enemy even for one second opens your life up for extreme danger.  All too often we flirt with the enemy, and though it seems harmless and safe - sin always brings death.

Righteousness is the second piece of our armor.  When you wear a right relationship with the Lord your heart will always be safe.  Don't take off the armor.  Always work to keep it on.  Face your sin.  Kill it.  The devil flees only by resistance. (James 4)

The truth makes free.  Righteousness is safe.


In today's age of modern warfare depicted in news stories and video games, we often skim Ephesians six believing we have a firm grasp of it's meaning.  We have equivocated it with medieval armor and explained it away as a simple metaphorical task. But upon further examination, we find the armor of God to be an in-depth daily process required for effective living.

Each piece of armor was given for a specific purpose, and presented in a specific order.  Neglecting one piece, or attempting to assemble your armor out of order can lead to some very literal battle scars or fatal injuries.  So, today let's take a look at piece number one.  Ephesians 6:14 "Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth..."  In other words, Paul is saying, "don't go lookin' like a fool with your pants on da ground."

To understand each piece's specific purpose, we have to return to the culture and context of this letter to the Ephesian church, unfortunately it may not be the European chain mail we've seen in the pictures.

  In this time, "loins" osphys implied more than just the waistline of an individual; It was the source of generative power.  A person's loins were their ability to reproduce.  Their future.  Their spawn/creation. Everything that was to come came from the loins.  1Peter 1:13 implies that the "loins of your mind" are responsible for what reality you create.  Literally speaking, that which you create comes from the loins.

To "girt about" the loins was a very important practice....and still is.  I will never forget a particular skit I was a part of as a teenager.  I was running a little late for the evening service and could not find the belt that I needed to match my clean pair of pants.  So,  I left my shirt untucked and thought no one would be the wiser;  That is, until the "bad guys" picked my character up, and turned me upside down and began to shake as if my lunch money was going to fall out...Well, something fell out....ME!!!  But my pants stayed in the air.  And there in front of 300+ teenagers I learned the invaluable lesson that loins should always be "girt about."

In this Ephesian culture, the outer garment was loose, flowing robe-like material.  If the loins were not girt about,  the garment would hinder the movement of the soldier.  Girting about your loins made sure that everything stayed in its proper place,  movement was unrestricted, and the girdle would serve as the sheath carrier for the sword.

The girdle itself was equivocated with "truth."  The etymology of this word alētheia, meaning what is both objectively and subjectively true, is rooted in the word alpha.  This word, synonymous with Christ, signifies a definite beginning and end.  This is what we would call an "indeclinable noun."  Meaning "truth" has only one form and number.

It is no coincidence that truth is the "alpha" and first piece of God's armor.  If we are to reach the world for Christ (generative power) and produce a generation that is committed to Christ, its foundation must be in truth.  We must intentionally girt ourselves with truth.  Seek it out.  Pursue integrity and expel deception.  Apart from the "belt of truth,"  our movement will be restricted and our ability to carry God's Word severly  handicapped.  Loins girt with truth make us free to fight.

Deceit will trip you and slow you down. Have you intentionally put on truth today?  Or are you looking like a fool with your pants on the ground?

Spoiler Alert!

I am THE WORST person to watch TV with.  I like to think out loud; and by think I mean comment on the acting, content, and storyline.  If I am going to watch TV it has to be a series/movie that will make me laugh or grab my attention with a down-to-earth, realistic story-line.  One of my very favorite series over the last several years has been "24."  

For those who might not be familiar, 24 is the saga of actor Keifer Sutherland, known as agent "Jack Bauer" of the Counter Terrorist Unit. (CTU)  Each season is 24 episodes, with each representing one 60 minute period in Jack Bauer's day.  It is an intense thriller, and the thing that makes it perfect is that it is totally plausible; putting the life of our service-men in perspective.  Without fail, at some point in each season, the writers want you to believe Jack Bauer has died and will not return.  But seriously,  there can't be 24 episodes if the main character dies.  Not to mention, as a loyal fan I follow the news, and how can they kill off the actor they signed a 4 season agreement with?  

So since I'm one of those people who totally involves their emotions in the characters and storyline, I rationalize those nail-biter moments away by using logic....out loud.  As you can imagine, that may or may not get annoying to everyone else sitting in the room.  It's not my fault they have not considered the facts beforehand....that does not give them the right to excuse me from the force.

Ever had one of those nail-biter moments in life?  Maybe it has been an intense week or month in the series that is your life.  Just like this cynical television critic or the kid that reads the back of the Nancy Drew novel, have you considered that life is not THAT much different from these two situations?  

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."  EXPECTED END.  Meaning even when today's episode doesn't make complete sense and some characters look like they have disappeared for good, you already know the end.  No need to worry. 

God gave Noah a promise that sustained him through the storm.  Moses knew that before the end credits would roll,  Israel would find themselves in a promised land, even when the scenes shifted.  The three Hebrew children recognized their expected end "our God will deliver us," which influenced their actions and inspired their proclamation, "But if not, we will not bow down." 

Perspective is everything.  When the scene gets rough or the season is tough, just remember that the divine director signed a binding contract with his own blood.  The story of your life cannot be lived out by another character;  it is a custom role suited for only one:  you.  As a believer, no matter what you face - you can read the back of the book and know who wins.  

MOVIE REVIEW: Left Behind//The End Begins

The year 2014 has been called, The Year of the Bible Film" and while there have been numerous biblicaltitles released, I would propose that 2014 is really the year of the Independent Christian film. Films like, Gods Not Dead, Moms Night Out, Alone Yet Not Alone, When The Game Stands Tall, and more have come to the big screen, collectively grossing well over 100 million dollars. Now towards the end of the year comes the much anticipated, Left Behind.  From the producers of the original film with Kirk Cameron, (one of the first independent Christian films to come to theaters), comes a remake with a lot of factors in its favor. First, its directed by Vic Armstrong. You may not know his name, but hes known as Hollywoods most prolific stunt coordinator, with such credits as Indiana Jones, Thor, Superman, and The Amazing Spiderman. Second, the film has major talent from Academy Award winner, Nicolas Cage, One Tree Hills, Chad Michael Murray, and Jordin Sparks, winner of American Idol. Bring in to the mix the largest, (but still minuscule by Hollywood standards), budget ever for an Independent Christian film, and you seemingly have a recipe for an awesome film. But is Left Behind really that good of a movie? Ill try to break down the various aspects of the film in this review.

    Those familiar with the book, Left Behind, will find that the new film is a tad different. The rundown is as follows:
    Airline Captain, Rayford Steele (Cage), is flying his jumbo jet across the Atlantic ocean when suddenly the Rapture occurs. Panic breaks out and Rayford must calm his passengers, and land his damaged plane safely. His daughter Chloe, (played by Cassi Thompson), is on the ground and sees the destruction the Rapture causes first hand; she struggles to find out what happened and why her mother and brother disappeared.
    The story is much simpler than the original film on purpose. Producer Paul Lalonde has stated that he wanted to devote an entire film to the rapture to convey the event accurately. As a story, its okay; but unfortunately the simplicity of plot causes the film to drag quite a bit. Devoting an entire film to the Rapture sounded good, but an event that happens in the twinkling of an eye has a hard time filling an hour and a half. So Ill give the story, a 2.5 out of 5 stars.


    I have heard many comments from people saying that there was no message and no clear explanation of what happened. Let me put those rumors to rest. By the end of the film it is crystal clear what happened, who caused it, and where the missing people are. It is said during the film that you must believe God to go to Heaven, but no conversions actually take place. It feels like the characters various stories went unresolved, as far as salvation goes, to set us up for a sequel. The message gets, a 2.5 out of 5 stars.


    I expected my favorite character to be Nic Cage, however, his role was pretty much confined to the captains chair. Although I did love watching him forcefully tell a passenger to take his seat! I enjoyed Chad Michael Murrays interpretation of Buck Williams, and while I wouldnt call it spectacular, I did like him better than Kirk Cameron in this role. Cassi Thompson did an excellent  job with her role as Chloe, in my opinion the film was really about her. But my favorite character in this film was definitely the character of Melvin Weir, played by Martin Klebba.  His role was so funny I was laughing out loud in some parts! Overall Id give the acting 3.5 out of 5 stars.

    The camera work in the film ranges from good to excellent, but leans about 95% percent to the side of excellent. Some of the shots are absolutely fantastic for an independent film. However, the real test of this kind of film is the visual effects. To do an action packed end times film its only fitting that you have some good visual effects. The VFXin Left Behind range from bad to good, never very bad, but never very good either. There are some legitimately cool action moments though! The third act of the film called for some heavy duty VFX, however, it felt like they needed about $10 million more to finish them. Its not terrible, but at best Id say its passable. So Im going to have to give Technical, a 3.5 out of 5 as well.

In summary, Left Behind under delivered for me. The quirky supporting characters and comedy, while funny, carried on way too long after the Rapture making Left Behind feel a little like a parody of the original rather than a better version. But its still an exciting ride and is at least worth seeing once, and for some, more than once. I believe the producers to be well-meaning men of God and I personally hope Left Behind does well in theaters so they can give us a more deserving sequel. In short, Left Behind is an ambitious film that stumbles often, but only because it reaches so high.

Final consensus, 3 out of 5 stars

(If they would have made an end credits scene introducing Nicolae Carpathia, I would have given it  3.5 stars!)

Guest Post by: Josh Allen

The "Soap" Opera

IKEA is a Swedish land of incredible inventions.  I have never walked through that place without seeing at least one thing that I could not live without; having no idea how I ever survived without their latest tool of convenience!  My friends also share a love for this great place where recently on one of our group pilgrimages, a two dollar purchase would teach me an invaluable lesson in leadership and development.

Any good salesman knows that before he can market a problem solver, he must first establish a baseline that there is in fact a problem that needs to be resolved.  Insert dramatic infomercial music, black and white shot for extra emphasis, and that over-acted disgusted face as we walk into your bathroom right now.  Do you use bar soap?  Have you ever noticed how even the best grooved bathtub holders for bar soap collect a residue that is a cake mixture of hardened soap and dead skin cells?  Ever picked up a bar and there's the wet gooey layer because the bar of soap sat in the moisture that never fully drained or dissipated? 

Here's where IKEA's ingenious plastic invention comes in!  Similar to the product you see in the title, this $2 plastic holder suctioned to the shower wall, holding the bar upright so that gravity could do it's work and allow all that moisture to drain!  This would also keep the bars of soap from ending up on the floor like they so often do.

 Having seen this revelatory item, eyes have now been opened to this epidemic that must end!  So, someone I know purchased several of these, attached them to the wall, and placed the individual bars of soap in them.  The story is told that every day when the purchaser got in the shower, one particular bar of soap was not in it's new place; It always found it's way back to its old spot.

One reported they followed the cycle:  After the purchaser would get in the shower, the soap was it its new spot.  After the owner of this particular bar would get in the shower, it was always out...until one day, all evidence of the soap container magically disappeared; All in one swift move, both the problem and the solution disappeared for good. Here are some takeaways:

1.  People Won't Always See What You See.

Someone saw junk, and the other saw treasure.  Someone saw a collection of dead skin cells, used soap, and bacteria, while someone else examined a difference in routine placement.

The world needs Visionaries, driven to look toward the future, calculate the risks, and affect change to generate momentum and growth.  If it can be better, then why should it stay the same?  If we can do something new and effective, why stick with the status quo?  The visionaries of the world are those IKEA inventors,  church leaders, writers, and communicators who keep the world moving.  Without visionaries, we will still be living without electricity, cars, and the technology that makes life a blend of complicated and fun. Don't be discouraged if people don't see what you see; that only means you will go places others cannot go. 

2.  You Cannot Not Force A Solution.

Left to themselves, the managerial type would take what they were given, and ONLY what they were given, and make it as comfortable as could be. ( AKA. the regular soap shelf. ) Visionaries hate "comfortable" just as much as Managers hate "new."  This tension, though irritating at times is necessary to a steady flow of life.  If you are to be an effective visionary, you must first understand that change cannot always be forced.  "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."  You will lose the heart and buy-in of those you seek to lead if you mandate change on a "if it a'int broke don't fix it" personality.  Take a step back and utilize your opportunities to communicate.  As you communicate, either your philosophy will change, or your followers will change.  Both of these can be listed as success. 

3.  Problems Must First Be Personal 

Sometimes as leaders we must sell the problem before we can ever sell the solution.  Habits and routines do not change until the issue begins to hit close to home.  Maybe you're a Christian who can look back and see how grace did not seem so amazing until you realized just how much of a wretch you were. Maybe you were an addict who finally publicly admitted, "My name is_____ and I am_____."  There can only be a solution where there is first a problem.  Vision casting in a sterile, universal manner if rarely effective; But communicating the personal issues will continue to decide leaders, elect presidents, and graduate AA members.  Someone is going to change the world. The question is, will it be you? 

Influence Or Be Influenced

I have always believed that we are a product of our influences. How we influence others is sometimes intentional at other times not at all. Putting influence into perspective is challenging. Are you supposed to care who you influence and who influences you?? One thing is certain you are influencing others and you are being influenced by others. Surely there is a way to control this. To a degree at least. 

When I consider the idea and action of influence I look at the person of Jesus. He has done what no one could and has made every influential action to be that which will bring forth a positive outcome. Jesus didn't demand to have influence though. He was meek, ultra loving, and involved personally on those he influenced. 

When Christ was on the earth He had apostles and told them to make disciples also. Jesus knew that to influence the world you must first influence individuals one on one. He knew that while he was the way the truth and the life He had to involve others in making that message believable. Bottom line is this. Jesus wasn't a self proclaimed influence. Jesus diligently put in the time to walk and talk among his apostles (a small group of men) with love above all, as a means to reach all men. 

He told them to go and tell, baptize in His name when He himself could have used the powers of heaven and earth to make the world believe. Jesus was in the business of involving others in the gospel. Not just self proclaiming it. 

His example in such, is the single greatest influence any life can come under. Look around, focus on the people right in front of you, the people you see every day. No need to try to reach or influence everyone. The best way to reach everyone with positive influence is to just reach those in your immediate future. With love. No matter what agenda you're pushing, no matter how passionate you are, if you do to put in the time to just spend time with people and care for them, you will have no influence at all. 

It is interesting to note that Christ seemed to have no influence aside from God the Father. He was so busy trying to influence others positively that He didn't have time for others to influence him. Especially not negatively. Even satan tried to tempt Christ but Christ knew his mission. To love. Seek and save. Bring life more abundant. Etc. Likewise, If we focus on loving people, we allow little to no bad influences in our lives. 


I Hear Church Bells

Not too long ago, the bus was parked next to a church building in Texas.  In this small town, one of the church's attractions and advertising tools was the electronic church bell sitting atop their auditorium.  At half past the hour, a chime would sound, and on the hour, the bell would sound to signal which hour we had arrived upon.  That would have been OK, maybe like a grandfather clock,  but after playing the hourly number, it proceeded to play a verse and chorus of a hymn!  

No matter where you were on the property or in its vicinity, no matter what stage of sleep you happened to be in, you could not escape the chimes of time.  The first day I thought, "what an annoyance!" Why in the world would they park us here next to this siren of a church bell for an entire week?!  But by day three, God had opened my eyes to a few lessons that made it a little more tolerable.  

1.  Time Never Stops

I know what you're thinking...that fact just BLEW. YOUR. MIND. Right?!  While this captain obvious statement is rather general, the fact is so under-considered by the American culture.  This generation has been accused of constantly living in the moment, but I believe that to be false!  Today's moments are so consumed with snapping photos of ourselves and events so that we can look back, that often we fail to genuinely enjoy the moment we are in!  Each half hour as that bell would ring, I was reminded that even when I became idle, time continued on.  The bell became a sudden transport to the very moment I was in; a realization that my tomorrow hinged on my choices in this moment. 

2.  Success And Failure Are Measured By Moments

At first this was depressing.  I'll never forget sitting in my make-shift office, hearing that church-bell ring and wondering if there was a glitch in the program.  Hadn't I JUST heard that bell only a few moments ago?  Had a half hour REALLY passed already? A glance at my watch revealed a depressing truth...another half hour had passed and I had done NOTHING.  Have you ever made it to the end of the day and wondered where the time went?  Maybe as you sit here and realize it's OCTOBER and the year we just started a few days ago is weeks away from a close.  Dwelling on this fact can definitely drive one into depression, until you begin to reevaluate how you spend your time.  Set your goals and evaluate your productivity moment by moment.  If you fail in one half hour segment, your day is not a failure, for the next moment may hold great progress.  Both positive and negative momentum are products of a series of small, measurable moments. 

3.  Timing Is Everything

If you fail to consider this point, you may jump the gun on some good opportunities to wait.  While tomorrow is not promised, and you never truly know what a moment may bring does not give you an out not to plan.  My great-grandpa always said, "plan your work, and work your plan."  This principle applies to every single aspect of life.  In order for my moments, resulting in my day, to be successful, I must have a general direction for where I am headed, and the time it will take me to get there.  If the purpose of my day is ill-defined, I will arrive at my destination every time.  Some opportunities take planning and strategizing; therefore each moment doubles as a celebration of "now" and a deliberation of what is to come.  A moment too soon, or a second too late can ultimately change your entire future. 

  "Remember WHEN?"  "Remember THAT TIME?"  Time serves as the foundation and vehicle for every move of life.  It's more valuable than gold, yet freely given.  How have you spent yours?

Teen Talk: "WHY?" - That Is My Question

From adolescent all the way to adult,  human nature is to reason and rationalize.  Well, at least most of the time.  We recognize that everything happens for a reason; the result of an equal and opposite action.  The foundation of science and sects of society is to know not only that something happened, but to understand exactly why.  This word "Why," fuels industry and study, and serves as the key to unlocking the deepest parts of man. 

It's the question that everyone asks, but few genuinely want or even know how to answer.

  As a lover of deduction and logic, in pursuit of a deeper understanding of the way people's brain tick, I find myself asking this question quite a bit!  As a youth pastor I can remember watching countless of my students blatantly disregard a rule or guideline.  Seeking the best, in hope of a unique, positive exception, I would ask, "Why did you do that?"  To which many would respond, "I don't know."  

Depending on your position as a follower or leader you will relate to another common response to this question differently. When given instruction, whether student, child, or employee,  people ask "Why?"  And maybe you've heard or even said, "Because... I said so." 

I can remember my biological mother rationalizing and spiritualizing her vague response with this gem: "If you don't obey me without question, you will never be able to blindly obey God when he gives you instruction that doesn't make sense in the moment."  Within myself...and maybe a few times audibly I would reply, "Well God knows don't."  Though she was on the right track, she failed to recognize her opportunity for growth. - If you are a teen who struggles in search of the ever allusive "why"  or a leader who is tired of being asked,  let's look at some principles about the question "why."

Living in the moment is a philosophy ever before our snapchat society's face.  When someone asks "why" it solicits both pause and thoughtful consideration of not only the action, but what lead to it.  It holds us accountable, causing us to live for an extended  time in more than a moment, but the motive and mindset that led to that moment of action.  "Why" slows us down from rapid movement but allows us to build momentum in a series of intentional moments. 

If you want to distinguish a leader from a dictator, study their response to this intense question.  A dictator hates to be asked "Why" because an explanation might open their line of reasoning up for discussion.  Dictators view this question as opposition where leaders view "why" as an opportunity. A good leader always does their best to preempt this question by accompanying instruction with relevant information. When this is done, "Why's" can be recognized as a sign of an inattentive follower or an opportunity to engage followers in the process.  Each time a follower is engaged in the process their discernment and leadership abilities are enhanced.  

"Why" can serve as an opportunity for research or rebellion.  It's all about what you do with the answer.  It is not a sin to question the instruction of authority so long as it is done properly and with intent to rationalize and solidify loyalty to a cause.  You can ask God "Why" all day long so long as you are willing to abide by his answer.  Many ask their "why's" in an attempt to fuel their rebellion.  Why do you ask why?

Are you developing relationships with those that follow you?  Do people feel the freedom to ask "why?"  Your response to this question is a sure-fire why to determine whether you are a compassionate confidant, or an over-confident commander.  Allowing that freedom establishes strong relationships.  Each answered "why" generates compound interest in the market of trust that yields a future return of unquestioned authority. 

Dear follower, please recognize that "why" is the currency that can easily purchase contempt when spent unwisely.  Over-spending bankrupts future opportunity and  return. Be careful to evaluate "why" you ask "why."  Note that "why's" are not always acceptable currency depending on which type of leader you serve.  Your ability to spend it, and their ability to accept it will undoubtedly reflect the future of your relationship. 

Teen Talk: 3 Ways To Help Your Parents Understand

Over the next couple weeks we are going to dive into a family series of sorts.  We are going to "get real" and address some of the recurring issues that do not seem to be dissipating with time. By dissecting the problems and defining the participants we will have an opportunity to correct our course for growth as children, parents, pastors, and leaders.  You won't want to miss a segment in this series.

It is so commonly overused it is more than cliché at this point..., it's just crazy.  I can remember hearing it used in my pre-teen years and thinking to myself, "I will never say that."  But then,  something truly does shift with time, and before long these words glided across my lips as if they were a standard rehearsed response.  "My parents just don't understand me."

You've heard it right?  You have probably even said it.  No matter how young or old you are,  the thought that your situation surpassed your parent's understanding has definitely crossed your mind at least once.  Well, friend,  I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that YOU'RE RIGHT!  Your parents do not have an earthly idea what you are going through, and it is absolutely impossible for them to relate to at this point.

As culture continually evolves, everything changes.  While sin remains sin, the access and advertisement of the same is drastically more enhanced.  Things once regarded as distant anomalies are now slapped in the face of students via media and government issued education.  If you are parenting a teenager right now you can remember back to a day without social media, cell-phone access, and drug scares.  Call to memory the age at which topics such as homosexuality become a reality for you and contrast that to the conscience-appeasing, sin-driven programming our juveniles ingest.  This is a crazy world, and it is much different than the generation that is raising it now.  And if everything stays the same,  the phrase "my parents just don't understand" will continue to be true.

Ready for the bad news?  If you have ever spoken that phrase, the reality is: That's your fault.

To "understand" is to interpret, grasp, or be thoroughly familiar with.   This state of being or regard for a situation from which one's self is removed can only be attained as information is firmly communicated.  It's like this...imagine driving around that battery operated car your parents got you when you were 8, then showing up at the DMV and expecting to ace the driving test.  Sure, the basics are very similar, the application is altogether different.  How do we learn to drive?  We watch.  We listen. We attend driver's education classes.  The facts are communicated, then rudimentary knowledge is applied on a higher level.

Maybe a poor illustration,  but the point is that if you truly want your parents to understand your problem, you will have to work on the following:

1.  Take Time
Whether your parents are unapproachable, or you are guilty of shutting them out, one thing is for sure;  You are going to have to be the one to talk.  What have you been feeling?  Why?  What things has God been working on in your life?  Where do you struggle?  What makes you happy?  Ultimately, what makes you, you?  Yes, some of these things are extremely personal; but imagine your parent's surprise when you communicate without being interrogated.  If you want to be asked less questions, preemptively take the time to give the answers.

2.  Make Time
Social Media has provided an outlet for both over and under-communication.  People toss out the personal details of their life over the internet like it's everyone's business,  yet retreat into a hermitage of insecurity in real-life encounters.  Rather than subliminally message your parents via Facebook or the twitter/instagram account they don't have,  take those thoughts and frustrations to them directly.  When something good happens,  share that moment in the moment with those you love FIRST.  And when faced with a frustration, handle it responsibly by communicating calmly with the offender.  Don't replace your family with Facebook. Make communication a priority.

3.  Save Time
You cannot claim the role of a victim when you have not allowed your parents the opportunity to understand.  How could they?  It's a vicious cycle of they ask questions > you get mad > they don't ask > you don't tell > they attempt to speak into your life > you get frustrated because they don't have all the relevant information > "you just don't understand me" > so they start asking questions again....  It is so easy to slip back into this cycle with the busyness of life. This relationship you are making will take time to create and keep.  Yet, in the long run saves the time most family units spend repairing damaged relationships.

Who Has The Missing Peace?

Puzzles are both a pleasant challenge and a nerve-wracking irritation.  Some people are big picture people, while others are in the details.  I'm both.  I vision cast for the broad future,  then dig into the details and begin to smooth out the mechanics of making things work one piece at a time.  Some call this ADHD or hyperactive and to those people all I have to say is.....OOO SHINY!!!! ....Wait, what were we talking about again?  -  At first I am content "big picturing" the edges together, but then all of a sudden, a few pieces jump out at me that I have to put together. Before I know it,  I have 10 different puzzles going all at the same time, trying to recreate the box's master plan.

Now I'm working on finagling large chunks around without breaking them because they belong in another place.  My puzzle is falling apart;  And what started as a relaxing recreational activity has now become determined stress and anxiety.  This climaxes only to find that there is one missing piece.  The piece that ties it all together..  You'd think it wouldn't matter with the 4,999 pieces that fit perfectly, but all attention is drawn to that missing one. It's kind of like that Tide® commercial where the stain screams so loud you can't hear the person wearing the shirt.  It's distracting. It doesn't look like the box. And it kills the big picture.

Whether you are a big picture person, or a master of detail you share a commonality with the rest of humanity.  One little problem can derail a life you thought you had all together.  Though everything else is going right,  all attention now shifts to the missing piece.  And now guess what's missing?  Peace.

Acts 27 shows us an entire ship of seasoned sailors who thought they had it all under control.  Big picture said that it was going to be easier to winter in a different location.  Detail folks thought they had found their purpose in some temporary good weather.  The ship was loaded,  and all was well until a storm came which shook their world.

Mark 4 shows us a ship of disciples who were living the dream.  Traveling from place to place with the very creator of the universe.  It doesn't get much better than that!  But one storm shook their faith as they cried out for help.  Though the Master of the wind lay aboard their ship,  one single storm drew their entire focus.

You have read about how Peter walked above the water at a later time, but a shift in his focus brought him below the storm.

Above each of these waters, we see a missing peace.  Maybe in your life,  everything seems to be piecing together,  but the absence of "peace" has brought you distress.  Can this puzzling perspective be remedied?  Can I find my missing peace?

Paul and Jesus both brought peace into perspective when they commanded it's presence.  Paul stood before a ship of scared men and ordered them to be of good cheer.  Jesus rebuked the storm and called for peace.  Peter's testimony affirms the fact that even amid the storms of life, peace within our heart is dependent upon a fixed focus on the Father, not our fears and failures. Peace is my choice.

My missing peace is found in the only one able to piece my life together.  When I was nothing more than a box of broken pieces,  Jesus "worked all of them together."  He sees the master plan.  When I feel like He is breaking me apart,  I can trust that he is shifting places into my life where they can fit together perfectly.  Within the borders of my life,  Jesus is piecing together a masterpiece of perfectly placed pieces.  I think I'll leave that up to him!

Who has the missing peace?  The keeper of the pieces.

Professional Christians Still Go To Hell

For six summers in a row I have been involved in the leadership of multiple youth camps.  I saw it every week; each time a different spin on the same story, but Dillon's struck home with me. Dillon was a pastor's kid who had never known a time apart from church.  He held prominent positions across the board of his church ministry opportunities.  He was a leader among teens,  and respected by adults.  He said all the right things, and lived his life the right way.  But Dillon had a big problem. He was lost.

Gripping the back row with beads of sweat running down his face,  he stared intensely at the floor.  The sermon was not even about salvation, but a war was being raged in his heart and mind.  When the invitation was given,  as heads bowed,  I saw him sneak to the front and bow at the altar's far right edge, hoping no one would see.  After a few moments,  I followed with my Bible ready.  I kneeled down beside this body that was shaking violently, and after we exchanged stories and opened up the Scripture, Dillon accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior.  

Moments later he stood before a group of teens and said something like this:  "I've fought this for years, you know....Scared out of my mind that people would judge me or mock me.  I'm a preachers kid who everyone believes is saved.  As a little child I made a profession of faith.  I don't listen to the wrong music,  I don't go to the wrong places, and all in all I thought I had it under control....But tonight I confessed my sins and have invited Jesus to be my Lord and Savior...."

That's when it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I didn't hear another word he said.  All of a sudden my mind envisioned that Mark 10 passage of Scripture where stands the rich young ruler.  He is inquiring of Jesus how he might inherit eternal life.  In other words, "how can this thing be handed to me? (Inherit)  Jesus replies with the commandments, to which the rich young ruler says, "All of these have I observed from my youth."  Jesus said he lacked one thing.  "....come, take up thy cross and follow me."  

Dillon and this rich young ruler have a commonality with many lost "Christ followers."  They have made a PROFESSION of Faith.  No,  not a testimony in church;  rather, they have transformed their faith into a profession....a job.  Professional Christians.  Faith is not a job title or position you hold.  It is not about what you do, nor does what you say have any bearing upon faith's existence in your life. Many treat faith as a job by which they acquire through a professionally worded prayer application.  Serving Jesus is nothing more than routine because "it's what we are supposed to do."  It's our job. 

Romans 10:9 speaks of salvation coming by way of a confession.  Not to a man in a box.  To confess is to concede or acknowledge.  I need a Savior.  To own or admit truth.  Why? Because I am a sinner. And to acknowledge one's faith in and declare adherence to.  A relationship that is made public without fear.  (Matthew 10:32)

There are lost people every day who live by professions of faith.  Professions that are little more than a vocation that requires knowledge, who's body is engaged in an occupation.  They know, do, and say the right things:  a form of godliness.  But deny its power because their relationship is not genuine.  It is not a cross-bearing, Christ following, sell-everything, sold out life.  It's still all about the act.  

Could a stranger look at your life and know that you are confessing Christ?  Or would we find nothing more than a shallow professional?  What have you based your eternity on?  Professional Christians still die and go to hell.  What about you?  

Yes...It Can Hurt To Ask

Each year of my childhood my family ministered at a camp-meeting in Alabama.  During this week of meetings, people from all over the country would come to fellowship and get recharged.  Wonderful people!  Lots of friends, with whom I have countless amazing memories.  And.... the "B" family also came.  The B family had a ton of kids,  a mob of girls with one exception.  Matthew.

Typing his name even now rings the "dun dun dunnnn" music in my ears.  Among several haunting memories of this child, one will never leave my mind.  During the day sessions, the kids would play outside, and my favorite thing to do was ride my scooter down the long sloping driveway.  Sounds fun enough, but once I got to the top of the hill there was Matt waiting with a question:  "Can I ride your scooter?"  Every day.  Every time.  Without fail....the impeding question.  "Can I ride your scooter? Can I?  Please, can I ride your scooter?"

You've heard it said,  "It never hurts to ask!"  That old gem is fun to say, but so so so wrong.  There is a lot of harm in asking.  You can damage a friendship by over asking.  You can kill a relationship by asking for something too soon.  You can ruin a negotiation by asking for too many things.

Matt was the kind of kid who asked for a lot of things....annoyingly so.  So much that when I meet kids from back then, even kids that didn't have a silver, Razor® Scooter with black handle bars and specialty red shocks;  at the mention of Matt's name, without fail the thing they remember is "Can I ride your scooter?"

Favors are currency.  If you deposit into an account,  you will find it easy to withdraw.  Sometimes you ask prior to any deposit.  That is a loan,  and loans always accrue interest as you pay them back.  However, some people borrow what they never intend to repay.  Some will overdraw their accounts losing any opportunity to draw from that account again.  We could label these people hustlers, jerks, and worst of all.....leeches or moochers.  And just like in the monitory world, your credit score precedes you - and it's hard to change.

Favors cost. We all have those "Matt's" in our lives who ask too many favors.  Though they truly believe there is no harm in asking,  there is.  Sometimes more than they know.

Don't withdraw from where you have not deposited.

3 Reasons Why Legalists Are The Same As Liberals

Though many seek neutrality in terms like non-denominational or relevant,  one side of the camp is always branding  the other with terms like "legalism" or "liberalism."  We pick on the Baptists because they are generally the most vocal with their preferences,  but there is a large percentage of a generation that abide firmly beside the idea that hymns, flannel graphs, sunday school, and suits will usher in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  To venture from these old-fashioned preferences we call principles would be to compromise our perception of the very doctrine of Scripture.

The opposing side, the "liberals"  have embraced a casual atmosphere.  They have abandoned dated methodology and cling to a new "style" of worship and outreach.  For some strange reason, they seem to be engaging the millennials,  and growing by leaps and bounds.  By forsaking the "old paths," are they attracting people with a false gospel?  

Beside all these confusing questions,  who really is right and who is wrong?  What defines a legalist and separates them from a liberal?  Is there a happy medium?  

Like many others on the pendulum of approach and study,  I began to find that my "legalist" Independent Fundamental Baptist background held more preference than it did Scriptural principle.  While I did not leave the doctrine of Scripture, or waiver in my foundational beliefs one bit,  I forsook anything methodologically "old"  from my upbringing. Suddenly suits were outdated and hymns became less relevant. "We" were not judgmental of anyone,  accepting of everyone, and reaching the masses for Jesus....or so we thought.  

You know,  I like suits.  I've always been kind of a GQ guy,  so one day I walked into the Kansas City church where I was one of the pastors, wearing dress slacks,  a collared shirt, and a "spiffy" jacket.  (I'm bringing that word back.)  One of the elders in the church looked at me and said, "Uhmmm I think you're in the wrong church." Suddenly, because of what I wore, I was being...dare I say it...JUDGED.  And like a ton of bricks it hit me.  In our attempt to leave "legalism" we had created our own sect of "legalism."  We demanded a certain type of dress.  We decided what methodology would work based on the time of its inception.  We ONLY sang one type of music and never varied from it.  Our services were structured just the way we liked them, and we were content that way.  Stagnating on the platform of the relevant and new.

The eye-opening truth is that millenials are not just leaving the old people churches by the masses,  they are leaving ALL churches by the masses.  Why?  Because we have ceased to be "real."  Our modern churches are just as legalist as our "fundy brethren," just in a different way.  It takes more than different programming to win the world.  More and more we realize our desperate need for DIVINE POWER.  

What defines a legalist?

1.  A Two-Fold Definition of God's Word
The majority of IFB's have waded into dangerous waters by linking salvation with the magic words of a prayer or a particular way of life you must become enslaved to.  The cannon of scripture murders the idea of a free life, enslaving believers to a list of rules,  mere "do's and don'ts" that dictate everyday life.  Likewise, many new-age churches have linked the Lordship of Christ with the concept of legalism,  and thereby released a "convert" from any obligation to serve Jesus with the rest of their life.  Both approaches are dangerously wrong,  as neither represent a new life in Christ.  This serves as only one of many examples of the contrasts between generations, and their's with the Word of God.

I can't help but hear the "Fiddler On The Roof."  Hey, did you know that people make brand new traditions every day?  Each new family that is created forms their own daily routines and corporate traditions.  A tradition is not necessarily "old,"  just something that is repeated without change, with no intent to reevaluate.  "It no need to evaluate."  Captaining a ship on the sea's ever changing waters requires constant course correction.  Truly great LEADERSHIP does the same.  We must always ask the question, "Is this the BEST way to_______?"  If something old can effectively fill that blank,  do not disregard it because of it's age.  Otherwise, watch will expire before your time and be buried in the very grave you dug.

3.  The Club
Every day members of this organization gather.  On holidays you see them in the masses,  and throughout the week they meet in smaller groups.  They treasure their membership,  and are quick to identify themselves as a paying, voting participant.  Some come to serve, and many others to be served.  Some eat to their full, while others walk the aisles merely to sample.  You can visit once or twice, but unless you're willing to be a member they do not intend to include you in any of the special things they have to offer.  Sound familiar?  It should.....Everyone needs a Costco or Sams Club membership!  

OH, but how similar does that sound to our local churches?  They come.  They eat. They leave.  And the member feels no responsibility to share what they benefit from this membership with anyone who is not.  We have transformed the church into a club, when it ought to be  the hands and feet of Jesus,  working and moving outside the walls of our campus.  Where ministry is mobile, and the message is manifest in each and ever life.  No clubs.  No cliques.  No committees.  Just committed Christians carrying Christ to the lost.  

7 Tips For Effective Kids Worship

Leading kids age 6 through 12 in worship is no easy task.  Do you go back and sing the old classic Sunday School songs?  Or are those too outdated?  Do you lead in more modern choruses and worship songs? Can little children even understand what they're singing about?  Do we have to dumb it down?  

Questions like these plague the minds of pastors, worship leaders, and children's workers across this nation.  It is almost as if leading children takes greater skill, preparation, and thought than leading a group of adults.  We have complicated it to the point where ministries swing into the extreme of ONLY the oldies or ONLY the newest stuff.  As adults we have decided what the kids need, and told them what it is they want;  when really it is so much more simple.  Not easy.  Just simple. 
Here are 7 Tips for effectively leadings Kids Worship. 

1.  Be Energetic.

You don't have to be a "youth" to lead a youth.  However, you do need the energy of one, at least as long as your setlist lasts.  Because kids are full of energy, they are fascinated by energy.  You cannot expect the kids to be engaged and excited about something that you are not pumped about.  If you are expressive, they will be expressive.  "Monkey see - Monkey do." Prompt them to follow, by leading in personal example. Whatever you want them to do, you must in turn do twice as big.

2.  Refuse To Dumb It Down.

Somewhere along the line we decided that kids are stupid.  Having decided this fact,  the education system began to cater to the new set of expectations, rendering our high school graduates incapable of reading in some cases.  If a child is uneducated in worship,  rather than dumb it down, TEACH THEM!  No,  they don't need a 20 minute dissertation on the Greek and Hebrew origins of worship.  They need bite sized pieces of intellectual information that will be the foundation for their lifelong perception of worship.  Kids are nothing more than tiny adults; teachable, moldable, observant little adults.  

3.  Engage Your Audience.

Engagement and Energy go hand in hand.  Find unique ways to capture your audience's attention.  In world where commercials and programming change shots on average of every 8 seconds,  it is going to take preparation to maintain kid's attention.  Screens are great,  and can be very beneficial when used correctly.  Props are better.  But hand-motions and movements will always be your biggest crowd-pleaser. 

4.  Confidence Is Key

You're going to make a mistake here and there.  And those kids are going to let you know about it!  While leading at Fort Bluff Camp I messed up some words.  One young gentleman on the front row let me know that immediately...very front of 400+ elementary kids.  Thanks bro! - I can let that phase me and lose my audience.  OR I can laugh at myself, move on, and win my kids over with a memory they will always look fondly upon.  Kids are the best people watchers,  and they sense your insecurities. Confidence makes all the difference in the world. If you are confident, they will follow.  If you are timid,  you might need to find another ministry outlet. 

5.  Be Prepared

You kids are your future.  They deserve more than your last minute scramble to "find something."  Just like adults, they are souls in need of leadership and direction.  As the worship leader you set the tone for the lesson that will be brought,  thereby carrying an eternal responsibility on your shoulders. Let that sober you,  realizing that you pave the way toward heaven, or watch as they drift toward hell.  Spend time in prayer and preparation for these eternity-impacting moments in worship. They deserve your best. Preparation allows you to effectively fill in the gaps between songs, or during the song to keep the momentum building. 

6.  Be Real

It's not about what year the song was written.  It's about how real the message remains.   Choose songs that are real and reflect a genuine, real relationship with Jesus.  A song is only as outdated as you say it is.  We've been singing "Happy Birthday" for decades because we said it's relevant.  Relevance is directly proportionate to how real we allow the song to be in our life.  Instrumentation and choreography should always be secondary to the message of the song.  When it's real in our lives,  it will impact forever.  Oh, that we adults truly knew and believed that "yes Jesus loves me,  the Bible tells me so."  

7.  Always Be Ready

Expect the unexpected.  I'll never forget leading in "God's Not Dead" while watching the boy in the yellow shirt, five rows back on the right side puke his guts out onto the floor.  This wonderful sight was followed by a parade of camp staff and cleaning supplies all in the middle of an intense worship set.  

-Or that one time when I stepped off the edge of the stage and slid down four stairs to the floor.  

-Once while leading worship at a camp in Kentucky, in the open air tabernacle at the top of the hill, a large, round water tank began rolling down the hill with four frantic workers in pursuit.  How do you keep straight faced and focused during that hilarity?

-OHHH and that one time I went to sing a high note after a game that involved a lot of screaming; my voice cracked like I was in middle school in front of 300+ teenagers.

Stuff happens.  You learn to roll with it and move on! Leading kids may not always be easy...but it will always be interesting!