Friday, July 31, 2009

Helping Girls by Helping Boys

I have been thinking about boys and girls in the church this week.

It started when Christopher came home from a weekend with his Grammie. In addition to stories about his train ride and fishing adventures, he told me about his great class at the First Christian Church in Fairland, Oklahoma. He had seen a video in his class in which he saw snakes, guns, and bombs. He loved it! A couple of months ago, when we visited the congregation, he loved participating as a soldier in the re-enactment of Christ's arrest. I thought, Someone in this church really knows how to appeal to little boys.

Later in the week, I read an article in Christianity Today which can be found at One paragraph caught my attention:

"The ratio of devoutly Christian young women to men is far from even. Among evangelical churchgoers, there are about three single women for every two single men. This is the elephant in the corner of almost every congregation--a shortage of young Christian men."

It occurred to me that if churches and Christian parents could develop their boys into strong and good Christian young men, they would be doing their girls a huge favor. They would be developing a good pool of potential Christian husbands for their young Christian women.

This could mean some churches will need to change their emphasis (especially in children's classes and youth groups). When teaching about Jesus, they may need to recognize that Christ possesses some often-overlooked rugged personal qualities that appeal to boys (and men). In addition to recognizing Jesus' love and kindness, teachers should recognize his courage, conviction, determination, bluntness, and strength of character. In addition to singing "girly songs" (as Christopher calls them), churches could sing a few songs about God being powerful and Christians being strong in a spiritual battle for the souls of the people we love. Boys and men could be encouraged to be responsible, to take initiative, to protect the weak, and to challenge injustices around them (like bullying or abuse). These types of things have a particular appeal to men and boys, and they are completely Christ-like and biblical.

When churches recognize that boys have different needs than girls, they will be able to attract, retain, and develop boys. They will be able to increase the number of solid, godly men for their young women to marry someday. They will be doing a favor for every girl who would have settled for something less otherwise.

Messages from Campus Ministry United Workshop

My friend Wes Woodell serves a church that is trying to reach unbelievers in San Francisco. He left me a comment last night about some great messages from the recent Campus Ministry United Workshop. You can listen to them online for free. For a complete list of messages, please go to

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Seeing the Invisible People

"Terry," a co-worker said to me this morning, "I just heard a commercial on the radio saying that one in eight Americans deal with malnutrition each year. Do you really believe that could be true?"

I surprised her with my answer: "Yes."

Hungry people in America seem to be invisible, but they exist in large numbers (especially among children of the poor). After eight and a half years involved in an urban ministry (, I know that hungry people exist. I have seen the invisible people.

I have seen the face of the child in my wife's Sunday school class who told her, "I'm sad...We ran out of food."

I have seen the recently released convict who lived in cheap motels, working as a day laborer, and asking for a little help with groceries.

I have seen children who have been taken into state custody because their parents were too high on drugs and alcohol to provide for them.

I have seen a child with Down syndrome born to a prostitute with a half dozen other children whom she was struggling to feed.

I have seen an elderly man with emphysema living alone on social security and needing groceries.

I have seen a middle-aged mentally disabled man trying to making it alone in this world.

Yes, I can believe that a large number of Americans struggle with malnutrition each year. And I have seen a church making a difference in their lives by expressing its faith in Christ through loving its invisible neighbors.

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'" (Matthew 25:37-40).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Christopher's Excellent Weekend

Christopher spent the weekend with Grammie and Jack. He caught his first fish all by himself. It was a catfish weighing 2 or 3 pounds.
He went on his first real train ride in Springdale, Arkansas. It was "awesome" and "cool."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Effective Ambassador-Warrior

Sports Illustrated has a great article about Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow in its current issue. The young quarterback's life illustrates how to be effective in sharing the Christian faith. As writer Austin Murphey put it, "Having covered Tim for three years, I would say he's the most effective ambassador-warrior for his faith I've come across in 25 years at SI."
"Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us" (Titus 2:6-8, English Standard Version).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Important Reading Material

Here are a few links to important reading material on the Internet:

At, you will find a new free e-book (Pastor Dad) by Mark Driscoll. He encourages fathers to be the kind of fathers they should be.

Anthony Bradley tackles the tough topic of why children raised in Christian families walk away from the faith at and Christian parents will be especially interested in this topic.

At, Joel Virgo helps churches that want to reach men and help them to develop into the men that God wants them to be. (Start at the bottom of the page and scroll up on this one.)

Finally, Albert Mohler shows how the rejection of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy leads one to reject other biblical teachings at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Use Words if Necessary?

Francis of Assisi has been credited with saying, "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary."

I am not certain what he intended when he said those words, but I have seen the quote used to justify being silent about the gospel of Christ. The problem with such an application of Francis' words is: It's always necessary to use words to preach the gospel.

If one concentrates on doing good deeds without telling others about his motivation (the gospel), he risks stealing the glory away from God. Christ should be honored by the Christian's good deeds, but how will anyone know to honor Christ if the Christian is silent about him? As Max Lucado has said, "If we ever get to the point where our goal is to have people say, 'What a wonderful person,' we're missing the mark. Instead, our goal is to have people say, 'What a wonderful God this person serves.' Our task is to have people say, 'Tell me about your God,' and to point people to him." As Jesus Christ said, "(L)et your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

If someone is helping the poor and caring for the vulnerable, he may be doing God's work. However, if he is doing those things without letting anyone know about what Christ has done, he is not doing God's work. He is doing something that, at best, helps someone temporarily. At worst, he is doing those things to feel good about himself. In either case, he falls short of glorifying God. He sins.

The goal of Christians' good deeds is "so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive" (Titus 2:10). Good actions and attitudes enhance the credibility and attractiveness of the gospel, but they do not replace the gospel of what Christ has done. They are not intended to place the focus on Christians. They are intended to shift the focus to the Savior who has motivated and empowered us to love others.

In dying for our sins and being resurrected from the dead, Jesus Christ has done something worth mentioning to others. In ascending into heaven and promising to return, he motivates us to tell others about his accomplishments and promises. In sending the Holy Spirit to live in his people, he empowers us to lead God-honoring lives that point people to him as the Savior and Lord.

People need to hear about what Christ has done for them. Many are living in frustration, struggling with their sins, addictions, and inadequacies without help from above. They need to hear about the hope of heaven and the warnings of hell. They need the opportunity to believe. They need the opportunity to repent. They need the opportunity to bury their lives of futility and to be born again with a real reason to live.

We are doing no one any favors by remaining silent about Jesus. He has done something special, and everyone needs to know it.

Use words. They are necessary.

"He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Christopher is ready for his first season of football. He will be in football camp during the last week of July. Practice for his first grade team starts during the first week of August.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Blog for Dads

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).

Each workday morning, I start the day reading my Bible and a few of my favorite blogs as I eat my breakfast. (I go to work a few hours before Janet and Christopher need to get up.) Tony Dungy's blog ( is one of my favorites. With each entry, he encourages men to be good husbands and fathers. Men, if you want to start the day off well, read Tony Dungy's blog. You will find encouragement and inspiration as you begin the day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why We Love the Church (Part Two)

One more quote from Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck's Why We Love the Church:

"With all the ugly sausage making I've seen in the church, I've also witnessed incredible sacrifice and generosity. I've marveled a number of times at why all these people voluntarily show up for worship on Sunday, give their time and money, and commit to loving those who are or once were complete strangers. I've overheard plenty of newcomers being invited over for dinner. I've been moved to tears as people tell me they are praying for me, and because I know their character I believe them. I've seen hurting people surrounded by a loving church family in prayer. I've seen the church respond with lavish outpouring to those who are in need. I've seen lots of people quietly do their work in the community and in the church, with little fanfare, little applause, and little talk of changing the world, and all the while make a huge difference. I've seen young kids and empty nesters give their lives to help the helpless in Mississippi, or work alongside the poor in Africa, or bring the gospel to college students in Turkey" (pp.221-222).

I have seen similar things in every church with which I have been involved. Many Christians and churches are quietly making a difference in their communities and around the world. They are following the apostle Paul's instructions: "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody" (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). It may not be spectacular, but it's a great reason to love the church.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why We Love the Church

Earlier this week Kevin DeYoung sent me a copy of the new book he co-authored with Ted Kluck, Why We Love the Church. (No, Kevin is not a close personal friend; although I think we could be, since we think so much alike on so many levels. Actually, I won a copy of his book by responding to one of his blog posts at Kevin serves as a minister of the University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. Ted is a successful sportswriter and member of the same congregation.

This is a book written for everyone who thinks the church is lame and wants to leave (or has left already). It's also good for everyone who has been affected by the spirit of our age which disregards the importance of the organized church in the lives of Christians today. It has an important message for all of us who are tempted to mock, criticize, or whine about the church.

However, Why We Love the Church is not a breezy book designed to make believers feel good about complacency. It acknowledges the failures of the church as a whole and Christians in general. We are not perfect, and the authors treat criticisms of the church with respect.

But the authors do not treat the criticisms as if they were the entire picture. In fact, much of the book deals with answering unfair and misguided criticism (especially found in popular Christian books today), while challenging Christians to embrace a more mature and nuanced understanding of the organized church and their place within it.

Here are a few of my favorite thought-provoking quotes:

"Community engagement is good. It's all too easy to criticize the missional crowd without actually doing anything yourself. And yet, a critique is warranted. The vision behind words like 'missional' and 'kingdom' often ends up reducing the church to a doer of good, noncontroversial deeds (e.g., no mention of pro-life concerns as important to community transformation) like every other humanitarian organization. When young people talk about the church getting involved in social justice, they almost always have in mind sex trafficking, oppression and death in Darfur, AIDS, or some other social cause. The danger for conservative evangelicals is to dismiss these concerns as liberal issues that don't concern us. I really don't want that to happen...This is a sinful response.

"But there are dangers for the social justice crowd too. Most of their causes demand nothing of us Christians except psychological guilt and advocacy. This often means that middle-class kids feel bad about being middle class and complain that other people (the church, the White House, multinational corporations, those fat cats on Wall Street, etc.) aren't doing more to address these problems. The problems are almost always far away and the solutions involve other people caring more.

"There's also the danger that we only champion issues that win us cool points. Let's be honest, no one we run into is for genocide or for sex trafficking or for malnutrition. It takes no courage to speak out against these things. We can be thankful that in these areas the world's values (in our world at least) overlap with Christian virtues. But where is the outrage from missional folks about abortion, casinos, the threats to religious free speech, and other evils that plague our world? We all have different callings. Some may be drawn to pro-life issues and others to addressing global hunger, but let's make sure as Christians that our missional concerns go farther than those shared by Brangelina and the United Way" (pp. 44-45).

Those words were incredibly accurate and penetrating. Having been a pro-life advocate and an advocate against poverty and human trafficking, I can testify that it is much easier to oppose poverty and sex slavery than abortion. At worst, you will be ignored in America for calling for compassionate action on behalf of the poor and enslaved. At best, you will be slandered for speaking up on behalf of the pre-born children who are in danger of being killed. And of course, it is much easier to call on the government to do something than to actually be personally involved.
"(T)he church has often been despised. It would be wrong to wear unpopularity as a sure marker of faithfulness. But by the same token, we should not assume we have failed just because outsiders dislike us...

"It can be helpful to know how others perceive us, but not always. In our self-esteem-oriented, easily offended, suffering-adverse world, I fear that the church is too eager to be liked. 'As we study the New Testament,' suggests Trueblood, 'we soon realize that part of the power of the early Christian Movement arose from the clear recognition that it was by no means popular or generally accepted. The hope of reaching the masses with a redemptive power was always prefaced by the clear recognition that the opposition was intense as well as abundant.' Of course Christianity has an 'image problem.' At times, this is our own fault. But at other times, our lack of an image problem has been just as damning" (pp. 80-81).

DeYoung touches on something critically important here. We must not become obsessed with how we appear as Christians. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we must concentrate on being the best followers of Christ possible. If we concentrate on doing good, our reputations are likely to take care of themselves. If we concentrate on our reputations, we are likely to become like the Pharisees of the first century: more concerned about the opinions of men than of God. We don't want to be image-obsessed narcissists. We want to be God-honoring Christians.

"We need to be careful about our language. I think I know what people mean when they talk about redeeming the culture or partnering with God in His redemption of the world, but we should really pick another word. Redemption has already been accomplished on the cross. We are not co-redeemers of anything. We are called to serve, bear witness, proclaim, love, do good to everyone, and adorn the gospel with good deeds, but we are not partners in God's work of redemption.

"Similarly, there is no language in Scripture about Christians building the kingdom. The New Testament, in talking about the kingdom, uses words like enter, seek, announce, see, receive, look, come into, and inherit...

"Most importantly, I have a hard time hearing the gospel in the missional critique of the church. At best, the gospel is about a 'relationship with Jesus.' At worst it is nothing but a 'personal life-transforming experience' and 'people realizing their full potential as beings created in the image of God.' It's possible to put a good face on all these euphemisms, but this is not a clear gospel.

"When I hear people getting sick of church, I almost always see at the same time a minimizing of, or growing indifference toward, or ambiguous terminology for such phrases as 'substitutionary atonement,' 'justification by faith alone,' the necessity of faith and repentance,' 'the utter inability of man to save himself,' and 'the centrality of the cross and resurrection.' I really want to assume that the new missional Christians still believe we are sinners in need of grace, and that Jesus' death paid our debt and propitiated the wrath of God and that we must repent of our sin and trust Jesus alone for our salvation. I want to assume this, but I wish I didn't have to. I wish the glory of Christ crucified, the offense of the cross, and the necessity of conversion were more explicitly stated and more clearly central" (pp. 49-50).

Our message must be clear, accurate, and biblical. I have nothing more to add to the author's words.

I highly recommend Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck's Why We Love the Church. It's available in bookstores and from online book distributors like

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Dealing with Pornography and Sexual Issues

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28, English Standard Version).

I have had readers let me know that they are dealing with husbands who are addicted to pornography and that it is destroying their marriages. Since I am not an expert in this field, I am posting a few links to help others find help in dealing with this issue.

At, you will find all kinds of good advice for families (including advice on sex and intimacy in marriage). I also recommend their marriage conference, A Weekend to Remember, and their radio program, FamilyLife Today.

At, you will find a free book about pornography by Mark Driscoll. He is straightforward in his analysis and advice to men.

At, you will find information about addiction to pornography and how to deal with it.

Please check out these resources. I hope they help.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Possible Opportunity to Serve in my Labor Union

I have been a member of my union for 17 years. During that time, I have served as a delegate to our state convention on a few occasions. Once in a while, I have been asked by fellow members to become the local union steward. On one occasion, I was asked to run for the office of state treasurer. I have always declined, but always appreciated fellow members who have considered me suitable to fill such difficult positions.

While I have declined such opportunities to serve in the past, I am considering applying for a position soon. Last week, the union's state magazine contained an announcement that the state board was seeking candidates to fill the position of state chaplain.

Last night, I called the state president to ask about the job. He told me that the chaplain is responsible for writing a monthly column for our state magazine, for organizing Sunday morning worship services and preaching at the state convention, and for leading prayers at other events. Although I'm not very experienced at organizing worship services and preaching, I am interested in this position. I have served in ministry by teaching Bible classes, leading home Bible studies, writing articles for church bulletins, leading prayers, and speaking during Communion services. I might be able to handle organizing a worship service and preaching once a year.

Our president told me that he would not censor anything that I would write in the state magazine. Personally, he confided, he wants people to know that they need Jesus Christ in order to avoid hell and go to heaven. However, he warned, some people could be offended if I wrote too much about Christ. The national union was sued a few years ago because a Bible verse was printed in its magazine every month. It has stopped printing Bible verses in order to avoid future legal problems. I told him that if I become chaplain, I would not try to offend anyone but that I probably would end up offending someone unintentionally since I would try to be faithful to Christ and to what he teaches. He didn't seem to have any problem with my response.

So now I am considering the position. The president has asked me to write a letter to the state board explaining my relationship with Jesus Christ and my ministry experiences. Board members will choose the next chaplain from the applicants. The position should be filled in about 2 months.

I'll be praying for wisdom over the next several days as I consider this possible opportunity.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Time for Beating Your Wife is Past (The Importance of Bible Translation)

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, English Standard Version).

A few weeks ago, Greg Pruett of Pioneer Bible Translators ( wrote a good article about translating the Bible into the languages of people who do not have access to the Bible at Here is an excerpt from the article:

"A few years back, I was privileged to present my Christian neighbor Mr. Camara with the first translation we did of the New Testament in his language. Not long after that, he brought a young couple to my front porch to get the wife's swollen eye treated. I was upset, seeing that the man had beaten his wife.

"Mr. Camara gently explained my reaction to the man, saying, 'The time for beating your wife is past.'

"Stunned, the man countered, 'If you can't beat your wife anymore, how can you keep her from doing bad things?'

"Mr. Camara's weathered face glowed with joy as he elaborated, 'The thing that tells us not to beat our wives is the same thing that tells them not to do bad things.' That 'thing' is the Bible in their language.

"When Mr. Camara said, 'The time for beating your wife is past,' that was his way of saying, 'The kingdom of God has come among our people.' The Bible in our language has brought a new era in our history, a time when husbands love their wives, when parents care for their children, a time when Jesus is King.

"I watched God's Word in their language transform their hearts! It's worth it to give our lives to get God's Word to the Bible-less peoples of the world."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Immeasurably More Than All We Ask or Imagine

Every once in a while, I witness a miracle. It happened again today.

Nearly a week and a half ago, one of my co-workers left work early. Angel was pregnant, but she had started bleeding. She went to the doctor. When the doctor saw the blood and tested her hormone levels, he told her that she was in the midst of a miscarriage at 12 weeks into the pregnancy. He gave her some information on dealing with the grieving process.

When I found out, I called my wife Janet. Immediately she e-mailed members of the Contact Church and the Jenks Church (our former congregation), requesting prayers for Angel as she was facing the loss of her child.

For a week, she grieved the loss of her baby.

Then she returned to the doctor's office for removal of her dead baby's body.

As the man was examining her with an ultrasound machine, Angel raised her head to look at the image. A little startled and confused at what she saw, she asked, "Did the baby just move?" He looked at her and said, "You saw that, too, huh?" HER BABY WAS ALIVE!

I had not seen Angel since she left work about 9 days ago. When I saw her this morning, I approached her to console her and to let her know that our Christian friends had been praying for her. To say the least, she surprised me with the news that her baby was still alive! She was now under the care of a specialist in the area of high risk pregnancies. Her doctors could not explain exactly what had happened since the blood and hormone levels indicated the death of the child, so they are taking no chances now.

Of course, I let Angel know that we had been praying for her. We had been praying that God would comfort her, but we had no idea that he would comfort her by preserving the life of the child we all thought had died. Sometimes God's answers to my prayers surprise me, but this was more than I could have imagined.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Are There Really Men Like That?

The young woman's father abused her mother and repeatedly committed adultery. To this day, she does not know how many siblings she has. Her father had too many mistresses to count.

In addition, she is married to an irresponsible man. He does not keep a job for more than a few weeks at a time. He is an alcoholic.

However, the young woman has become interested in something better than she has experienced in life. She has become interested in following Christ.

While listening to a radio program one day, she heard a man explaining Ephesians 5:25 ("Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her"). The preacher encouraged men to step up and love their wives by protecting them and providing for their needs. He told them to care for their wives and children.

After listening to the program, she asked a penetrating question: "Are there really men like that?" The men in her life had been nothing like that.

Her question prompted me to consider two important thoughts:

1. Many people have never seen the Christian faith in least not up close and personally. They have lived without the benefit of really knowing a committed Christian. They need to see that there really are "men like that."

2. It's okay to be different. A man who loves, protects, and provides for his family may be atypical among some people, but he is playing a vital role in making the Christian faith attractive. Followers of Jesus Christ do not need to think and act like everyone around them in order to be relevant to the culture. As Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet" (Matthew 5:13, English Standard Version).

The world needs a few more men and women who are different, who are involved in the lives of hurting people, and who think and act like they have been influenced by the Spirit of God.