Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Post: A labor of love: Parents develop Sunday school class for autistic son

I am "borrowing" this guest post from Benjer McVeigh. The topic is near to my heart because my church, Charles Town Baptist Church has developed something similar as a means of ministering to both students with special needs and to their parents.

If you would like more information about this ministry, please contact the church office at 304-725-5917.

This is a very important topic to make sure we have a handle on. I remember once my wife, Jennifer was a seminar leader for a day-long children's ministry training for our denomination. Her's was the last seminar of the day, and it was the only one she was teaching. A group of people from a church were collecting their things before the seminar was to begin, and she asked if they were leaving. Not realizing she was the one leading the last seminar, they told her, "Well, we don't have any special needs kids at our church, so this seminar doesn't apply to us."

I realize that not every church can perfectly meet every need of every person. However, I imagine that there's a reason that their church did not have any special needs kids; for parents of special needs kids who are looking for a church who will help them spiritually care for their children, it's very clear when a church does not have any interest in accommodating children or teenagers with special needs.

No matter what our church's size, budget, or resources are, there are things we can do to love those with special needs. Because many developmental disabilities cause a child or teenager to behave socially outside the spectrum of what we normally experience in our Sunday schools, small groups, or youth group meetings, children and teenagers with special needs are unfortunately treated--intentionally or unintentionally--as outcasts in some sense. Again, we can't meet every single need or spend the resources to hire a person devoted entirely to ministering to people with special needs. But there's always something we can do to partner with parents who have kids with special needs.

The article:

For the moment, there is only one Sunday school pupil in Room 120 at State Street Baptist Church, in Columbia, S.C., a 19-year-old young man who loves puzzles and songs and has painstakingly memorized the books of the Bible.

John Stack's autism and halted mental development set him apart. But his parents, Tim and Ann Stack, don't believe that should limit their son's access to Sunday school and the spiritual lessons that have been so important to him through his life.

The Stacks have developed a class for teenagers and young adults like John, people with special needs who require routine and repetition but who have "aged out" of traditional Sunday school classes.

They hope that soon John will have other classmates join him in Bible study.

"We had been thinking about this for several years," Ann Stack said. "He really towered over the other children, because they were third- and fourth-graders. Mentally he fit, but physically he didn't."

John Stack always had enjoyed Sunday school and church. For years, a church volunteer, Kathy Collins, served as his "shadow," attending classes with him and helping him follow the Bible lessons and craft instructions.

But the Stacks knew that John no longer belonged at the little tables.

"We just felt that it was time for him to move on and there wasn't another place for him to go," his mother, a retired school teacher, said. "We wanted him to continue to grow spiritually and in the church, and we just didn't see that that would happen there."

Benjer McVeigh is the youth pastor that currently serves as the pastor to students in grades 9-12 and their families at Washington Heights Church in Ogden, Utah. His blog can be found at

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

CTBC Youth Bible Study - Ephesians 6:12

I had the opportunity to teach the youth group of Charles Town Baptist Church. I've been listening to Greg Stier and modified one of the lessons that he was teaching as the basis for the lesson. The text began in Ephesians 6:12 and we looked at a number of the strongholds that keep individuals from coming to church or from becoming Christians. The audio (there is no video...yet) is below.

You can also download the handout from the lesson by clicking here: "What Are We Fighting Against?" (Just click the box to open the PDF file to print.)

You can download the mp3 here.

Why Your Students Should Emulate Tim Tebow When It Comes to Sex

Yesterday, I wrote about the scorn that Tim Tebow and Lolo Jones are experiencing because of their public decision to abstain from sex until they are married. As is quite evident, our culture is extremely sexualized. There are shows and movies that are devoted to nothing more than people having sex. Pornography has become increasingly prevalent, even commonplace. These things are no longer considered shameful. Our society has made sex the barometer for how a relationship is faring.

With that in mind, how do we, as youth ministers and parents, show our students that sex is worth waiting for? Here are some ideas:

  • Teach your students the truth about sex. Too often, sex is portrayed as being Shangri La, this wonderful, marvelous, can't-live-without experience and your life will not be complete until you've had sex. In reality, this is often far from the truth. Without going into too many details, sex is often not like what is portrayed on television or in movies. Students also need to know that life will go on even if they haven't had sex yet.
  • Don't scare your students about sex. When I was growing up, there was an entire cottage industry devoted to scaring students into not having sex. We were given tons of facts about pregnancy, STDs, and sexual assault. It was the equivalent of the Scared Straight program. However, as we all know, teenagers often believe that they are bulletproof. We don't need to scare our students with the scary details of premarital sex. We need to be open and honest about the realities of sexual behavior outside of marriage.
  • Teach your students what the Bible says about sex. Christians have a bad reputation for being anti-sex. People outside the church think that Christians hate sex. This couldn't be farther from the truth. We need to teach our students that sex is enjoyable, but that there is a very serious reason to wait. It has nothing to do with the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy, an incurable disease, or a lifetime of regrets. No, the real reason for abstaining from sexual activity before marriage is found in 1 Corinthians 6:15. Paul tells us that when we become believers, we are united with Jesus in His body. Our bodies are now His body. Paul goes on to say that when a person has a sexual relationship with someone, he becomes united with that person, essentially becoming "one flesh." We need to teach our students that when they have a sexual relationship with anyone other than their (future) spouse (after marriage), they are uniting Christ's body with that person.
  • Be there for your students. If a student makes a commitment to wait to have sex until marriage, there will be times of difficulty. There will be times where they are ridiculed, just as Tim Tebow is often ridiculed. There will be times where their hearts will break because a boyfriend breaks up a relationship because the girl will not have sex. As youth pastors (and parents) we need to be there to offer comfort and a listening ear.
  • Pray for your students. Spend time praying for your students to be strong in the face of temptation. It can be difficult for a student to say no, especially given all of the messages that are constantly bombarding them. Also pray for them as they deal with the inevitable heartache that will arise from their decision to wait until marriage.

Sex can be a wonderful thing. It is a gift that was given to married individuals for both pleasure and reproduction. Like any gift, though, it is for an appropriate audience, so to speak. We need to make sure that our students understand that God is not anti-sex, but that He has created it for a particular reason and we need to help them understand that reason. Doing so will go a long way to helping them wait for sex. Even when it is difficult.

What are you doing to help your students wait until marriage for sex?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I'm Tired of Hearing about Tim Tebow and Lolo Jones

Over the past few days, it seems like any time I turn on the sports station, I am hearing about Lolo Jones. For those of you who don't know, Jones is an Olympic hurdler who recently announced that she is saving her virginity until she gets married. This has been the cause of a great deal of ridicule. It would seem that no one on the radio can believe that an attractive young woman is capable of saving herself until she is married. If she is saving herself, then there must be something wrong with her.

Since she is a high-profile athlete who isn't sleeping with everyone who comes along and since she has made the public proclamation that she is not going to have sex until she is married, Lolo has been tied into Tim Tebow. Tebow is a quarterback for the New York Jets and an outspoken Christian. He has also made it clear that he is saving himself for marriage.

Frankly, I'm tired of hearing about it. Not because I don't appreciate the message that is being proclaimed and the fact that there are some heroes for young people to look up to. No, the thing that I am tired of hearing is all of the ridicule that is being heaped upon these two for their decision not to have sex. Enough already! It is sad that this is the world that we live in, a world where two people can choose not to have sex and they are considered freaks.

It breaks my heart, but it gives me the motivation to teach my boys and my students the way it should be.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Eight-Foot Ice Cream Sundae

One of the youth activities that I have done in the past and hope to do again in the future is the Eight-foot Ice Cream Sundae. With such an intriguing title, you are guaranteed to have a large number of students who want to participate.

To begin, you will need an eight foot piece of a rain gutter. Be sure to wash it out because even though there has never been any leaves or rain in it, there may be dirt and dust from the hardware store. Next, find a table big enough to support the rain gutter or you can use saw horses if you have them.

Begin to make your sundae by filling the length of the trough with scoops of ice cream. In the past, we chose to use Neapolitan ice cream (the vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry kind) because this gives all of the students a choice. After putting in the ice cream, we placed sliced bananas along the sides of the trough and covered the ice cream and bananas with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. The final step is to put on the cherries and the sprinkles. We stay away from peanuts because so many students have peanut allergies that they are best avoided.

When it comes time to eat, each student is given a spoon and told to find a place around the trough. We saved a spot at one end for those students who did not like the idea of the "community" bowl. This way there was a place to scoop ice cream out for the bowls. Otherwise, the students just dug in and helped themselves.

Like I said above, the idea of eating an eight-foot ice cream sundae can be a real draw for students. It is a great activity, lots of fun, and an easy way to have your regular students invite their friends to a ministry event.

What is the craziest food event you've done with your youth ministry?

Why I Decided to Quit Memorizing Scripture

Back in December, I made a list of goals for 2012. On that list was the goal to memorize the books of 1 John and James, as well as Romans 5-8. While I don't have the exact number of verses, that is about 300 verses, give or take. That's a lot of verses. Everything was going great...until recently.

I have been using a really great website called Memverse. Memverse allows you enter the verses that you want to memorize and brings them to you for review on a regular interval based on how you self-evaluate your performance. The higher you rate yourself, the longer the interval before you see the verse again. It is a great tool and one that I highly recommend.5:

The problem arose when I started to add too many verses to site. Instead of focusing on 1 John, James, and Romans, I was also attempting to memorize Ephesians 2, Isaiah 53, 1 Corinthians 13, Philippians, and a number of different chapters in Psalms. Needless to say, I was all over the place. I found myself dreading the daily review and it was consuming a large portion of my day.

While I don't think that I am through with memorizing Scripture, I have decided to take a break from Memverse and Scripture memory for the time being. I feel completely burned out and there is little joy in my study. I really think that I overwhelmed myself by thinking I could do it all. With the new ministry position, I have a lot that needs my attention and I can feel myself burning out.

Of course, there are still 6 months left in 2012, so I won't consider this goal a complete failure. It may just need some amending.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Yesterday Was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yesterday was a terrible day.

It started out fine, but quickly went awry. I shaved...but somehow managed to miss the right side of my face.

On the way to work, I stopped to get a cup of coffee and, upon exiting the store, noticed that my back tire was going flat. I had run over a nail or piece of metal. This is bad, but not nearly as bad as being told by everyone who was going in or coming out of the store that my tire was going flat. I drove to the gas station and discovered that a work van was parked in front of the air pump. After about five minutes, the owner of the van came out and told me that the pump didn't work.

I drove over to the gas station across the street and found that their air pump required 75 cents. Not having any money, I had to go inside and take money out of the ATM ($20 + $2.50 service fee). The gas station owner would not give change unless I bought something, so I bought a Cheerwine (delicious!). When I got outside, the air pump was also being used. However, the man using it was kind enough to let me use the remaining time from his 75 cents. I filled my tire and drove to work, praying that it would hold until I could get to a tire shop after school.

In the parking lot, I was nearly sideswiped (again) because the parents who drop off their students in the morning refuse to look to see if there is any oncoming traffic before they pull away from the curb.

I called a few places to see about getting my tire fixed, but was told that it would be several hours, even if it was just a simple tire patch.

End-of-year testing was stressful.

After a lot of pleading and maneuvering, I was able to get enough coverage for my students to allow me to leave school and head over to a tire shop in the middle of the day. I had to go in the middle of the day because I could not miss the staff meeting after school.

I ended up having to replace both back tires. I knew this was coming, but it always stings a bit when you have to pay $250 on something.

There was a lot of traffic coming home, but mostly because there were several police cars driving the same way I was going and everyone got concerned.

And, to end it all, the Check Engine light that I just had looked at came back on.

I have done a lot of complaining about my day. It was a terrible day. Fortunately, I serve a God that is bigger than my terrible day. He was there with me through the entire day, even when I was stressing and fretting. I was never out of His sight or His thoughts throughout all of it.

This song by the Supertones discusses this very thing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Music Wednesday - This Changes Everything by Matt Papa

It used to be that I would post a music video here each week, usually a song that was speaking to me or had some particular relevance to my life. I'm changing it up a bit this week. I want to commend an entire album to you.

I forgot how I came to know about Matt Papa, but I am certainly glad that I did. His album This Changes Everything is one of the most incredible piece of art you will ever hear. The music is excellent, but it is the lyrics and subject matter that shakes me to my core every time I listen to it. I heard someone say one time that listening to a Casting Crowns song is like a trip to a spiritual woodshed. Matt Papa's music does that for me.

Please, do yourself a favor and get This Changes Everything. Listening to it prayerfully really will change everything.

Here is a taste just to get you started. And, you're welcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

FinishYear 2012 - Romans 5-6 in Tweets

One of my FinishYear 2012 projects is to memorize Romans 5-8. I recently completed a cursory memorization of Romans 5 and will soon be finished with Romans 6. I recently saw on Desiring God that they attempted to distill the message of Romans into 45 Tweets. While I would suggest that you read all of them, listed below are the tweets that were written for Romans 5 and 6.

Romans 5

  • Since we're justified by faith like Abraham was, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (#Romans 5:1-5).
  • God shows his love for us in that Jesus died for us, us sinners. Now enemies no more. Wrath no more. We are saved! (#Romans 5:6-11).
  • Jesus is the Last Adam, giving us the headship through which grace reigns. Eternal life, not death (#Romans 5:12-21).
Romans 6
  • We're done with sin. Now we're in Jesus, united to him in his death and resurrection, dead to sin and alive to God (#Romans 6:1-14).
  • The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (#Romans 6:15-23).

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Graduation from Liberty University

As I wrote about yesterday, I graduated from Liberty University on May 12, 2012. The ceremony was incredible, much better than I could have possibly imagined. I was overwhelmed by the excitement of the day and amazed at how great our God is.

Here are just a few of the highlights from the day:

  • The wonderful staff and students at Liberty took great care of us. Tina and I were given a ride from the car to the stadium so Tina wouldn't have to walk.
  • I made a new friend, a pastor from Resurgence in Evansville, Indiana.
  • The music was incredible. I could have listened to it all day.
  • Luis Palau shared how "earth-shattering" salvation is. Amazing!
  • Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A, was awarded an honorary doctorate.
  • The student body and families gave a rousing standing ovation to the military students.
  • Mitt Romney gave a very rousing, inspiring speech. This is not an endorsement of the candidate, simply an observation.
  • My wife is excited about the possibility of our boys attending LU in the future.

I am blessed to have attended Liberty University. God has done amazing things in Lynchburg and the ripples from that can be felt around the world.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Story of God's Faithfulness at Liberty University

On Saturday, May 12, 2012, I graduated from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. I had the privilege and honor to attend the graduation (more on that to come). Because Tina is getting ready to have our fourth baby, I paid a little extra to get her a special seat at the ceremony. While I was sitting in the heat, Tina had the opportunity to be in the air-conditioning with fruit and muffins (no bitterness here).

While she was watching the ceremony, Tina met a woman who was at the graduation to watch her son be awarded his degree. She was also a graduate of Liberty University in 1974. While they were talking, Tina asked her if it was different being there as a mom instead of as a graduate. The woman told Tina that the most special part of the day was seeing her son graduate, knowing that where we were sitting in the football stadium had once been a pile of dirt. She and her classmates used to come to the empty lot and pray that God would do amazing things on that piece of property. Today, Liberty University is the largest Christian University in America, with over 14,000 graduates this year.

God had answered her prayers. I was blessed to be a part of God's answer to this woman's prayer. Just imagine the impact that your prayers can and will have on future generations.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Goodbye, Maurice Sendak

       As many of you have probably heard, Maurice Sendak passed away yesterday. Mr. Sendak was a children's author, most famous for Where the Wild Things Are. He wrote many other books, some good, some bad, but none more powerful than Wild Things.

I am writing this because my son loves the work of Maurice Sendak. For the longest time, he had me read Where the Wild Things Are every night before bed. We read it so many times that he memorized the book. There was even a time when we borrowed the cartoon from the library and he watched it over and over. We played a game where I would start to recite the book (I had it memorized too) and he would finish the lines.

Mr. Sendak died as a result of complications from a stroke. I heard several interviews from him on NPR and I caught a very sad line. He was talking about a friend who believed in Heaven and hell and life after death. Mr. Sendak then went on to talk about how life was so hard for unbelievers like himself. It made me sad because I knew, from his own admission, that Maurice Sendak did not know Jesus and had not had his sins forgiven. That thought brought tears to my eyes.

Mr. Sendak, I want to thank you for the joy that your books brought to my little boy. I want to thank you for the wonderful memories that you have allowed me to have with my son as a result of your books. And I pray, that somewhere along your journey through life, someone shared the Gospel with you and you made a decision to accept the gift of salvation, even though you claimed otherwise. Mr. Sendak, you will be missed.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Book Review - Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris

If I can be honest, I had little knowledge of Joshua Harris. My limited interaction with him was watching a group of students read I Kissed Dating Goodbye when I was in college. The mean-spirited part of me joked that they kissed dating goodbye because they weren’t going to get kissed anyway, so it was no big loss. I was vaguely aware of other books that he had written and I knew that he had a church relatively close to where I live, but that was it.

I had the opportunity to read Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last and I am very glad that I did. This book is a combination of autobiography and entry-level theology text. Harris shares a number of stories from his life growing up and shows how each of these events led to him digging and building his life on the elements of the Christian faith. Given the “celebrity” status that Harris has, you would think that he either lived a completely perfect Christian life or that he was a reprobate sinner who experienced a miraculous conversion. Neither is the case. Harris had a fairly typical Christian life growing up, one that was, unfortunately, void of much doctrinal training. Throughout the text, he shares how he came to understand that doctrine was not dry and boring or a weapon to bludgeon others with. It was the key way that we come to know and experience God.

As I was reading the book, I found myself constantly stopping to share quotes from it on Facebook and Twitter. As I said above, it is an introduction to systematic theology, barely scratching the surface on a number of the elements. The ones that are covered include Jesus, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, salvation, and the Church. And while it is an entry-level book, there is enough meat to satisfy the reader and cause him to be hungry for the "meatier" texts that Harris references throughout.

Joshua Harris is an incredible writer. I found myself devouring the book and looking forward to when I could sit down to read it again. As a youth pastor, I am now contemplating how I can incorporate the ideas from the book into our weekly youth group Bible study. At the bare minimum, this book will definitely be found on the top of a recommended reading list.

It should be noted that a copy of Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last was provided to me by Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for a review. I was not required to give it a positive review, even though the book warranted one.

Why I Am Still a Wanna-be Preacher

Some time ago, in the midst of my ministry search, someone asked me if I would still be the Wanna-be Pastor after I found a ministry position. Well, last week, my church officially voted to bring me on staff as the part-time Associate Pastor for Children and Youth. I am now a pastor.

So, am I keeping the name? Yes. I am still going to write as the Wanna-be Pastor, but not for the reason you may think. It is not because I am "branded" that way. While I had hoped to have a successful blog, it has not yet happened and my followers and readership is quite small.

The reason that I will continue to be the Wanna-be Pastor is because I know that I have not "arrived" yet. Just because I now have a position as a pastor does not mean that God is finished with me. There are many areas that I know He will continue to mold and shape me in. My knowledge and understanding of Scripture continues to grow each day. My love for people continues to grow. My ability to communicate continues to improve. My understanding of the human heart and the way that sin has wrecked our abilities to interact with each other continues to get deeper. All in all, I will continue to be the Wanna-be Pastor because I want to be much more for the Lord that I am right now. I want to stay humble and teachable in order to serve Him and the people He has entrusted to me the best that I can.

I may be taking this out of context, but I think 1 Corinthians 13:10 fits the situation perfectly:

but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Book Review - The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook by Jeff Kinley

I recently had the opportunity to read The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within by Jeff Kinley. I firmly believe that this book was written to cash in on the current popularity of zombies, but that does not take away from the serious nature of the book. I am a big fan of The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman, so reading this book was an easy choice.

I will admit that I was not the target demographic for this book. My belief is that this book would be best used by a youth group or college Bible study. However, as a youth pastor, I can see the benefit of the book. The book is broken into two parts. The first part is a fictional story of two brothers who live in a world overrun by zombies. Society is attempting to exist and function as normal, but there are more and more attacks each day. This section of the book is exciting and informative. Unfortunately, as zombie stories must go, it is also filled with tragedy and death. The story is certainly not for the squeamish.

The second part of the book serves an introduction to several theological terms that Christians need to be acquainted with. I am currently working on memorizing Romans 6 and many of the ideas presented by Paul in this chapter were touched on by Kinley in the book. Again, given the “zombie” nature of the book, this is probably not a book for everyone. Kinley uses the zombie motif to his advantage, at times using the grotesque in order to make his point. One particular example deals with taking a trip into the depths of our soul to see the absolute darkness of our sin nature.

Given the graphic nature of the material, I would not recommend this book to everyone. However, the material is too important to be ignored. Usually theological matters are ignored. The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook serves as an excellent tool to introduce some to the devastating effects of sin.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”