Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review - The Pleasures of God by John Piper

John Piper is a very smart man. This is extremely evident in all of his books. The sentence structure is complex and Piper makes arguments that leaves the average person scratching his head in bewilderment. Dr. Piper also knows his Bible intimately. He has probably forgotten more of the Bible than I will ever know.

I recently had the opportunity to read The Pleasures of God by Piper. In this book, Piper makes the argument that God takes pleasure in a number of things, including His Son, His creation, and in the prayers of the righteous, among other things. The chief argument of the book, however, is that God takes pleasure in His own glory because to take glory in anything else would be considered idolatry. Because God is the Ultimate, for Him to find His pleasure and enjoyment in anything else would be idolatry.

While I very much enjoy learning from Dr. Piper and his teaching has had a profound influence on me and others that I have learned from, I do have issue with his belief in election. I will readily concede that there are verses in Scripture that would imply that some individuals are chosen for salvation and others were created for destruction. However, I do claim to be smart enough to understand how this works. I think it is a beautiful idea that God would choose me, but I have a difficult understanding why some folks would be made for the simple purpose of sending them to Hell.

The entire book is not about this topic, but because it is such a central part of Piper’s belief system, it tends to work its way into all that he does. For this reason, I had a very hard time working through the book quickly. I often put the book down to ponder what I read or because I was unhappy at some of the implications.

For those readers who are of Piper’s stripe of theology, this will be a very enjoyable book. It portrays our God (backed up with Scripture) as a glorious God worthy of our praise. For those who believe a little differently, this book will be a challenge. That being said, there is a lot that can be learned and gleaned from reading The Pleasures of God. One thing I left with was a conviction to learn my Bible even more. I want to be able to recall the passages with the relative ease that Dr. Piper demonstrates.

I was provided a copy of The Pleasures of God as a part of the Blogging for Books program. I was not required to give it a positive review.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic

All of last year, the art teacher at the school I work at had pictures of this guy named Nick Vujicic. They were strange pictures of a man who had no arms and no legs on a surfboard. Honestly, they were a little hard to look at. However, as I learned a bit more about him, I realized that the story of Nick Vujicic was one worth knowing. Here is a man who is faced with incredible obstacles (I mean, he has no arms and no legs), but he is doing some amazing things for God.

Recently, I was asked to promote his new book Unstoppable. I have not read it yet, so I cannot endorse the content entirely. However, as you will see from the video below, this is a story that everyone should become familiar with. If a man can overcome a disability as severe as his in the name of God, just think about what those of us who are whole can do with a little bit of faith.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Here's What You Missed - Awakening, September 12, 2012

If you weren't in Awakening last night, here is your quick recap of the night's events.
  • Announcements: Money for Awakening Fest ($30) is due THIS SUNDAY! Please give the money to Miss Cheryl. See You At the Pole is two weeks away. I hope you are making plans to be there. Don't forget that Youth Alive is this Sunday at 5 p.m.
  • Missions Trip: We are taking a missions trip to Pittsburgh in June 2013. Applications were distributed. Please take some time (a lot of time) to pray over the application and talk/pray with your parents about the trip. The cost is $350, but do not let money be the reason you don't go on the trip. Applications are due October 14. If you did not get an application, see Pastor Jonathan. We also watched a video of the trip in Pittsburgh last year.
  • Bible Study: We continued our study "Life in 6 Words" with Our. This was a discussion of our role in the mutiny called sin and how all of us are responsible for sinning. Greg and Prop did an excellent job of explaining the concept of "federal headship."
  • Next Week: We will continue to study "Life in 6 Words" with Sins. Our memory verse is Romans 3:23.

Can't wait to see you next week in Awakening!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Ministry-related Prayers

I was cleaning the carpets last night. It is pretty monotonous work, so I had a lot of time to think. I began to think about the things that I would like to see happen in my ministry, be it youth group, children's ministry, or just the ministry in general. I understand that some of these things that I am praying for are pretty far out there, things that may never come to fruition. No harming in asking, right?

So, without any further jibber-jabber on my part, here are my ministry prayers.

  • I am praying that my youth group would grow to at least 30 students by May 2013.
  • I am praying that I would have the opportunity to lead at least 5 students to Christ by May 2013.
  • I am praying that we would have a minimum of 30 children in Children's Church by May 2013.
  • I am praying that there will be at least 200 people in the church service each week.
  • I am praying that our weekly offerings will go over $10,000 in tithes and gifts.
  • I am praying that we will have the volunteers to start a Wednesday evening children's program in September 2013.
  • I am praying that more people in the church would develop a servant's heart and become involved in the ministry of the church.
  • I am praying that the youth department will one day have its own facility. Not just a room or a basement, but its own building.
  • I am praying that the opportunity for me to go on staff in a full-time capacity occurs in the very near future.
  • I am praying that my students in the youth group will be sold out for Christ and will begin telling their friends about Jesus.
As you can tell, I have a lot of things that I am praying for and, actually, this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. Youth ministry is a job that rises and falls on prayer. I just pray that I am doing enough.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Why Are So Many Christians So Eager to Defend Pornography?

A little while ago, there was a huge uproar in the Christian world about a movie and a series of books, both of which were highly inappropriate and dealt with lust and sex. I wrote a post about my thoughts on both.

Now, knowing that the movie contains a good deal of nudity or implied nudity and the books are full of very explicit sexual content between two individuals who are not married, you would think that it would be a no-brainer for Christians to avoid these things. I mean, yes, it is true that all things are lawful for us, but even Paul recognized that not all things are beneficial. Sadly, though, this was not the case.

In a forum for youth pastors, I came across an individual who was in youth ministry who had gone to see the movie and was adamantly defending her decision to do so, saying that she saw nothing wrong with it and that her husband was fine with her going. Does anyone else see a problem here? This is a woman who works with teenagers, defending a movie that she had no business seeing. That would be like me encouraging my students to watch American Pie or something similar.

Another bizarre event took place when I posted a link to an article about the books and asked folks to read it, just to get a different perspective on what they were reading. I received an email blasting me for posting the article, claiming that I was being judgmental and judging peoples' marriages. Please note, I did not make any accusations or even say that people shouldn't read the books. I merely offered the article as a different perspective.

I think this is just proof of the hard work that youth pastors have to do. We are constantly crashing into a popular culture that glorifies sex and is doing its best to normalize sexual behavior of all types, including things that previously were not even discussed in private company. Even sadder is that many parents are reading those books or watching those movies, completely oblivious to the impact such decisions will have on their children. I mean, if mom can read it, why can't I read something similar?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Youth Ministry Cheerleaders

Youth ministry is hard work. It may look like it is nothing but pizza, video games, and road trips, but, trust me, there is a lot more that goes into it. There is the overwhelming weight of knowing that you will only have some kids in your youth group for a year and others for six years. There are those nights where you have a ton of students in your youth meeting and other nights where you are bombarded with the excuses as to why they won't be there. And then there are those students who just don't care about the things of God at all. You will cry and plead and beg God to change their hearts, but nothing happens.

And these are just the normal things of youth ministry. It is a sad reality that many youth pastors will deal with death, suicide, divorce, and teen pregnancy. Ministry is hard work.

Because of this, every youth pastor needs a cheerleader. No, I don't mean someone who will follow you around chanting your name and saying "U-G-L-Y" to that lady in the church that is giving you grief. You want someone to encourage and provide support when things are at their darkest.

I am lucky. I have several youth ministry cheerleaders. My wife, Tina is a big youth ministry cheerleader. I know that she will be there to make sure that I am taking care of myself and provides encouragement when I am beating myself up over a decision. Another of my cheerleaders is Carrie. Carrie has been my biggest supporter since the day I was hired on staff. She is full of ideas and a great sounding board.

Please, I beg you, if you do not have a cheerleader, pray that God will provide one for you. You will burn out very fast if you don't. If you are a parent or a member of the church, please consider rallying around your pastor or youth pastor. Too many people are willing to share their negativity with the pastor, but not as many are willing to encourage them.

Take a look at the note that Doug Fields wrote to Josh Griffin as a great example of cheerleading in youth ministry.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Some Cool Swag from Liberty University

As some of you may know, I am a graduate of Liberty University. Okay, so I did it through LU Online, but I have spent a lot of time on the campus. I am a big fan of Liberty and am very glad to be associated with such a great school.

A few weeks ago, I contacted the Alumni Affairs office to see if they could send me some stuff to help promote the university to my students at church. I was hoping for a pennant and some posters, but that is not what I got.

Instead, as you can see from the picture, I received two pennants, two large posters promoting College for a Weekend, a stack of flyers promoting the same event, and two alumni decals to put on my car. It was pretty impressive and I was very excited to receive it. I'm still holding out hopes that I will find some cool Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary merch in my mailbox one day, but this is still pretty cool.

My hope is to be able to take a couple of the students down to Lynchburg to visit the campus sometime this spring. We are still working out the details and praying that more upperclassmen become a part of CTBC Student Ministries. Until then, I am going to keep promoting the school to my freshmen and middle schoolers. They have to go somewhere, right?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Greatest Story Ever Told, That's Hardly Ever Told

In our youth group service, we recently started going through Life in 6 Words from Dare2Share Ministries. This is a series on the Gospel in which Greg Stier and Propaganda take the letters of GOSPEL and use it to explain the Gospel. I have been praying about this series for some time and am looking forward to the awesome things that God is going to do through this study.

Here is the introductory video that is basis for the study. I recommend you watch it multiple times because it will shake you to the core every time you watch it.

I will be posting a review of the series shortly.