Worth Your Time 2/27/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

Does Your Youth Ministry Mess With Christ’s Bride by Jon Nielson (The Gospel Coalition)
“Youth pastors, directors, and workers need to be constantly called back to a focus on substantive, biblical, and gospel-centered ministry to young people, so that they do not fall prey to the gleam of a thriving and fun youth ministry that does not contribute to lasting kingdom fruit.”

Your Children are Looking at Pornography. How are you Responding? by Nicholas Black (Harvest USA)
“Pornography is anything the heart uses to find sexual expression outside of God’s intended design for relational intimacy. It is anything that tempts and corrupts the human heart into desiring sensual pleasure in sinful ways. By this definition, we live in a pornographic culture.”

Dropouts and Disciples: How Many Students are Really Leaving the Church? by Ed Stetzer (Christianity Today)
“In most cases, our surveys show a lack of intentionality in dropping out. Eighty percent of young people who dropped out of church said they did not plan to do so during high school. It’s not that most rejected the church. Our teenagers aren’t primarily leaving because they have significant disagreements with their theological upbringing or out of some sense of rebellion. For the most part, they simply lose track of the church and stop seeing it as important to their life.”

Revealed: The Science Behind Teenage Laziness by Louise Carpenter (The Telegraph)
“She is passionate, for example, about the madness of an 8.30/9am school start time. ‘It’s the middle of the night for a teenager!’ she says. Teenagers release melatonin (the sleepy hormone) a couple of hours later in the day than adults and so are able to stay up later, but then they need more sleep in the morning. ‘It’s like getting us up at 5.30am,’ Blakemore elaborates. Teenagers experience ‘social jet-lag’ as a result, hence the long lie-ins at the weekends (this is absolutely not slothfulness, she says, but their bodies catching up after being forced to awaken so early).”

How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life by Jon Ronson (The New York Times Reporter)
“Eventually I started to wonder about the recipients of our shamings, the real humans who were the virtual targets of these campaigns. So for the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized.”

Dadvertising at the Super Bowl by Mike McGarry (Rooted Ministries… yes, this is a shameless plug)
“A father’s love is powerful because it reflects the love and acceptance we were created to enjoy in our Heavenly Father, and when the Church steps into a kid’s life to care for him or her, it is a tangible expression of the adoption which is ours through faith in Jesus Christ.”

What I’ve Learned About Suffering

I don’t like suffering. I’m not sure anyone does. It would be foolish to want more suffering in your life. But almost everyone agrees that it’s in those seasons of suffering and trial when they have grown and learned the most.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

In many ways I’ve been amazingly blessed. I really have no reason to make my life sound like a dramatic tragedy. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been through difficult seasons. The most difficult of these, by far, came when I was entering junior high and my parents separated and eventually divorced. I won’t go into too much detail online here, except to say that it was confusing, painful, and I’m sure there are still some psychological scars I haven’t dealt with yet.

I struggled with why God would allow this to happen. My parents are both Christians. We rarely missed going to church on Sundays. My dad and I would read the Bible and pray every night before going to bed. It didn’t make any sense. Surely, this wasn’t God’s plan and he could’ve stopped it from happening… but he didn’t.

That was more than 20 years ago now, and honestly, it’s still a bit painful to think back to that season of life. We don’t always know why things happen, but we know that God walks with us through our pain. Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer. He has been bullied for being an “illegitimate” child (remember the virgin birth? People didn’t believe that explanation, but they also knew he wasn’t Joseph’s son!). He has been betrayed by a close friend. He has been mocked and beaten by his enemies. He was abandoned and denied by all of his closest friends (Peter, here’s looking at you!). He suffered a painful death on the cross. Even after he rose from the dead, his friends still didn’t believe in him! My point in all of this: Jesus understands suffering.

There’s no multiple-choice test you can take to tell you the exact reason why you’re going through what you’re going through. I don’t look back at those teen years and rejoice that my parents got divorced. But I do look back and I rejoice at God’s faithfulness and everything I learned about love, about family, and about faith during that season. And I probably wouldn’t have learned those things if I never experienced the pain of my family being split apart. I learned that God’s love is more than something we talk about and get “warm fuzzies” over after hearing an emotionally-heavy story. I still don’t know why God allowed everything he allowed, but I know more about God and more about myself because of it.

When all is said and done, here’s what I’ve learned about suffering…

  1. You don’t suffer alone. God is faithful, he will walk with you… and that’s more than some cheesy “Christianese” thing to say. God understands suffering from the sufferer’s perspective too.
  2. God can do anything. Yes, that means he could have stopped what is hurting you so much. But it also means he can make even more beauty grow out of the ashes of your pain.
  3. Your hope is always as big (or small) as your view of God. If God is small, your hope will be small. If God is only sometimes-faithful, then you will only sometimes be hopeful. But if God is strong and if God is faithful… then you have every reason for hope, no matter how difficult and painful things may be. That doesn’t mean things hurt less, but it does you you live with the hope that in the end, God will turn your pain into joy.

Worth Your Time 2/13/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

The Real Abuse at the Heart of ’50 Shades of Grey’ Kristen O Neal
“Far from ’empowering,’ Fifty Shades seeks to remove agency. Even though it’s supposed to seem ‘sexy,’ the book even includes several instances of rape, where Ana is coerced into or outright forced to have sex. The BDSM community itself has been outspoken on the issue, distancing itself from the horrific lack of safety or consent in the novel: ‘Fifty Shades is not about fun,’ says BDSM practitioner, Sophie Morgan, in The Guardian. ‘It’s about abuse.'”

Sexual Integrity Initiative Walt Mueller & Jason Soucineck
This isn’t a blog post, but a new ministry website that launched today. This site will prove very useful to parents who are looking for resources to help their teenagers develop sexual integrity. My recommendation: Bookmark the site and check it often.

God, Protect My Girls Tim Challies
“As a dad, I pray for each of my kids just about every day, and I take it as both a joy and responsibility to bring them before the Lord. Praying for the kids is a helpful way of training myself to remember that they are his before they are mine, and that any good they experience will ultimately find its source in God himself. And I believe that prayer works—that God hears a father’s prayers for his children, and that he delights to answer those prayers. One of my most common prayers for my girls is a pray for their protection. Here is how I pray for God to protect them.”

You’re Never Going to be Fully Ready Shauna Niequest
“What have you been over-thinking, wiggling like a loose tooth? Are you hiding, planning, and information gathering, because you’re scared to plunge into something new? Are you letting your desire to do it flawlessly keep you from doing it at all?”

Yeah, Well, But What About the Crusades Kevin
“We are right to deplore the cruelty meted out by crusading Christians, but should not ignore their plight.  Christians lands had been captured.  Surely, they thought, this could not stand.  For an American, it would have been as if Al-Qaeda sacked Washington D.C. following 9/11, set up shop for Bin Laden in the White House, and turned the Lincoln Memorial into a terrorist training center.  It would be unthinkable, cowardly even, for no one to storm the city, liberate its captives, and return our nation’s capital to its rightful owners.  We should never excuse the atrocities that occurred under the banner of the cross during the Crusades, but we should, at least, take pause to understand why they set out on what seems to us to be a fool’s errand.”

Worth Your Time 12/6/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

The Rules Graham Stanton (Social Media rules, Facebook, Parenting)
“I’ve insisted that she remain friends with us, her parents, but have done so for supervision reasons, not so we can barge in on her social life. Much as I may dream of being ‘the cool dad’ that my teenage children and their friends love to have around, I am self aware enough to realise that this is a fantasy! We know how to be around as supervisors without intruding when our children have friends over to play – the Facebook equivalent is being friends but never posting on her wall, not tagging her in photos and not having our posts show up in her feed (if she doesn’t want them to). This is our rule for now.”

Hit Me Now… Hurt Me Later… What We’re Learning About Kids and Blows to the Head Walt Mueller (Concussions, Sports)
“As a Christian, there’s quite a bit that should drive our concerns here. I believe it’s time for us rethink how we parent, how we play, and how we spectate as this body of knowledge grows. Our rapidly growing understanding of the brain and how it develops should feed our concern and care. We are stewards of our God-given bodies. And, as parents, we are stewards of the bodies of our children. We need to protect them from harm, from poor decisions, and even from themselves and their misguided desires (‘I’m ok. Let me go back in the game.’). I’m going to be processing this more in coming days.”

Adolescent Research: Sleep is Key for Surviving Adolescence Jim Liebelt (Parenting, Adolescence, Sleep)
“A review of recent research involving teens and the sleep they get (or don’t get!) shows a fascinating connection between inadequate sleep and a broad range of issues many adolescents struggle with.”

Tablets and Smartphones May Affect Social and Emotional Development, Scientists Speculate Joanna Walters (Parenting, Technology, Child Development)
“Use of interactive screen time below three years of age could also impair a child’s development of the skills needed for maths and science, they found, although they also said some studies suggested benefits to toddlers’ use of mobile devices including in early literacy skills, or better academic engagement in students with autism.”

How I Almost Lost the Bible Gregory Alan Thornbury (Faith, Christian Colleges, Liberalism
“After high school, I attended a Christian liberal arts college. In the first semester of my freshman year, I signed up for a course with a brilliant, articulate, recently minted DPhil graduate of Oxford University. The textbook for our introduction to the Bible course was Jesus: A New Vision, by Marcus J. Borg, a prominent fellow of the Jesus Seminar. The scholarly project intended to discover “the historical Jesus” apart from creedal commitments or church teaching.

“In that volume, Borg coolly explained that Jesus had never claimed to be the Son of God and had never thought of himself as Savior. We learned that the Bible was a pastiche of traditions and sources, cobbled together mainly in the second century. Our task as biblical interpreters was to unravel what was “authentically Jesus” from mythology and church tradition.”

The Girl in the Tuxedo Jean Lloyd (Homosexuality, LGBTQ)
“I was that fifteen-year-old girl in the tuxedo, but my experience was very different from the one promoted by the social values of 2015. What ensued thereafter was a long and sometimes arduous and painful journey of becoming, working out my sexual identity from the cauldron of confusion that surrounded my development.”

What is the Truth Worth?

Deflategate. You’ve heard about it unless you live under a rock. I don’t want to talk about it too much. This isn’t a post to defend or accuse the Patriots. Instead, I want to use it as an example about what the truth is worth in our culture today.

I was talking with my sister yesterday, who studied journalism in college and has written for a number of newspapers. She’s also worked in a niche area of the publishing industry for over a decade. As we were talking about the latest “anonymous reports” regarding Deflategate, she shared how frustrated she is about all the irresponsible journalism over the last few weeks. She said something along the lines of, “Gone are the days when giving a false report will cost you your job. It’s not a big deal anymore.”

It’s true. What is the truth worth today? Apparently, being right and accurate isn’t worth as much as being first to report something. The truth isn’t as valuable as attention. Creating a buzz is what matters.

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