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Stepping Up to Jesus

     What do you think of when you hear the words “Judgment Day”? A Terminator movie? A meanie, cosmic judge out to get you with an earth-sized gavel? A grueling grill-session where you have to “splain yourself” in front of a tribune of angels and the Trinity? A fantastic awards show leading up to a massive celebration of the glory and greatness of God?

     Only the last answer comes close to what the bible most clearly teaches that we will be “rewarded”, “repaid”, or “recompensed” for what we’ve done in the body “whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5.9-10) The bad news is “judgment day is coming”. The good news is “judgment day is coming”! For those who are in Christ, it will be an amazing day when rewards, positions, and crowns will be given out by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

     In April, Men Step Up (Gwinnett) will take four weeks to celebrate 5 years of ministry at the ugly crack of dawn in the beautiful setting of the restaurant “California Dreaming”. The night of their last day of that celebration will be punctuated by the coolest date night ever. Rock-star quality worship singer Rolin Williamson will take the stage at Crosspointe Church in Duluth, GA and play the opening song for a production of “That Day”, a 2 act, 1 man show about Dan Matthewson, a guy who gets to meet Jesus at the judgment seat.

     This show has played to packed houses from Alpharetta to Gainesville and is already being looked at for later performances in the year (as far away as Dallas, TX – Glory to God!!!) It’s been highly acclaimed not only for its entertainment value, but for its impact on the faith of those who have seen it. Seasons of Life Ministries is very excited to partner with Jesus Spoken Here Ministries and Men Step Up Gwinnett to give you a look at what that day might be like when we all come face to face with Jesus. Entertaining, encouraging, exhorting… and God gets all the glory. NICE!

     Tickets are now on sale – $50 each, which includes dinner (catered by California Dreaming), the music, and the show. There will also be valuable ministry takeaway for everyone in attendance. A couple of things to know, though – this is a great environment to bring someone you know who’s “unchurched” or wrestling with their faith. It’s also an event we’re hoping to use to minister to those in ministry – a few local pastors and lay leaders from other local ministries.

     In this, we could use your help, and I know this month I’ve added a lot of “would you consider”s to the blog. But, would you consider helping us to scholarship a few people to this event? We know $50 is pretty steep for a ticket. We also know there’s a lot of value in return. But, regardless of return, if you ain’t got $50, you ain’t got it. Our hopes are to raise $400 to $500 to not only scholarship a few needy couples in the door for a great date night, but we’d also like to foot the bill for their babysitter that night (unless you’d like to volunteer – which we’d welcome you to do!). So, there it is, another “consider” for you to consider! Would you consider it?

     For more info on “That Day”, go to “www.thatday.info“. Yeah, that was easy to remember!

Impact of Divorce on Kids

The Problem(s)
     As children of divorce, we don’t need a book full of statistics to tell us about the impact it has on kids. We’ve lived it. As Divorce Care leaders, we’ve already come to the understanding that God a) hates divorce, b) loves us, and c) has plenty to say about abandoning our covenant to our spouse, not to mention the children involved. Furthermore, God has made one point abundantly clear to me about myself and those around me “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.

     As a child of divorce, my default position has been carved into my heart – “fear abandonment”. [Not the definitive lesson that everyone takes away from their parents’ divorce, but a loud, resonant one.] As a child of God, adopted through Christ, I’m learning to bathe in my new default: “perfect love casts out fear”. I also bought the lie that my parents’ divorce was somehow my fault in part. “If I had only x a little bit more…” That can easily grow a kid up into a fixer. Graciously, God has taught me that I’m not in charge of fixing, rather delivering the only Truth that can set men free. But, it took the mentorship and direct counseling of men and women who’ve discipled both of us to really begin to internalize these truths.

     It doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by reinforcement. Discipleship is critical care.

     What gets learned by a child through their parents’ divorce (you know, the “he will not depart from it” stuff) can range from impulsive/impatient behavior, anger or distrust toward the entire gender of the
“offending” parent, anger or even destructive behavior toward self as a consequence of misplaced blame, overall confusion (often directed at self) as a result of dueling loyalties, isolation or withdrawal, even depression, drug use, and/or suicidal behaviors.

What Are We Doing About It? – Two Things…
     First, we’re raising support and prayer for some of the marriages and couples around us to help them in the process of “simplifying their lives” (see post on Donald Miller’s article). We’d love to proactively send them out on a “date night” once a quarter (which would be once more per quarter than they’re currently doing): nourish their bodies and their marriages simultaneously. Also, there are about a dozen marriage conferences within 3 hours of the metro-Atlanta area this year. We’d like to take a few of these couples along with us, where God can “speak life” into their relationships before they ever consider divorce.

    Second, God has led us to run a DC4K (DivorceCare 4 Kids) group for Free Chapel, in Gainesville. One night a week and with several hours of prep, we are leading a group of about 10 kids (age 6 to 10) through this trusted curriculum and what seems to be a terrible season of their lives. The obvious end here is this: what’s the difference between a kid who walks through this season of life alone versus the kid surrounded by loving adults who’ve been through childhood divorce and other kids weathering the same storm?

From kids:
“The thing I learned the most is to control my temper.”
“I remembered when I got angry that I could stop, take a breath, “ask God” and relax.”

From parents:
“My kids are happy to know they’re not the only ones going through this.”
“As I tucked my son in bed, he said, ‘Mommy, I know it’s not my fault.’”

     What kid is going to learn that kind of truth from a grieving, recovering parent and no outside intervention? Where is a kid going to go in the midst of being shuffled back and forth from parent to parent to find a group of “Kids Like Me” that can shatter the enemy’s myth that they’re all alone in this catastrophe? DC4K works. Praise God for that.

What Can I Do?
     We’re grateful for the opportunity to take on this mammoth work. We encourage you to help support this effort in prayer.

  • Pray that the parents participating in DivorceCare can make DC and their own healing a priority. We also encourage you to help us financially. 
  • Pray that the fact that their kids are in DC4K gives these parents the peace of mind to focus on Christ and what He can do to lead them to the other side of this storm.
  • Pray that we as leaders keep our hearts clean and abide heavily in our Savior, that we may speak His ways, His truth, and His life into theirs.
  • Pray that God prepares the hearts of these children to receive the message that a) their parents’ divorce is not their fault, b) they’re not the only ones going through this and c) hope exists and He has a Name above all names.
  • Consider getting involved with a church that is offering DC4K and sign up to lead a group.

     Help support this work financially. The program materials and snacks are covered by tuition, but our availability and transportation are not. We don’t anticipate this costing much more than $40 per week for the ministry. Would you help us equip and pastor these children? We currently have a little over $1,000 in matching funds to help us complete and continue this work for 2011. Would you consider this in your one time giving or regular support? Go to www.speaklifenow.org.

in Christ,

AP

Who’s Your Barnabus?

     We had a great time this morning at ONE TH1NG, with Ron Dunn. Around 6:30 this morning, over 50 guys gathered at a local restaurant to think out loud about issues of substance from a biblical standpoint. Currently, we’re talking about “IMAX Moments” from the bible – floating ax heads, outmanned armies overcoming nations, walls falling at the sound of trumpets, etc. This time, we talked about something that seems so small compared to the other more miraculous events, yet has a miraculous impact on you and I every (hopefully) day: encouragement.

     Barnabas was a great encourager of the first century church. In fact, his name means “son of rest” or “son of encouragement”. In examining some of the guiding verses this morning, the guys at my table all concluded that encouragement is both an event and a process. In the battle against a dead man who seems to be tied to us like a rotting corpse, and against a world that lies to us constantly, and
against an enemy who came to steal, kill, and destroy, encouragement is the breath of fresh air that we need often and fully. It is the rest we desperately need in times of weariness, so it’s not a one time need or a long term fix. It’s not Jesus, but a reflection of His love.

Thanks, to Ron Dunn for the quote.

Now, try this:
     Say the word “encourager” and who are the first 3 people who come into your mind? Who, in your life, speaks life into you on a regular basis?

     Next question – and ponder this one carefully – everyone has a short list of encouragers in their life. Whose list are you on? Are you first on other peoples’ lists?

     The danger here is that we can easily get lost in the comparison game. Remember, God made you unique and just because encouragement is not your primary spiritual gift doesn’t make you lesser in His eyes. But, encouragement shows up about 35 or more times in the new testament, often as a command. So, we are both not to ignore opportunities to encourage nor are we to stand condemned if we’re not naturally great at it. One thing is certain: we are to encourage. Discipleship is often little more than a Barnabas spurring on a young John Mark, a middle manager encouraging an up and comer, a husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church. [This is in italics because I know that once I’ve written it, there’s a good chance I’ll need to remember it when I see my wife in a couple of hours.]

     So, how can we pray wisely about this? What if we were to ask the Lord to give us specific insight into the life of someone He wants us to encourage? What if we were clean in our heart and listened to His prompting about He would have us say or do to encourage this person? Yesterday, we had a couple on our couch who just lost a 23 year old daughter. I [Aarron] recently lost my Dad, so I understand what it means to lose someone. But, I had no clue how to look at a 60 year old guy and truly empathize with him losing his daughter – Praise God, I’ve never lost one.

     The beautiful thing is – God knows that guy better than I ever will and when I asked Him to help me “be available”, He delivered. When they left our house, they looked like they had lost 35 lbs each. Still sad, yet noticeably encouraged. This is not because I’m anything special nor a master encourager. Rather, it’s a testament to the God of all good gifts, who knows this couple and their greatest need in any moment, and how He would bring them joy in the darkest season they’ve known in a long time.

     So, be encouraged. Can you trust today that God is with you always? Can you trust that He knows your need before you even can think it? Will you give Him your greatest care and burden and listen for His word – through audible voice, through His word, or even through His church, the body of Christ? But, also, be a son of encouragement. Know that around you are thirsty and weary soldiers in the making. These are your brothers and sisters in Christ, whom God loves dearly. These are your soon to be brothers and sisters who are stuck in sin, bonded to death, who will soon know Jesus and will need to know the comfort, encouragement, and leadership of their Lord. Will you be available to Him as you spur them on to love and good deeds?

     in it with you,

AP

P.S. We’re grateful for the opportunities we’ve recently had to encourage others – if you’d like to help us keep it up, go to our new page “Speak Life“.

Putting a Band-Aid on Leukemia

     We’ve been faithfully serving, tithing, members at North Point Community Church for a long time now. We’re lovers and followers of Christ. But, we won’t be there on Wednesday night when Michelle Obama appears to talk about obesity.

     Because you don’t like the First Lady? No, nothing to do with whether we like her or not.
     Because you disagree with her political views? No, not because of the wide gap separating our political ideologies, per se.
     Because evangelicals were born to boycott? Nopety-nope.
     Because you don’t see the point in the FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) appearing at your church, especially to talk on this topic? Yeah, that’s more like it.

     Am I interested in hearing what she has to say? Sure, I’m intrigued to hear what any high level government official or celebrity has to say about kids in our nation. But, having recently come face to face with the ugly truth about my own flaws and overeating, I don’t see why it’s relevant to me.


     Obesity is a spiritual problem, not a political problem.

     Okay, I said it. Call me a narrow minded bible-thumping troglodyte if you must. But, as God has drawn my wife and I near to Him during a recent extended fast, I came to a deeper understanding of my own depravity, my own lack of self control, my own need for a Savior: I feed my flesh with more gusto than I feed my spirit. I reach for comfort food when I don’t really want food so much as I want comfort itself, which my God has promised to me in abundance if I’d just reach for Him instead.

     Yes, there are great opportunities to witness to those outside the faith, but I’ll be doing it from the comfort of my own home as we watch it streamed online. Yes, I am grateful for our church being selected for such a media heavy event. But, relevance, please?

    Am I being a wuss? Yes, a bit, because you and I both know that getting into and out of our church parking lot (even with the thank-you-Jesus-new-bridge) is hard enough when it’s just our church peeps. God forbid, we should have to brave those throughways when it’s every Tom, Dick, and Harry flocking to that building to see the most famous FLOTUS in American history.

     The reality is, however, I think addressing childhood obesity with a program, a slogan (imagine: “Just Say No to Seconds”! “Read My Lips: No New Fat Cells”!), or a famous face misses the mark as much as a band-aid on leukemia. Obesity, especially childhood obesity, is not a merely a mindset problem, it’s not a political problem, it’s a sin problem. Without Christ, we are utterly lost and libel to do whatever we want, when we want, as much as we want. Have we forgotten Sodom and Gamorrah? Have we forgotten Romans, 8 verse 12 – “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.”

     One of the most poignant truths that jumped off the pages of my bible during this fast was just that – “Aarron, you don’t have to answer the door when chocolate cake is ringing the doorbell.” I need a savior. Kids who are struggling with overeating don’t need a slogan or a t-shirt, they need parents and teachers who have Christ in their hearts and an abiding relationship with the Holy Spirit, who can train them up to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

     Am I wrong?

     I’m not pointing fingers at the kids – they’re just eating what we feed them. So, yes, a change in accessibility to certain foods and a change of mindset and practice by those making food choices for our kids could go a long way. But, as long as a way as it could be, it falls far short of how far God would have us if we would pray for and trust Him for true, penitent, sweeping revival in this nation. Do, yes. But, abide, deny the flesh, carry the cross, and pray for revival, so we can stop putting band-aids on cancer.

Love you guys.

AP

I Didn’t _Mean_ to Make Pornography…

     Dr. Albert Mohler recently made one of my favorite new statements in his article on the controversy surrounding MTV’s Skins.

David Carr… suggests, plausibly enough, that MTV executives did not “set out to make child pornography,” but they clearly did not set out not to make child pornography, either.

     I’ve always enjoyed Dennis Prager’s maxim – “Clarity is more important than agreement.” Dr. Mohler makes his point without disagreeing. Rather, he clarifies the argument – just because you didn’t mean to do something doesn’t mean you didn’t do it. There’s a drunk driving ad from Australia where a guy in a bloodied shirt walks through an accident scene pointing to a victim being loaded into an
ambulance – “See, he’s only a little hurt. She’s only a little grief stricken. She’s only a little dead… I was only a little over the limit.”

     Sin is sin. Amen? I don’t know that I even buy Carr’s premise – MTV has always sought to push the limits. Offering something that can easily pass as child porn is merely a logical extreme of the path they’ve been on for the past 30 years.

     It’s easy to poo-poo MTV and ride them just because… well, they’re MTV. I’m not going to claim I’m not glued to “Celebrity Rehab” or “Sober House”. Heck, I’m in the counseling/reform/healing business. Nor am I going to knock MTV for pushing the limits of what’s acceptable on TV. That’s too easy a target. What this whole controversy does do, however, is highlight the veracity of Paul’s argument in Romans 1 when he talks about how the gateway to depravity is when our “foolish hearts [are] darkened” as a result of us denying thanks and honor to God. From that point in the chapter, it’s a downward spiral of depravity whereby God hands the depraved over to their own depravity.

     Don’t get up on your soapbox yet. Remember who you were before Jesus blinded you with the truth? I do. Hooked on porn, cussing like a sailor, living for me and my agenda. Wish I could say all of that’s changed – at least I’ve been delivered from porn and only cuss on “special” occasions… I didn’t mean to live for my agenda…

     There it is again.

     Let’s be honest about this – MTV doesn’t need our prayer any less than those of us who create the demand by watching these shows. Can we get serious about praying for real, sincere revival in America? If nobody watches it, it doesn’t stay on the air. The solution is spiritual. The Solution has a name. And, He is interceding for us now.

Will you join Him?