Grow up. How many times have we told our children that, or heard it ourselves (maybe from our spouse)? Growing up is a spiritual reality for the normal Christian life. The omega point-the end game, if you would-is maturing into Christ-likeness in our attitudes, our worldview, and our personal relationships. It involves how we are relating to God, as well as to others. Are you growing up?
One sage advised that spiritual growth can be evaluated by using these diagnostic questions:
1) Am I less likely to become disappointed? 2) Am I less likely to become impatient? 3) Am I less likely to become embittered?
• Are we likely to become disappointed when life does not work out like we’d planned or like we would want it to? If so, we are disappointed with God. Our spiritual growth sags when this happens. If we really believed “all things are working together for the good,” (note: not necessarily OUR good) then we will be less likely to become disappointed. This is a measurement of HOPE.
• Are we likely to become impatient? Now I don’t think this means we don’t become impatient and sometimes irritated with others, though there is some of that implied in this word. I think this means we are becoming more patient with OURSELVES. This is a measurement of FAITH. Do we have faith that God is at work shaping us into the image of Christ?
• Are we likely to become embittered? This has to do with how we react in relationship to others. Do the actions, attitudes, and decisions of others tend to leave us bitter? Do we hold on to grudges (pronounced “grrrrrr-udges”) when others cross us or fail us? This is finally a measurement of our LOVE.
In short, are you growing up? Are these things becoming less characteristic of life as we grow in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? They should if we are really “growing up” in Jesus.
“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from becoming useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8 HCSB)
Recently I received a note from David Clippard of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. In this note David told of a tragic story that took place earlier this fall in Northern Iraq. The family, headed by a single mother named Faithful, was warned by IS insurgents that they must leave their home and village since they refused to convert to Islam. Faithful refused to do so, and several days later while she was away the insurgents returned, poured gasoline throughout their home and covered her 23 year old daughter, Rita, with gasoline as well. They then set the home and her daughter on fire. Faithful returned home to her daughter’s screams, and the screams of her younger daughter who was trapped in a back room. The fire was extinguished, but Rita was badly burned over her face and most of her body. The next days were filled with constant stays at a local hospital as Faithful applied lotion to her daughter’s badly burned body. Unfortunately, the burns were so bad that Rita could not recover. Just before she died, she looked at her mother and said, “You have to forgive them, Mother. Please forgive them.”
We cannot imagine the horror of such circumstances, but people around the world live through this and sometimes worse. Because of your gifts and generosity through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year, you gave our missionaries on the field resources to minister to this bereaved mother and to help relocate this displaced and terrorized family.
Thank you for always making a difference by giving generously. Your dollars are transformed into Jesus’ love and touch, pouring a salve on the wounds of the world, and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the darkest places on the planet.
You may have heard by now that a decision has been made to cancel the Car Show this year. Several mitigating factors beyond our control have informed this decision. It has been shared with several leadership groups in the church, and each have affirmed the decision to cancel the show this year.
I know this is disappointing to many, and we would like to ask you to continue monitoring our website for an announcement about a car show at a partner church on the Westside of Jacksonville on April 11. This would be a show largely sponsored by Fruit Cove but to benefit a different community and church. We will make an announcement about this as soon as a date is confirmed. Thank you again for your faithful support of this ministry in years past, and we will look forward to our next show together.
At least once a week (usually more) I hear from parents or students that sexual sin has made its way into their lives, homes or relationships. Whether its pornography, sexual impurity in a relationship or something else, a parent or a student will come broken-hearted over this issue. For a man who struggled greatly with pornography in high school and college, this always leaves me hurt and disturbed. Statistics show that 85% of young males frequently observe pornography and over 50% of young women do. This is crazy. Think about it; on a typical Wednesday night we have 100 high school students join us for worship. If these statistics are correct then only 5 or 6 men and 20 or so women DO NOT REGULARLY view pornography. As parents and leaders, we should be shocked by this and see this for what it is, an epidemic! This sort of lifestyle; one filled with sexual impurity will destroy a relationship with God, end Godly marriages before they begin, give a false sense of sexual identity, and ruin worship. The shame of all this sexual sin will keep this generation of teens from hearing and heeding the call of ministry and missions. Make no mistake: SATAN is using sexual immorality, sexual curiosity, lust and sensual desire (that teenagers are not ready to act upon) to prevent having a healthy relationship with God. We MUST discuss it… and it starts at home. It WILL be disused in our church. So what can we do??
1- REMEMBER teens are sinful (As are you and me. We all are. Don’t forget that as you read the following.) They need grace, mercy, forgiveness, tenderness and a place to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) As a parent or leader in a teen’s life we need to provide that atmosphere. You can freak out on your own, alone, in your closet… but remind them that they are just sinful and that is why Jesus died on the cross – for sin is a big deal. Also, you as parents didn’t fail them, nor the church, their youth minister, friends, etc… they are just sinful. Just as God forgave us, we must also do the same (Romans 5:8 & 2 Corinthians 5:21) This does not mean we use “they are sinful” as an excuse, it is just a truth.
2- KNOW we live in a culture where pornography is more accessible than a cup of coffee. Coffee is easy to get and popular. Pornography is more popular and accessible. In less than 30 seconds with a few swipes of certain apps, you can find porn. That is quicker than it takes for Keurig coffee makers to make a cup of java. That’s how accessible porn is. The simple truth is any teenager with a smartphone is bound to stumble across pornography. I am not sure why but for some reason this does not shake us as parents as it did a generation ago. Know too we live in a culture where sex outside of marriage is celebrated and lust is seen as a normal, almost as if it were a human emotion.
3- EMBRACE difficult and awkward conversations. One of the most difficult things is to have a conversation with a teenager who has engaged in sexual immorality. It is awkward, unexpected, and as a parent we just can’t imagine our “baby” doing that. It’s heartbreaking. But we must embrace the awkward and difficult to help our teen. Don’t expect the conversation to EVER BE PLEASANT. Instead dive in and start talking. If you embrace the awkward and difficult they likely will as well. From my experience a good healthy Christ-centered relationship will always involve conversation of personal sin and struggle.
4- REFRAIN from being a hypocrite. If you are a parent or leader who struggles with sexual immorality or impurity – GET HELP! The only thing worse than finding out your teen is struggling, is being caught by your teen (and don’t think you won’t get caught.) The teen will feel mislead and lied to. If a teenage girl catches her parents, her idea of sexuality, her self-identity, and her view of her authority will be tainted forever. For a teen male, discovering a parents’ struggle is equivalent as granting permission to that teen.
5- ADDRESS it. This subject must be talked about at home. We need to pray for purity in our children, talk about purity, discuss the evil of impurity and how to protect yourself/your home. This subject cannot be TOO taboo to discuss. This sin will lead teens on a road of destruction. A home where sexual immorality is not addressed is a home where it may run rampant. Listen, your teens have hormones and they need help in dealing with those. And they will get their answers from someone. Who do you want them turning to?
6- CREATE an atmosphere that encourages PURITY in your home. What are you doing to foster a home that keeps everyone under your roof pointed towards godly purity? Are there safeguards on the TV? DVD’s? Computer? Is there scripture available that speaks to what is good, healthy and important in the home? Do Dad and Mom watch things that might lead their teen to struggle if they are around? Or worse do Mom and Dad watch things that if the teen knew would cause them to question their parents? How does your home create an atmosphere of purity?
7- SMARTPHONE. Knowledge is key. Smartphones are nothing more than sex & porn devices for so so so many. They get a smartphone solely to have access to that which they want to hide. If your teen has a smartphone, how are they protected on it? Do you check it? Do you understand and know where to look? For the record, it’s not an invasion of privacy if they are paying for it, just saying… A teenager given a smartphone with NO accountability is the same as handing them a stick of dynamite. They are not equipped, educated or mature enough to handle it yet. Smartphones can be awesome and helpful or destructive. For most teenagers that decision MUST be made by parents.
Want more information? Give me a call and plan to attend the next r12 Parent Worship on February 8. You can also keep in touch on our r12 Student Ministry page
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” – Ephesians 5:3
That is, unless your freedom has to do with expressing your Christian moral values. Ask fired Georgia fire chief Kelvin Cochran. His “freedom of expression” in a personal book expressing his Christian viewpoint that marriage was to be between a man and a woman cost him his position.
#jesuisCharlie? Not in Atlanta, Georgia.
It’s interesting that a paper like Charlie Hebdo, whose satirical writing and cartoon illustrations critique Islam and other targets, expects the free world to protect their freedom to lampoon and criticize religion and politics, culture and government, church and state. And the world should. Yet the same people turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the freedom of expression violated in the United States of America when a person expresses a viewpoint not held to be politically correct. Where is the outcry?
Where are the protests?
#jesuisCharlie? I don’t think so.
Selective freedom is not freedom. It is editorial censorship….certainly not what our founders had in mind when this freedom was afforded the people of the United States. Freedom isn’t freedom when one person’s liberty is limited by another. That’s what is at stake in Paris, France. I hope they win the battle.
But maybe the #hashtag in America should be changed….
Well, the first college football championship is decided, and while our Florida (and/or Georgia or Alabama) teams didn’t make it all the way, many of us still enjoyed the process. To give you a glimpse into our weekly staff meeting, I thought I would share the following notes from conversation this week. The question of the day was: “What lessons did we learn from the College Football Playoffs that impact our leadership, service or ministry here at Fruit Cove?” Here’s a bullet list summary of our discussion.
You cannot go by the polls. There is a reason they play the games. Some of the ministries or events we think might work better than others, do not. But, we play and we learn.
The shining star may not be. Sometimes, the trophy, position player just doesn’t live up to his pre-game publicity. In practically every game, there is a surprise star. When Samuel was looking for Israel’s King, the Bible says “…the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.'” 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)
The line of scrimmage is the point of battle. What we do in staff meeting, in worship, or even in Sunday School is not where the battle is won. All those things are important, but the real battle is when we take the hope of Christ into the streets and into the lives of people around us.
At the end of the day, there will be disappointment. In football, there is a winner and a loser. In life, circumstances don’t always go as we expect. But, we take refuge that there will be another chance. One of my favorite passages on this topic is 2 Corinthians 4:7-10: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” You could say we’re all cracked pots leaking the light of Jesus wherever we go.
Not everyone gets a trophy. Well, at least not here. (Sorry, kids.) But, there will come a day: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)
A football stadium is one of the only places outside of church where people sing together. There’s probably a deep lesson there, but I’ll wait for a new worship pastor to help with that one.
Some mistakes are larger than others. As the Ohio State football team entered the stadium, the team ran over a cheerleader AND a flag bearer tripped. As a result, the flags spelled “OOHI” as they ran down the sidelines. Yes, it was funny, and some thought it was a bad omen, but, as the final score showed, it did not matter at all. And they got it fixed. That’s the important part.
You have to suit up: training and preparation give way to the game. The Christian life is more than simply showing up repeatedly at church. We all have opportunities to suit up and engage the culture around us with the Gospel truth of Christ.
Half of the folks are against you. That just goes with the territory when you are trying to be in the world and not of the world. And, remember, they may not be against you, rather, against your coach. And, there is a promise for that: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12 (ESV)
Speaking of coaches, he is often considered the hero or goat. And he did not even play the game.
Confidence plays a factor. It was not uncommon to recognize that some coaches paced the sidelines with confidence and others seemed to wander in confusion. Unfortunately, the pace of the game – apart from halftime and brief timeouts – doesn’t afford much time to regain composure when things do not go as planned. Yet, you cannot help but wonder how much the confidence of a coach/leader affects the attitude and performance of a player/follower.
Size matters. There is a competitive advantage to being bigger/faster/stronger than your opponent. We are blessed at Fruit Cove to have assets to invest in ministry. However, we have to remember that our opponent is not other ministries, rather, he is a spiritual enemy. As the saying goes, “you are never taller than when you are on your knees.”
Everyone is now #1. As I finish this post, Ohio State’s glowing in the limelight of the national championship is already fading. Attention is now focused on the Super Bowl. And every true college football fan is thinking “just wait until next year!” Isn’t it great that we have regular opportunities to start over, put past failures behind us and pursue new victories.
Key absences affect the outcome. A player may miss only one play due to injury or equipment malfunctions. That absence, however, often has an impact far greater than that next play. It is crucial that every player be engaged and executing on every play if we are to be our best.
Oregon fans were humble in victory (and defeat – we think). When Oregon beat FSU in Pasadena, FSU fans were encouraged by the humility and empathy of Oregon fans. Humility is often forged by failure, and we are well served to remember that in our victories.
Winning begets winning. It seems we are now on the threshold of a “new football dynasty.” One can only hope that the previous point will be well taken by the victors.
Execution trumps preparation. Finally, as one general mused, “a battle plan rarely survives the first shot of the battle.” The ability to adapt a game plan as necessary and execute it well on a continual basis is the key to success. Perhaps that’s why our spiritual journey as described as one of daily surrender and obedience.
So, there you have it. Postgame analysis by our staff. ESPN is not calling, but God is. He is calling our church to play our game of equipping, engaging and embracing our world with passion and excellence.
Just after Christmas, Newsweek magazine unveiled an unvarnished and unsubstantiated attack against evangelical Christianity. This article was high profile and largely unresearched by a writer who does financial columns for Vanity Fair. The article itself was an insult to any thinking reader, Christian or non-Christian. It was poorly researched, used vitriolic and cartoonish images (“Christians bow before stone images of the Ten Commandments”) and failed to cite those who were most capable of responding to the ridiculous allegations in the article.
I will not spend time here responding to the ludicrous charges. I will take a moment to warn of an impending and tightening circle of innuendo, false charges, and outright attacks against those who truly claim and follow the Lamb of God. That this article was released near Christmas was of highest offense, especially knowing that the same magazine would never consider an outright criticism of the Koran at the outset of Ramadan, even in light of the recent terroristic attack against a French newspaper office.
This is not an effort to gain sympathy or pity for our circumstance in evangelical Christianity. We are going to continue to be marginalized in our culture, especially as issues such as the legitimizing of gay marriage continue to confront us and require a response and we come down on the incorrect side of the issue.
All of this simply confirms what Jesus said. “The servant is not above his master. If they hated me, they will also hate you.” The presence and voice of evangelical Christians in our culture will continue to irritate and provoke those who are of this world. We must expect it, not be surprised by it, and not hate those who spitefully speak against us and misuse and misquote us.
We must pray for them. We must (Jesus’ words) “BLESS THEM.” We must love them. And above all, we must “be ready to give an answer to any who ask for a reason for the hope that is in us.”
The most familiar song of the past 12 months is from the Disney film “Frozen”. Very few parents or grandparents of young children have escaped the refrain sung by the heroine of the movie: “Let It Go, let it go….” As I write this column a news report I am overhearing features the singer of the song, Jennifer Lee, having to apologize to parents who have been driven crazy by the song! But maybe there’s a reminder:
Regrets in 2014? Promises made but not kept? Weight loss committed but not done?
Let It Go!
Grudges held against another?
Let It Go!
Goals set but not kept?
Let It Go!
That’s what Paul did. “…but this one thing I do; forgetting those things that lie behind I press on to the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 3:13-14)