to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
I pray that the time you had with the Lord was uplifting and empowering.
Please take some time to express to us what the Lord said or did in your life as in response to our seeking the Lord.
"Thank you Lord for meeting with us as we sought your face"
I was a bright-eyed (naïve) nineteen-year-old heading over to a third-world country. I had very little knowledge of the language. I had no ties with any missionary agency. I had no salary and no way to support myself, except to live off the savings I had accumulated during my year of work between high school and college. I had no close friends in Romania, only a handful of acquaintances. I had no idea when I would be returning to the U.S., only that my place of residence would be a Christian university campus.
Truth be told, I wasn’t scared. The situation didn’t frighten me. Yes, I dreaded the loneliness that would overwhelm me when I said goodbye to my parents. I dreaded the time that would pass before I could speak Romanian fluently. But my decision had been firm. God had led me to this place. No time to look back.
In my journal, I wrote about arriving in Oradea:
“The streets of Oradea were soon before us. The sky was sunny and the weather was lovely. The city was bustling with activity; the leaves just beginning to change colors and surrender from the trees. Looking over the city, I realized that this was now my new home. The excitement, anticipation, and wait of the past few months were for this moment – to be in the place where I belong… to serve.”
The excitement soon turned to sadness. After I said goodbye to my parents, I went to my dorm room and wept. What have I done? I remember thinking. I have left everything I’ve ever known. I have left everyone who loves me. I don’t know the language. I don’t know the culture. I don’t even know any people. And I’m supposed to minister here?
The tears flowed as I seriously questioned my calling. Even now, I choke up when I recall the emotions of that moment. And as I think of the ways God blessed the following five years of my life, I am overwhelmed. He gave me more opportunities to minister than I could have dreamed of. He gave me the ability to speak Romanian fluently within a few months. He gave me my precious wife. He blessed us with our first child.
When I flip through the journal I kept during the first year in Romania, I am embarrassed at my immaturity, my naive expectations and unbridled idealism. My disdain for my former self, however, is kept in check by the thought that ten years from now, I may entertain similar thoughts regarding where I’m at now! If anything, the journal reminds me that life is a journey.
The big story is about God. And this God is the One who calls us, who equips us, who goes before us, and then sends us off into the sunset of his plan, as heralds of his Son and the salvation he has brought to earth.Thank you, Father, for calling me to Romania ten years ago. Thank you for sustaining me, strengthening me, and using me for your purposes. Please do the same in the next ten years, and grant me faith so that I will continue to follow you wherever you lead.
Here they are as promised...
(1) What do these words actually mean?
(2) What light do other scriptures throw on this text? Where and how does it fit in to the total biblical revelation?
(3) What truths does it teach about God, and about man in relation to God?
(4) How are these truths related to the saving work of Christ, and what light does the gospel of Christ throw upon them?
(5) What experiences do these truths delineate, or explain, or seek to create or cure? For what practical purpose do they stand in Scripture?
(6) How do I apply them to myself and others in our own actual situation? To what present human condition do they speak, and what are they telling us to believe and do?
J.I.Packer, Among God’s Giants: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, p138.
More and more churches are focusing on the centrality of the Word in worship. The resurgence of Reformed theology among younger evangelicals, the reestablishment of a rock-solid belief in the inerrancy and inspiration of the Scriptures in the Southern Baptist Convention, the revival of expository preaching… this wave that we’re riding is about to collide with an even bigger wave: the dominance of contemporary worship styles across the U.S. and the world.
For many churches, the biggest requirement for a “worship set” is novelty. We’re aiming for an experience. So we put together a worship service that is more influenced by the latest hits on Christian radio than by theology or history.
We also try to put people at ease. “Good morning… Let’s try that again, GOOD MORNING!” There’s a chatty, street-level style of worship that has become prevalent in evangelicalism. And I’m not sure how our pursuit of novelty and casualness in worship is going to mesh with hearing the Word of God expounded upon in all its glory.
Can a contemporary, casual service bring worshippers face to face with the glory of God in a way that buttresses and upholds the magnificent truths being expounded from the Word? I think the answer is yes, but not always.
It’s like eating steak on a paper plate.
My wife is an excellent cook. Her Romanian dishes dazzle my tastebuds, and her American cooking is terrific too. In the past couple of months, she has been using paper plates frequently. I understand why. We don’t have a dishwasher. She wants to save time setting the table, and she doesn’t want me washing dishes after dinner. Paper plates are easy and disposable.
But after a few weeks of paper plates, I told my wife, “Your cooking is too good for paper plates.” Slapping down a hot dog and baked beans on a paper plate in the middle of summer is just fine. But when my wife makes her famous pork chops and rice, or her Romanian cabbage rolls, or steak and mashed potatoes, paper plates just don’t cut it. I said, “Let me wash the dishes. But at least give us dishes!”
When it comes to worship, we are frequently told that form doesn’t matter. Style is not what’s important. I get that. I’m not downing contemporary music or advocating a return to liturgy, organs and hymns. I’ve been in contemporary worship services that have put me on my knees before the holiness and majesty of God. Cultural forms adjust and adapt.
But in worship today, there is a tendency toward casualness. The emphasis on feeling God’s closeness in worship may short-circuit the possibility of being transformed by a glimpse of the Transcendent One. There’s hardly any room for feeling awe in worship, and I can’t help but think that part of our problem is the form.
Form and content mirror one another. A church with serious Bible preaching is going to have a serious worship service (contemporary or traditional isn’t what matters, but serious it will be). A church with a feel-good preacher is going to have peppy, feel-good music.
Christians need to sense the weight of God’s glory, the truths of God’s Word, the reality of coming judgment, and the gloriousness of God’s grace. Trying to package the bigness of this God into most casual worship services is like trying to eat steak on a paper plate. You can do it for awhile, but at some point, people will start saying, “I want a dish.”
I was sent this link to article by Joe Beam. he wrote a great article on the subject of porn. I hope you take the time to read it. Then.....let's talk...
by Joe Beam
President, LovePath International
If I opened Details magazine before, I don’t recall it. I don’t think I’ll open another. The September 2009 issue caught my eye with quarterback Tom Brady’s name in huge orange letters on the cover.
That was the bait. The hook set when I noticed a smaller cover title, “Generation XXX: How Internet Porn Became the New Sex Ed.”
Be aware that I’m one of those people that takes seriously Jesus’ prayer about His followers being in the world but not of the world. (John 17:13-18) I seek opportunities to interact with people outside of church contexts, and love to be on secular TV or radio answering questions from people that are not remotely religious. Just the other day I was on the top-forty station 107.5 The River in Nashville with morning hosts Woody and Jim. These guys are very bright, extremely witty, and faster than lightning, so it’s a thrill-a-minute to be on their show taking calls from their listeners about relationships while Woody and Jim jump in readily. (They’re hilarious, but they’re also quite good at helping people.) All calls during this particular show happened to come from women living with their boyfriends. The most interesting was the lady who asked if her boyfriend’s obsession with porn, and resulting decrease in sexual activity with her, should be something for her to worry about or was she overreacting. She wanted an answer before she married him.
That was still on my mind when I ran across Details.
After thumbing through more than 70 pages of ads for clothes apparently designed for men that have never eaten, I finally found the table of contents on page 72 and flipped over to the article. It was saturated with language you’ll never find on Crosswalk, so I held my nose as I slogged through it to see if the author, Eric Spitznagel, had any information I could use.
Though he focused much of his article on porn use by teens, his message directed itself to adults.
He began by sharing “fond memories” of his first exposure to porn when he was fourteen, then explained how his experience pales in comparison to what a modern 14-year-old has available today. He stated that there are more than 400 million pornographic web pages, “The awkward truth, according to one study, is that 90 percent of 8-to-16-year-olds have viewed pornography online…By the time they’re in high school, America’s porn-fed youth have already amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of smut.”
He went on, “According to a 2008 survey, one in five teenagers have sent an explicit photo of themselves to someone else or posted one online.”
It gets worse.
He writes, “In fact, ‘porn readiness’ is now a source of pride. While on tour promoting her memoir, [porn actress] Jenna Jameson was reportedly stunned that 13-year-old girls kept telling her she was their role model.”
Spitznagel wasn’t writing about how bad this is, but rather thinks of these teens as “sowing the seeds of a sexual revolution.” I believe he’s right about those seeds, but the revolution won’t lead to greater sexual satisfaction as he seems to think. Just the opposite.
So why doesn’t someone do something about this?
The article quoted former State Department staffer Mary Eberstadt’s comments in Policy Revue, “[Porn] is widely seen as cool, especially among younger people, and this coveted social status further reduces the already low incentive for making a public issue of it.”
From the time kids first plop down in front of a TV, they are exposed to sexual situations that were not allowed even to be mentioned in polite society just a few years ago. That desensitization, along with the Internet, makes moving up to porn easier than it was for previous generations. I’m not claiming we should go back to hiding information and forbidding discussion about sex, but I certainly see that the current fixation with sexuality as portrayed by porn is having a dramatic effect on marriages, beginning years before the marriage itself. As porn becomes the new Sex Ed (my work with marriages leads me to believe he is right about that), it creates a set of expectations about sex in marriage that are quite literally impossible to fulfill. This doesn’t happen just with the guys; it’s happening with the gals as well. The porn from teen years becomes the disaster in marriages years later. Not just from the memories, but because porn usage continues into marriage for millions of people.
Why is that a big problem?
As people watch porn – whether they’re 13, 33, or 63 – they start to buy into the idea that most people, especially the spouse they have or are going to have, should always be ready and willing to have sex. Not only that, from exposure to the multiplied variations of sexual behavior modeled in porn, they expect their partner to have sex in every manner possible. For example, Spitznagel writes, “According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, the number of heterosexuals having anal sex nationwide has almost doubled since 1992.”
Add to this the fact that as spouses age, gain weight, and get wrinkles, they don’t compare physically to most of the women and men in porn. One woman said to me, “I wish I had the money to have cosmetic surgery from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet so that maybe my husband would want to look at me rather than those women on the Internet.”
From my perspective, it appears that the American expectation (maybe worldwide) is evolving into marrying a spouse that doesn’t age or change physically, thinks about sex constantly, talks, acts, and dresses seductively, can’t wait to jump into bed (or more exotic locations), makes every lovemaking session extraordinary, and does everything either of them has seen, heard of, or imagined.
Will all who have that marriage please raise their hands?
Real life isn’t like porn. Even the real life of porn actors isn’t like porn. People get tired, become preoccupied, develop broader interests, grow passionate about other dimensions of life, change after childbirth (both genders), and age a little every day. Occasionally, they don’t like their partner. Life isn’t nonstop sex. Sometimes I hear someone say that men think about sex every 30 seconds, or some such number. Ridiculous. Life is broad, complicated, and demanding. My friend, outstanding sex researcher, writer, and expert Barry McCarthy, PhD, spreads the message broad and wide that we shouldn’t expect every sexual encounter to be great. As we communicated about this article, he urged, “Emphasize the crucial importance of positive, realistic sexual expectations: The most important being that less than 50% of sexual encounters among happily married, sexually functional couples have outcomes that are mutually satisfying, and 5-15 % of sexual encounters in marriage are dissatisfying or dysfunctional.”
I’m aware that there are very frustrated husbands and very frustrated wives that are angry because they feel that their spouses are sexually inhibited, or seemingly don’t care whether sex occurs or not in their marriage. As part of completion of my PhD in sexology, I currently am designing a weekend workshop for married couples that will have one goal – helping couples develop a sexual life more fulfilling to each of them. Yet, no matter how good the weekend workshop will be (ahem, it’s already very good), it will not make every day a great day of sexual fulfillment. We may seek great sex in our marriages but we should accept that valid research indicates that about half our sexual encounters in marriage aren’t going to be wonderful. Seek outstanding sex in your marriage, but be realistic in your goals and expectations.
As a proponent of great sex in marriage, I shout from the rooftops that porn is not the answer to achieving great sex. It creates impossible expectations that lead to misery. If one of you pursues porn, you will drift emotionally from your partner into an imaginary world that will never exist in reality. If you use it together, you will eventually reach the point where your lovemaking relies on the stimulation of watching others and not at all on intimacy between the two of you.
While I pray that parents and church leaders will discuss sex, including porn, openly and frankly with teens, my purpose is to discuss it frankly with adults. According to McCarthy, about 15% of men and nearly 5% of women compulsively use porn. Barry isn’t a Christian, so his views aren’t “stained glass” church rhetoric. Instead his insights root themselves in solid research and education. Of compulsive porn users, he states matter-of-factly, “For them it is very destructive.” If the studies Spitznagel cites are accurate, it’s frightening to think how much higher those percentages will be when today’s teens become adults. How many individuals – how many marriages – will be destroyed when “porn ready” teens become husbands and wives?
However, right now let’s talk about people already married.
If you are both into porn in your marriage, please believe me when I say that my experience with thousands of couples demonstrates that you will develop problems with your intimacy, self-esteem, and fulfillment as a couple. Stop now. Save your future by rescuing your present.
If one of you is into porn and the other doesn’t know, don’t think that it isn’t hurting your marriage. Every exposure to porn immerses you into a fantasy world that erodes the real world you could have together. It will change you; maybe it has already. Think you can keep it a secret? Get real. When your spouse discovers, he or she will very likely feel betrayed, rejected, unattractive, and abandoned. Do they have the right to feel that way? Yes. You have violated the marriage covenant. (Matthew 5:28-30)
If one of you is into porn and the other does know, the spouse not into porn should take the lead in demanding the removal of porn altogether. Get rid of the Internet, just as you would remove an addict’s access to alcohol. Check up on missing time and missing money. Seek out a Celebrate Recovery group in your area (you can find locations online). Finally, do something immediately to salvage the future you can have together. If your marriage is in trouble, let us help. Our success rate over the last decade is three out of four marriages, even when porn, adultery, or other things have deeply hurt the relationship. If not us, let someone help. Don’t think a slap-on-the-wrist and a promise to do better will solve a problem that is deep-seated, especially an addiction such as porn.
I believe that a couple can overcome porn’s affects by learning a new kind of sex education. However, it is very unlikely that they will until they solve the problems in their marriage, especially unrealized expectations on the part of one, or feelings of betrayal by the other.
By the power of God, you can have a great marriage and a great sex life.
Act now. Save your future.
Here is a good article on how Kids' ministries and parents can work together better.
What do you think?? Please comment??
Now let's make a few assumptions. Let's assume our children's parents regularly attend church. Let's also assume that these parents love their children. Finally let's assume that these parents want their children to become adults who are Christ followers. If all these assumptions are true, then here are some ways in which children's ministries can partner with parents.
Communicate. It is important to let parents know on a regular basis what is taught in the church. Here are some of the methods we've used: sending take-home papers; projecting children's ministry teaching information on the screen during the main worship service; offering information on the website; teaching in conjunction with the adult curriculum to create family discussion. We know that none of these ways are 100 percent effective, but they provide help to the families who wish to use them.
Create family events. We started making children's events family-oriented. We ask that a parent be present at every teaching or social event. For example, our fall festival is a family event that doesn't require many volunteers, and it brings families together with other families in the church.
Discontinue the kids-only VBS. We have restructured our vacation Bible school to be a family VBS so parents are involved, too. In this type of structure, the parents are brought along in the teaching automatically. We don't dismiss the adults for a separate lesson—they stay with their kids the entire time. This is a great opportunity for families to enjoy quality time and a shared hands-on experience together.
Dedicate parents. For years, we have held Baby Day. There are lots of "oohs" and "aahs" as beautiful babies and proud parents are introduced to the church family. Make no mistake, though—this is not a baby dedication but a parent dedication. While this is a great way for a parent to make a public, verbal commitment, we have increased the impact by requiring that parents attend a special class before participating in the actual ceremony. Parents learn why it's important to dedicate themselves to godly parenting, and we provide parenting tools and resources. It's invaluable to educate parents at this juncture about their responsibility to teach their child about matters of faith. If they can form a habit of spiritual education in their family, they have a much better chance of sticking with it in the latter years.
Build a Backyard Bible Club. The main goal of Backyard Bible Clubs is to help church members see the influence they can and should have outside the walls of the church building. Each club is held in a church family's neighborhood and hosted by one or two families. The club is an outreach to the neighborhood, and it creates a way for families to work together to invite neighbors. This is a great opportunity for parents to model that faith is something to be shared on a daily basis.
Include parents. We offer a Bible 101 class for children who want to make a commitment to Christ. This is a four-week course, and it is mandatory for parents to participate the first and last week. The purpose of the class is to make sure the parents are informed about what their child will be learning. It's also to instruct and encourage parents to be involved in their child's experience of making a decision to follow Christ. The children are given a booklet to work on at home with their parents, and some questions require parents' input. Hopefully, the parents will become an integral part of their child's spiritual growth.
Organize family teaching. We allow and encourage families to teach together. We have several families who teach a Sunday school class as a family unit. This is yet another opportunity for the parents to be spiritual role models in service and attitude.
Mark spiritual growth. One area that we plan to develop is a way to applaud spiritual benchmarks of the children. I think this will be significant for the parents. If we are communicating what we expect the children to learn and then acknowledge these steps when they are accomplished, it will reinforce the importance of spiritual growth.
It is possible to only teach and never offer opportunities for parents to use what they have learned. It also is possible to offer opportunities, but never educate the parents on how to be spiritual leaders in their families. It would seem that our most effective efforts to bring family and church together are through teaching and coaching the parents and providing them with opportunities to use their knowledge in practical ways. These approaches go hand-in-hand.
Since there is limited time spent with the children in our ministry, we need to be effective partners in raising Christ followers. As children's and family life ministers, we have a timely and exciting challenge before us. Let's step up to the challenge!
—Becky Arthur has been children's minister at Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, Missouri, for l5 years.