Jul 31, 2012

This is the Gospel Project

I am excited about the release of a new curriculum by Lifeway called "The Gospel Project".  There has been a lot of buzz being generated for this release for several months now.  From what I have seen, it may be the best small group curriculum Lifeway has produced in a long time.  Our children's and youth ministry at SSBC is using it this fall.  A couple of our adult classes will be as well.  I would highly encourage all of our Sunday School classes and small groups to give it a try.

They showed this video at the SBC last month that gives an overview of it.

Jul 24, 2012

Why I Still Love Summer Camp

Last week I had a very cathartic experience.  Since 1994, I have been taking groups to summer camp almost every summer.  Sometimes they were camps that I planned.  Often they were camps that other organizations planned that I signed my group up for.  In 1998, I developed a long-standing relationship with the guys at Student Life and began sending groups to those camps.  The Student Life offices were just a few miles from my church in the Birmingham area.  I spent many days stopping by to see these guys and gals.  I made friends that I am still connected to today through social networks even though we are all scattered miles apart.

I have lost count on how many times I attended a summer camp with a group.  For a stretch, our church was sending three groups each summer; a middle school group, a high school group, and a group of leaders to help staff another camp. When I left student ministry a few years ago, I had my first camp withdrawal as we sent off students to camp and I wasn't on the bus.  That lasted about three summers until I came to Sixth Street as pastor.

In the summer of 2010, I went as pastor, chaperon, and parent to our kids camp with Student Life.  I had the pleasure of now attending as a dad with my two oldest kids, Nathan and Drew.  It was their first summer camp as well.  They had a blast and had huge spiritual lessons implanted.  I went with the kids last summer as well.  However, this summer, I retired my camp pillow and the late night ushering of kids into their rooms and let some other adults help.  However, I did sneak away from the office one afternoon to drive to camp and check in on the boys (especially son #3 "Pete"; it was his first summer camp).  I got to sing the silly songs and hang out in the cafeteria for the camp food.  It was a great time.

I reflected a lot last week driving home as to why I love and still believe in the power of summer camp. After being at probably more than 25-30 camps, I have heard most of the same sermons, sung hundreds of songs, and seen dozens of camp drama skits.  Here are a few reasons I still send kids to camp:

1.  I want to put as many gospel hooks in the water as I possibly can.  I don't think you can overemphasize the gospel or the word of God in children and student's lives.  But I certainly think you can underemphasize it.   I think as parents we take too much for granted that because our kids attend church and Sunday School that "they are learning about God."  Spiritual lessons need to be reinforced constantly and from multiple sources and angles.  I heard a lot of "God-stuff" growing up as a kid, but it wasn't until I was 17 that I truly understood my sin and need for the gospel.

2.  I want my kids to understand that their spiritual development is my first priority as a parent.  I love that my oldest son Nathan is talented and likes sports.  However, I want him to love Jesus more than I want him to be an all-star.  I want him to be more excited about going to summer camp where he can learn valuable spiritual lessons than he is about going to a baseball camp or hanging at a friends house playing video games all summer.

3.  I want to give my kids some tools in their belt now to prepare them for the war their are about to wage as teenagers.  Parents, our kids are in a battle zone.  In their preteen and teenage years, they will do heavy battle with cultural and spiritual forces that we cannot comprehend.  What are we giving them to prepare them to deal with the peer pressure, the ungodly cultural standards and norms they will face, and the mounting pressure to conform to something very unbiblical?  It saddens me every year to see parents weeping over the choices that their teenage and young adult children are making.  Often when I talk to them about how they prepared themselves and their kids spiritually when they were younger, I get blank stares and religious cliches.  Good intentions will not prepare our kids, godly gospel centered dependency will.

4.  I want my kids to see that there is a place they can be free and have fun that isn't connected to an ipod, a video game, or Disney channel.  I want them to see that the body of Christ should be a fun place defined by grace, freedom, and seeking the glory of God and not just a boring place with people older than them.

These are just a few of my thoughts about why our family sacrificed hundreds of dollars to make sure our kids went to camp.  What thoughts can you add?

Jul 4, 2012

A Birthday Worth Celebrating

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton
North Carolina:
   William Hooper
   Joseph Hewes
   John Penn
South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton
  John Hancock
  Samuel Adams
  John Adams
  Robert Treat Paine
  Elbridge Gerry
  Samuel Chase
  William Paca
  Thomas Stone
  Charles Carroll
  George Wythe
  Richard Henry Lee
  Thomas Jefferson
  Benjamin Harrison
  Thomas Nelson, Jr.
  Francis Lightfoot Lee
  Carter Braxton
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross
   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKean
New York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark
New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   William Whipple
   Matthew Thornton
Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott

Jul 3, 2012

A little more Calvin

Jul 2, 2012

Why My Kids Aren't On Facebook

Social media has revolutionized much of our communication in the last 7-8 years.  I remember when I first started hearing about "Facebook" from my college students several years ago.  Although I wasn't in college at the time, I received an invite from one of them when it was opened to non-college students and have been on ever since.  I joined Twitter in 2008 after reading about it on a blog.  For the first few months, I tweeted although everyone reading my tweets I knew absolutely nothing about.  I love to surf through my "tweeps" each day. I get links to great blogs and articles.  I have met some new friends through Twitter. I use Facebook each day to connect to family members, church members, and many old friends through the years.

However, right now my sons are not allowed on Facebook.  My oldest 2 have Twitter accounts, but they haven't really become addicted to them yet.  Now if you keep up with me on Facebook, you know that my oldest son Nathan has a FB account.  However, you will also notice that he hasn't posted anything on it for over a year.  Let me explain why?

A few years ago, my son Nathan asked me if he could get a Facebook account.  Some of his friends from the church and school were on FB and talked about it.  I talked it over with Alison and we decided that we would monitor his friends list and what he was posting.  So we signed him up for an account.  Then I had to face a decision that I later regretted.  The Facebook policies state that authorized users must at least 13 years old.  In order to enforce this policy, I had to enter in my son's birthday.  However, in order to make it work, I had to lie about my son's birthday so that Facebook would think he was at least 13.  He was 10 at the time.  Like many parents, I want my son to have the same things all his friends have.  I justified my action by the usual "all the other parents are doing the same thing" excuse. 

So, we signed him up and he began connecting online.  But I spent the next few months mulling through the actions I just committed and the lessons I was teaching my sons.  Soon after, son #2 began to ask when he could have a Facebook.  Then #3.  Every time I looked at my son's profile page, I had to live with the decision that I lied in order to let him have access.  What was I teaching my kids?
  • That it's ok to lie about some things as long as it doesn't harm anyone.
  • That it's ok to conform to peer pressure in some situations.
  • That abiding by policies is conditional upon whether you agree with them or not.
  • That if you can get away with something without getting caught it may be worth trying.
This is not the way that I want to parent.  These are not the lessons I want to teach my kids.  I don't want to model for my children "situational ethics."  I want my children to believe that the man in the pulpit is a man who practices what he preaches.  I want them to know that even though it is often hard and costly, it's always the best thing to follow what God says, even in the small things.  Lying, dishonesty, and cheating are never acceptable.

I want my life and my parenting to be modeled by God's word.  Proverbs 10:9 says "Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out."  Proverbs 20:7 says "The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!"  I want my kids to walk in that blessing of my integrity.  Even if they don't understand it right now.  Even if most of their other friends are doing something different.  So, we deactivated Nathan's Facebook.  We had a talk with him about why he couldn't have a Facebook yet.  I told him I didn't agree with the policy, but it wasn't my policy.  I also asked him to forgive me for modeling for him a life characterized by lying.  He reluctantly agreed and we deactivated it.  (Now, one day I accidentally signed on as him and reactivated it. I can't remember his password, so it stayed activated, but he's not allowed on it.)

Parents, I write these things not to say that I am a better parent or that parents who let their kids get a Facebook are bad parents.  I don't think you have necessarily led your child down a road to hell just because you let your 9 year old get a Facebook.  However, I just ask you to think through what lessons you are teaching your kids and what they may retain.  How will this action affect your parenting in the future?  What grounds do you have to tell your kids not to lie if you lie for them to get a Facebook account?  Every week I get another friend invite from an under-age kid.  I know that Facebook knows it's going on and that policing age policies is not high on their priority list  Personally, I wish they would change the policy so that I can let my kids get on.  But until the policy changes, I must abide by it because in some ways, my children's integrity is at stake.