Rabu, 31 Juli 2013

A Changed Life

A Changed Life

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- Diana Peterson-Lane was an addict. Then she found Joy Junction-and Jesus.

Diana Peterson-Lane
Today, seven drug free years later and with six years of employment, she is a different person.
If you’d asked Diana 10 years ago what lay ahead for her down the road you would have gotten a pretty vague response. Diana said she didn’t think she was worth any sort of future-good or bad.
She said, “It wasn't just because I couldn't shake my addiction. It was because ... I truly believed I was a nobody and a nothing, so why would I have any type of future.”
However, that has all changed during Diana’s time at Joy Junction. Shelter staff, she said, “saw something in me that I had no clue was there.”
As a result, Diana said, her future is bright. “No illness or hard times can make that view change. I have something for my children to be proud of, and to be able to tell their friends when they talk about their mom.”
RA- Rheumatoid Arthritis and a Righteous Attitude
Considering the pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis with which she has a constant battle, Diana’s energy and attitude are amazing.
Diana said, “I get asked things like, ‘Why aren't you on disability?’ and ‘How do you work all the time?’ I always have the same answer, ‘God.’”
Diana said if it wasn’t God’s will, then she wouldn’t be able to do her job or deal with everything she has to daily.
She said, “The days that the pain is so bad ... I remember I am blessed and that if I don't get up, I may never get up.”
While those times are rough for Diana, she said she likes to tell people that while she has “RA,” the “RA” she likes to focus on is a righteous attitude.
Diana said the way her life has evolved over the last few years is proof positive of God’s intervention in her life.
Working to Help and Inform Others
As a driver and volunteer coordinator for Joy Junction, Diana called what she does “the best jobs in the world.”
Diana’s driving position means she is the first contact for a number of our new shelter guests. She said she holds that dear, “because I was them not too long ago. It helps not only keeps me grounded and remind me where I came from, but lets me help make some of their fears fade away long before we even get back to property.”
One of Diana’s fellow drivers, Liz Boniface, complimented her. She said, “Diana is a hard worker, no matter what she may be going through. She's always ready with a kind word for all of us, even when in pain she always has a smile.”
On her two days a week as volunteer coordinator, Diana gets the opportunity to give people a tour of Joy Junction and help them understand what we’re all about.
She said, “We’re not just a homeless shelter but a place for people to heal. (I aim to) break down the walls of misunderstanding that the community may have of homelessness, and help show we are human beings just like them.”
Resident Services Manager Joel Steen said he also appreciates Diana. “ I see her trying to do what is best for Joy Junction, even when her medical condition makes it difficult for her. She also has a sense of humor, vital in our work. She genuinely cares about our residents.”
Reflecting on her time at Joy Junction, Diana said it has helped make her a productive, strong and loving person.
She continued, “How many people can say that they have a great support system at work and in their private life? Well, I can. With the things I have gone through with my family and my health I still stand tall, and I don't stand alone.”
Diana said she is proud of what God has allowed her to accomplish and thanks Him for all the blessings she's received.
“I know without Him and my family here at Joy Junction I would have lost it a very long time ago, but instead of falling into a very deep abyss, I prevail. ‘My peeps’ have helped me through some of my own trials with their prayers and daily smiles.”
Diana has also helped us through some of our trials by making us smile. Thanks Diana!


Free Youth Series: "Touch"

Free Youth Series: "Touch"

Free Youth Series: "Touch"
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Teaching Young Teens to Articulate Their Faith Stories

Teaching Young Teens to Articulate Their Faith Stories

Teaching Young Teens to Articulate Their Faith Stories
The most effective way to affirm a teen's growth in Christ is to have them share their personal story.
Brooklyn Lindsey One of our roles as youth leaders is to teach teenagers to abide and depend on Jesus each day. We want them to move from crisis care (reaching out to God only when they are in crisis) to community with God, having a relationship that deepens over time and stretches through both the ups and downs of their day.

I'm thrilled when I see teenagers growing in Christ. I see it. I affirm it. I encourage it. And our team does the same. They see it. They affirm it. They encourage it.

Sometimes we see, affirm and encourage in front of other teenagers when we tell their personal stories.

But the most effective way of sharing about their growth in Christ is when they share about their growth in Christ.

Somehow, I forget this too quickly and let the gift of "telling" slip through the cracks. When, in fact, it is one of our greatest evangelistic resources.

So, to get back on track, we're going to start having students tell their stories—how God became more than a name to them—in front of their peers each week.

There are three things I was taught to say when preparing a testimony:
  • Before I met Christ
  • When I met Christ
  • My life since I met Christ
I think this is a good working framework, but for someone who is 11 years old, it may be a bit more difficult to articulate a "before" Christ life. "When I met Christ" can also pose problems to the teenager who has believed in Jesus since they were in preschool. They feel like they don't have a story to tell because there wasn't a crisis moment or event. And life since Christ, for some, isn't always the best. Even though their lives have completely changed from the inside out, their daily life circumstances may not have.

I'm not saying that this format is bad. I'm just saying it presents some problems as I think about young teenagers telling other young teenagers about their own lives with Christ.

In the past, I've done a life-mapping seminar at youth worker conventions, teaching youth workers how to deconstruct and understand their own development, and how to encourage their students to do the same. A part of this map is a timeline of events from birth to present. And on that timeline, I instruct them to draw a symbol during the time when God became more than a name for them.

I like marking life with Christ like this.
Even if a teenager has been in church and has believed in God and said the prayer of salvation, there is probably a moment in his or her life when God became more than lessons learned, but a person to be experienced, and it changed things for them.

I am working on a new set of questions—starting with these:
  • When did God become more than a name for you? Describe that moment when you met Jesus.
  • How has your life changed or developed since that moment or experience?
  • What keeps you growing in God? Name some things that help you grow in your faith.
  • Who encourages you as you follow Christ? 
  • What is a hope or dream that you have given to God?
  • What would you say to your friends about what it's like to know Jesus?
What questions would you add? Developmentally, are there questions that need to be changed to fit?   
Brooklyn has authored numerous books and projects, including Confessions of a Not-So-Supermodel, Opposite Day, Sacred Life, Devo2Go, and The Kingdom Experiment: Youth Edition. She is a pastor and speaker who loves teens, teaching from the Bible, and leading people to live in response to God’s love. Brooklyn, while named after a city in New York, lives in the sunshine state with her husband, Coy, and their super sweet girls, Kirra and Mya.

10 Ways to Help Young People Pursue Dreams

10 Ways to Help Young People Pursue Dreams

10 Ways to Help Young People Pursue Dreams
Tony Morgan's life-tested tips to Millennials on how to experience their future dreams.
I’ve had several conversations in recent weeks with young adults either in school or in the early days of their careers. They’ve been looking for advice from me. I guess they perceive I’ve had some success. And they obviously think I have experience. (That’s a kind way of acknowledging that I’m getting old.)
Here are some quick thoughts that might help you if you’re on the front end of your journey in life.
If I could sit down with Millennials, this is what I’d share. These are some of the basic steps that allowed me to pursue my dreams. Here are …
10 Simple Practices to Help You Experience Your Future Dreams

1. Get responsible while you’re still at home.

Don’t rely on mommy and daddy to bail you out. Don’t let them try to get you out of a bad grade. That’s your challenge. Own your schedule. Own your priorities. Own your financial responsibilities. They may help, but the goal is for you to leave home knowing how to navigate life without mommy and daddy having to step in if there’s a problem.

2. Get a job while you’re in high school.

Any job. You need to learn how to show up on time, make a boss happy and work hard to earn a paycheck … even if you don’t enjoy the job. That’s life. No matter what you will do later, you need to learn how real people work real jobs in the real world.

3. Get a degree, but don’t leave with a lot of debt.

No one owes you an education at an out-of-state school. Even if the government makes it easy for you to borrow all the money you need, go where it’s cheaper. Apply for as many scholarships as you can. Work your way through school. Too much debt will prevent you from pursuing your dreams.

4. Get an internship while you’re in college.

Don’t settle for working at McDonald’s unless you eventually want to own a McDonald’s. In the real world, what distinguishes one candidate from another is quality experience.
Get experience doing what you hope to do in the future. Don’t wait for the internships to come to you. Go out and create them … even if you have to volunteer.

5. Get a real job when you graduate.

It’s highly unlikely that your first job after graduation will be your dream job. But your first job can prepare you to work with and influence your peers and your boss. It can help you begin to process conflict. It will help you learn what you enjoy doing, where you’re skilled and what someone will pay you to do.

6. Get married to someone who shares your values and dreams.

You need a teammate. You need a close friend. You need to help them fulfill their dreams, and you need someone who will help you pursue your purpose. You can’t do that if you marry someone who doesn’t share your core values for life.

7. Get a savings account instead of a car.

If you want to pursue your dream, you can do that in a 10-year-old car. You can’t pursue your dream if you don’t have a savings account.
That savings gives you the freedom to take calculated risks to pursue your dreams while still providing financially for you and your family.

8. Get off your phone and into action.

Just because you “like” something on Facebook or “retweet” something on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re a champion of the cause. Instead, you need to give your time and money. Make a real investment. (And, by the way, be careful what you post on Facebook and Twitter. Employers look there first.)

9. Get a mentor.

But don’t ask anyone to be your mentor. They’ll probably say no. Instead, read everything they’ve written. Listen to what they have to say. Watch how they live their lives. Email them pointed questions, and they may respond. You need their wisdom and experience more than you need their time. (If you also get their time, that’s a bonus.)

10. Get disciplined about doing the next right thing right now.

If you want to experience your dream, you need to begin taking the next right step right now. That’s where integrity is built. That’s where you learn to persevere. That’s where people begin to believe in you. Be faithful in the now, and you may just experience your dreams in the future. If you fail to take the next step with integrity, though, you may never experience your dreams.

Pretty basic stuff. If you want to know the nitty gritty personal details, I shared some of that in an article called “How to Get From Here to There” several years ago.

Of course, you don’t want to follow these exact steps. Your plan is different than my plan. I highly recommend, though, that you embrace these foundational principles.

And I hope you get to experience your dreams.

 Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of TonyMorganLive.com. He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. He's the author of the leadership book Killing Cockroaches and his latest eBooks on leadership and ministry strategies are now available on Kindle.
More from Tony Morgan or visit Tony at www.tonymorganlive.com

Kamis, 25 Juli 2013

Free Youth Resource Package: LeaderTreks

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Jim Morrison, New Mexico, The Beautiful Gallows, and the Gothic Connection

Jim Morrison, New Mexico, The Beautiful Gallows, and the Gothic Connection

By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- When one thinks of Gothic music-that odd mixture of atmosphere and rebellion, the mind may wander to Goth music architects, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, or the Cure-during the post punk days in England.
Jim Morrison
Or maybe later incantations such as Cocteau Twins-in Scotland-and 45 Grave in the United States. Or you may think of the recent industrial Gothic sounds of Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson. If you were to go back even further in music history, you'd wind up with two groups-The Velvet Underground and The Doors.
But rarely does one think of New Mexico when thinking of Gothic music.
Yet, the southwestern state has a definite place in Goth music history, a geographical point of influence for the music and lyrics of the Godfather of Goth, Jim Morrison.
It was in New Mexico that Jim Morrison-of the rock group, The Doors-lived twice: during his early and late childhood years, before moving to California then back to Florida, and finally to California (Morrison's father was in the military), where he formed The Doors.
Jim Morrison lying on stage during one of his dramatic performances
What is clearly known is that Morrison was influenced by the culture of New Mexico, a state steeped in mystery and beauty; even Morrison's personal look-concha belts, western-inspired shirts, and Frye cowboy boots- draw from the region. And his moniker, "The Lizard King," conjures up the desert southwest.
Music journalist, Jim Reynalds, believes that Gothic music had its origins in Morrison's deep voice and dark sensibilities. Writer, Chris Ott, in this book, "Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures," conveys that Joy Division's singer, Ian Curtis, was fan of Morrison, following his lead in vocal style and demeanor.
In the book, "No One Gets Out Alive," writer, Jerry Hopkins, alludes that Jim Morrison received much of his visual and lyrical content from New Mexico: be it an automobile accident that Jim saw as a boy living in Albuquerque, or from a sledding accident his sister had in the Sandia Mountains (east of Albuquerque) where Jim experienced the pain and misfortune in others.
Concerning the automobile accident Morrison saw in New Mexico, writer, Stephen Davis, states, "Fascinated by the bloody spectacle, Jimmy tried to get out of the car to follow his father, but his mother held him back.Jimmy shuddered and strained to get a last look at the carnage.[Jim] never forgot the dying Indians. 'It was the first time I discovered death,' he recounted many years later."
What is it about New Mexico that influenced the opaque and atmospheric sounds that helped shape the music and lyrics of Morrison, and through his influence, Goth music? Or, for that matter, what in New Mexico elicits melancholy feelings and otherworld attitudes that formed Morrison's childhood memories?
For one, New Mexico is a confluence of ancient cultures, a hybrid of myth and history: Native American, Hispano, and Anglo. And this convergence brings with it a basket of religious thought, philosophical musing and beliefs, some otherworldly and enigmatic.
Penitentes in New Mexico
Take for example the various Pueblo Indian religious rites, or the Matachines ceremonies of the Hispano culture, both celebrating the union of earth and spirit, the physical and metaphysical. Or maybe the Catholic Penitente traditions that meld suffering with religious epiphany, piety and sin.
In a way, mood, setting, faith, melancholy, myth and ambiance are woven into the fabric of New Mexico-elements Jim Morrison-and Goth music-represent; a type of poetry of culture that melds into expressions of creativity.
Second, the New Mexico landscape evokes an exchange of shadow and light (many artist consider New Mexico's light unlike any in the world), illuminating ancient ruins and modern cities, mountains, rock formations, valleys and plains; atmosphere in its deepest form.
Dancers at Zuni Pueblo
And all this landscape becomes etched in the mind, helping shape and craft contrasts in thought and imagery, a characteristic of Morrison's-and Goth-music.
As an example, think of the ethereal and beautiful atmosphere found in Gothic music intermixed with a dirge or driving beat: beauty meets the beast; sublimity meets the repulsive; the heavens greet the earth; the saint meets the sinner.
New Mexico breeds these temperaments, a land ripe for inventiveness, inspiration, thought, and expression.
So it's no wonder that a new Christian band, The Beautiful Gallows, has emerged from the state. Debuting the song, "To The End," the gothic connection continues in the Land of Enchantment (the motto of New Mexico).
The words of "To The End," mostly taken directly from Scripture, allude to life and death, common themes in Gothic music:
The hour had come
For Him to depart
Having loved His own

The Holy Lamb of God
Who takes away our sin
And grants eternal peace
Hallowed be Thy name
Hallowed by Thy name

Chorus: You have loved me to the end (3x)
May Your kingdom come
May Your will be done
On earth as in heaven

The Righteous Prince of Peace
Is to us the end and a
New beginning

Hallowed be Thy name
Hallowed be Thy name
Meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico at Studio 150-I talked with The Beautiful Gallows members. I ask, guitarist, Spec, where the stimulus for the song came from. He said, "The inspiration of the song-first and foremost-came from Scripture. But beyond that, the song called for a combination of angst and ambiance. I wanted to communicate Christ's looming death with power and fear."
Author, Cormac McCarthy
Continuing, Spec said, "The influence for the words were the Biblical text themselves, but also the mood of the New Mexican culture: the Southwestern gothic novels of New Mexico resident, Cormac McCarthy, particularly 'The Crossing' and 'The Road.' McCarthy is able to infuse biblical motifs with philosophical and theological slants. Another influence would be the imagery of Georgia O'Keeffe's New Mexico paintings: barren landscape, desert plateaus, skulls and sky." Drummer, Tobias, used a combination of early 70's rock and post-punk dirge-like drumming for his tracks, stating, "I wanted to communicate darkness and authority, a combination of tom-tom drum work with an in-your-face rock chorus riff. The song is deep, especially the spiritual message, so I wanted the drums to reflect that."
Bassist, Loyal, who wrote the pre-chorus riff, stated that the song reminded him of the text in Song of Solomon, "Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death."
"Think of that," he continued. "Love and death go together. It was through Christ's death that love had its greatest influence."
An interesting side note of The Beautiful Gallows is that each member had tenures with other Christian bands prior to forming The Beautiful Gallows, and has since assumed stage names. So a purposeful anonymity surrounds the band.
When asked about this, Spec stated, "We want the music to speak for itself, not the bands we were in the past, but the creative future. And on another note, we don't want the band to be about us, but about the God that inspires us."
I asked them where the name, The Beautiful Gallows, came from and keyboardist, Bell, explained, "I came up with it. It is quite fitting, really. When one thinks of the gallows, the mind wanders to the southwestern part of the United States: Tombstone, AZ and the like-a place where criminals found their end.
"But for us, the name has deeper meaning. Gallows came to prominence after the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, abolished the crucifixion-in memory of Christ. So to a certain extent, the gallows are a reminder that the ultimate death-Christ on the cross-was marked and came to an end. Christ paid for it all."
I asked if the band would ever tour and Spec stated fairly directly, "Most likely you'll never see a Beautiful Gallows tour. You'll need to catch the music on-line."
Loyal-who has an art degree-states, "Our artistic pursuits are important to the band, so you'll usually find the music associated with aural imagery. This may never translate to a live tour."
I asked if Goth was a good description of the music of The Beautiful Gallows.
Bell said, "In a way, no; but on the other hand, yes. 'No' in the sense that we don't prescribe to the whole Goth lifestyle mindset, focusing in on darkness, death, and the like. We prefer life. But, 'yes,' in that-as Christians-we understand that death and life go hand in hand: Christ died so we might live; Christians die to self to live for Christ; and ultimately, we die to eternal glory. And 'To The End' does have a very heavy, melancholy sound, that's for sure."
Loyal then jumps in: "I think the Goth comparison is more in the mood of the songs-not the status of our worldview, the dark tranquility of the songs are coming to terms with sorrow, pain, and the anticipation for joy."
Spec states, "Traditional Goth music was rebellion for rebellion's sake; rebellion without a cause, if you will. The Beautiful Gallows have a cause to our rebellion: Christ. We are rebels with a cause."
According to one popular definition of Goth rock, the music "typically deals with dark themes addressed through lyrics and the music's atmosphere. exhibit[ing] romanticism, morbidity, religious symbolism and supernatural mysticism."
When one listen's to The Beautiful Gallows song, "To The End," many of these qualities are manifest. However, after speaking to members of the band, it's clear that "Goth" isn't the best description for the music; maybe "Cathedral Rock," where an infusion of light and hope penetrates the darkness and transport the listener towards the heavens?
Artist, Georgia O'Keeffe with one of her paintings at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
But what is clear is that The Beautiful Gallows stand firmly in the New Mexico region's culture-be it the history of Jim Morrison's musical (not lifestyle) influence, the novels of Cormac McCarthy, the art of Georgia O'Keeffe, or the light and shadow dichotomy of a region steeped in the ancient ways of antiquity, tradition, geography, art, and lore-the fact is that New Mexico helps breeds the art.
And most importantly The Beautiful Gallows members are God-fearing men, wanting less to reflect death, but more about pointing people to life. They do this through soundscapes made to reflect an authentic Christian worldview, one full of creativity and hope; one full of Christ, which includes His death and resurrection.
To listen to The Beautiful Gallows first release, "To The End," click here: https://soundcloud.com/im-an-idiot
* For journalistic transparency, it must be noted that I had a small hand in helping the song along, doing some vocal work.


Rabu, 24 Juli 2013

Free Sermon Package: "Helping the Hurting"

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"When the unimaginable happens and reality begins to sink in, we begin to wonder… Where is God in this tragedy? What can I do to help?"

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Rabu, 17 Juli 2013

She Just Wanted to Be Like Other Children

She Just Wanted to Be Like Other Children

Gospel for Asia
For Immediate Release

CARROLLTON, TX (ANS) -- For the last three years, 11-year-old Kalavati had worked alongside her mother, Bhama, trying to provide for their nearly destitute family. Other children played without many responsibilities, but Kalavati did not have that option.

Without a home or job, Kalavati and her mother had to beg in order to survive
When Kalavati was 8 years old, things took a turn for the worse when her father, Deval, lost the job that kept the family afloat. He did not, however, lose his job for any ordinary reason. One day someone performed witchcraft on him, causing him to become mentally disturbed. He not only stopped showing up for work, he disappeared altogether. His family did not hear from him, and nobody knew where he had gone.

Kalavati's family became increasingly worried as time went on. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and the months dragged on. A year went by, and the family had lost all hope of ever seeing him again.

Crazy Man Turns Out to be Father

Kalavati's father was not the same after someone performed a curse on him. He became violent and his behavior became out of control
During a walk through their village, Deval's mother stumbled upon a jarring scene: a crazed looking man, naked and alone, sitting under a tree. At first, she did not recognize the man with the long beard, but she soon realized it was Deval. She immediately took her husband back to his home, where he was greeted by a relieved and overjoyed family.

The relief and joy did not last long though, as the family realized Deval was still not in his right mind. They took him to the hospital for treatments but nothing helped. He was violent and no one could control him. He even began throwing stones at other villagers.

Hopeless Mother Turns to Suicide

Fed up, the people in the village forced the entire family to leave. Without a home or the support of neighbors, Kalavati's life grew more difficult. Her family set out for the big city, where Bhama hoped to find work.

For days, they lived and begged on the streets until Bhama found work as a maid at a farmhouse. The job did not, however, provide the relief the family desperately needed. Kalavati's mother worked day and night and still could not provide even two meals a day for the family. Kalavati helped her mother with laundry and cleaning utensils in the house, all the while seeing the home owner's children studying, and wishing she could do the same.

Bhama borrowed money from her employer to pay for Deval's continued treatment, but it offered no results.

Completely discouraged, she decided there was only one thing she could provide for her family: death. She would poison herself and the family so they would no longer have to face their ever-growing burdens.

Visitors Offer Prayer and Hope

Bhama worked hard to provide for her family, but sometimes they still did not have enough to eat
Around this time, Bridge of Hope staff members visited the family. The whole family looked worn down, and Kalavati looked much older than her actual age because of the harsh conditions the family was living in. The staff members listened as Bhama shared with them that she did not believe there was a God, as well as her plans to end her life. They answered by telling her of Jesus and praying with the family.

Bhama began to rethink her belief that there was no God after her encounter with the believers. Deval began improving a little, and the only explanation Bhama could find was the believers' prayers. She went to the Bridge of Hope center the following day to talk more with them and ask if they would enroll Kalavati.

Different from the Inside Out

The staff members admitted Kalavati, and she started attending the center the very next week. Meanwhile, the staff members continued to ask God for Deval's healing and for Bhama to find stable work that would provide for her family's needs.

Gradually, the family was transformed by the love of Christ they were shown through the Gospel for Asia workers.

Kalavati is flourishing at Bridge of Hope. The love of Jesus has given her a reason to dance and play with her classmates
Kalavati now has ample opportunities to play and be free of heavy burdens. It is not uncommon to find her dancing with the other children or drawing pictures.

With the Bridge of Hope staff's help, Bhama found a stable gardening job at the local hospital, where Kalavati sometimes goes to help her-not because she has to anymore, but because she wants to.

Deval is improving little by little, too, and he is no longer aggressive or violent toward others. He eats meals with his wife and daughter and even attends church with the family, where they worship Jesus-the One who has saved them in every way.

Because of sponsors like you, Gospel for Asia's Bridge of Hope ministry is able to reach out to families like Kalavati's and share with them the hope found in Jesus Christ. To sponsor a child like Kalavati and change a family from the inside out, please go to: http://www.gfa.org/sponsorachild/

Note: 100% of what you give for sponsorship goes to the field.

Gospel for Asia (GFA), a Christian mission organization based in Carrollton, Texas, has brought the Good News of Christ to millions in South Asia since its founding in 1978. GFA provides education, meals and healthcare to tens of thousands of South Asia's impoverished children through its Bridge of Hope program. For more information, visit www.gfa.org or on Facebook.

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

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Selasa, 16 Juli 2013

"Going All In"

Free Youth Series: "Going All In"

Free Youth Series: "Going All In"
"Every stage and position in life presents the opportunity to risk something valuable for God."

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Kamis, 11 Juli 2013


You are No Longer Outcasts by Billy Graham

Someone once described a church as a group of porcupines in a snowstorm: we need each other to keep warm, but the closer we get, the more we poke each other — and the more uncomfortable we become.

But of course, it shouldn’t be that way. A church should be a place of warmth and fellowship, a place where even the newest member or latest visitor feels welcome and at home. Is this true in your church? Simply attending a worship service doesn’t automatically mean closer relationships with others.

If you are an old-timer in your church, go out of your way to welcome visitors and new members. And if you are a visitor or new member, make a special effort to get to know people. What Bible classes are held? Does a group of people your age meet regularly? Don’t depend only on one worship service a week to help you meet people or grow closer to Christ.

If this step sounds a little daunting, remember that your best Friend of all — Jesus Christ — will be with you each step of the way.

And so you are no longer called outcasts and wanderers but citizens with God’s people, members of God’s holy family, and residents of His household. — Ephesians 2:19 (The Voice)

* * *

Your Turn

Most of us have a church story that relates to the porcupines in a snowstorm analogy. And yet, we in the Body of Christ need each other; we need to fellowship with one another; we need to support each other and grow in Christlikeness together. Are you involved in your local church community? What steps can you take this week to connect with other believers in your community? Please leave a comment on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

Selasa, 09 Juli 2013

How to Build Your Youth Ministry Identity

How to Build Your Youth Ministry Identity

How to Build Your Youth Ministry Identity
Your ministry needs identity because identity shows value.
One of the largest frustrations I had early on in ministry was when people didn’t know what I did or who I was. I felt like the invisible man leading a nonexistent ministry. As a result, I built up a lot of negative feelings. I had resentment toward the teens who didn’t come. I had jealousy toward other churches that were receiving praise. And I grew angry at myself for not being good enough. My problem is that my ministry didn’t have an identity. It existed; however, why it existed and for what purpose was nowhere to be found.
You need to make sure you have a clear identity to your ministry. Identity gives people a reason to invest in your ministry. It gives you direction and focus on what God has called you to do. But, to have an identity is more than just to exist. A true youth ministry identity has purpose and value. To build on that identity, you need to:
Know Your Target Audience: Your target audience is the small group of individuals that if you reach, then you can reach the rest of your participants. That means knowing what they enjoy and what topics are on their minds. Craft your messages, activities and programs to them, and you’ll reach a larger audience.
Understand Your Limits: You cannot be everything to everyone. If you do that, you’ll not only water down your identity but wear yourself out. Look at your ministry’s strengths and build upon them. Are you a creative ministry? Do you connect students well through small groups? Discover what you do best and feed it.
Focus on the Vision: Why does your ministry exist? Make sure that you, your team, your teens and parents know why your ministry exists. By focusing on the vision, you’ll avoid temptations and distractions that will pull you toward disaster. Vision will stick and become apparent if your ministry is focusing on it consistently.
Invite Others Into the Journey: Build relationships with the other ministries and organizations that surround you. Invest in them and they’ll invest in you. They’ll advocate, share and spread what you are doing. By having partners and networks share your purpose, your identity will grow.
Your ministry needs identity because identity shows value. If people do not see value in what you do, they will not want a part of it. There is so much competing for their time and energy, let them know why you are important and what you can do for them.
What do you do to build your youth ministry’s identity? 

Chris Wesley Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met my wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, heI was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry. More from Chris Wesley or visit Chris at www.christopherwesley.org

Minggu, 07 Juli 2013

Tattooed pastor Jay Bakker plans to bring his unconventional Christian church to a Minneapolis bar

Son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker to start church in Minnesota
Tattooed pastor Jay Bakker plans to bring his unconventional Christian church to a Minneapolis bar

By Michael Ireland
Special Reporter, ASSIST News Service

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (ANS) -- After nearly seven years as pastor of a popular New York church, Jay Bakker, the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, has moved to Minneapolis to start a new congregation - in a bar.
Jay Bakker has family roots in Minnesota
(Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune)
According to an article by Rose French in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper, his move to Minnesota reflects the state's growing prominence in the Emerging Church movement, an unconventional, broad-minded brand of Christianity that questions traditional religious labels and practices.
French writes that, "covered in tattoos and piercings, Bakker looks more like a hipster than a minister - quite different in style and beliefs from his evangelical parents," who made headlines in the 1980s for their PTL ministry and subsequent fall from grace amid scandal and fraud. Bakker is liberal-leaning on social issues and a fervent gay rights supporter. He has married same-sex couples in New York where the practice is legal.
French reports that while Bakker spent his early youth in North Carolina where the PTL ministry was based, he has strong roots in Minnesota. His mother was from International Falls. His parents met at what was then North Central Bible College, now North Central University. His father served nearly four years in federal prison in Rochester for his part in the PTL fraud, and Jay visited him there as a teen.
French says Bakker keeps in touch with his father, who leads a church in Branson, MO. His mother, who remarried and became Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, died from cancer in 2007.
Bakker said he and his wife were drawn to Minneapolis for a number of reasons, chiefly the thriving Emerging Church presence. Leaders count close to a half-dozen Twin Cities area congregations, according to the Star Tribune report.
"In Minneapolis, I've seen so many intellectual believers," Bakker said. "People are open-minded. I'm excited to dive into that and see more of that in the city."
The Star Tribune says that in Brooklyn, members of Bakker's Revolution church meet at Pete's Candy Store, a hip bar where Bakker has delivered a sermon from a stool or talked about religious questions he's wrestling with. Up to 75 people attend; others find his talks online.
Bakker has been looking for a Minneapolis location where he can mimic this stripped-down form of worship, the newspaper said.
At his new church there will be no live band or music, no ornate trappings or traditions. Participants can talk about most any religious subject matter. Members of Emerging Church congregations like Bakker's have often become disillusioned with institutionalized religion, the newspaper said.
"For some people, they've been so hurt by the church that the fact they can have a beer or drink in order to come back to church is a baby step," Bakker told the newspaper in an interview.
The newspaper goes on to report that Bakker himself became disillusioned following the fall of his parents' ministry. He said pastors and other supporters abandoned his family when they were in need of help.
"No one wants to have anything to do with you," Bakker said. "Your dad's sitting in prison. Your mom is trying to raise you as a single parent. ... It wasn't the Christian message I'd heard growing up. My parents were always real positive. ... They were like, 'God loves you, He really does. And you can make it.' Life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. That kind of stuff."
"When we went through this, I didn't see any of that. So in a way I got real disillusioned because I thought, that must be just talk. It's all talk."
Bakker fell into alcohol and drug abuse, the newspaper adds. But eventually he and a group of friends formed a Revolution church in Arizona in 1994 - considered among the first emerging churches in the country. He established another in Atlanta, which operated from 1998 to 2006.
Since then, the newspaper states, Bakker has been a pastor at Revolution in New York. For now, he says that location will keep going under the leadership of his co-pastor while he starts a new congregation in Minneapolis.
The newspaper quotes Gerardo Marti, a sociology professor at Davidson College, who is writing a book about the emerging Christian movement. He said Bakker attracts attention because of his parents, but has also made a name for himself.
"Jay Bakker has become the antithesis to the seeker megachurch," Marti said. "The emergent church movement is a reaction to what many perceive to be the excesses of conventional Christianity.
"On the one side, I think it speaks against the large mega-churches. But I also think it targets what they perceive as an apathy and rote religion that exists in the mainline [Protestant churches]."
The newspaper also cites Tony Jones, a theologian-in-residence at Solomon's Porch in south Minneapolis, one of the most prominent emerging churches in the country. Jones is close friends with Bakker and believes his brand of Christianity will be attractive in the Twin Cities. 

Jay with his book
"Jay has had every reason to leave the church," Jones said. "He has every reason in the world to quit Christianity, to never look back. But he has come back. He was the prodigal son. He dropped out of high school, he got into all sorts of drugs and alcohol, got a lot of those tattoos during his sojourn away from Christianity. But I think he just couldn't ignore the calling in his life.
The newspaper adds that in Bakker's latest book, "Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I've Crossed," he writes about his doubts about the existence of God and where he is now on his faith journey.
"Doubt is something that needs to be embraced with faith, because doubt is an element of faith," Bakker said. "Faith is not fact. It's like hope.
Bakker concluded: "My faith was gone and I didn't know what to do ... and [when it came back] what happened was my faith became bigger. To me it's mind-boggling and beautiful, and I can't even begin to know what it is."


Rabu, 03 Juli 2013

Free Album Download: "Welcome Home" by Stevie Lujan

Free Album Download: "Welcome Home" by Stevie Lujan

Free Album Download: "Welcome Home" by Stevie Lujan
Download this eight-track album of worship songs from Stevie Lujan.

Free Album Download 

Download this eight-track album of worship songs from Stevie Lujan, Welcome Home.
This album includes high energy praises and intimate worship songs that can set the tone as entrance music for your worship gatherings.

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Resource provided by Come&Live

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Why You Should Quit Listening to Your Pastor by Ben Reed

Why You Should Quit Listening to Your Pastor

Why You Should Quit Listening to Your Pastor
Stop listening and start doing something.
I’m done listening to my pastor.
D.O.N.E. Done.
All this talk on believing the Gospel. Trusting God through pain. Loving my kids with all of my heart. Believing God’s way is better than my way. I’m done.

Will you join me?

Quit listening to your pastor talk about how much he loves you. About how God has a plan for your life. About how you need to link arms with other people and join a small group.
Quit listening to him when he says that it’s good for your heart to give generously.
Quit listening when he talks about turning your back on your sin. About trusting the God who loves you. About your need to repent.
And when he prays for you … stop listening then, too. Don’t listen when he encourages you to step up and serve others. Or to spend a week this summer at student camp. Or going overseas to share the love and hope of the Gospel.
Stop listening. Please.
Stop listening and start doing something.
Take what your pastor says and start living it. Let it resonate so deeply in your soul that it pushes you to action.
Listening alone is worthless. When the act of hearing Truth doesn’t end in some form of action, it’s not done you any good. As James puts it,
"But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves." — James 1:22
If we listen and don’t do, we’re fools. James goes on to compare us to the person who looks in the mirror to make sure everything’s straight … and as soon as they look away, they forget what they looked like. That’s dumb.
So let’s quit wasting our pastor’s time by listening. It’s not doing either of us any good. A storm’s brewing, and we’ve got to be ready. The question is not whether we will have enough knowledge or not. The question will be whether we can do anything about it.
"But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." — Jesus, Luke 6:49
Stop listening to your pastor. And start doing.  

Is there Grace for Gay People? Apparently Not…

Is there Grace for Gay People? Apparently Not…

Grace UniversityA young college student from Grace University will not be given her degree this year, even though she earned it.
Four years ago, Danielle Powell was accepted into Grace University in Omaha. Due to her academic excellence and position on the university volleyball team, she was granted scholarships to cover her tuition. During her time at Grace University, she completed her classes, interacted with other students, and even started a homeless outreach in Omaha’s downtown area.
But she won’t be graduating this year.
Why not?
During her final semester at Grace University, it was discovered that she was gay and was living in a same-sex relationship with another woman.
Did Grace University respond with grace?
…What do you think?
Despite her academic excellence, her involvement in the community, and her role on the Volleyball team, Danielle Powell was expelled from Grace University. The university officials told her, “It would be impossible for the faculty of Grace University to affirm your Christian character, a requirement for degree conferral.”
Danielle PowellBut it didn’t stop there. Not only did they expel Danielle, refusing to allow he to finish her degree, they are also billing her for the final semester of tuition at Grace University–the semester which she was not allowed to complete.
And we wonder why Christians are often viewed as hateful, unforgiving, mean-spirited, hypocritical, and rude.
I don’t care what your stance is on homosexual marriage, gay rights, or whether or not same-sex relationships are sinful, everybody should be able to agree that what “Grace” University is doing is certainly NOT gracious.
I reject this sort of behavior by Christians. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Christ.
If you want to call on Grace University to confer a degree upon Danielle, I encourage you to go sign a petition at Change.org. Nobody is asking them to agree with her lifestyle. All that is being asked is that they live up to their name, and show a little grace.

Bono on Jesus, Religion, and Grace

Bono on Jesus, Religion, and Grace

Frank Viola wrote a post recently about a book about Bono, lead singer for U2.
bono Jesus religion graceI have been a U2 fan for nearly 25 years, although the more recent albums have not really been my favorite…. but whatever.
In the book, Bono had this to say about Jesus, grace, and religion. I don’t know much about the rest of Bono’s theology, but if these statements are any guide, Bono gets it!
My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.
There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?
It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace. You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.
That’s [the stupid stuff] between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says:
“No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this.”
So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched
If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.
Good stuff! If this quote represents Bono’s theology, then his thinking is better than most of what comes from America’s pulpits and seminaries.