Selasa, 31 Mei 2016

Their hope is your hope. Meet them and see.

Attend a VOM Advance Conference

Attend a VOM Advance Conference and be inspired by how the gospel is advancing in hostile nations.

Some of the richest fellowship comes from meeting our persecuted brothers and sisters face-to-face. But you don’t have to go overseas to meet them; we are bringing them to your area with the VOM Advance Conference. Their inspiring words will wrap you in a blanket of hope. You will leave with fresh motivation and joy!

Register now for a powerful day of worship and fellowship. Be sure to bring your family and friends. There’s no registration fee, but we ask that you register.

“After my salvation, attending your conference has been the most important event in my spiritual life.”
—Norfolk, Virginia, conference attendee

“We certainly don’t hear [in the media] how the church is advancing in the midst of and in spite of suffering. This might have been called a conference but I see it as a message from God to open our eyes to how He is growing the church in and through persecution and suffering.”
—Norfolk, Virginia, conference attendee

Persecution of Christians in China Up 8.62 Percent From Last Year

Persecution of Christians in China Up 8.62 Percent From Last Year

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 2.07.13 PM
“In 2015, the deterioration of religious freedom and human rights in China continued at an alarming rate, while the erosion of the rule of law was the worst it’s been since the chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.”
Sometimes we need to take the numbers coming out of China with a grain of salt. Between the desperation of the governing Communist Party (CPC) to save face (especially to outsiders) and the practical need for the underground church to be discreet, numerical analysis isn’t always accurate. Especially when it comes to Christianity.
However, part of “bearing one another’s burdens” would require us to know what specifically is burdening our brothers and sisters in Christ—if for no other reason than to pray for them. Enter China Aid. In March 2016, this nonprofit organization committed to “promoting religious freedom and rule of law in China,” published a report on the “Chinese Government Persecution of Christians and Churches in China” for the 2015 year.
On the page explaining how the information was gathered for the report, China Aid’s website states, “It is important to note that these cases only represent a small portion of the total number of cases of religious persecution occurring throughout China.” Let me paraphrase: Numbers are hard to gather in China. We can only give you a snapshot of what is going on. The reality is, sadly, probably much worse than what we are about to tell you.
In its opening statement, the report claims, “In 2015, the deterioration of religious freedom and human rights in China continued at an alarming rate, while the erosion of the rule of law was the worst it’s been since the chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.”
When referring to persecution, the report is citing incidents like the following:
—In the Zhejiang region, 90 percent of the church crosses were destroyed, along with numerous churches themselves.
—”The government forcibly shut down house churches, detained large numbers of pastors…and confiscated church property.”
—Schools were forbidden to engage in any religious activities or celebrate religious holidays, and activities with religious affiliation, like Sunday school or summer camp, were shut down.
—”At colleges and universities, students and faculty were required to fill out questionnaires to report their religious beliefs.”
To give you an idea of numbers, China Aid was able to verify the following in just one region of the country (Zhejiang). However, to give you an idea of the reality, we’ve also included the estimates China Aid gathered from actual church leaders (shown in parenthesis).
—20 churches forcibly demolished (30 churches)
—1,300 crosses removed (1,500)
—500 Christians taken into custody, 130 Christians physically injured, 60 Christians administratively or criminally detained, 28 pastors arrested or charged with a crime (1,000 Christians taken into custody, injured, detained or arrested)
The report also offered a “bottom line” so to speak: An estimation of the total number of people (just under 20,000) who had been persecuted in 2015. This is an 8.62 percent increase compared to last year’s report.
China Aid is diligent to mention in multiple places that this report is an estimation; they only report things they can verify by a secondary source. They also are mainly reporting on the house churches (or “underground”)—and not the government-approved Three-Self Churches. Finally, they remind us that the CPC is not a fan of any religion, and just because this report only covers Christians, that shouldn’t downplay the reality that Muslims and Buddhists also suffer persecution.
Toward the end of the report, China Aid points to the fact that the persecution has acted like a refining fire, and that more and more Christians are starting to speak out against the CPC and its policies. In fact, even some of the Three-Self churches (which typically have to tow the party line pretty closely) “spoke publicly about leaving the government system, and urban and rural Three-Self church leaders resigned from their official positions.”
So why this sudden increase in persecution? An article by the Christian Post offers this explanation by Bof Fu, the president of China Aid, “‘It is a political fear for the Communist Party, as the number of Christians in the country far outnumber the members of the party.’”
China Aid’s report concludes on a bright note, stating, “Despite the worsening situation of religious freedom in China in the last decade, China Aid sees great hope in the fast growth of the house church movement across China and firmly believes that God’s love and justice will eventually cover the vast expanse of this nation.”
We should certainly be thankful for organizations like these that are giving us a glimpse into the suffering our brothers and sisters face. Let us continue to hold them up in prayer and seek to know their circumstances better.

3 Characteristics of Middle Schoolers You Need to Know

3 Characteristics of Middle Schoolers You Need to Know

One parent learns what their sixth grader is REALLY thinking.
One fall, I attended a three-hour orientation at my son’s school, learning about what to expect when you’re expecting a middle school kid in the house. One of the breakout sessions, taught by the school counselor, was exceptionally valuable, not only for us as parents but also for those of us who work with tweens and middle school students in the context of ministry. 
[Editor’s note: Click here to learn three ways to help the parents of middle schoolers.]
We had just settled into the changes we were about to experience when the counselor dropped this one:
“Your sixth graders are forgetful, power-hungry worriers.”
We all chuckled an uncomfortable laugh. Was she kidding? That sounds extreme, right? I mean, forgetful and anxious, sure, I could see that. Power hungry though? Vladimir Putin is power hungry. But our kids?
Then she began to unpack how this all plays itself out and what we can help kids do about it, and it all started to make sense.
Sixth graders are FORGETFUL. 
For many middle school kids, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Sure, you will have an outlier that will be hyper-focused on their schedule and being organized. But for many of them, remembering events and details is simply not in their skill set quite yet. Whatever it is—homework, soccer games, school projects, anything that is off in the future—keeping track of and completing the tasks will be difficult for these kids without some help.
For parents, the best we can do for them is offer support. This doesn’t mean we become our child’s personal assistant, micro-managing every detail of their lives. Kids are learning how to be adults. They need to experience the tension of remembering tasks and events. But, as parents, we can be understanding of this stage in their development and offer help and solutions that will work for them.
• First of all, ask them what they think might help them remember XYZ. Getting them involved in the process will help them take more ownership of the plan.
• If they have a mobile device, teach them how to use reminders and calendar apps.
• If Post-It notes are more your style, teach your kids to put them front and center on the fridge or the front door or door to the garage where they will see it before heading out for the day.
Do something to help, otherwise our kids won’t be set up to win and might give up. These are learned skills, and middle school is the perfect time to practice them.
Sixth graders make POWER PLAYS.
Much like those years of the terrible twos, your middle school kids are testing their boundaries. Because they are so “me focused,” most of the time that boundary-testing looks like trying to control situations with peers, siblings and parents. Simply put, they want to be in charge. And this is only natural. As kids get older and mature into adults, independence is inevitable. But independence is different than controlling their world.
As adults, we understand that just because we are independent, it doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want. Sure, we can eat ice cream for breakfast, but deciding to skip out on a project for work isn’t such a great idea. In a sixth grader’s mind, the ice cream and the work project are the same thing and hold equal weight.
As parents, we have opportunity to help them understand the difference. We need to pick our battles wisely. And time our battles wisely. Arguing does little good if the argument escalates into a fight. Know your kids; it might be best to wait to talk through the merits of the power play your kids are trying to make. Let everyone cool down, and have a civilized discussion when everyone is calm.
When possible, give them the power to make choices that will help give them a sense of control; where to go for dinner, what to wear to school, how to fix their hair or what to do for family night. And let them fail. If they choose not to finish their schoolwork or complete a project, allow them to feel the consequences of that. They will soon understand that there are some things you just have to do even if you don’t want to do them.
If you’re not sure where to start, Love and Logic has some great resources for the tween and teen years.
Sixth graders have WORRIES.
They might not ever show it. They feel so big and grown up going into middle school, but kids have insecurities. Because they’re forgetful, they worry that they’ll misplace something important. They worry if they’ll have a best friend. They worry if people will like them or like what they’re wearing. They worry about silly things like whether or not they’ll get the “cheese touch.”
Often middle school kids will mirror the emotions of their peers; they will worry about what their friends worry about. Your child may not be going through anything, but they will think their world is crashing in because their best friend’s world is actually crashing in.
For parents, we need to remember that our kids just want a safe place to belong and feel connected. Middle school friendships are fickle. Let home be a place where they will experience unconditional love and acceptance regardless of what’s happening. Help them find a small group of peers and trusted adults who will do the same.
This is an adventure. And helping your child with a solution that works today might not work tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean we stop trying to help our kids. We’re not raising middle school students. We’re raising adults whom we want to see succeed in this world.
These are only three characteristics, what would you add to this list?
What are some ways you help your middle school child cope with these sorts of characteristics? 

Free Youth Series: “The Bee Squad”

Free Youth Series: “The Bee Squad”

Youth - Bee
This four-part series tackles emotions, which grow deeper and more serious as teens grow older.

Free Youth Series

Download this 4-week series to share in your youth ministry.
From, “A group of childhood friends known as The Bee Squad is reunited after they’re denied access to their high school prom. They try to sneak in, but find themselves in situations that raise some strong emotions. This four-part series tackles emotions, which grow deeper and more serious as teens grow older. For this series, make sure your leaders are trained to handle students who share serious topics. Walk them through the steps they need to take if a student communicates harm to themselves or harm to others. Pay particular attention to Week 3 as students are asked to share what they’re dealing with.”
This series package includes:
  • Experiential options
  • Leader guides
  • Message videos
  • Wrap ups

Get Download Now

Resource provided by

5 Characteristics of Prospective Youth Leaders

5 Characteristics of Prospective Youth Leaders

Youth Leaders
What being a student leader really looks like.
Every leader understands the importance of recruiting and developing volunteers. It is not rocket science, but so few do this the right way.
Why? I believe we recruit people, but not always the right people.
But part of being a good leader is not only recruiting people, it is recruiting the right people.
So, if we want to recruit the right people in youth ministry, how can we know that they are the right people for the job? Here are some things to look for when recruiting youth leaders:

1. Personal Growth Plan

Before you throw a leader to help lead your students, ask them what their personal growth plan looks like.
A personal growth plan assures you that they are growing, and they have a path that will continue to help them keep on growing.
One of the reasons our youth ministries are not growing faster is because we have a lot of leaders leading who have never been led themselves.
Your leaders cannot lead if they are not being led themselves.

2. Personal Integrity

We need leaders of integrity teaching our students.
Craig Groeschel said in his book Altar Ego that “your reputation is what others think about you, and your integrity is the real you.”
I want leaders who are authentic and not just popular.

3. Attitude

Skills are necessary, but a person’s attitude in your youth ministry can be a key component in taking your youth ministry take next level.
If you have not read Kurt Johnson’s five attitudes of prospective youth leaders, go do it now. You can read it here.
That article is a game changer and will change the way that you recruit leaders.

4. Relational

You must recruit leaders who can build relationships with students.
Students are at some of the most awkward stages of their lives, and sometimes they are awkward in the way that they communicate with adults. Your leaders must be able to create conversations with these students.

5. Commitment

Recruit leaders who can commit.
Give an end date to give people an out, and ask for them to sign a contract to commit until the end date. I am convinced that many people do not volunteer because they believe they are signing up for life. Give them a time commitment.
If a prospective youth leader cannot be at youth group regularly, find a different place in your church where they can serve. Recruit committed leaders.

6. Teach-ability

The last thing that you need are leaders who have arrived and have nothing else to learn. You do not need leaders who believe that they know more than you.
Recruit leaders who can learn from you.
Recruit leaders who can learn from others.
Recruit leaders who are teachable.

[Question] What would you add to this list? What do you look for in prospective youth leaders?

Minggu, 22 Mei 2016

John Piper Speaks Out About Target’s Transgender Bathroom Policy

John Piper Speaks Out About Target’s Transgender Bathroom Policy

If Christians give most of our time to bemoaning and criticizing the world for acting like the world, our vision of God and his glorious future for his people will become smaller and smaller.
Audio Transcript
As you can imagine, Pastor John, we have lots of questions in the inbox about Target’s new transgender bathroom policy. Shoppers are encouraged to use whichever gendered bathrooms they identify with. The Target corporate headquarters is just a walk away from your house, so this hits close to home. On the principle of a boycott, I think we’ve addressed this (back in episode 430 on corporate policies of Apple, Subaru, Target). What are the logistics of Target’s decision for Christians? If you are shopping at Target, go to the restroom, and a woman, identifying as a man, walks in—are there any biblical principles at play here? Would you use a gender-open restroom, even if it says “men” on the door? How would you untangle this?
Tony, the way my mind went on this may not be exactly where the question is going, although I am going to end precisely answering the question of what I would do. But let me take you on the trajectory of my thought and trust that the Lord brought it to my mind for good reasons.

SCOTUS and Parenting

Strange as it may sound, the first thing that comes to my mind as I hear the question is how parents are going to train their children in a culture where profound evil and deep corruption and God-ignoring perversion is pervasive and accepted and defended and assumed and de-stigmatized and statistically normal. That is just so front burner for me right now in conversations that I am having.
For those of us who grew up where different standards were assumed and where some at least external biblical patterns of life were normative, there is a built-in revulsion at some things that ought to produce revulsion. But our children are not growing up in that world, and they will not have the same instincts. So how—that is my question—how are we going to raise them and train them so that they will feel the exceeding sinfulness of sin and be willing to take stands that are extremely unpopular, maybe even costly or dangerous?
Part of the answer to that question is whether we have a big enough doctrine of human depravity. Are we able to take our children to the Scriptures and explain to them in terms that are shocking enough where the evils of our society are coming from? The children are going to be told by the Supreme Court and by their teachers and by their friends that the world is a different way, that the words of Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy are true.
Here is this sentence. What I am going to read right now, I think, is probably the most destructive sentence, whether it is transgender or so-called gay marriage or abortion. This sentence from 1992 justice Anthony Kennedy is probably the most destructive sentence that the Court has ever spoken. That would be my guess. I have not read them all, but he said, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life.” That view of human autonomy—defining one’s own existence—is so widespread that, unless we have a deeper, stronger, more compelling view of human nature that explains where such sentences come from, our children will simply be swept away and along with the culture.
So that is the first thing that comes to my mind. My first reaction when I hear another instance of the kind of application of justice Kennedy’s sentence is that the depths of the human heart’s depravity must be built in profoundly to our children.

So-Called “Gender Identity”

The second thing that comes to my mind is just to make sure that we have our terminology right in these days. So Target has now put in place a policy and it goes like this. It aims to give freedom to “transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” Now there is the new term: gender identity. And it is just so important that all of our listeners get this. That is a new code word.
The word “gender” is now used not for biological reality of maleness or femaleness, but for desired identity of so-called male or so-called female, even if the biological reality is the opposite of the desired identity. So, gender identity can mean a male declaring himself to be female and a female declaring herself to be male. That is what gender identity means. And it is the most recent application and perhaps the strangest of justice Kennedy’s principle: Liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence.
We are going to talk about polygamy on this podcast one of these days, and my wife was saying last night: Well, that probably isn’t coming. I said: There is not a leg to stand on. Once you have put this sentence in place, polygamy will come and the worst has already come. Polygamy is a piece of cake. That is coming, except that it is probably legally so complicated that, for inheritances and life insurance policies and everything else, maybe there will be some brakes on it for a while anyway.
For this principle to hold, liberty is the right to define one’s own existence. God must be excluded from the picture, because what it means to be God is that God defines for us the nature of our existence. And so the recent developments to presume we can define marriage any way we please and our sexual identity any way we please are manifestations of the human usurpation of divine prerogatives. This is not new, not a new thing. This has been going on for a long time. The correlation between biological maleness and femaleness and self-identification as male and female is rooted in numerous ways in the Bible. It is rooted in God’s creation as male and female. It is rooted in distinct roles assigned to male and female in marriage. It is rooted in the biblical prohibition of homosexual acts.

Target, Transgender and Bathrooms

So, in answer to the last part of the question, Would you, John Piper, use a gender open restroom even if it says men on the door? My answer is, If I were there and if I had to, I would—just like I would stop on the highway if I had to. But I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to. And the reason I wouldn’t is because I want there to be a small act of protest and life consistency that may have no impact at all on the powers that make such decisions, but that keep my conscience clear and acknowledge God in practical affairs and give a consistency to my life that does help overall in showing the way of Christ to the world.
And I would say just one other thing. I think we should spend most of our creative energies on constructing in our minds and in our hearts and in our families great and beautiful and glorious alternative visions of reality than the ones we are being offered by the world. If we give most of our time to bemoaning and criticizing the world for acting like the world, our vision of God and his glorious future for his people will become smaller and smaller, and that could be a greater tragedy than the one we are living in.
This post originally appeared on Desiring God.

4 Important Steps to Quit Porn Once and for All

4 Important Steps to Quit Porn Once and for All

“Addiction is not easy to break. Be kind with yourself and know you are not alone.”
This is a guest post. Honestly, I don’t do a lot of them, but this is an important topic. I can’t help but believe it impacts leadership. I know it impacts the church. The only thing I would add—or further emphasize—is to recognize the battle from a spiritual perspective. If you’re a believer, the Spirit of God dwells within you. Seek His help.
4 Important Steps to Quit Porn Once and for All
We all struggle with our own vices. For some, those vices not only harm ourselves, but the people around us. Pornography and sexual addiction is one of those struggles that can leave addicts feeling isolated and depressed.
In order to break your addiction and move toward recovery, having the tools and resources around you is important to help you set yourself up to succeed. As you go through the steps listed below, remember not to over analyze, but to use these tools get you started.
As you begin to master these steps, you’ll start to see a ripple effect on your life and addiction.
1. Action plan. Creating an action plan can have a huge impact on helping you move forward in your healing. The thought of stopping “cold turkey” can overwhelm and discourage many people, but by taking some time to develop a Plan of Action, you can set yourself up for success.
Think of your Plan of Action as a tool to help you establish new habits and implement them into your daily routine. These new habits don’t have to be huge (nor should they be—as that may also discourage you). Instead, you want these habits to support you and your recovery. Some ideas to get you started: find a support group, therapist, spiritual leader or trusted friend where you can talk openly; practice positive self-talk; write in a daily journal; volunteer or do something nice for someone; take up a hobby; and practice forgiving yourself.

4 Important Steps to Quit Porn Once and for All

“Addiction is not easy to break. Be kind with yourself and know you are not alone.”
2. Support group. Addiction thrives in shame and, due to this, we tend to isolate ourselves. Isolation is one of the biggest stumbling blocks addicts (and spouses of addicts) face. To help you not feel so alone and talk with others who are dealing with similar struggles, finding a support group is important.
You may find yourself shaking your head, saying, “I don’t do that group thing,” but a support group can be an excellent place to listen to what others are going through, see the various stages everyone else is in, and gain some insights and tips to help you in your own recovery. In addition, you can also provide feedback and encouragement to other people. Plus, those who have a support group are more likely to overcome addiction.
3. Positive self-talk. One of the worst things you can do while recovering from addiction is belittle yourself. If you’re always talking down to yourself and allowing those negative, self-limiting beliefs to roll around in your mind, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Henry Ford put it perfectly when he said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
Take time when you get up, before you go to bed and throughout the day to practice positive self-talk. The more you tell yourself you deserve a life free of addiction and have the strength to do this, day by day, the stronger you’ll be in your recovery.
Some affirmations to get you started:
● Today I will do one kind thing for myself and one for someone else. I will love myself and let myself receive the love that is there for me.
● Today I am willing to learn by doing. I will learn something about myself by following through on my daily plan.
● Recovery is a messy business. Today I will give myself permission to experiment, to make mistakes. I will learn from the day’s business and move on.
4. Forgive yourself. Part of recovery is to remember you’re human. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll have moments where you’ll slip up and revert to old habits. Don’t let the moments discourage you and leave you thinking you can’t recover from addiction. The important thing to remember when you slip up is to forgive yourself and call someone immediately. This can be your therapist, someone in your support group, a trusted friend or spiritual leader, and then recommit to your recovery.
One idea to help you when working toward healing is to write yourself a letter. Write why you’re ready to break your addiction, why you’re doing this, who you are doing this for and anything else that will remind you why you’ve decided to break your pornography addiction.
Addiction is not easy to break. Be kind with yourself and know you are not alone. The path of recovery is making a conscious decision every day to not go back to those unhealthy habits.
About the Author: Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with Lifestar Therapy. She is committed to helping people practice open communication and build healthy relationships.