Category Archives: Family

Divide and Conquer

Satan’s playbook is fairly simple. He divides and conquers. This includes churches, cities, races, people groups, families, God and man, and the generations.

Over the last year, I have become increasingly convinced that a key to revival in this country is connecting the generations to appreciate, pour into and learn from each other. Churches divide people into age and interest groups in a move to appeal to consumerist tendencies. Give people what they want, and then they will come back. But what if what we want is not the thing we really need?

Now, I am all for youth groups, seniors groups, MOPS, the choir and so on. But there need to be more, intentional efforts to connect these various groups. I know what you are thinking. Yeah, we do that every Sunday. It is called a church service. But realistically, it is hard to connect on a personal level with others at church service.

I believe churches that are intentional about connecting the generations will see greater moves of the Spirit.

Craig Groeschel, lead pastor of LifeChurch.tv, spoke at last year’s Catalyst Conference on this topic. Groeschel, said, “Generational division is bad although generational tension can be a good thing.”

He admonished the audience, “Don’t resent, fear or judge the next generation. But pour into the next generation. Let the young folks lead. They are different and supposed to be that way. Don’t get hung up on style.”

In reality, many older folks in our churches eel insecure around teenagers and young adults. Groeschel suggested, “Recognize this tension and manage it by letting go of it… You can be uncool all day long. The key is to be real.”

I believe that there will be an exchange of grace that will annoy the “hell” out of our enemy if we realize what the older can give to the younger and visa versa.

Groeschel encouraged younger folks to honor those older than us publicly because honor publicly leads to influence and respect privately. He explained, “When we truly honor those authorities that God has placed in our lives, we honor God.”

From the Greatest Generation to the Boomers and the Xers to the Millennials, we all can learn from each other. But this doesn’t happen by accident. We have to start somewhere. I think the best place to start is to give those different from you a chance. Don’t just think they are an old geezer or a young punk. Consider this advice offered by Groeschel, “Honor believes the best. Dishonor thinks the worst.”

The Perfect Lie

Disillusioned is how many people would describe their present reality. From crooked politics to the down economy and high unemployment to church scandals to a high divorce rate in our families, it’s easy to see why so many feel as if the real thing is not as good as the product advertised on the commercial.

We buy “it” for the packaging and expect the contents to match our expectations. Frequently, we envision an idealized future that will never be realized. We think that the new job will be nirvana, and it isn’t. Sometimes it is just work. We think we found the perfect spouse only to discover that they have flaws too. We  expect our new home to be something out of a dream, and then the pipes break flooding the lower floor. We have three kids, and they mimic our bad behavior and make us want to pull out what hair we have left. We trust in God only to discover that churches are filled with imperfect, broken people.

You get my drift. We (especially me) tend to get idealized pictures that make it difficult for anything to live up to our dreams. A co-worker used to have the following saying pinned on the wall in her office, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” I believe there is a lot of truth in this statement. While we can’t really eliminate expectations nor should we, we can resign ourselves to reject disillusionment for godly contentment.

I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

The Apostle Paul knew the secret was not to let our situation or reality decide our attitude or emotional state. He took a long-term view of things to see past the disappointment in the moment. His trust was in a faithful God who can turn any situation around, even death and despair.

The perfect lie is to trust in the perfection of anything other than God. While there are many good things, there is only one perfect One.

Surrounded By A Cloud of Witnesses

Hebrews 12:1
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  (ESV Translation)

It was a night that testified to the potential of the individual and yet the power of a Biblical community. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed as I participated in another blessing ceremony for a family at my church. This one was for Adam Watkins – the youngest of the Watkins boys. I have participated in three of these ceremonies with this family. And they have all been special. And as great as it is to see how these young men are turning out, I can’t help but think this didn’t happen by accident. These guys are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. They know that they are part of something bigger than themselves. They know the legacy they come from and the potential that lies ahead of them. They are loved and accepted not because of what they do but who they are.  

Thinking specifically about Adam, here’s a kid with a God-loving heart, a creative mind, a truckload of potential, a friendly face and a big supporting cast. Adam is a goofy genius of sorts. All you need to do is check out the Cheese Grows on Cows clips(http://www.youtube.com/user/cheesegrowsoncows) on YouTube to see what I mean. He has a lot of musical talent and is picking up new stuff each day. From his service as a worship leader for the youth group to the way he dispenses hugs and smiles to everyone he meets, here’s a young man who is moving in the right direction. Yeah… he’s had some very difficult times, especially the death of his father at a young age. But he has found a way to write hopeful melodies despite his losses and struggles. While he’s far from perfect, I get the sense that he knows that he doesn’t have to be because Jesus is the author and finisher of his faith.

While at the ceremony, I was struck by the power of story in our lives. When we know the story of those who came before us, we can be free and encouraged to live our story the best way we know how.

The ceremony is fairly basic and yet quite profound. A group of people come together in a surprise party to speak works of affirmation over a young person who is reaching a milestone. In this case, Adam was turning 16. Some people come with an object lesson. Others come with a prayer of blessing. Some bring a gift or make something to show how much the person means to them. Frequently, adults will tell stories about when the person was younger. Some of these can be kind of embarrassing. Others are just good times remembered. Adam’s mom had put together a slide show of pictures showcasing some major moments of this young man’s first 16 years. We ended the entire thing focusing on Jesus by taking communion together. This helped to make sure that Adam knew his story is first about Christ not himself.

Every time, I attend one of these ceremonies I am reminded of the power it can have to help a young person know that they are not alone. It may seem simple. But it provides a marker that they likely won’t forget. If you have a teenager in your house, consider celebrating a major life marker with a moment of affirmation, blessing and celebration. These moments come and go. You will never get them back.

The older generation needs to speak words of affirmation. I’m not talking about flattery or undeserved praise. We need to let young people know the truth. We need to let them know that their actions have consequences. We don’t need to sugar coat life for them. Yet, we also need to remind them that their choices matter and that they are not alone. Life is a story, and we all have an opportunity to live better stories.

Generational Disconnect

There’s a big hole in the middle of most churches and nobody seems to want to talk about it. Oh, there are a few who get it. But there are so many that refuse to face the future and the past. And if we don’t do something about it, we’ll all miss out on what could be something beautiful.

I am talking about the disconnect between generations. It seems like youth culture changes every year. Technology is driving a wedge between many parents and children. From the greatest generation to the baby boomers to gen-x to the millenials, each new demographic seems to be further from the other.  But the truth is that we need each other more and more.

Teenagers need godly adults who will demonstrate a dynamic faith, committed relationships and strong morals. Authorities need to live in such a way that those underneath them willingly submit to their leadership. At the same time, younger generations needs to realize that not everything worth knowing came about in the last few years. We  need to appreciate the legacy and lessons of those who have gone before us, and we need to learn that not everything is handed to us. Sometimes hard work and failure is the necessary path to success and accomplishment.

We could learn a lot from each other if we would only stop and consider what other generations have to offer. I have been thinking about this generational disconnect after reading an article in Harvard Business Review. The February issue featured a case study on generation-y in the workplace. I thought the article really nailed the core issues.

Older generations feel that younger workers don’t respect authority and are impatient. They see the younger generation as pampered needing quick praise and fast opportunities for advancement. Younger people feel like they are closer to culture and know what works today in terms of marketing and technology. They feel like the older leaders won’t listen to them. They are bored at work and feel like they have sold out their dreams for a paycheck and an opportunity sometime in the very distant future.

Obviously, the above is a gross generalization. But it happens to be true in many organizations, churches and businesses. The fact is that change is moving at such a pace now that young blood is needed to stay current. At the same time, younger people are not learning valuable skills at home that they can pickup from older people if the proper relationships can be fostered. This is hard for many business environments where competition can become a major concern. But it should be a non-issue in churches. Sadly, churches may be just as competitive as Wall Street.

Here’s my challenge to those who read this. Over the next month, connect with someone knew who is from a different generation than you. Be intentional about it. See what you can give, learn and experience. You’ll probably be glad you did.

Harvard Business Review article on generation-y.  http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/2009/02/gen-y-in-the-workforce/ar/1

Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle made some great points about the future church leaders. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJXpo0xfUnA

Answered Prayers

A number of good friends of mine have recently become engaged. It is a joy to see them find the woman of their dreams. I have prayed with these guys for years. For some of of them, this incredible blessing has come after failed relationships and more prayers than I can remember.

I am overjoyed for these friends and look forward to their weddings. Congratulations to my friends.

The Power of Blessing

“You can curse a child by destroying their dreams.” – Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin, U.S. Army

Boykin, a retired Army general, spoke this past Sunday at my church about the importance of blessing our children. This is one of the teachings from the Bible that has largely been lost in modern society, including the Church. Boykin pointed to the Hebrew Scriptures that include many stories about the importance of a blessing. This includes blessings from God, leaders (Moses, Aaron, King David) and fathers (Issac and Jacob). The most well known story about a father’s blessing involves Jacob and Esau. Jacob, the younger brother, tricked the father to receive the blessing. While we should not deceive others to get what we want, this story demonstrates the importance of a father’s blessing in ancient culture.

Unfortunately, fatherhood has become a comical caricature today. It brings to mind images of Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, Tony Soprano, or Pete Griffin of Family Guy. Fathers in TV are depicted as bumbling idiots who would be in trouble if it weren’t for his wife, kids and the dog. Or dads are workaholics who don’t spend time with their kids. Many of these exaggerations are unfair. But they do highlight a major problem in America today.

I believe that involved, loving father’s are the critical piece that are missing in many families. It isn’t that these men wake up one day and decide to sabbotage their familiies. They may never have known this kind of love and leadership themselves. Also, these men may not realize how critical their role is. That is why I like want General Boykin had to say. The involvement of a loving father can make a huge difference in the success of a family. Stories over the last few days about Tim Russert and his son are a perfect example of my point.

I am thankful to have a great father as well as a number of great men who have been mentors in my life. Consider listening to this teaching that covers ways you can grow as a father and bless your kids.

 http://www.marshillchurch.org/audio/fathersday_061503_driscoll.mp3