Archives For Encouragment…

Words that I think will encourage you.


I have been a fan of Yellowcard since they released their epic album “Ocean Avenue” in 2003. I have loved just about every song they have come out with. Their new album “Southern Air” looks to be a great album and I absolutely love the song “Here I am Alive.” In the video it portrays a couple of junior-high kids who have dreams but come across some bullies who say, “You are never getting out of this town.”

I thought about my own dreams and where I am now. The song seems to speak some truth to life about how there are ups and downs but we are still alive. He poses a question, “If I could write myself when I was young.” I have written on this before but if you could write a letter to your younger self what would you say?

What would you say to your dreams?

What would you say to your struggles?

What would you say to your family and friends?

What things would do differently?

This kind of thing allows us to think about what we use to hold important but no longer do but also things we gave up on and said that we could never do. Things people told us we would never accomplish.

Yet…

Here we are…

…alive.

Maybe we need to dream again.

What should you dream about?

What could you do?

Watch the video below. I hope you enjoy it.

I got your back…

September 6, 2011 — 4 Comments

Learned a valuable lesson last week when my computer crashed due to a virus: always have your files backed-up.  I decided one day to purchase one year of off-site back-up from MOZY in case some nerd sent a virus to my computer and caused it to crash.  Well it seems that nerds are hard at work and my computer crashed last Thursday night but all of my files were backed-up with MOZY.  The benefits of MOZY over an external hard-drive is limitless (If a flood destroys your computer it will also destroy the external hard drive right beside it).  So all my files are save and I have a nice Macbook to type on right now.

A lesson is learned though…get something to back you up.  In the Christian life we need someone to back us up.  Ministers we need elders to back us up.  Growing up I remember becoming friends with football players which turned out to be crucial in times of conflict with people who wanted to fight me.  In essence, the football player would tell me, “I got your back” which gave me a lot of confidence (too much I might add) going into the quarrel.  We need people who will endure hardships with us and even for us and will say, “Robbie, I got your back.”  I feel bad for the president as he endures much criticism (some deserved I would imagine some undeserved) and the nature of the job means you stand on a lonely position with few people able to empathize.  I imagine the president loves it when a cabinet member looks at him and says, “Mr. President, I got your back!”

Paul says, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).

I wonder what our churches would look like if we did more bearing than we did bickering.  Instead of saying, “You’re on your own,” we in the church need to say, “I got your back!”  Ever had someone stab you in the back before?  Not literally but that person who told you one thing then spread false things about you that came to bite you in the back.  It is in those tumultuous moments we need someone to be willing to “watch our 6” when the haters, gossipers, and other hell-bound people are trying to subjugate our reputation.

MOZY had my back when I was caught in a bind and I wonder if, in a spiritual way, we could do the same thing for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”  (Gal. 6:9).


Have you ever came across someone who made you extremely upset at the time and you wanted to smash their face in with a sledge-hammer but decided not?  We all have come across those types of people…odds are you have been that type of person.  What kept you from unleashing your inner Bruce Lee was giving them the benefit of the doubt.  In so many circumstances I find that giving someone the benefit of the doubt is the Christian thing to do.  This works especially with the sin of gossip.  “Have you heard that so and so was caught drinking at a local bar?”  You have two options but only one is helpful: A) Believe the information and spread it or, B) Give the person the benefit of the doubt and consider other options.  They may have been drinking in the bar but until you can confirm it and until you go up to the person to see what drove them to drinking you are better off giving them the benefit of the doubt.  I have compiled a list of what giving a person the benefit of the doubt will do.

  • The benefit of the doubt will keep you from anger.
  • The benefit of the doubt will keep you from holding a grudge.
  • The benefit of the doubt may create a ministry opportunity.
  • The benefit of the doubt will level the playing field (we all are broken right?).
  • The benefit of the doubt will keep you from sin.
  • The benefit of the doubt will help you understand people more.
  • The benefit of the doubt allows you to see as Jesus sees.
  • The benefit of the doubt keeps you from sweeping assumptions.
  • The benefit of the doubt allows you to gather all of the facts.
  • The benefit of the doubt gives people second chances.
  • The benefit of the doubt keeps you from having to apologize.
  • The benefit of the doubt gives Christianity a good name.
  • The benefit of the doubt supports the golden rule instead of destroying it.

Did I miss something?  What would you add?


On July 31, 2011 I celebrated my 7th full year of youth ministry at Main Street in Springfield, Tennessee.  Seven quick lessons about my/our journey:

  1. Learn to say “no” – All ministers struggle with this as we want to do so much for people in the name of God.  We take on projects, speaking engagements, weddings, committees,  meetings, and a host of other things while our spiritual formation, family and our personal lives turn to shamble.  I read somewhere that every time you say “yes” to something you are always saying “no” to something else.
  2. Try to look for the big picture – A lot can happen in a youth ministry in a short time but also nothing can happen for a long time.  There are different seasons in youth ministry so staying focused and having an idea of what the big picture is will keep you from being distracted by a lot of the little things.
  3. Don’t get too full of yourself – I have blogged about this several times but no matter how great the youth minister is there is going to be something he is not good at and that is going to be painfully obvious to you and everyone else.  Learn to laugh at yourself and do it often letting others in on your laughter.  Have a ton of fun.  Go to Waffle House at 3am.  Laugh when one of your youth group guys goes through a wall at a hotel.  Laugh when a youth group girl passes gas on the bus and blames it on you as everyone writhes in agony at the smell.  Laugh when a youth group guy pronounces from the pulpit the word “Yahweh” as “Yah-hee” and instead of “wiles of the devil” he says, “willies of the devil.”  Learn to laugh and laugh often.
  4. Delegate and Empower – I am horrible at this.  I would rather do things on my own and wear myself out than asking someone to help.  The result…it almost burned me out of ministry completely.  Have a team of people who are your core leaders in the youth ministry who could lead the activities if you were gone.  Speaking of being gone…
  5. Try a slice of humility – This goes along with number three above but we need more humble servants who are John 13 ministers.  In youth ministry we get stepped on (clean the bus, babysit my kids, do the impossible), we get made fun of (second class ministers), we have impossible expectations placed on us by men who have not the slightest clue about youth ministry or teenagers for that matter, we are underpaid, we are overworked, we are extremely talented (cleaning the bus, writing the bulletin, etc.) and we are criticized by 40-60 people who “know” more about youth ministry than we do.  All of that happens to most youth ministers and all I can think about is this verse from Acts 5:41: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”  Some criticism needs to be addressed some people just need to be talked to in a reproved manner but sometimes we need to realize that we are simply humble agents of Christ suffering affliction to do something we love to do.
  6. Invest in people, not programs – It’s not uncommon for me to change programs in our ministry and I am currently in the process of completely revamping the youth group. One thing that I have not changed is getting to know people, investing in their lives and letting them know how much I love them.  I tell youth group kids that “I love them.”  Some of them are a little creeped-out about it but some of them respond with tears as if they have never heard someone tell them those three words and mean it.  I love them.  I love the parents and I let them know that I am here to come alongside of them.  This is important for when that youth group person is struggling with a situation at college or they have made by decisions in their life they come to me without reservation because they know, if anything else, I will at the very minimum love them.
  7. Don’t lose your soul – Youth ministry is tough.  It has been the most difficult seven years of my life.  I have watched people leave the church and never come back.  I have watched friends lose friends.  I have watched families become broken.  I have watched people who I thought would be soldiers of Christ become servants of idols.  But..I have watched visitors get baptized.  I have watched total reconstruction of lives based on Scripture.  I have watched youth group people find jobs based on their calling and I have seen many good things done in the name of Kingdom.  Friends, don’t lose your soul.  Keep your eyes focused, hang in there and love as you too have been loved.

Thank you Main Street for putting up with me and teaching me about ministry.  I dedicate this blog to seven sets of people in ascending order of importance:

  • Elders – thank you for sticking with me and for supporting me spiritually, mentally, and fiscally.  You have given me raises, bonuses, a van, health coverage, freedom to make good and bad decisions but most of all your encouragment.  Thank you.
  • Parents and Friends – I love all of you.  I know I am not perfect and I know I have done things wrong from time-to-time but you have supported me.  I love you all.
  • Joe and Linda – you are my “daily bread” when a minister does not want to go to the office you make it enjoyable.  Thanks for being a great team.
  • Youth Group Members Past and Present – Words cannot describe how thankful I am for you.  You have made the journey worth it.  Thanks for taking Jesus seriously and for doing radical things.  I love you all more than you know.
  • Kaleb, Amelia, Madelyn and Samuel – Kids you make me so proud.  You are my most important youth group and I want to thank you for making daddy laugh on those tough days and for keeping me going when I didn’t want to go anymore.  I love you so much and as long as I have air to breathe I will serve you with a passion unrivaled in this world.
  • Heather – What can I say?  You are perfect in every way.  Not only am I married to a hot wife but you are also so intelligent and understanding.  Your care for me exceeds the proverb wife in Proverbs 31.  You are a servant and the fuel to my fire.  I love you.
  • God – You have allowed a wretched, hypocritical, inconsistent, unorganized, lazy and unlovable person like me to be called a follower of Christ.  Thank you for your grace, for your daily assurance, for your providence, for your discipline, for your correction. for your providence and for your glorious return.  I love you!

The Graduation Speech

May 16, 2011 — 1 Comment

[DISCLAIMER: It is 3,299 words so pack a lunch and read it then.]

The Graduation Speech

By Robbie Mackenzie (Preached at the Main Street church of Christ May 15, 2011)

            I have done many things since I have been alive.  I have been to South America and Africa.  I have attended numerous World Series games.  I hiked down the Grand Canyon and back up in one day.  I have watched four beautiful kids come into this world.  But there are many things in this world I have not experienced.  I have never jumped out of an airplane.  I have never, unfortunately, found gold on the other side of a rainbow.  I have never been to the North Pole and I have never, ever participated in synchronized swimming.  Something else I have never done is speak at a graduation.  I have probably sat through some thirty graduations and even leaving one in the middle only to arrive at another in the middle.  I have heard every quote imaginable like, “This is the first day of the rest of your life,” and “If it’s to be it’s up to me.”  I have heard many people misquote enough Scripture for me to pull my hair out and by the looks of my hair I have heard a lot of misquoted Scripture.  Nobody remembers a graduation speech because they are all the same.  This is why I am offering you a different graduation speech but in the end it will be forgettable and pretty soon it will be—well—just another graduation speech.

            If I were to graduate again (which may happen) I would want to hear this type of speech at my graduation.  I would want to have someone tell me what really might happen as opposed to God’s plans to “prosper us and not to harm us” (Jer. 29:11; taken out of context of course :)).  Those who have battled drugs, alcohol, divorce, financial heartache and difficult circumstances usually are not the ones invited to speak at graduations.  Why?  People want to hear the wealthy, famous, successful and “problem-free” at graduations yet those people are in the minority.  Most of us fit into the second category of simple, problem-full, but content with our lives.  That’s boring and nobody wants to hear about it.  So this is my attempt to put pen to paper and give flesh to words that I would say if it were the last words I would say to a graduate.  The speech is more about what you really may experience but it is a little uncertain.  So here we go.

            First of all, you’re going to grow apart from your friends.  There are certain people in your graduating class you will never ever see or talk to again.  Even your BFFs, whom you swore, pinkie-promised, and vowed to stay in touch via text, phone, SKYPE, or even just a visit on weekends, will grow apart from you.  It’s going to be awkward when you come home and go back to a high-school football game and see your old buddies.  You will realize they have changed and so have you and it will be a cool feeling knowing you are the college kid.  Pretty soon you will just feel old and then you will stop going back to high-school functions.  The saddest part about going different ways is watching some of your friends who cannot accept the fact that they are no longer in high-school.  They still talk like high-schoolers, hang out with high-schoolers, and their maturity level stays that way for years.  If they could just grow up and move on life would be better but they can’t.  That may be you by the way.  What they don’t tell you after you graduate is that life happens and things get in the way and we just become too busy.  You might even lose a friend tragically in a car accident, overdose, or a physical ailment like cancer or something else.  It’s going to hurt and you will cry.

            You’re going to realize that the boyfriend or girlfriend you thought you would spend the rest of your life with will not work out.  Nor will the next three or four.  You will realize that there are some seriously messed-up people out there who are looking for nothing more to score with you and that is going to hurt.  Perhaps you’re on the other spectrum and you will just wait, and wait, and wait while everyone around you is getting a significant other without trying yet you pray, ask someone out and still nobody will date you.  Then you’re going to go home and it’s going to sting every time someone asks you, “Are you seeing anybody yet?” and then the awkward look you get when you say, “No!”  To make matters worse they will offer you a monologue about them having two kids by the time they were your age.  That doesn’t help either.  Life does not consist in a relationship but it sure beats being lonely sometimes.

            You’re going to have to say goodbye to your parents.  Whether you work at home or go off to college you will have to say goodbye to them somehow.  You’re going to have to convince your parents that them moving in with you in your dorm room is actually a horrible idea.  They are going to call you, once, twice maybe three times a day just to hear your voice.  Some of you will want to run from your parents so bad and so fast that you are going to blaze a trail along the way but some of you are not going to want to leave your parents because you will be afraid.  You will get homesick because you’re going to miss the family meals, nights at the park, and games of uno, vacation and long conversations on the way to school.  The phone calls from mom will get really annoying but deep down inside her voice will be like water in the driest African desert.

            You’re going to be broke.  Growing up your mom and dad were like a free-flowing ATM but now that day is long gone and you actually might have to work which, by the way, you don’t have time for.  You may get into credit card trouble thinking you can pay the balance sometime later if you just meet the minimum payment and it’s going to come back to bite you in a very personal way.  Worst of all, you might actually get that date with that someone only to be so broke you have to spend your romantic night at the dining hall or McDonald’s because you can’t afford anything else.  By the way, your mom is calling you and you probably should pick the phone up.

            You’re going to change physically.  It’s a strange thing that actually eating 8-10 Krystals used to be fun and proper nourishment but now all of that eating during freshman year has become a part of your backside that you, literally, carry with you wherever you go.  The concept of “freshman 15” no longer is a myth as you’re just trying to avoid freshman forty as you huff and puff up the stairs to your room.  On top of that, guys you might start to notice that you lose hair at this time and girls you might start getting wrinkles.  Your chaotic schedule and stressful demands does not make your physical issues any better.  You may also get the world’s worst case of Athlete’s Foot because apparently your roommate does not have the human dignity to wear shower shoes or at least cut his feet off.  The sad part of this is that you’re going to realize quickly that the physical issues, from this point on, only get worse.

            You’re going to struggle attending worship services because mom and dad are not there to wake you up.  Wait—is that mom calling me again?  You are going to wonder what’s the point of attending services.  You’re going to look at the people in the church and say it is filled with hypocrites and, you may be right.  You’re going to struggle immensely at fitting-in and you are going to wish you could come back and participate in youth group again but your jerk of a youth minister will not let you.  You’re going to wrestle with what the church is versus what it was in Scripture (welcome to the club).  You’re going to wonder why churches invest so much time, resources and money with programs like the youth, older members, missions, building funds and yet not much time, resources and money (if any) are invested in college students.  For you, church is going to be difficult.

            You’re going to do some things you’re going to regret.  Some of them may be minor but some of them are going to be major.  You’re going to wish you could take it all back but you won’t be able to.  You’re going to remember what your parents said about the dangers and now you’re going to have to tell them what you just did.  It’s going to break their heart.  The saddest part of it all is that you’re too stubborn to learn your lesson and so you’re going to do it all over again.  You’re going to sit there late at night looking up at the ceiling wondering what you are going to do with your life.  You may want to end it all.

            You’re going to struggle with God.  Who is this divine being that was taught so heavily to you?  God has not been helpful to you and by the looks at what’s happening in the world God really doesn’t seem to care anymore.  You’re going to have people cast doubt on your faith with different beliefs, ideologies and philosophical inquiries which some seem possible to believe.  You’re going to try to help your faith by doing what your parents, youth minister or preacher suggested.  It’s going to be tough and in my experience, when the going gets tough sometimes…well…the tough gets tougher.  There are going to be moments when all you can think about God is anger, frustration and confusion.  Like David, you are going to say, “How long, O Lord?  How long?” (Psalm 13).

But…

However…

Nevertheless…

            You’re going to make new friends.  The kind of friends who do not have strings attached to them.  The kind of friends whom you will laugh with, cry with and the kind of friends who will be, like the Proverb writer said, “closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).  The friends you make will be in your weddings,Teen girls on college campus at the hospital when you have a baby and next to you when you lose someone you love.  The kind of friend who will utterly depend on you and years down the road these friends will need you most when their own world is turned upside down.  You’re going to go to baseball games with these friends, have cookouts, go on mission trips with them and you might even have the opportunity lead a few of those friends to Christ.

            You’re going to meet someone…it may take years…and you know what…it may not happen.  You’re going to look at that sweet lady who keeps asking you if you’re married yet because she had two children by your age and you’re going to smile and say, “that’s not what God wants me to do right now.”  God will make it happen if it needs to happen and you’re going to be just fine with that.  You just might have four kids before you are thirty though and people, by the way, will make fun of you and call you crazy and psycho but you will realize that you will be 47 by the time your last one graduates high-school which will be the age your buddy will be when his first one starts middle school.  But it’s also ok if you wait that long.  You follow what God wants you to do not someone else.  It’s ok to be crazy so don’t change that for a second.  In the words of the musician Tom Cochrane, “Life is a highway and I want to ride it all night long.”  You’re going to be able to look at the person you will spend the rest of your life with and vow to be with them in sickness, and in health until death due you part.  You’re going to get that same passion every time you go to someone else’s wedding and you’re going to wake up each day feeling unworthy to wake up beside the most beautiful person in the world…not your youngest child who crawled in the bed…but your spouse.  You’re going to really feel blessed to be next to that beautiful person especially when you make it to the mirror in the mornings.

              You’re going to regret trying to run away from your mom and dad so quickly.  You’re going to want to pick up the phone and call them as much as possible.  You’re going to remember their lectures, words of “wisdom”, and caution and know that they were actually right.   If God blesses you with a child you’re going to name the child after your parents because of the influence that had on your life.  However, if home was a nightmare filled with abuse then you’re going to prove mom and dad wrong.  You’re going to make a difference and with God’s help you will show them what you can do even when they told you it couldn’t be done.

            You will eventually make money but still, somehow, be broke for a while.  It will be tough at first (remember the credit cards and loans?) but God will provide and mom and dad will help you out.  I promise.  If you don’t go to college then no worries because no matter what anyone says it’s ok for you not to go to college because, get this, college is not for everyone.  You will show them that you can still provide and work hard and do what God wants you to do.  The church will step in and provide for you in times when you could not provide for yourself.  You will have to fight the evils of consumerism and you will eventually give much of your income to the church.  People will think of you as crazy, stupid and a little off kilter but you will consider that suffering for the kingdom’s sake and little bit like emptying yourself which is what Jesus did for you.  You will have ups and downs financially and there will be days you will have to eat beans and rice and rice and beans but you will make it because all you need is a roof over your head and food on the table.

            You will learn to live with your body.  It’s ok that your body is not in pristine shape or that it’s shape looks like a hamburger rather than an hour glass.  It’s ok.  God just wants you to be healthy.  You will eventually enjoy eating things like salads, grapefruits, tree bark and you will especially enjoy drinking lots and lots of water.  Balding only gets worse and so do the wrinkles and your physical deterioration will be a daily reminder thanks to your kids and sometimes teenagers who decide to take a stab.  Laugh at this and consider it a way God humbles you.  Look at your body as a gift from God and each day is another opportunity that someone else did not get.

            You will eventually grow to love and adore the church.  Yes there are hypocrites in church but your experience in life will show you that there are hypocrites everywhere inside and outside the church.  The church never claimed to be perfect anyways besides there are so many people in the church who have changed their lives drastically because of the work of the church through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  The church will need you to teach a class, lead a song, direct a program, visit the sick or teach a bible class.  You will have a renewed commitment to the church and it will drive you and you will soon find out that it is not you that is driving you but it is the Spirit of God inside of you.  You’re going to find out that the church is filled with plenty of people as messed-up as you!  That will put a smile on your face and the face of thousands of angels watching.

            You’re going to think about the regrets from time-to-time and they will enter your thoughts at weird moments.  The regrets will be like a bruise that won’t go away or rainstorm that will not depart.  You may have to call people to apologize for what you did and you may have to tell them you have changed.  You may have to earn someone’s trust back because of what you did but it’s going to be worth it.  You’re going to show God and others that you are a radical disciple who has radically changed.  “I’m not that way anymore” will come out of your mouth as effortless as air discharged from your lungs and you will say it with a smile.  Like Paul, your past will not break you rather it will shape you.  Your story will become a testimony for so many people to hear.

            Then there is God.  He always was and always is and always will be.  You’re going to find him because you’re going to long for him.  Like a fire in the midst of a blizzard you will long for his warmth and light.  He will show up in your life not as a boxed-in, compartmentalized God but as the living, active God.  He is going to lead you to places in life you never thought were possible but pretty soon you will realize that God is in the making-the-impossible-possible business.  You are going to realize that truly Jesus came so, like John told you, “we may have life, and life to the fullest” (John 10:10).  You will long for something John and Isaiah described as the New Heavens and New Earth.  You will feel God’s presence in your life with the utmost assurance that nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39).  You will feel God in your bones and in your core and it will be most satisfying.  There will still be valleys where the questions of theodicy (making God just) come back but you will know, deep down in your core, that eventually God will reign over all and all will be made right.

            This is my graduation speech and it is filled with paradoxes, difficulties, some contradictions and uncertainties.  But such is life right?  Life is never a linear process but often we find it as a cyclical pattern that repeats itself but rests on the grace of God.  So may you find the friends you need.  May you discover the spouse who is yours or may you rest in the state you are in.  May you love every minute your family is alive.  May you live fiscally sound so you can give until it hurts.  May you rejoice in the body God gave you but may you treat it well.  May you love the church and realize it truly is, like the preacher said, a hospital for the sick.  May you use your regrets to empower and inform your future.  And may you run to God, wrap your arms around him and never, ever let go.

            So, Dr. Seuss was right…a little…“be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!”


I talk with 25+ year Youth Ministry veteran Jerry Elder about what it takes to stay in youth ministry for the long-haul. Perhaps you have heard the high turnover rate for youth ministers and it is rare to see someone in it for even 5+ years. Jerry talks about the good, the bad and the ugly and what it takes to sustain a long ministry.


Bully-ing:

A Teenage Problem. A Gospel Resolution.

“I just want the bullying to stop. That is all I ever wanted. I used to love going to school. Now I hate it.”

Statements like this are made every day by teenagers across the nation. We can all tell a story about a bully, and share painful memories of instances where we were bullied. You can find them and define them in schools, workplaces, families, friendships and churches…

  • Bullies are the little people who try to be BIG by making you feel little.
  • Bullies are self-important individuals who try to strong-arm you into their subjection.
  • Bullies attempt to reign on the throne of your life. They want to be king, chief, ruler and first in everything.
  • Bullies thrive wherever authority is weak.
  • Bullies are brutal violators of the Golden Rule of Jesus Christ.

Teenagers are dealing with these bullies on a daily basis. So here are a few things they need to hear, know, and embrace from a Biblical standpoint:

Satan, in his search for dominion, is the greatest of all bullies. He is the “tough guy” strong-arming, harassing, tormenting, intimidating, pressuring, bulldozing and pushing around people like you. Satan seeks to dominate the throne of your world. And Satan has done well.

You’ve been threatened. You’ve been called names. Rumors have spread about you. People have pushed you around and treated you cruelly. You’ve suffered through physical pain and injury. In this world, the bully-tactics of Satan are evident. The devil has treated the world the way bullies take control of younger kids in the schoolyard.

But you must remember God has a history of humbling bullies. God marked bully Cain. God drowned the chariots of bully Pharaoh. God tumbled the giant bully, Goliath. And ultimately, God crushed the head of the bully serpent, Satan.

Remember?

Satan, and his bully followers, coerced and constrained and crucified Jesus Christ on a cross. They stole his lunch money (rightful glory), called him names (hurled insults), and shoved Him into a locker (a burial tomb).

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18 ESV)

But by the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, Satan no longer rules the house.

A Gospel Resolution: By the work of Jesus Christ, God has bound the strong-man bully Satan. The gospel is the news that Jesus came to seize Satan, stripping away his grip on you, and rescued you for the kingdom of God.

“Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.” (Matthew 12:29 ESV)

Young people…

Satan is your greatest adversary, but Jesus is your greatest Friend. Satan is your greatest bully, but Jesus is the Bridegroom, who protects you as his bride. Satan is your greatest strong-man captor, but Jesus is your sacrificial God-man deliverer.

The next bully who tries to make you feel little, strong-arm you, and reign on God’s rightful throne…

  • Remind yourself of the authority found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the suffering servant, gave hope to underdogs like you and me. When you suffer daily oppression from bullies at school, remember who wins in the end.
  • Resolve to stand up. When you choose to stand up against a bully, you’re reflecting the image of Christ, who rose up against sin’s greatest intimidator, Satan.
  • Rediscover boldness in the gospel. Jesus frees us and gives us hope when facing all worldly masters, idols, and bullies. Don’t be afraid to confront bully behavior, report bully behavior or rise up against bully behavior.
  • Retell yourself the story of salvation. God created you. Satan captured (bullied) you. Jesus freed you.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV)

This article was written by Scott Bond, Jr.  Scott is the Youth & Family Minister at the Martin Church of Christ in Martin, Tennessee. He majored in Biblical Studies at Freed-Hardeman University. Scott is married to Kaci Bond, and has one daughter, Claire. Scott confesses to be a struggling sinner thankful for an all-sufficient Savior.


I close this series with joy filled in my heart anticipating Christmas day.  I long for the time with family, the meals, the happiness, the presents but also the knowledge of why we are there.  “Advent” is a word that comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming.”  It is the Latin translation for the Greek word parousia which is used in the New Testament most often to describe the Second Coming of Christ (see 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11).  Apparently advent was started in the 18th century to recognize not only the birth of Jesus but also the coming of the Lord.  We live in a tension right now that all Christians live in from the time Jesus ascended in Acts 1 until the time of Jesus returns.  The tension is entangled in mystery and wonder knowing that God has wrought a day in which the Lord will return and we shall be like him and dwell forever.  But not yet…not now…not here…not long.  The advent season is about recognizing and celebrating the birth of Jesus but paradoxically anticipating the return of Jesus.  The fact is…Jesus is here and there are implications for you and I.  To really celebrate Christmas is to subvert the consumerism that society puts out and to make it more than simply “HAPPY HOLIDAYS.”  I saw last night where the ACLU sent memos to Tennessee schools warning them of celebrating one religious holiday to the exclusion of others.  That’s fine but the celebrations typically seen are incorrect for the real point of advent is to show that everywhere and anywhere Christ is the Lord who was born of a virgin from the seed of David.  Caesar was not Lord nor is the president today.  Our idols of power, freedom, pride, consumerism and safe-living all miss the mark for the only true Lord in this world is and was Jesus Christ.

So celebrate appropriately.  Decorations are only a hint of the beauty of Christmas as we celebrate the coming of God himself.  We celrbrate that JEsus is Lord.  We anticipate that one day all wrongs will be right and that true peace will reign at the coming of our Lord.  We long for that day but know there is much work for us to do while injustice and evil still reign.  Jesus, we welcome you in our lives as Lord.  Thank you for coming down to this earth and relinquishing your God-abilities to be human.  We recognize the work of your Father as the work we adhere to.  Forgive us this season for our consumerism and allow us to celebrate what is most important beyond the toys, decorations and false narratives sent by society.  Allows us to celebrate you.  Thank you for coming.  I love you.  Reign in my life and let my breath breathe the air that comes from only you.  Amen.

Below is an advent poem by W.H. Smaw and then a couple of songs I thought were worthy of note.  Peace.

I am. I was. I will be.
I am not coming soon I am here.

I was born on a cold night in a cold place
Unnoticed, unheralded by cold people
Who turned my mother away.
On that night were you listening?
On that night the “least of your brothers” was me.
Now do you see, do you hear and do you care?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In your life do you see me
In the ragged men and women
Who search the cold street
Looking for my reflection in your heart?
Do you hear my voice in
Their muttered plea or in their tear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
Do you hear me when your friend turns to you
To ask forgiveness and trust?
Do I not forgive you always?
Do I not give you a merciful ear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In this season I was born unto you
Fulfilling the promise of God’s care.
Look for me, listen to me…
I am not coming soon I am here.

Quote on Parenting

November 17, 2010 — Leave a comment

Thought you could chew on this one for a while…hang in there parents!!!

When a parent refused to accept his child’s defiant challenge, something changes in their relationship.  The youngster begins to look at his mother and father with disrespect; they are unworthy of her allegiance.  More important, she wonders why they would let her do such harmful things if they really loved her.  The ultimate paradox of childhood is that boys and girls want to be led by their parents but insist that their mothers and fathers earn the right to lead them.”  James Dobson, The New Strong-Willed Child, 2004, p. 5.

Some implications I imagine…

5 Ways to Encourage Elders

November 2, 2010 — 3 Comments

The Hebrew author said this, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7).  As a minister I know the difficulties of leading people and how frustrating and disappointing it can be.   My leadership is minuscule compared with the responsibilities of the elders or shepherds of a church.  Not only do they deflect evil that comes from the outside (Acts 20:29) but often they have to resolve issues of evil that happen on the inside (Acts 20:30).  These men often stay up late at night worried about a member’s soul and sometimes they are in the hospital early in the morning comforting someone who is about to have surgery.  Couple that with organizing and administrating the affairs of the church and then trying to deal with ministry personalities it is a most difficult calling being a New Testament elder.  So here is what we can do: encourage them.  The Hebrew author said “remember them” and the word literally means to call into remembrance or to make mention of.  Here are 5 ways we can help “bear the burden” (Gal. 6:2) of our eldership and give them fuel to fan the flames of their shepherding:

  1. Pray with them.  I often  heard members complain that the elders have never prayed with them or sat down with them for a word of prayer.  First of all, they have hundreds of others to think about and how do you know they are not praying for you in their homes?  Secondly, why don’t you instigate the prayer and go up to them and say, “I just want to pray with you because I know being an elder is difficult so would you join me for a little bit?”
  2. Support them.  When you hear people talking about the elders and their failure to do this or their propensity to not do that then it is that precise moment we need to stop and stand behind our elders.  It is this type of dissension (see Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:20) that tears a church apart.  Ask the person if they have gone to the elders directly with the issue which is, of course, the biblical way of communication (see Matt. 18:15-20).
  3. Give them feedback.  Believe it or not the eldership is not omniscient meaning they do not know everything that happens in the congregation.  If you think a program, ministry or particular caveat of organization could benefit from some tweeking then let them know.  As long as you are not nit-picky but are giving constructive criticism then I imagine the elders would benefit from this type of discussion.
  4. Work for them.  Go up to the elders and let them know you are gifted in a certain area and you believe the church could benefit from your services.  Be faithful when they elders give you a particular responsibility and report to them the progress you are making.  If something is going wrong then, like #4 above, give them feedback.  The church needs diligent workers who are not grumblers but who love doing the work of the Lord.
  5. Throw them a party.  We have not done this (yet) but I have heard of many churches surprising their elders with a party celebrating them and their work and labor.  Paul said, “honor one another above yourselves” (Rom 12:10) and that the “elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17).  Why not surprise your elders with a wonderful meal, a plaque recognizing their service and a movie with thoughtful messages from the church family?  You do this and it will infuse your elders with greater commitment, contagious passion and a love that will help the church to grow beyond measure.

So what are you waiting for?  Go encourage them today!