The Biggest Cultural Forces that Challenge Families

Larry Shallenberger on the biggest cultural forces that challenge families today:

1) The crisis of fatherlessness in America: There’s an epidemic of children being raised without dads. When this happens, moms tend to be overworked and chronically exhausted; boys tend to get caught up in violence and crime; and educational performance goes down in boys and girls. The family lowers its goals to survival and connection with God drops off the radar. Every children and youth pastor in America should read two books– Fatherless Generation by Dr. John Sowers and Father Fiction by Donald Miller.

2) Consumerism: My greatest fear about family ministry is we package them as commodities that will fix families and make them happier, more virtuous, and godlier. Those are all fantastic goals. However, I don’t see those families in scripture. What I see, particularly in the book of Genesis, is that God collects a large train-wreck of a family, and, by his mercy, enfolds them into his plan for redemption. God isn’t a product to fix families.

(This excerpt was taken from a recent interview with Tony Kummer)

Suburban Addictions

Poverty is not always financial, it is spiritual too. In Death by Suburb, author David Goetz identifies eight toxins that are plaguing the suburbs. These are the factors that are driving your neighbors to live the life they do. As Christians, it is our responsibility to be aware of these toxins, and their corresponding remedies, so that we can begin to reach out to our neighbors in meaningful ways. Identifying these addictions and offering something counter, something beautiful, will profoundly change the real face of the suburbs. Here is a video where David Goetz talks about “suburban addictions”.

I read this book awhile back and posted my reflections on it here.  For those who live and serve in suburbia, it's worth checking out.

(HT: Michael Wallenmeyer)

Almost Christian

Almost ChristianHere's a brief description of Kenda Creasy Dean's provocative book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church: In Soul Searching, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton found that American teenagers have embraced a “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”–a hodgepodge of banal, self-serving, feel-good beliefs that bears little resemblance to traditional Christianity. But far from faulting teens, Dean places the blame for this theological watering down squarely on the churches themselves. Instead of proclaiming a God who calls believers to lives of love, service and sacrifice, churches offer instead a bargain religion, easy to use, easy to forget, offering little and demanding less. But what is to be done?

In order to produce ardent young Christians, Dean argues, churches must rediscover their sense of mission and model an understanding of being Christian as not something you do for yourself, but something that calls you to share God’s love, in word and deed, with others. Dean found that the most committed young Christians shared four important traits: they could tell a personal and powerful story about God; they belonged to a significant faith community; they exhibited a sense of vocation; and they possessed a profound sense of hope. Based on these findings, Dean proposes an approach to Christian education that places the idea of mission at its core and offers a wealth of concrete suggestions for inspiring teens to live more authentically engaged Christian lives. (Taken from Dean's website)

  • Buy the book here
  • Read CNN's take on it here

Favre and the Fear of Man

Did you see Al Michael's interview with Brett Favre last night? I think it revealed a few things about why he came back another year. 1) Favre hesitated in making a decision to come back because he fears failure and he fears man. He said that he did not want to let people down either by playing or not playing another year. 2) Favre misses the camaraderie of being part of a team ... he said there's nothing like it! 3) Favre knows he will make a lot of money. No brainer.

Whatever the reason ... I'm glad he's playing another year for my favorite team -- the Vikes!

America's Amazing Young Talent!

My wife, Jaime, who is incidentally celebrating her birthday today, writes:

America’s Got Talent is one of my favorite shows.  It airs on Tuesday nights (and Wednesday for result shows) during the summer and goes until 11:00 pm, so my family is usually all in bed and I’m watching the end of the show by myself!  This last performance brought me to tears and I had to wake up Doug before going to bed to tell him about it.  I was just amazed at the gift that God has given this little girl.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you gotta see this…

The Japanese Word for Human

Since my twin brother is a missionary in Japan, I found this quote to be quite fascinating in regards to community:

The Japanese word for human person is ningen, which literally means "between people."  To be human from [their] viewpoint is to be together with others.  "Community" is thus built in to the very nature of "humanity," as the language serves to reinforce the strongly held conviction that the group comes first.

~ Joseph H. Hellerman, When the Church Was a Family, p. 20.

**BTW ... for all you LBC folks, make sure to come out this Sun. night @ 6:30 to see my brother and his family as they share about "The Fight of Faith for All the Nations."  Should be fun!

Agents of Renewal

Tullian Tchividjian's book, Unfashionable, has been a challenging read for me this summer.  I've been chewing on what it means to be an agent of renewal -- to join God in his work of renewing all things.  I wonder what would happen if we took this seriously -- to become missionaries who bring good news and good deeds to broken, hurting people.  Tullian writes:

The mission of the church is spiritual and physical, individual and cultural.  God wants us to involve ourselves in the rehabilitation of hearts and houses, souls and society.  We're to care about the renewal of both people and the environment.  The requires word and deed, proclamation and demonstration.  God is renewing human hearts and recreating all things through his church.  This is our mission to the world (p. 62). 

Despicable Me - A Movie About Adoption

My friend, Tom DeZarn, on his sneak preview of the movie, Despicable Me: We recently saw a sneak preview of the movie, “Despicable Me.” Much to our surprise (because the trailers did not hint at this), it is a movie about adoption.  It is, in fact, a powerful and positive movie about adoption.  The content is appropriate for all ages and we strongly recommend it for the entire family.  It hits the theatres on July 9.  For those of you who are Steve Carell fans–he is the voice of the lead character, and with a Russian accent!

Looks like a great movie for the whole family coming soon.  Check it out here.

Why LOST Didn't Owe You Any Answers

Brent Thomas:

In the end, LOST owed no one any clear answers because life gives us no clear answers. God often gives us no clear answers (at least from our perspective). Why should we expect a piece of fiction to do what life does not? Is that part of the role of fiction? Do we expect fiction to do what life does not and we’re upset when it somehow doesn’t? Isn’t part of the role of art actually to hold up a mirror to life? If LOST got us, even for a moment, wrapped up in a story greater than ourselves and thinking of deeper things, isn’t that enough? You may not like the way it ended, but it owed us no more answers that it gave. It was never about the answers but about the questions.  (Read the whole thing ...)

LOST is Pointless!

Image: Locke on "Lost"While everyone scratches their heads trying to figure out LOST, Oscar Dahl, from MSNBC, says that's not the point: “At its basest level, ‘Lost’ is about life. The island is a microcosm of our everyday existence… but the feeling of not knowing anything, of being entirely confused, of struggling with meaning, of searching for answers to unknowable questions, is universal. Life is like being on the island — we don’t know why we’re here, we don’t really know what to do, but we still search for answers. And we often fail, even with the best intentions in mind.”

(HT: Z)

Favorite Christian Music Hits

Wow 1996: The Year's 30 Top Christian Artists & SongsJust curious ... what are your favorite Christian music hits from the past?  Ya know ... the ones that you remember singing back in the good ole' 90's.  My wife and I reminisced and came up with these songs in no particular order, some of which came from the WOW CD.  Please share your favorites!

1. Shine by the Newboys 2. Great Adventure by Steven Curtis Chapman 3. Big Big House by Audio Adrenaline 4. Cross of Gold by Michael W. Smith 5. The Hard Way by D.C. Talk 6. Faith Like A Child by Jars of Clay 7. Great Lengths by PFR 8. Hold Me Jesus by Rich Mullins

Click on the songs above to see the accompanying video ... here are 2 of my faves below.  Wow.  Music brings back so many memories!


The Marriage Ref

The-Marriage-Ref[1]Out of curiosity my wife and I watched the first episode of The Marriage Ref last week.  The tagline to the show is: in marriage everyone needs a ref.  And so real couples bring an issue they've been fighting about and a panel of experts like Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey, and Eva Longoria Parker decide which one is right (this week's experts include Madonna!).  I liked one writer's take on the show, "It's like a marital boxing match without the gloves [where] one of the spouses is declared the winner." Now I admit, the show is pretty entertaining.  I laughed several times.  And yet at the same time, I think it's potentially devastating to how we deal with conflict in marriage.  We don't  need a marriage ref who can help us decide who is right and who is wrong.  We don't need a celebrity telling us who won the argument.  What we need is someone to look at us right in the eye and say that the biggest problem in our marriage is us.  Otherwise, we'll just keep playing the blame-game and never get anywhere.

John Gottman, a respected author and marriage researcher, says that the four greatest predictors of divorce are: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stone-walling (the silent treatment).  Seems obvious, but how many of us really know how to deal with conflict in our marriage?  We probably won't turn to celebrity experts like Seinfeld and Madonna to tell us what to do, but are we willing to look at ourselves in the mirror and get to the heart of the problem? 

Paul Tripp, in his helpful marriage study called, What Did You Expect? says, "The greatest source of our marriage conflicts is not outside of us, but inside of us.  Relationship problems are heart problems."  This is so important.  We must start with heart.  So Tripp encourages couples to ask themselves questions like: What am I allowing to rule my heart?  Why am I responding in anger?  And in the midst of conflict am I seeking reconciliation (I'm with you) or retaliation (I'm against you)?

In the end, we don't need a marriage ref.  We need a Savior!  We need Jesus.  And may I add, sometimes a good, gospel-centered counselor.  After all, as my pastor says, "Every few years we go and get a thorough check-up on our car, shouldn't we do the same in our marriages?"

Facebook Research Reveals How We're Connected

6a00d83454428269e20120a86baaf6970b-800wi[1]Jonathan Dodson: Recent Facebook research reveals some interesting trends on what connects people in regions of the U.S. Using 210 million Facebook profiles, Pete Warden has documented and illustrated how and on what regions and cities connect. It appears that Facebook users range from a dense, regional connectedness to a cross-country connection. The lines of connection cluster into 5 regions: Stayathomia, Dixie, Greater Texas, Nomadic West, Mormonia, Pacifica, and Socialistan. Check out the interesting trends from each FB cluster.

How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

switch-dan-chip-heath[1]Switch looks like an intriguing book by the same authors as Made to Stick. In it they make 3 assertions about how to change things when change is hard. • What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction.

• What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. So it's critical that you engage people's emotional side.

• What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.  So shape the situation and you make change more likely.

Here's a great example of this last idea by a 3rd grade teacher in Michigan.

If you're interested, here's my thoughts on making your teaching stick somewhat inspired by the Heath brothers' first book, Made to Stick.

Same Kind of Different As Me

images[2]If you're looking for a book to read for enjoyment, I highly recommend Same Kind of Different As Me.  It made my list of top books I read in 2009, and I see that John Piper recently recommended it hereMy wife loved it too.  She leads a book club and this was one of the favorites they read together. Here's a great video that explains the book and might whet your appetite ...

Why Kids Lie (and how do we stop them?!)

NurtureShock_final[1]I'm continuing to make my way through the book, Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children.  Chapter 4 poses the question, "Why do kids lie?"  The obvious answer put forth by the authors is they lie to avoid being punished.  But the interesting part of this chapter dealt with how we can teach our kids to lie less.  To answer that question, Dr. Victoria Talwar, one of the world's leading experts on children's lying behavior, conducted a rather odd experiment.  One of her researchers read aloud two short stories to a group of children.  The first story was The Boy Who Cried Wolf in which both the boy and the sheep get eaten because of repeated lies.  Alternatively, the second story was George Washington and the Cherry Tree where young George confesses to his father that he chopped down the prized tree and his father praises George for telling the truth. Now ... which of these stories do you think reduced lying more? 

According to Talwar's research, kids lied even more than usual after hearing The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  However, after hearing George Washington and the Cherry Tree their lying was reduced 75% among boys and 50% among girls.  Talwar explained her findings this way:

Young kids are lying to make you happy--trying to please you.  So telling kids that the truth will make a parent happy challenges the original thought that hearing good news--not the truth--is what will please the parent.  That's why George Washington and the Cherry Tree works so well.  Little George receives immunity and praise for telling the truth.

Biblically speaking, this research supports the fact that the threat of punishment cannot stop our kids from lying (or sinning).  In fact, even though discipline is God's tool to train our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, it cannot change our children's hearts.  To say it another way, the law is not the gospel--it points us to the gospel.  It is a tutor to Christ -- the only one who can bring heart change.  We see this in Genesis 3 after the very first sin.  Adam and Eve are punished but God doesn't end there.  He follows the punishment with a promise.  The promise (Gen. 3:15) is that one day Christ will come to conquer Satan and defeat the power of sin and death.  This promise is the only hope of change.

So, why do kids lie?  They're sinners like us.  And how do we stop them from lying?  Give them the gospel.  Always give them the gospel--especially in the context of discipline.  And don't allow the punishment to overshadow the promise.  Because the promise is their only hope for true heart change.

Read my thoughts on the previous 3 chapters: