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Archive for the ‘youth ministry’ Category

Yes, the following is an extreme example of what may be the future for Christians in the United States. Will it ever be this bad in the United States? Only the Lord knows for sure, but Revelation doesn’t paint a pretty picture anywhere in the world. A growing number of pastors seem to believe we’ll end up here. I’m no prophet, but I’d rather those appointed to my care are ready for such a situation and it not happen than the reserve.

I want you to travel with me in your mind’s eye to a time in the possibly near future. We are merely outside observers, much like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Before us are a small group of men and women. They look familiar, like we’ve seen them before. The marks of torture and imprisonment are upon them. We can hear the volume of the harsh words of their captors even before we see the strikes and physical beatings that this group of people are enduring.

Tuning in, we focus on the words. “Deny your Christ and this will all be over!” “Reject Jesus and you will be freed!” “Hold on to your fairy tale faith and you will die here!” These and far fouler words are shouted by the captors at this group of men and women. We now know these are Christians suffering persecution for their faith. The fact that we understand their words tells us that this isn’t happening in some far off country, but possibly right here in the United States of America. Thinking about it, and how things have changed over the last 50 or so years, it looks like the words preached from many a pulpit have been proven true. Persecution of Christians is now a reality.

Then we get a glimpse of one of the young men. His words strike us through the heart, “I will never reject my Savior!” It is the “I will never,” that catches our collective attention. We now know who he is. He is the troublemaker from our children’s ministry. The one we are always fighting with. The one who never sits still. The one who caused us headaches when he hit another kid. When he was asked to apologize he instead shouted, “I will never say I am sorry!”

As we look over each face, we start to recognize these are the boys and girls we work with, only they are grown up now. These are the ones we wonder about: are we making a difference in their lives? Are they getting it? Is our teaching sinking in? Now we see that it is. It just takes time. But in that time they will go from children unaware of what Scripture says to grown men and women unashamed of their faith.

Granted, this scene is just one possibility of the future. However, this is why we work in children’s and youth ministry: to raise up boys and girls to be men and women unashamed of their Savior and willing to stand for Him, whatever the cost. We may not see the results in our lifetime, but we will surely know them in Heaven. Every time you feel overwhelmed or underappreciated, remember this vision. We are called to a noble task in the holiest of endeavors. It could very well be this future we are preparing these boys and girls for. Yes, ministry to children and youth is hard. But the future they face may very well be harder. We are the ones who get the privilege of preparing them for it.

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My oldest son is 13 years-old and I know I don’t tell him enough how proud of him I am. He does a lot of great things and he’s a great kid. Like most parents, I probably harp on him too much for what he’s not doing right as opposed to taking more time to tell him when he’s doing well. That’s something I’m working on because if I don’t improve the balance, he could end up thinking that he’s never going to please me, when the truth of the matter is he does most of the time.

This morning I had just such a chance to tell him I was proud of him. Last night we wrapped up our Awana awards ceremony and like every year, my son finished his book. But this year was different and I wanted him to know that. This was my son’s first year in Trek and when you complete your first book in Trek you receive the Milestone Award. This is his fifth book between Truth & Training and Trek. So him completing the book is nothing new. What is new is how he did it.

At the beginning of the Awana year, we talked about our expectations. My kids know the expectations are high: complete your book and all the extra credit. The reason our expectations are high is because they’ve performed at this standard every year. So my oldest son knew what was expected of him. This was nothing new. But what was new was he figured out what it would take to get everything done, all on his own, and he took care of it, all on his own. There were no parental reminders to stay on target, there was no need to talk to him about falling behind and putting together a plan to catch up. None of that was needed because he put his plan together and he executed it, completing everything there was to finish in his book.

Keep in mind, this wasn’t without a couple of hiccups. We missed a couple of weeks due to illness, vacation, and going to visit Nanny that weren’t included in his original plan. That meant he knew there were several weeks that he would fall behind due to no fault of his own. No problem, he just prepared to catch up the following week and he always did. And he did it all on his own. Now if he needed help completing a section or needed some advice, we helped him. But all of those requests were initiated by my son. He would look over his material, determine he needed help, and then make it a point to ask for it in a timely manner.

So this morning I took the time to put my hand on his shoulder, and tell him how proud of him I was. I listed the specifics and why they impressed me (like adjusting his schedule to handle the unexpected misses). I told him I understood how hard he worked to stay on top of things and how I couldn’t remember a single time when his mother or I had to get on him about his work. I told him what I had seen over this past Awana year: he understood what needed to be done, put a plan together, executed on that plan, adjusted the plan as he needed to, and completed everything.  It was good to see him smiling as it finally sunk in how much he had accomplished on his own. I don’t think until I told him quite plainly what he had done that he realized it himself. I’m really proud of my boy.

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I really enjoyed Francesca Battistelli’s first album, My Paper Heart. It quickly became one of my favorite albums from my collection though I’m typically a Gospel rap and urban Gospel kind of guy. For instance, her song Beautiful, Beautiful chokes me up every time I hear it. As a result, I was really looking forward to her next album, Hundred More Years. I picked it up last night and have listened to it through a couple of times and definitely recommend it. It has a lot of the same upbeat style from My Paper Heart, but there are some slower and more thoughtful tracks, too. Overall, great messages in the majority of the songs (only one I have any real issue with, and it’s not so much with the song, but with the fascination on angels).

This is the Stuff

This is a light-hearted reminder of how we often get so caught up in the little things that we forget “how big [we’re] blessed” by God. It’s definitely a bridge from her first album to this one as the style is very similar. As my wife put it upon hearing it, “Her stuff always sounds so upbeat.” And this song definitely is that way. Rather than hit us over the head with how we focus on the wrong things, she invites us to come along with her as she reveals her own foibles.

Constant

We are told to rely on God for everything and that’s what this track communicates well. It is a pointer back to Psalm 139 at the very end, too, with the words:

Before I was a thought on earth
You knew me then and You gave me worth
When all of this is said and done
You will be the One I’m standing on

You Never Are

This is a song about grace. “You never are” too far gone from God, too “hidden in the dark” or too sinful for God to redeem. It’s something God has been hitting home with me lately, to remember that I am not perfect, I will not be perfect while He is sanctifying me, but that I am to keep trusting, to keep leaning on His grace, as I seek to be obedient and faithful to Him. This one covers the first part of that, and asks why we can’t forgive ourselves even though “God is bigger than the times we fail.”

Angel By Your Side

I’m not a big fan of this one and it might have something to do with how watered down “angel” has become, even within the Church. It sounds like this song is from the perspective of a friend instead of Christ and while angels provided comfort, we aren’t angels. I know that’s nit-picking, but as watered down as doctrine has become in this church and knowing how certain youth respond to anything angel-related, this one gives me pause. Musically it’s a great song (and it’s not upbeat) and I understand the sentiment, but I won’t list this among my favorites of her work.

Motion of Mercy

I really like this one. It starts with where we all start: spiritually bankrupt before God. We’ve come to the point where we realize we are sinners in need of a Savior. Through His mercy He redeems us but that’s just the start. We are changed and we gain a desire to serve, to love, to “give something for nothing” and to “be a glimpse of the Kingdom that’s coming soon.” Awesome way to state what we are to be as Christians and why we are to be that way.

Emily (It’s Love)

When I saw the title of this one, I immediately went to the lyrics. As I read them, it hit me how appropriate they are for an “Emily” I know who is struggling with questions of self-worth and who at times feels she can’t do anything right. I know we’re all at that point sometimes in our lives, and this song speaks well to that state, reminding us:

If you feel you’ve had enough
He’s never given up
It’s love

God doesn’t give up on us. We should not give up on ourselves.

Good to Know

Once we are His, we can always come back to Him. He never lets us get so far away that we can’t come back home. That’s the message of this song and it speaks a lot of truth about grace, forgiveness, and the faithfulness of our God. Like any good Father, sometimes He lets us go ahead and make the mistake because that’s the only way we’re going to learn. This song speaks to that, too.

So Long

We all have dreamed where we could leave our problems behind. It’s a fantasy that won’t come true in this sin-filled world. However, we have a Savior who will help us even when the days are darkest and when we need someone to give us comfort that we can’t find any place else. I’ve seen some of those pitch-black days and I have found that with Christ they are bearable. Without Christ I lost control. And that’s what Francesca Battistelli so eloquently sings in this song.

Don’t Miss It

A very upbeat song that reminded me a lot of the opening track’s of Natalie Grant’s Relentless album, this fast song ironically tells us to slow down. She points out that we can be driving along so fast to get where we’re going that we miss everything that is really important. Here are some haunting words:

What if you took the time
To really soak it in
‘Cause someday you’re gonna wish you did

Worth It

This is my favorite song on the whole album. Francesca doesn’t mince words about what love really is. This isn’t the stuff you’ll find in teen paranormal romance novels, but the way love is described in Scripture and the way love is supposed to be in our relationships with one another. She also includes words about love saving us, a reflection of the fact that without the love of Christ, without His redemption, there is no heaven. We must have a relationship with Him, a real one, or our eternal destination of Hell is not changed.

Hundred More Years

This is a great song about a young couple getting married and about how they would freeze that moment in time if they could. About midway through the song is a reflection of a daddy watching that same girl, three years old, “spinning like a little princess.” Those of us who have little girls know this moment well. Mine is in ballet and just today she was spinning just like this. This is definitely a heart tugger of a song and it’s a beautiful way to end a very beautiful album.

 

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I was surprised to learn today from a Christian brother that an Awana missionary recommended against the youth group programs that Awana has to offer. There’s basically a transition for Awana from elementary school to secondary school (middle school/junior high and senior high) and with that transition there’s a new name to the overall program: 24-7 Ministries. The name comes from the principle that we live the Christian life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Within the 24-7 Ministries umbrella, there are two curricula:

  • Trek – Middle School / Junior High School
  • Journey – Senior High School

I’ll speak more to Trek because in addition to being an Awana commander, I’m also the Trek Director. Trek is built around three foundational concepts with respect to the ministry and how the students respond:

  • Come See – Students come and see what Trek is about. There should be scheduled Trek meetings which serve to invite youth in to see if they want to be a part of the group. Pizza parties, game nights, etc.
  • Come Follow – Students who decide to stick around start to learn how to apply the Bible to life. They are becoming followers of Jesus Christ. Trek has a curriculum that include Bible memorization, spiritual exercises, and Bible study.
  • Come Serve – God expects us to serve (He has prepared our work beforehand – Ephesians 2:10). Trekkers should be engaged in ministry opportunities around the church and community. For instance, one of the areas my church’s Trekkers are responsible for is the puppet skits for the Cubbies, which kick off their lessons each week.

The Journey program takes application of the Bible to a deeper level. Also, the study of Biblical doctrine is more pronounced, which is expected as senior high should be better prepared to deal with those types of questions and topics. Both Trek and Journey, used properly, are excellent curricula for youth ministry.

If that wasn’t good enough, if a youth goes through T&T, Trek, and Journey, and completes the books for each year, they are eligible for scholarships to participating Christian colleges. The first award level can be completed by going through 4 books, which you could do in T&T. But the higher award levels require time in Trek and/or Journey. More information can be found here:

College scholarships for Awana awards

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The book Raising a Modern Day Joseph was hyped a couple of years ago by Awana and I was intrigued by some of the things they said went into it, so I bought it, setting it aside to read later. So it sat on one of my bookshelves until about a week ago, when I pulled it down, realized I had meant to read it much earlier, and dove in. After finishing the book, I wished I had read it when I first purchased it. As a Christian and a parent of growing children, it gave me a lot to think about and a lot of things to revise in my plan for my children and put into action.

Written by Larry Fowler, an executive at Awana, it begins with Larry talking about the prayer of Awana, which is for all children in the youth to come to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ and how those three are inter-related. So how do you ensure that your child, your son or daughter, comes to do that? Well, the book is blunt. Sometimes you can do everything right and the child will reject everything, like one case where Larry talks about two brothers who both earned the Citation award (link goes to an Adobe Acrobat Reader checklist of the requirements), the highest award you can earn in Awana. One stayed true to his faith, while the other walked away from it. His parents had tried to raise them both to respect and fear God, to walk in His ways, and to love Him first and foremost, but one of the boys chose a different path. And yes, there are some, despite their roots, who come to faith and become followers of Jesus Christ. I know that’s certainly true of me. But if I’m a Christian parent, I have a responsibility to teach my children the tenets of my faith:

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. – Deuteronomy 6:4-7, NASB

And that’s where Larry goes with this book. How exactly should we teach our children? What should be shooting for? What’s our benchmark? Larry’s choice is Joseph and he has very good reasons for doing so. Joseph would have been sold by his brothers in his late teen years, about the time we have to start releasing our hold on our children and they start making their own way in the world. He was thrust into a world which was very alien to the beliefs he had been brought up with and contrary to the faith of his father. He had been dealt some breaks and hardships which showed life was anything bug fair, including situations where doing the right thing caused him more trouble. Yet Joseph stayed true to the faith he had learned from Jacob/Israel and was used by God not only to save Egypt, but his family besides. Joseph is a great example of one who can forgive the wrongs done to him by others, as evidenced by how he took care of his brothers and their families, and how he explained to them, after the death of their father, when they thought he would harm them, that he understood that what they intended for evil, God intended for good. Joseph is a great benchmark to strive for.

Larry then contrasts Joseph with another son, the Prodigal Son, of Jesus’ parable in the New Testament. From those two examples, threads which we need to weave into our children’s lives were identified and explained. Larry goes a step further and explains when each of these threads should be emphasized. All of them are important throughout the life of a child, but there are certain times when they will make a bigger impact and should be focused on more. For instance, for middle-schoolers, the thread of Destiny, that each of us is created by God for a purpose, that we are not just another face in a landscape of nameless people, is what should be focused on, because that’s when a child/youth begins to explore the question of, “What will my life be like?”

And all of this is brought home to the idea of a plan. What is my plan to help my children grow in their faith? Not only should my goal be to have them be similar to Joseph when they are adults, in other words, thinking of things more than just education and career, but what are my steps to get them there? Most Christian parents don’t have any sort of plan. This goes back to that old maxim, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” I have a plan, but I need to really re-think some aspects of it. And when Larry says plan, he doesn’t mean a comprehensive 3,000 page tome of do this and that each and every day, because a lot of working with children is about seizing opportunities, about looking for times to share, and constantly showering them with love. So he also gives some advice as to what to look to do, though admittedly this book isn’t the practical guide on how to put all this into action (there’s a follow-on book by another author which does that, but I haven’t read it yet). It’s more the call to start thinking in this direction.

So if you’re a Christian parent or a Christian looking to be a parent one day, you definitely want to read this book. You may not agree with all of it, but it will get you thinking about what kind of plan you have for your children. If you aren’t a Christian, there’s food for thought in what you want to one day be able to truthfully say about your children and how to start putting into practice ideas that will hopefully bring that about.

 

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Just recently, my oldest son entered the ranks of the teenagers. I shouldn’t actually say teenagers, because I have come to not like that word, mainly because of the influence of the book, Do Hard Things. But with 13 came access to email and to Facebook. Here’s how I tackled things, not only setup, but initial education.

E-Mail:

The first thing I did was set him up with an email account with one of the many providers that are out there. I could have set him up through one of my domains, but I decided this would be easiest for him, especially since I had already planned on getting him a decent cell phone. When I chose the name, I avoided obvious “tells” such as references to video games, to popular cartoons, or to anything else that might scream, “I’m not an adult.” Instead, I went with one variant of his full name, one that would be appropriate on a professional resume.

Now, most email accounts have the ability to contact another email in case you need to get into the account. I set up the emergency email to be one of my wife’s accounts, and I promptly gave her the email address and password to my son’s new email account. I have it, too. The email account password is a strong passphrase with some alterations. It’s not one you’d tie to him in any way but it is one he can easily remember.

Then I pre-loaded his contacts list with the folks he would most likely want to contact and sent an email from his account to all of those contacts sharing the email address and indicating that it was me setting up his email since he was a newly minted 13 year-old. This, of course, served three purposes:

  1. It gave him access to the email addresses of the people he’d most likely email.
  2. It gave those people his legitimate email so they wouldn’t be tricked by an account they though might be his.
  3. It gave them an opportunity to wish him a happy birthday!

Facebook:

With his email account set up, it was time to set up my son’s Facebook account. I used the email address just created, but chose a completely different passphrase. This ensures that should one password be compromised, the other one isn’t. I went through his profile, configuring the basic information that was necessary, hiding the rest. While Facebook does offer some protection for those who are classified as minors, I’m not going to rely on that. So among some of the things I did:

  • I did not specify his current city. He has already been told not to set this.
  • I specified his hometown as an older ones. Folks who legitimately know him will recognize the hometown and know they have the right person.
  • I did not publish his birthday to Facebook (yes, he’ll get posts on his birthday, but how old he is will remain hidden).
  • I locked things down to friends of friends for much of his information, because he is in a youth group and so there has to be some flexibility there.
  • I turned off the location features that Facebook now offers.
  • I configured initial interests that I knew were appropriate for him. For instance, Chris Tomlin as a musician he liked.
  • I picked up a reasonable profile pic that I had. He eventually changed it to another one that it is acceptable, too, of one with him and his grandfather.
  • And again, my wife and I have his password.

The Phone:

Truth be told, I was looking for a really basic phone that would allow him to call us and to text.For those teens thinking, “No fair! My parents won’t let me have a phone!” it is truly a mixed blessing. As the old AT&T commercial went, him having a phone means I can “reach out and touch someone,” namely him, whenever I want. We have a dispersed church campus and we spend a lot of time there, and tracking him down could sometimes be a chore. Not any more! Now I can get him any time. And believe me, my wife and I have (ab)used this greatly since he got his new phone.

He’s on our plan, which is pretty robust since me and my wife both carry smartphones due to my ministry and professional commitments. Looking at the phones, however, the only decent set of phones that I saw also had the built-in camera and ability to connect to Facebook and Email. As I thought about that, though, it occurred to me that this was just fine. So we got him a good phone, and I set up Facebook and his mail on it, because I knew this would be his primary interface to those two mediums. That restricts some of what he can do, but it also protects him a great deal because the phone doesn’t have a lot of functionality. It’s not a smart phone, so certain security threats are naturally eliminated.

The Education:

Next came educating him on everything. I started with the phone, which is his primary means of communications. First there was the explanation of the shared plan and that his phone use should be limited. He knows my wife and I will check the minutes religiously, so he’s been good about his usage of his phone. Then I showed him how to call out, how to text, and how to access Facebook and e-mail, to get him started quickly. The rest he picked up from reading the instructions that came with his phone. He knows his phone only has a 1 GB card in it, so he has to limit the photos and pictures he might take.

Then, when we got home, I went over email and Facebook. The first rule is, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Then we talked about the mentality of attackers on the Internet. They basically don’t care how they get you, as long as they get you. While this is slightly overstating things, and may seem a bit paranoid, having worked in IT security for a number of years, I know it’s not. My son knows I worked in IT security and so when I said “Pay attention,” he really did. Let’s talk about the basics:

Getting Something from Someone You Don’t Know: Unless you know something was coming in, like from a school or something and you just didn’t know the address, automatically be suspicious of this, whether it’s email or a Facebook message or a Facebook friend request. This is a play on your trust.

Getting Something from Someone You Do Know That Doesn’t Fit: This is the classic con game. I explained to him that it’s not too hard to make an email look like it came from someone you know, when it really didn’t. Technically, it may have, but their computer is infected. So if they send something that’s out of character for them, like sending an attachment, don’t open it. Instead, write them back and ask them if they really meant to send it. Even if they did, be suspicious.

If You Get an App Request for a Photo or Video, Close Out the Tab: Facebook photos and videos do not require an application request. If you get one, that means it’s not legitimate. Don’t play around with navigation. Simply close that tab, open a new one, and go back to Facebook. If it was posted to your wall, go into your profile and delete it so it doesn’t get someone else.

If You Get a Prompt Saying You Need to Update Software, Check with Me: We talked about how attackers have used false software updates to push malware onto a system. The unsuspecting user thinks they are getting a needed software update to say, Adobe Flash, and what they are really doing is infecting their system. His account doesn’t have rights to do a software update, so he has to check with me anyway, but should he see such a prompt, he needs to tell me right away.

If It Appeals to What You Know You Shouldn’t Be Messing with, Avoid It: Scantily clad girls, adult content, beer/alcohol ads, etc., it makes no difference. Not only should he not be going after such things because of his age, but it’s just dumb on the Internet. Attackers know what our vices are. And they know that when it comes to our vices, we’ll let down our guard, meaning it’s easier to push malware onto our systems. So knowing that attackers are using our weaknesses against us, it’s just smart to steer clear. It’s not just about purity, it’s also about IT security.

Limit the Facebook Games You Play: I used to play a handful of Facebook games. One was because my cousin was in QA for Zynga and he asked me to play one to give him honest feedback. But over time I started tracking the number of hours spent each week on those games. I wasn’t pleased with those numbers. They are incredible time sinks. They also collect personal information on you from Facebook. So I told him to limit it to a few sets of games I’d approve of. Bejeweled Blitz is one, though that can be addictive. But any of the -ville games are definitely out. This isn’t an IT security one, just a common sense one.

Understand What a Phishing Attack Is: We talked about how attackers will make a link look legitimate but it’s not. Therefore, if it’s something that asks him to disclose any personal information, even his email, he immediately should delete/ignore it. If he thinks it might be legitimate, then he needs to let me see it.

If You Have Any Doubts, See Me: I knew that with the brief education I gave him, he would occasionally come across things he wasn’t sure what to do with. In those cases, he needed to talk to me or my wife (who would likely just ask me). And then I reminded him of the next one.

On the Internet, Be Paranoid: As a security professional, I came to understand the following maxim very well: “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out to get me.” There are plenty of attackers looking for anyone they can take advantage of. There are sexual predators out there who will pretend to be a teenage boy or girl and want to be his friend, all to arrange a meeting with him. If you don’t know the person, if you aren’t sure you can trust something, check in with me. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Likely More to Come:

I’m sure there are some other things I’m leaving off, but this is what we started with, so far as I can remember. It was sort of like a brain dump on him, but he’s done well thus far. Now it’s about ensuring he stays diligent.

 

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When should a Christian date? What are the boundaries a Christian should have when dating? What is really important in a dating relationship? How will I know I am ready to start dating? How do I know I’m in a bad or good relationship? Is my relationship honoring God?

These are the types of questions I thought about a couple of years ago as I looked at my sons and realized that they would soon be teenagers. And these were the types of questions I would hope they would ask. These were certainly the types of questions I wanted to be able to answer. I grew up without Christ. My teenage years were unguided. And I made some major mistakes. Not necessarily what others would consider major, but in hindsight they are to me. And because I love my sons, I want to see them prosper and do the right things, avoiding the mistakes that I and others have made. As a result, I began with:

I Kissed Dating Goodbye

I had heard about this book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, for a while but I had never read it because I was already married to an awesome woman who God somehow convinced to marry me. I had heard some folks were against it because Joshua Harris takes a very strong stand against dating until one is ready for marriage. I know that doesn’t fit well with the common idea about dating, but I realized that once upon a time there wasn’t dating like we have today. Yes, and in those primitive days there were a lot of arranged marriages, too, but it made me stop and say, “I need to see what he has to say and whether he can back it up with Scripture.” I was pleasantly surprised.

Joshua Harris does that hard line, but for good reason. As he revealed what he discovered about his dating relationships, I realized he was talking about mine and most of the people I know, too. We don’t date because we’re in it for the other person so much as we’re in it for ourselves. Stop and think about it. Why did you do what you did? Was it usually for the other person or because it ultimately made you feel good? It’s okay if that realization comes crashing down on you. It happens to most of us. Harris points out that is why he stopped dating. He wasn’t following through on God’s direction. After all, there’s clear guidance about Christians dating Christians (avoiding being unequally yoked) and so that means if we are dating Christians, we should be treating them as our brothers and sisters in Christ. Just because we’re in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean we suddenly forget that. But the reality is that we often do.

If you are a Christian teenager or adult, even if you’re married, I would suggest reading this book. As a husband it made me think about my relationship with my aforementioned awesome wife. It was convicting. And it meant I had to make changes in the way I treated her and showed her my love. If you’re not married, Harris uses Scripture well to support why he believes what he believes. You may not agree with his position of drawing a line and saying, “No!” to dating, but if you’re a Christian, he will give you something serious to chew on about how you treat the other person in those dating relationships.

Boy Meets Girl

This is the second book in the series and it talks about what to do when you decide to date. Harris’ perspective is you shouldn’t date until you are ready for marriage, and this book, Boy Meets Girl,  provides the guidelines for how to have that proper dating relationship. You’re not going to find a lot of old-fashioned advice that doesn’t fit in today’s world. Instead, you’re going to find practical advice backed by Scripture about how to conduct that dating relationship in a way that honors God, whether it leads to marriage or it doesn’t.

Yes, I said even if it doesn’t. Harris doesn’t suggest you date and get married to that first person. What he does suggest is if both people feel like this might be a relationship which could lead to marriage, that it’s time to investigate. And it’s not about a chemical reaction or what school they went to or anything like that. Rather, it’s about earnestly seeking if God would have the two people joined together in marriage. This isn’t an investigation that happens alone. Rather, it’s one where there should be others supporting the relationship, ensuring it stays within the bounds that honor God, where these others pray for the relationship to determine God’s desire, and help the two determine what they should do. Not all relationships are going to end in a “Yes.” But that doesn’t make the relationship a failure so long as it was God honoring.

Sex Isn’t the Problem (Lust Is)

For the vast majority of us, lust is something that is a big weakness. Maybe one doesn’t engage in viewing pornographic images or watching movies of skeptical value. But if one seeks special attention from the opposite sex, even if it isn’t exactly sexual, then we’re still talking about lust. Pretending that we don’t deal with this problem, or acting like we’re strong enough to resist on our own is foolishness (to quote, “a lone ranger is a dead ranger”). Another practical advice book, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is), deals with the issues we all face and gives guidance and Scripture on how to deal with them. Harris is realistic: there isn’t a miracle cure or some secret to overcoming lust once and for all. We in a fight and a fight to the end.

So if it’s so hard and if we’re going to falter, why fight? Because sex within the confines of marriage is good. It’s what God intended and when we succumb to lust, we take away from it. Sex is often cast in a dirty light, but it’s not sex that is the problem. Sex is fine, so long as its according to the rules. A desire for physical intimacy is built into us. And it’s not something God casts a glaring eye at. After all, we do have Song of Songs/Song of Solomon in our Bibles. It’s when we take sex outside of marriage or we look for that sort of intimacy (even non-physical intimacy) outside of the marriage relationship that we step into sin. Harris builds the case for this view, again through Scripture, and he looks at both males and females, because we both fight this fight. Another good read, especially if one is married.

 

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