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A Prayer for Graduates

In Canada school ends for all K-12 students this week!
(I realize for many of you in the USA and elsewhere, it ended a few weeks ago.)

As our church celebrated and prayed for high school graduates this past week, the usual “Dear Lord, bless them, protect them, give them wisdom to navigate all the challenges of living on their own/away from home, etc, etc” were prayed. And I confess, I am becoming increasingly frustrated with these well-meaning, sincere, but what seem to be shallow and comfort-seeking prayers.

Admittedly, I have and probably continue to pray many of these types of prayers myself. After reading Susie Larson’s Your Powerful Prayers and Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker, I have been working continually on being more bold and deliberate in my conversations with God, realizing Who He Is and what He has already done for me as His child, and for all who belong to Christ.

high school grad pic

So with those concerns in mind, I offer this prayer for those graduating from high school and entering into “adult life” this week. Whether they are going on to post-secondary education or to work for a while before further education, here is my prayer:

O Gracious Heavenly Father, as we commit these high school graduates to you today we ask that you would:

  • Slam the doors shut on every opportunity that is not your best. Doors may open that seem good, right or “biblical,” yet if it’s not Your best plan for them, close the door tight we pray.
  • If there are relationships they enter that lead them into sin, we ask in Your mercy to help them see the danger coming and flee. When there are relationships that distract them from you, keep their eyes fixed on You. Stop them, we pray, from beginning friendships that do not help them grow in understanding your world, your heart to see people’s lives changed by the power of Jesus Christ, or that hinder them in any way from following Your good and perfect will.
  • Put them in work (or study) situations where they rely on your strength and your wisdom. Help them to gain work not to make money, to gain fame, or to be “successful,” but to spread the glory of Your Name and share Your grace in whatever context they work.
  • Make them so dangerously impactful for Your Kingdom that they remain in the enemy’s cross-hairs and on his “most wanted list.” Then gird them with all spiritual armor you have provided so they may continue to stand strong in You and Your Word. Give them lots of prayer warriors who will continually uphold them in prayer as they battle.
  • We pray that you would help them to have bold faith, while recognizing when they are moving impulsively or foolishly. We ask you to give them great discernment to know when to take a leap of faith, and when to walk the slow and steady road of faithfulness. Give them much wisdom to realize the wise counselors you give to them along the way, but never let them be slow to follow You because they are seeking to please friends, family or close advisors.

We ask these mercies in the name of name of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Savior of the world, who have gained us access to the very throne of Almighty God and has given each of these young people His Holy Spirit to lead and guide them into the future.

Amen!

 

Book Review – One Dominion

WOW!One Dominion Cover

I am not a “coffee table book” guy. Why would you ever have a book sitting on a table so that every once in a while guests in your home can pick it up, look through it, read the tidbits of information, and then set it back down? If your home and conversation is so boring guests want to look at a book, just let them leave. (Plus right now we have three children under age 10 so a “coffee table book” is just another source of perpetual frustration for all parties!)

Thus, my first word! WOW! One Dominion is a coffee table book I am proud to own, proud to put on display in our home, and proud to have our guests look through before, during, or after we visit. In fact, it may lead to me more good conversations – about Canada, history, or faith.

One Dominion includes appropriate historical photos of key individuals and events in the history leading up to and including the beginning of Canada as a nation in 1867. Informative vignettes (short-stories) about different people – ranging from education and health care to social and environmental causes – discuss significant as well as lesser-known Canadians and their contribution to this country. The common thread throughout the accounts is the desire to see Psalm 72:8 lived out in the nation.

You don`t have to be a history buff, an amateur photographer, an avid reader or even a person of faith to appreciate this wonderful book celebrating Canada on the occasion of its 150th birthday. I recommend this book for your coffee table… and I`ll be glad to chat about it with you as we visit!

One Dominion is available through Bible League Canada at https://bibleleague.ca/onedominion/, and authors Paul Richardson and Bob Beasley are available for interview.

One Dominion-Celebrating Canada-Prepared for a Purpose
Authors:  Paul Richardson and Bob Beasley | ISBN: 9780995039889
Retail: $29.99 CAN | Pages: 96 |  Size: 12×10 inches | Full-colour

Note: Graf-Martin publishers provided the reviewer with a free copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Book Review – Swipe Right

Although I did not initially connect the title Swipe Right with the subtitle (“The Life-and-Death Power of Sex and Romance”), Levi Lusko connects the two concepts clearly in the introduction. In doing so, he identifies the urgency of the topic for the millennials and Generation Z for whom sexual opportunities are just a swipe away in the digital age.

Lusko writes with an enjoyable mix of humor and sarcasm, though some of his cultural references may be lost on the reader depending on your vintage (ie I understood the Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarznegger joke relating to twins, but not a couple other “cultural references”). He explains the biblical texts with sanctified imagination while at the same time communicating the key principles and truths clearly and strongly. He is not shy in giving black-and-white warnings, yet speaks equal measures of grace and reality. It is enjoyable reading, biblically and theologically informed, and yet not without honest sharing of personal mistakes and pitfalls.

While his writing style is engaging, as a whole the book does not have a clear sequence or logical connection between topics. Furthermore, while there are plenty of strong warnings about the dangers of making poor friendship and sexual activity choices, and the strength and power of sexual connection is discussed appropriately for teenagers and young adults, it stays near the surface for the most part, a little lacking in depth.

Nonetheless, I recommend this book for teenagers or young adults because of its clear presentation of Scriptures sexual standards and the good, loving reasons for such boundaries. I believe they will enjoy reading it as much as this reviewer.

Note: This book was provided to the reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

A Playlist for Christian Singles

Are you tired of singing love songs to Jesus?

Whether you are married or not, the number of love songs to Jesus sung some Sundays in churches around North America is comical… if you can get past the annoyance.

However, there are other songs of devotion that are legitimate in discussing worship, love and Jesus. As a young man in my late 20’s and early 30’s, I would turn to a handful of songs to play on the CD (an era before ipods) when I was feeling the angst, frustration, disappointment or confusion (or all of the above) of being single in a society – and even in a Christian sub-culture – that glamorizes marriage and romantic love. These songs helped me focus on the Source of my true contentment, Jesus, and yet expressed the reality of the challenges facing as a single guy who desired a godly wife (I believe the challenges are similar for a single woman).

As you will notice, the songs below helped me (re) focus on Jesus and His perfect will and love being my focus, rather than singleness. It wasn’t always easy. There were some tears once in a while. Yet more than anything I desired Christ to be my desire and purpose for living.

So… here’s my Single Person’s Playlist (admittedly from the early 2000’s)

The Lord did bless me with my wife, Sarah, in 2007 and friends sang Lifesong at our wedding ceremony because just as I wanted my life as single to sing for Jesus, now that is our desire and focus as a married couple.

Here are a couple good articles on the topic of singleness and finding satisfaction in Christ:

I would be curious to know your single person’s playlist. Please share below…

Book Review – Play the Man by Mark Batterson

Just in time for Father’s Day, Mark Batterson has written another quality book, this time touching on the topic of authentic manhood. With a great story from history to start each chapter, Batterson identifies seven characteristics of true manhood. As a pastor, he supports these virtues with biblical passages and examples.

As the book progresses, Batterson refers to the Discipleship Covenant and Rite of Passage ceremonies he worked through with both of his sons. and then includes the specifics of these concepts in the final two chapters.

Batterson is an exceptional writer and great story-teller. Although there is no explanation really offered for the choice of seven virtues or the specific seven he has selected, they are well-chosen. Some may argue the virtues he chose overlap too much, and others could argue the virtues do not encompass all the necessary areas of authentic Christian masculinity (ie significant virtues are missing). Notwithstanding the legitimacy of these concerns, it is doubtful any author would be able to identify “the list” of virtues. Scripture does not seem to give one and thus the challenge.

Another positive of Play the Man is the positive, forward-looking challenge it presents to men, rather than brow-beating them for failure. Also, while clearly approaching the virtues of true manhood from a Christian perspective, I believe the book would be meaningful to any man trying to become a better husband and father, even without the faith perspective.

The explanation of the Discipleship Covenant and Rite of Passage ceremonies are instructive. Batterson clearly reminds fathers to customize both events for the individual, even as he went about them differently with each of his sons.

Batterson has regularly been criticized for treating Scripture loosely, and I suspect some will find reason to again accuse him of such in this book. I see nothing troublesome with his use or explanations of the biblical passages and would contend (again) that those who actually take the time to read the full context surrounding a given passage will find good understanding and interpretation, and necessary cautions and reminders.

I would recommend this book strongly. In comparison with other books of this type (ie. Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis), Batterson’s writing is superior in depth and quality, and more current (understandably). In addition, the soon-to-be-released group study resources would be worthy selections for a local church men’s ministry and/or small groups,

Note: The reviewer was provided with a copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review by Baker Books.

 

Hire an Intern

Are y200309672-001ou having serious questions about hiring that young 20-something who has applied for a position in your organization?

You want to give a young person a chance, but the little you have seen with other young adults does not give you a great deal of confidence? The person has not even graduated from college and wants to be an “intern” with us… and s/he doesn’t just want to sort papers and do filing for us. He wants to be involved in real-life work contexts. That sounds really risky! And its not like our company has a lot (or any) extra cash to “waste” on a maybe.

If that’s how you feel, it is still right to hire an intern… or two.

Here’s why.

Dan* served First Street Church (FSC) for seven years as youth pastor. During the course of his final two years with FSC, a couple of young men considering pastoral ministry had volunteered to help, one with the junior high (middle school) and one with the high school. They were finishing up their college degrees and it was a great way to get some practical experience. They meet weekly with Dan to talk about what they were doing with each group and Dan was still active in most of the events, regardless of the age group.

Then when Dan left FSC for another church, the board knew it would be challenging to hire a new youth pastor right away after the people had grown to love and appreciate Dan and his family so much. So, they chose to hire the two interns for the next year. Jon* would continue to work with the high school students and Jeremy* would continue to work with the junior high students. The one year turned into two years.

In hindsight, it seemed to work out well both for the youth interns who ended up with three years experience on their resumes as they went searching for full-time ministry, as well as for the church, who served their youth more than satisfactorily and also had time to search for a new youth pastor. Seeing the benefit of the previous model, they chose an older youth pastor who could work more with interns and coach them along.

Everyone thought that was the (happy) end of the story.

Fast forward 10 years. Jon and his family went on to serve as a youth pastor for five years in another community before going with an NGO to serve internationally. They returned to the FSC community and are employed by an educational organization in the area, still working students, especially high school age. He is well-respected for his skills in relating to students and for his wisdom in advising them.

Furthermore, while Jon* was a youth pastor in the other community, he impacted a high schooler named Shane.* Shane went off to college and after a few years ended up also training for the ministry, and working as a volunteer, then part-time, and eventually full-time.

Likewise, after serving as an intern, Jeremy and his family began the process of going overseas with a different NGO and have since worked in Asia for the past 4 years at an international school. Jeremy teaches middle school students primarily but connects with students of various ages as he also serves as the school chaplain some years.

So… hire the intern.

Your company may (or may not) have this kind of story to tell in 10 years. But for sure they will have invested in the future of not just your company, but possibly impacted many other lives because you invested in them.

*Names of individuals and organizations have been changed to protect the identity of the people who are part of this real-life situation.

Feel free to share some of your good (or bad) experiences with hiring an intern below.

 

Book Review – The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C Wilson

Jared C. Wilson admits there are already plenty of books on Christian discipleship available on the market and people of every denominational stripe argue for the best method and strategies for making disciples. However, as his subtitle (Grace for people who can`t get their act together) hints, this book is not a book of methods or one identifying a program to follow. Rather, with a dose of cynicism and a few jabs at well-intentioned ideas within Christianity, Wilson brings out various aspects of individual discipleship that are both insightful, non-programmatic, and challenging.

Some will not appreciate his cynicism, even sarcasm. In the beginning, it does come on quite strong, possibly too strong and negative for some readers. This reader appreciates the reality-check and honesty, and Wilson challenged my interpretations of some Scripture passages, and of discipleship. Likewise, he shares personal stories with rich vulnerability (eg. The time JI Packer made him cry) to illustrate his points. Regardless of your affection for his writing style, his slightly different approach to describing discipleship contains insightful ideas that can be applied by any Christian personally, They can also be carried into a group context, though this is not the primary goal. Having said that, Wilson affirms strongly the need for Christian community and the categorical impossibility of a “not-part-of-a-church Christian.”

A thought-provoking and inspiring Gospel-centered book on discipleship for every Christian to read, especially pastors and other church leaders.

Note: This book was provided by Baker Books in exchange for an unbiased review.

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