For the Christian, Christmas is the grand celebration of the Glory of God coming down to earth. While it is quite natural to focus in on the humble baby in the manger, the grace of God displayed in the Creator humbling Himself to take on human flesh for the sake of a world of sinners like us should overwhelm the manger scene. The irony of the Splendor of Heaven leaving His throne to take on the confines of human flesh drive us to exalt (glorify) the God of all for His amazing grace. That said, the glory of God is one of the most challenging concepts for us mere mortals to comprehend. Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures we see snapshots of God’s glory in relationship to His physical splendor and righteous character. Those glimpses of God compel us trust and obey. Yet in those Old Testament accounts of do’s and don’ts it is easy for us to lose focus on the core character of God.
God is more than just the things He does. However, when we look at the motivations behind what He does, we get a glimpse of His nature, who He really is. The Apostle John lived with Jesus and watched Him build relationships and minister truth to people, and he recorded in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love.” In a very real way, the more we understand His love for us, the more we are driven to love Him. That is a foundational truth that can compel us to keep the Great Command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart….” Sharing our hearts is how we build strong relationships. It is super valuable to clearly understand who God is in His core nature. That is a concept that, given our broken mess of a darkened spiritual condition, can only be grappled with by looking at the Light of Life, Jesus of Nazareth.
In my reflections on the 25 years of ministering here at Victory, I have great memories. I remember former students who have called my cell phone and just wanted to check in with me and see how I was doing. Once, after many years, a student from my second year here visited us. He, his wife, and baby girl were such a blessing. We had lunch, talked about their ministry and walk with God. Those calls, from Chicago and Utah, and the visits from former students brought me face to face with what Victory is all about. We are building relationships that go deep, reaching the hearts. We love these guys, really. The natural product of those relationships is heart influence. As Scripture is wrapped around the daily life here at Victory, their view of life is challenged and biblical answers are found to be true. That impacts the foundation of their worldview. That reveals the cracks in their self-focused worldview and brings light to the solid foundation of the biblical worldview. That impacts the inner man, the heart, life. As they see themselves as sinners in need of a savior, we then begin to show them the value of Christ and His work on the cross. When they see that at heart level, real growth of heart begins, life changes.
We have seen such good fruit in reaching the hearts of struggling young men that as I reflect, my adrenaline begins to flow and my focus is narrowed. Deep relationships have the ability to produce long-term influence and good fruit. Why I sometimes forget the sureness of the biblical sowing and reaping principle puzzles me. It puzzles me because one would think that by now I should recognize that correctly applying the Word of God produces good fruit. After all, good fruit is what those who are in Christ were designed to produce (Eph. 2:10). That is what God is in the business of doing in us. We recognize that we don’t see that fruit in every boy we work with, which reveals that our relationships didn’t get as deep as we wanted them to get. However, even with those we often see in the later years when they do finally grow up and commit themselves afresh to God, they call back and want us to pray, and they want to visit.
I have had the opportunity to work with well over a hundred young men in my time here. Many of those have gone on to succeed in life as policemen, firemen, missionaries, faithful employees, and great husbands and fathers. Today, in the day to day struggles of ministering to the guys we see little rays of hope as the light of the Word is shined on their hearts. That is what Victory is all about. We press on, influencing, reaching into one heart at a time, and seeing God work His work of changing lives from darkness to light.
Take some time to spend with your teen but don't just watch a movie or play a video game, TALK. Grab some coffee at Starbucks, go fishing, take a drive, go shopping or just take them out for their favorite meal.
Here are some conversation starters to help deepen the communication and make the time more meaningful.
Have you ever been yelled at as an adult? Maybe it was in traffic or when you accidentally spilled something on a brute at a ball game. Whatever the situation, how did it make you feel? Did you feel your face get red? Were you embarrassed or angry? After the fact, even hours later, did you feel vengeful or keep thinking of things you could have or should have yelled back at the person? Now, rewind to the last time you yelled at your child. Do you think they feel much differently? Do you think raising your voice or using harsh words helps or hurts the relationship with young people?
The Bible says in Ephesians 4:29-32, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (30) And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
There is powerful truth in this passage regarding communication in general especially at home, but let’s focus for now on the word “clamor” in verse 21. The word comes from a word that means to croak (as a raven) or scream that is, shriek, cry (out). This unfortunately describes most every one of us as parents at one time or another in the way we speak to our kids. We lose control because we had a long day, our kids get under our skin, they disobey or disrespect one too many times and instead of responding firmly in love, we respond firmly in anger, clamor and evil speaking. Instead of solving the problem, we makes it worse.
Here are 10 suggestions for dealing with yelling and/or its aftermath.
It is here. 2016 is a fresh start. It provides a clean slate to write your story. Here are some biblical ways of doing so to consider as you begin. Of highest importance is knowing for sure you have a vital real relationship with Jesus Christ through the simple plan of the Gospel. If you are unsure of your relationship with God, we would invite you to contact us to talk in person. In the meantime, click here to help understand more about your relationship with God.
Here are 7 practical ways to begin 2016 in a biblical way.
As parents, we know that unless we live off the grid completely, our kids are being influenced and impacted for better or worse by media. Ipads, smartphones, Xboxs, laptops, smart watches, e-readers and more all have a steady stream of pixels aiming at our kid's eyes and brain. (Notice we didn't even mention the ol' TV)
We came across this up to date research from Common Sense Media and The Center for Parent & Youth Understanding that we thought you would find as interesting and helpful as we did.
Check it out and let us know your thoughts. How do you control media consumption at your house? What parts or this research concern or don't concern you as a parent?
If we can be of help to you with your teen son, don't hesitate to reach out and contact us.
Click here to visit The Center for Parent & Youth Understanding.
(We recommend you visit their site often. They have very helpful information for parents.
More that you may be interested in...
Does Our Family Need Victory Academy or Some Other Help Outside our Home?
If you feel that Victory Home for Boys may be of help to you in your situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have been working with struggling teen boys and their families since 1983.
Click here to contact us.
Click here to read about how we help.
Mark Massey, Executive Director of Victory Academy for Boys and WildHeart Adventure Camp was interviewed on CrossTalk, a nationwide call-in and informational program from VCY America. VCY America has radio stations nationwide.
Click here to listen to the interview which covered the subjects of families in crisis, raising teens in current culture and more.
1. “I love you.” If you love someone, let them know it. Tell them and show them often. You may think they know it, and they might, but it is always nice to say it. I Corinthians 13 reminds us that we can be smart, sacrificial and sound wonderful in our speech, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing. Tell your wife, your son or daughter, call your mom and dad. Even in the struggles, an "I love you" sure can't hurt.
2. “I was wrong, forgive me.” One of my professors in college encouraged us to substitute this phrase for “I’m sorry.” In saying, “I was wrong” there is no doubt in the offended and hurt person’s mind that you know you hurt them and desire their forgiveness and restoration of the relationship. We can not be rightly related to God if we have broken and torn relationships with others. Perhaps you need to use this phrase with your teen today. Don't wait for them even if they were wrong too.
3. “Thank you.” In Luke 17 we read about those with leprosy who Jesus healed. He literally changed the rest of their lives. Things were different because of His intervention. Only one returned to say thank you. There certainly have been people who have made a difference in your life. People whose intervention changed things for the better. Do they know you are thankful? What about old friends, parents, your children, their teachers, a coach or former pastor. Make sure they know you are thankful. “Thank you” is never said too late or too much.
4. “I will .” We must say “I will” to God as he speaks to us about things he wants us to do or change, but we also need to say it to others. Jesus showed us in John 13 his willingness to wash his disciple’s feet. He then commanded us to do the same. Look for needs you can meet, and then when you see it, say, “I will.”
5. “I can.” Have you hit some brick wall in your Christian life? Do you feel defeated because of a sinful habit, or lack of prayer. Perhaps there is some difficult trial you and your teen are going through. In either instance, it is easy to say, “I can’t make it.” Paul reminds us that we CAN do all things THROUGH CHRIST who will strengthen us. A great lesson we must learn is that in myself I can’t, but in Him, “I can.”
A group of SBC leaders consulted with a prominent independent pastor. They were seeking advice on ways to reduce the number of young people leaving church after high school graduation. Reportedly, they estimated they were losing around 93% of their students while perceiving that the independents were losing only 73% of their young people. Can you imagine consulting with someone who has a failure rate of about 75% for advice? Things must be really bad.
Scores of young people “jump ship” when they come of age. Seven in ten evangelical young people ages 18-30 stop attending church by age 23 according to one survey. Talking with many young people, pastors, and youth workers has unveiled some of the reasons for the massive fallout. Below are some of the prominent explanations for the current plight.
INSINCERITY On Sundays students hear things and observe behaviors that seem markedly different than what they see and observe Monday through Saturday. When duplicity and pretense are seldom challenged, it is seen as an endorsement of that which is artificial as opposed to that which is authentic.
LACK OF COMPASSION Many do not feel engaged or welcome. A warm embrace is just as important as a biblical worldview. How many churches actually target the 20 to 30 age bracket even in towns where there are colleges and universities? People will go where they find love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Activities may “attract,” but it takes love to “attach” people. Peripheral things must be treated as such, and not as the main thing. Someone commented, “Wherever you find strong convictions with shallow sympathies there is the possibility for much unconscious cruelty.” Proactive and unconditional love is a powerful incentive not to jump ship.
MORALISM Moralistic preaching majors on duty and external issues to the neglect of heart-felt devotion to Christ. Outward things are not unimportant, but they are not all important. When obligation (what) is divorced from affection (why), the faith becomes just a list of rules. And rules without relationship produce rebellion. Preaching principles without giving the context of how they relate to God’s Person is legal preaching and it kills. Fleshly obedience is not only wearisome—it is impossible! Church kids know about the gospel for sinners, but they need to experience the “gospel for the saint.” Preaching that empowers us to live a God-focused life is what we all need to hear from the pulpit. Gospel meditation will in turn drive biblical application.
INCONSISTENCY IN THE HOME Admittedly no homes are perfect, but lip-service without life application does not promote fidelity to the Lord or His church. Mixed signals register loudly on the hypocrisy meter. The church can never resurrect what the home puts to death.
LACK OF MISSION Ingrown churches become “institutionally focused” instead of missional (mission focused). Maintaining the preferences and prejudices of prior generations does nothing to engage an age group who grew up in a totally different context. Failure to provide “tracks to run on” (service) does not integrate the younger into the larger group. If they spend their adolescence exclusively in age-segregated settings, why should we expect them to change gears at age nineteen? Further, if the only purpose is to keep the museum open during business hours, why expect those who are full of energy and life to rally around an ingrown establishment? They must see the overarching PURPOSE. Some sensitivity to cultural relevance is not always compromise. It would do us all good to sit down with young people in a coffee shop and LISTEN.
PARENTAL DISCONNECT The main thing missing in parenting today are the parents! Fathers left the farm and the home during the Industrial Revolution. Soon the mothers left the home in pursuit of careers. Around 1950 parents handed their children over to the state to educate. Television became the nation’s baby sitter, and it has been downhill ever since. Someone will have the hearts of children—and it should be the parents! When the parents have the hearts of their sons and daughters, children will confide in and seek counsel from Dad and Mom. God commissioned the parents to “shepherd” the hearts of their children (Deut 6:6-7). Without the stabilizing influence of strong parental bonds, many children have difficulty in assimilating the faith of their fathers on a personal level.
UNCONVERTED “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 Jn. 2:19). Instead of condemning them, we must love as Jesus loved. Check out the “crowd” Christ took into His company. Tattoos, body piercings, and the like are not the problem. Being “in church” does not change people—being “in Christ” does.
LACK OF FIRE Orthodoxy without Holy Spirit power is the breeding ground for atheism. When the supernatural energy of God is missing, there is no transformation on a personal or corporate level. Ed Stetzer says, "People are looking for a faith that can change them and to be a part of changing the world." Doctrinal belief without zeal is dead. It is a sad fact that the fear of man has purged all excitement from many traditional churches. God’s chosen symbol for the Holy Spirit is fire. But we don’t need a symbol—we need FIRE! Ezekiel, through his vision, witnessed a revival in a bone yard. Their need was not to locate the corner pins (landmarks) of the graveyard—they needed resurrection! The preaching of the gospel under the anointing of the Spirit is God’s appointed means to bring LIFE into the assembly.
LACK OF VISION Sight is a function of the eyes, but vision is a function of the heart. The absence of visionary leadership has left a tremendous void. Leaders are those who call us to something larger than ourselves. Being part of a living community where lives are transformed has a captivating power. Standards and principles must be seen as an expression of devotion to Almighty God, not an end in themselves. No wonder scores are not “buying in” when conformity is emphasized apart from a divine relational purpose. We can do a much better job of answering honest questions instead of just hammering away on issues. Unless youth see the larger picture through the lens of a scriptural worldview, they will never grasp the reality of the good news of the gospel.
CULTURAL CURRENTS The pull of unbelief, moral relativism, peer pressure, and hedonism are stronger than we realize. Older people don’t understand the environment in which their children and grandchildren have grown up. The age of the “Oldsmobile” is over. Today American culture, as a whole, bears no resemblance to the consensus of the baby boomers. Unless, the young have a reasoned faith in the Scriptures and strong foundations in spiritual experience, they cannot stand up to the forces around them.
THE GREAT OMISSION Youth ministry should be more than a holding tank that resembles MTV. Equipping young people with answers to relevant issues is imperative. The supplemental teaching children receive from others, in addition to the parents, must emphasize discipleship and service. “Taking up the cross and following Jesus” is the heart of the New Testament. This is a costly call in any generation—especially this one. In brief, compassion, connectedness, conversion, and coaching are essential keys to reverse the trend.
- Harold Vaughan - Learn More about Harold at Christ Life Ministries. Used with Permission
Read more Articles from Victory Academy for Boys:
How God Works in Your Teen
Rules Without Relationship = Rebellion.
Learn More About Our Program at Victory Academy
Watch a Video About Victory Academy
Contact us for a Free Consulation
I had the opportunity to teach Sunday School class at a church near an Army base. As I spoke about Christ's example of helping those in need, I commented on the fact that we all have needs. People everywhere are hurting. You know them, though you may not even know of their pain.
The ice broke. It was a blessing to see that people were getting the fact that each person around us has needs. Sometimes the needs are blatant. Often the needs are covered over by the smokescreen of pride. Because the needs are masked over, the needs go unmet and the pain goes on day after day. I recently sat in a class at church where a man revealed some of the day-in day-out, real pain that was going on in his marriage and with his children. Many of us in the class didn't even know what to say, not because we were shocked at the greatness of his need, but because he had boldly stated that he needed our prayers and help. We just don't do that! What a shame that our pride so hinders God's plan of using others to minister to our needs. God speaks of His desire for us in our ministry to one another in Hebrews 10:24 when He writes "let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works."
Notice first that the writer is telling each of us to "consider." It is not just the pastor's job to do the considering. This isn't a professional's task. It is each person's responsibility to understand what is going on in the lives of the people around them.
Second, this issue is dealt with on a linear basis. We are all equals. As people we all need others looking out for us and helping us with our needs and problems. It is normal to need counsel. God tells us in Proverbs (1:5, 7; 11:14; 19:20; etc.) that only a fool tries to live life on his own understanding, with no outside counsel. Beginning in the garden in Genesis we see that people need wise counsel so they don't "lean on their own understanding" and fall.
Third, this command requires action to complete. Each of us must be provoking (prodding) others. As a child I learned that a cattle prod (an electrical gadget that produces a high voltage shock) provides enough impetus to move an 1800 pound bull into the corral. (I might add that it can really make an armadillo move also!) I am not saying that we need to go out and buy a cattle prod, but we must have the guts and humility, and time to approach a person and prod them, provoking (encouraging) them toward God's answers for life. Finally, when it comes to helping a person with their needs, your opinions may have a place, but people always need God's opinion. Though we should certainly use our own life experiences as a testimony of God's work in our lives, the best prod we could use is Scripture. We must be prepared by knowing how to point them to God's way of life and Biblical principles that will help them answer their problems and needs. As God says in verse 24, "provoke unto love and good works."
God gives us Christ as the greatest example of how He wants us to reach out and help others with their needs. We are to focus our time on showing people that we care, and focus our minds on understanding one another so that we are able to help one another through daily life. The command is to learn about (consider) the person so that you can prod (encourage) them on to love (giving) and good works (glorifying God by obedience to His commands). Whether at home, at work, at school or church--wherever you are with people--reach out. Search for opportunities to bring the hope of God to the needy people all around us.