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AYM: The Book

April 7, 2014 — Leave a comment

Average Youth MinistryIt seems that every book, blog post, and article I read is about the top 5 ways to be the best at something. But the sad reality is that if you are trying to study up on how to be the best, you can rest assured that you are not the best. What would happen to your ministry and more importantly to your soul, if you embraced the reality that you were simply average. Think of all that energy wasted on striving for something that you will never attain. Now, imagine if you died to that dream of being the best in the world and embraced the reality that you were simply the best youth worker your actual students know. In fact, the truth is, you are the only youth worker your students care about. Maybe together we can remind each other that we are called to love students and help them to love Jesus.

In this book, I have put my 40 best / most helpful / favorite blogs all together in one really slick package.  

I get that most youth workers want to have some impressive looking books to add gravitas to their book shelves.  And in some sense this is the best and worst book for that.  It is really impressive looking and tough, but at the same time says that you are striving to be average.  But all ascetics aside, this has been a really fun project for me, and I think an incredibly helpful and hope-filled book for you.  Whether you are a ministry veteran or just starting out, there is something for everyone to chew on and wrestle through.

This book is broken up into five sections:

  • Discerning your call
  • Discerning your context
  • Discerning your students
  • Discerning your issues
  • Bonus Section: Nuts and Bolts

Discernment is the key to health and longevity in ministry!

I have said it before, but it is true: Youth ministry is the best / worst, easiest / hardest job on the planet!  And it seems like the difference between these two polar extreems is where your head and heart are at.  Discernment is the process of walking along this tight rope.  We need input from those around us, from those who have gone before us, from the Word of God, and from the Holy Spirit.  We need to listen and be reflective.

Ministry is not about gaining knowledge or collecting information, it is about spiritual and professional formation.  And this book takes the 17+ years that I have been working out my calling and walk with Jesus and that application into student ministry.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, there won’t be very much new, other than all these posts put in a format that is easy to read and a quick reference for you as you crank out ministry.  You will also appreciate that the book form of my posts have actually been edited for grammar and spelling :)  

I wanted to thank the AYM community for your support and encouragement over the past few years as I have worked out many of these issues.  Your input, pushback, and different perspectives have deepened my own walk with Jesus and my call to student ministry.  I look forward to continuing my call as a vocational student ministry pastor and working out my recent call as a writer.

May God continue to bless you in your ministry and care for students and may we together help us keep our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of faith, of ours’ and of our students’.  

Blessings!

PS: If you are interested in buying this book and upgrading your library, then click on the amazon link and have it by the end of the week!  It will give you street cred and helps pay for my kid’s braces!  :)

 

God KillsOver the past few weeks I have been reading an incredible book on spiritual formation.

It seems like most of the books I have read lately about spiritual formation, Christian living, or about ministry have all had a pretty strong sense of self help sort of vibe to them.  As you can tell by the title of this book, God Kills is not that sort of book.

God Kills, written by Art Greco, has very little to do with life.  For in this book, it is Satan who works hard to give life, but it is Jesus who is in the business of killing.  Killing our flesh and the the things that we so badly long for and have wrongly assumed bring us life.  When, in fact, it is only by Jesus killing, destroying, and eliminating those hidden parts of our soul that pollute our hearts.

Greco goes through seven spiritual disciplines that have seem to gone missing in our current spirituality of personal fulfillment.  With full transparency, we are walked through the spiritual development of a pastor and theologian, and mostly as a fellow sojourner towards the cross of Christ.

As you read this book, I am sure you will notice the deep waters of theology and spiritual growth in which Art swims.

It would be easy to sit in an ivory tower and give some deep pontifications surrounding these disciplines, but instead, you get a peek into an incredibly reflective and brilliant man as he works these disciplines into his own life.

Throughout this book, Art explores the disciplines of:

  1. Humility: God has a bigger plan than the plan he has for you.
  2. Teachability:  Maybe you’re right
  3. Celibacy: It’s not just about sex anymore
  4. Courage: Be afraid be very, very afraid.
  5. Faith: Pain, poverty and other really good things God doesn’t seem to mind you experiencing.
  6. Yieldedness: Live free and Die!
  7. Loyalty:  Look both ways before walking.

If you are looking for a devotional book, or a book that is going to kick you in the butt and spur you on to wrestle through some difficult topics as you grow towards Christ, then this is your book!

If you are noticing a larger chasm between the pop spirituality that is supposed to fulfill your soul and the deeper waters of death and service that are molded by our savior and want to explore this sort of death, then this is the book for you!

If you long to read a book by someone who not only has some good theology and wisdom, but who is currently walking down this road as well, then this book is for you!

I am thankful for a contemporary book that is authentic, humble, and deep that addresses the issues the church at large and that I personally am encountering.  I pray that God will not allow me to embrace the spirituality of self fulfillment, but rather the spirituality that daily lays bear my flesh and hammers it to the cross so that only what is made alive through the spirit will grow and thrive!

I could not recommend this book more and hope that you enjoy exploring some underused muscles in our spiritual development!

Blessings

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Peter Pan is one of my favorite characters.  The desire to never grow old, fight pirates, and fly probably influenced my decision to become a youth pastor more than I care to admit.  Peter Pan has a dark side, however, that we must come to terms with in youth ministry. Think about how our attitudes as youth pastors often betray a Peter Pan mentality.  We think we will get to be young forever by working with teens.  We will be a magical leader who will give lost boys, (and girls) love and purpose.  That purpose is to have fun and fight the pirates of worldliness, boredom, and bad cable tv.  Parents are at best unnecessary and at worst, a roadblock to having fun, I mean to true ministry.  As for the love triangle with Wendy and Tink, I’ll have to save that for another post.  If we don’t come face to face with our dark side, we will become increasingly immature, negligent, arrogant, and dangerous.  All kids are meant to grow up and that includes us.  Youth need parents to be involved in their lives.  Youth pastors and other adults can have great influence in the lives of teens, but not as smug, impressive, show-offs.  We need to leave behind Peter Pan and find a better model to emulate.

Continue Reading…

Parenting_Beyond_Your_Capacity_Connect_Your_Family_to_a_Wider_Community_OrangeThis last week I read a really helpful book by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof called Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. This is a straightforward book that offers a clear roadmap for parents who want to connect their family to a wider community of faith. And for parents who think that going at it alone is best, Joiner and Nieuwhof offer a compelling argument for the need to invite others into the circle so that our kids have the widest safety net possible as our kids grow into adults and explore a faith separate from ours.

Parenting Beyond Your Capacity is kind of like a primer for parents to understand the Orange concept of parenting. Being an orange parent is understanding that “a parent’s influence is best realized in partnership with a wider community.” And that community is the church. If you are looking for a book to share with parents to help them understand the orange model of ministry than this book is for you. This book highlights 5 family values that are key for the long term spiritual health and maturity of kids and students.

Family Value 1) Widen the Circle: Pursue strategic relationships for your kids.

Family Value 2) Imagine the End: Focus your priorities on what matters most.

Family Value 3) Fight for the Heart: Communicate in a style that gives the relationship value.

Family Value 4) Create a Rhythm: Increase the quantity of quality time you spend together.

Family Value 5) Make it Personal: Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth.

Continue Reading…

Thanksgiving-Home-Blog

The folks over at youthministry360 have just launched another round of free resources, just in time for Thanksgiving. They’re giving away 4 different Thanksgiving Bible study lessons, PLUS a set of Thanksgiving games.

These resources will help you lead students to reflect on what it means to be thankful as Christ-followers.

To download these free resources, head on over to ym360: https://youthministry360.com/blog/free-thanksgiving-content-ym360

And if for any reason you need help or have questions, their team is great about helping out, just let them know!

(Best deal on the intra-web)

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Most youth workers I know have gotten into student ministry because they love Jesus and they love kids.  Their heart and passion is often overflowing.  And this initial fire brings excitement, growth, and even some fruit.  If there is one thing youth workers are known for it is starting strong.  And on the flip side, the other thing youth workers are known for is flaming out!

Building a sustainable youth ministry takes a team.

Your initial love and passion can honestly only get you so far.  After about 6 months you have used up all your greatest talks, greatest games, greatest gimmicks, and you can see the fruit of your greatest work is starting to have diminishing returns.  Building a student ministry that lasts takes more than passion.  It takes an intentional plan to build a student ministry that will survive the waves and winds of this crazy job.

Like all buildings, the strongest and most stable are the ones who have the strongest infrastructure.  These buildings are not simple shelters, but they are highly engineered structures that require a team of experts to work together to draw plans and actually build.  And like a complex building, a sustainable student ministry needs much more than your passion and our expertise.

We get for a building project there must be engineers, architects, construction workers, contractors, interior designers, electricians, plumbers, and on and on.  But do you really get that your student ministry needs a team as well.

Orange as a vital partner in sustainable student ministry.

Continue Reading…


How Many Hours Does the Church Get With Kids and Students?

I know that this video clip talks about children’s ministry and sunday mornings, but the message is just as clear for those who work with students.  In children’s ministry the church is luck to have kids for 40 hours a year.  For those of us working with students the numbers at best double.

If you include youth group, sunday school, and big church there is still no way that we are even close to having 100 hours a year of ministry with our students.  And this 100 hour figure is being generous with our most committed students.  No matter how you slice it, the church is lacking in the amount of face time we get with children and students.  This necessarily isn’t a bad thing, unless those of us in vocational ministry think that our time with children and students is the most important and most valuable spiritual formation that happens in the life of kids.

Continue Reading…

Orange is the new Black

September 30, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Ok, this blog post isn’t about the new Netflix show, Orange is the New Black. But it is about Orange and how all over the blogosphere Orange leaders are spending the week promoting Orange!

What is Orange? That is a good question. Orange is a ministry philosophy, a curriculum / strategy resource, and an epic conference designed to encourage and equip those who are like minded in ministry.

Throughout this week some of my friends and I will will be writing about some of the many facets of Orange and the upcoming Orange conference. There will be product reviews, give-a-ways, and general encouragement towards the Orange strategy. Below is a list of the bloggers who are participating this week. I highly recommend you take a look at them and even add them to your RSS feed.

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As we start up a brand new year, no doubt we will have some students who will be considering Christian college.  Here is a guest post by Michael Juba about some things to help our students consider as they wrestle through this decision.  Enjoy :)

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Education. Nurturing. Spiritual enrichment.

All these phrases—and many others—describe the kinds of experiences many students have at Bible College as well as within their youth ministries. There are multiple reasons that a religious-themed higher education is right for those, especially those who are members of their youth ministry.

Here are some tips to help you when choosing a college.

Continue Reading…

Easter_2013_Blog_Hub
The folks over at youthministry360 have just launched another round of free resources, just in time for Easter. They’re giving away three different Easter Bible study lessons, PLUS a set of 10-day Easter devotions for your students. It’s solid stuff that will help your teenagers prepare their hearts and minds for Easter. Easter is such a powerful time for Christ-followers. These tools will help you lead students to both reflect on and celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.
To download these free resources, head on over to the ym360 Easter Vault at https://youthministry360.com/blog/youthministry360-easter-vault.
YES PLEASE!!

Earlier this week I posted a blog about some of the potential dangers of short term missions.  This post has generated some really fun and interesting conversation among my friends, colleagues, and my little social network.  In the course of these conversations Carrie Dotson, who blogs at summernannyjobs.com,  pointed me to her blog post about some of the benefits leaders get when leading a student ministry missions experience.  She brings up some great points and wanted to share them with you.  I love how there are so many voices that speak into student ministry and always gain fresh perspective when I engage them.  I hope you are encouraged!  (Thanks Carrie)

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Leading a mission trip provides church leaders and involved adults with an opportunity to help the young people in your group learn about the power of helping others while spreading the message of Christ. On the surface, it’s more of a learning opportunity for the youth involved than an experience that teaches leadership skills, but there are a variety of lessons that even the adults on a youth mission trip are positioned to learn. If you’re receptive to the experience and approach leading a youth mission trip with an open mind, these are only a sampling of the lessons you can learn along the way. Continue Reading…

It is getting to be missions season and I love looking through the many opportunities that are available for our students.  Short term missions is the bread and butter of student ministry and I hope that you are planning on finding some way for your students to get missional, get cross cultural, and serve the poor in what ever context you are and are going.   Nate McHenry is the Founder of IMchange a missions organization that provides missions opportunities for students.  He wanted to share is origination with you, and I wanted you to be spurred on to think biblically, mission ally, philosophically, and theologically as you consider missions.

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Engaging Jesus through the poor

Have you ever asked yourself, “How in the world can I get this student to see that Jesus is what he/she needs?” For the last 15 years, nothing has accelerated my student’s passion and love for Jesus and others more than mission trips.  For me personally, mission trips and serving the “poor” have provided unparalleled context to my pursuit of Jesus. Several years ago, I watched (and re-watched and still watch) an interview with Bono of U2 (not just because I love U2) by Bill Hybels that significantly encouraged my suspicions that the greatest way to connect young people to Jesus is through the poor.

James 1:27 (the message) says, “Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

Continue Reading…

We are going through a really great series on marriage at our church right now, and I drew the nuts and bolts of marriage.  It would be disingenuous for me to preach this by myself, since everything I know about marriage I have learned from my wife.  So last week both my wife and I preached a sermon on why we don’t want to have a biblical marriage.  I love my job and I can not believe I get the honor to preach, to preach in a way that is fun and free, and to be married to the most amazing woman in the world!  Enjoy.

 

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Over the course of my career I have gone through different seasons of my ministry when I have had from one to half a dozen students who have had some sort of social learning challenges.  We have had students who are autistic, had aspergers, ADD, ADHD, social anxiety, learning handicapped, and many who were never formally diagnosed.

Having students who have these challenges have proven to be a challenge for me in a number of ways.

For one, students who have social learning challenges seem to ruin the amazing, warm fuzzy community that I am trying so hard to develop.  When I look around at many of the youth ministries I strive to have mine look like, I realize that they, as well as me, have made little space for them.  But once I get my head out of my butt, and realize that students with social learning challenges are the exact students that need the love and care that a youth ministry is designed to give.

Instead of being frustrated by these students, instead of shoving them to the side, instead of praying they leave, maybe there is a better option.  What if we actually attempted to understand them as people who are precious to our God and to us as well. What if we spent some time getting some education and training, and then passing that on to your leaders and even your students.

I have found that when I get over myself and seek to actually engage these students and strive to understand them and then make the relativity small tweaks needed,  my ministry can now truly be the community that God has designed it to be.

I realize that I am blessed above all my colleagues for several reason.  But the reason that is most pertinent to this post is that I have the pleasure of working with a great youth pastor who oversees our Jr High Ministry.  He is killing it and I love him to death.  He happens to be married to one of the sharpest women I have had the pleasure to know.  And her area of smartness centers on caring for and equipping people who have social learning challenges and those who love them.

She recently wrote an article that is a MUST READ for every youth worker, on http://www.socialthinking.com/.  It is all about giving youth workers, leaders, and coaches some tools to make life for these students and for the group a win.  Here is the introductory paragraph.  Continue reading for some good wisdom and practical helps so that can truly have a ministry that reaches out and makes space for every and all students!

Matt and Kelly“As a coach, youth leader, volunteer, or teacher, you may have come across a child in your group who just doesn’t fit in with the other kids. He might be smart, but you notice he has difficulty following the group plan or stays on the sidelines, unsure how to interact with other kids. Maybe she seems anxious in new situations or she’s eager to contribute, but her comments are out of sync given the topic or the conversation. Perhaps the child’s parents mentioned the social difficulties ahead of time. Now what do you do – how do you help?

As a volunteer leader in a youth program myself, I know it’s not easy to run the program, keep everyone motivated and engaged, and support the child with social challenges. However, it is possible to be a positive influence with your group by taking a little time to understand how these individuals think and process information. Then try incorporating some of the practical strategies that follow. They can be used by any adult who interfaces with youth or adults in a group situation, and the strategies can benefit all your students, players, or club members, not just those with social learning challenges!”

Continue Reading . . . 

Think Orange, Read Orange!

February 5, 2013 — 4 Comments

I am always looking for new blogs to add to my RSS feed.  Below are some solid bloggers.  They are leaders in their areas of ministries and in their regions.  They are solid thinkers and they think Orange.  They always have solid content and this week they will be writing specifically on how Orange has impacted their ministries.  Please check them out and if you dig, add them to your blog roll. (And while you are at it, enjoy a cinnamon roll)

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Amy Fenton Lee, The Inclusive Church
Austin Walker, YouthMin
Ben Read, YouthMin
Ben Kerns, Average Youth Ministry
Cass Brannan
Elle Campbell, Stuff You Can Use
Henry Zonio, Kidmin and Culture
Jared Massey, Small Town Kidmin
Jenny Funderburke
Jeremy Lee, Uthmin
Joe McAlpine
Jonathan Cliff
Mary Carver, Giving Up on Perfect
Matt McKee
Matt Norman, It’s Pastor Matt
Michael Bayne
Nick Blevins
Paul Mannio, Orange Dad
Ryan Reed
Sam Luce
Tom Pounder, Ministry Blackboard
Tonya Langdon, Kidmin 1124 and Special Need Kidz
Wendy Douglas, Saved Sister
JC Thompson, http://jcisonline.com

Don’t forget—register by February 14 to save $40 off regular registration rates, and earn a $50 Orange credit. For more information and complete offer details, please visitwww.TheOrangeConference.com. PEACE!!

What is Orange?

February 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

This week starts the beginning of ORANGE WEEK. It is that bi-annual event where those of us invested in the Orange strategy spread out and seek to engage and encourage our peers to develop an intentional strategy of partnership between the church and family.

Throughout the week, I will, along with some of my good friends, be sharing our thoughts and reflections on the strategy and support that Orange provides.  If you use Orange and are looking to connect, lets do that, if you are not an Orange person, then I would love to know how you intentionally leverage the church and family toward greatest impact on students.

I am continually thankful for the resource Orange is for me and for our church.  If you have never used Orange or they are not on your radar, their strategy for connecting the church and the family is head and shoulders above anything else out there.

What do you think of the Orange strategy?  How do you provoke discovery, wonder, and passion in your students?

As you think about how you will be trained this year and how you will train your staff, why don’t you consider joining me in Atlanta, GA this April for the Orange Conference. This is an entire conference designed to wrestle with the intentional partnership between the church and the family.

If you use something else and/or something better, would you be willing to share.  We as youth workers continually need to be sharpened, so sharpen away.

Over the past year and a half I have had the pleasure of getting to know Ryan Reed.  He joined our local network when he arrived in Marin and has been killing it in his context ever since.  Ryan is one of the smartest and most thoughtful young youth workers I know.  But what makes Ryan over the top impressive is his ability to reflect.  He intentionally reflects on his faith, his life, his marriage, and his ministry.  And because of this discipline he has become wise beyond his years.  When we met for lunch and he shared with me the lunch version of this post, I told him I had to share it.  Whether you are a rookie or a veteran, we have all hit the wall, and pushing through is what separates the girls from the women!  (Or men from the boys.  See how I am trying to be inclusive in my language :) )  Enjoy!

How to break through the 18 month wall . . . AND THRIVE!

I need to confess: I am out of ideas and energy.

I have been serving at Hillside Church for 17 months, and I have accomplished more than I could have ever imagined, even including building a good relationship with my Lead Pastor! This is a result of time and energy invested into the work of God in my community. Given all of this investment, however, I recently encountered something that I never expected.

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I awoke one morning a few weeks ago in a cold panic, thinking for the first time that I truly had no clue how to continue our student ministry. Up until this point, I was steadily and consistently implementing a vision for what I thought a successful, vibrant youth ministry could become for our church. Now, I laid awake with a feeling of dread and the weight of a thousand bricks on my chest. I am out of ideas, I thought. And then, I realized:

I am hitting the 18 month wall . . . 

(continue reading)

flimsy ministryMy friend, Brian Seidel recently finished his book, Flimsy Ministry. Brian is a gifted and brilliant youth worker. He has spent the last decade caring for and training other youth workers in both national and regional settings. He has used his wisdom and experience to put together a really challenging and helpful read.

Flimsy Ministry: Is the foundation of your Youth Ministry on Rock or Sand? is the name of his book, and that is the fundamental question he puts in front of his readers. As a youth worker, this is actually one of my main questions that I secretly wrestle with and am often too scared to even address.

Brian not only addresses this question, but actually gives you the tools and questions to examine the what and why we do ministry. Brian has an incredibly high view of scripture and starts and ends with a biblical foundation. I have not read so much scripture in a book outside of the Bible in a while, if ever. The use of scripture is brutal because I often found myself wanting to push back. But instead of simply disagreeing with Brian, I had to wrestle through the scripture first, then disagree with Brian :)

Continue Reading…

Leading Change Without Losing ItThis week Carey Nieuwhof is launching his brand new book called, Leading Change Without Losing It. This is the first installment in a trilogy of leadership books. Carey is a gifted pastor and leader and throughout these pages he gives us a little picture into his heart as he navigated two different leadership challenges.

This book is a must read for any church leader who is wrestling with living into the dream that God has placed in their heart about their ministry and is experiencing the difficult job of navigating, communicating, and leading through when those around you seem to not be on board. This book is written by a lead pastor and perfectly helpful for other lead pastors preparing to embark in some new and dangerous territory, even better if you have already jumped and are experiencing a little bit of pain and discomfort in this new plan.

I am not a lead pastor or a church planter, and even as a youth pastor in a multiple staff church context and have just a little sliver of the church that I am in leadership of, I found this book to be incredibly helpful and inspirational.

Cary writes in a conversational tone full of grace and encouragement. And the best part of this book is that it is actually really practical. When I finished this book I had gained several more tools in my leadership tool box as well as sharpened and cleaned up some others that have gotten pretty rusty.

In his book, Leading Change Without Losing It, Carey lays out 5 strategies for leading change:

  1. Do The Math
  2. Choose Your Focus
  3. Find a Filter
  4. Attack Problems, Not People
  5. Don’t Quit

As I read this book, God used Carey and this book to continue to refine some growing edges in my life. I found two transformational take aways for my own faith and ministry context.

Continue Reading…

Giants WinFor the month it has been so fun following our San Francisco Giants comeback from a huge playoff deficit to sweep the Tigers in 4 games.  If you have been following baseball at all you know that Giants’ bullpen has been amazing and deserve a huge amount of credit for the Giants win.

But what you may not know, one of their relievers, Jeremy Affeldt, is a solid Christian.  He has a huge heart for God and for godly values.  He has used his platform as a Major League Baseball pitcher and as a World Series Champ to advocate for some incredible organizations and to encourage the body of Christ in the Bay Area.

In my RSS feed is Jeremy’s blog: http://jeremyaffeldt.wordpress.com, and recently he wrote one of the best blogs I have read in a long, long time and I wanted to share it with you.

He titles it: ARGUE WITH ME:

jeremy affeldtAs iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens anotherProverbs 27:17

Sometimes I miss just hanging out and talking with people that want to challenge me. I like a good, tough discussion about different ways of thinking. I like having my moral code challenged, or being asked to explain a piece of reasoning or why I hold a certain opinion. Even in baseball, where guys are really competitive, I’m seeing the level of discussion drop off. Now a guy will just as soon say, “Well, that’s cool,” and that’s it. That’s the end of the conversation.

“That’s cool”? That’s the state of dialogue? What about saying, “I hear you, but what about this perspective?” What happened to getting into strange, fun discussions about different viewpoints? Most people don’t seem to want to deal with that. They just want to say, “That’s cool. I don’t agree, but that’s cool.”

Well if you disagree, then obviously it’s not cool. So why do you say it is? I think there’s an idea growing out there that truth is relative. People have decided, “Well, you know, you can believe that. That’s your own belief. You believe your way, and I’ll believe my way.” There’s just no “iron sharpening iron” going on.

If you think I’m wrong, I have no problem with you challenging me. I wish you would! Don’t say, “That’s cool. To each their own.” No, no. If we did that with everybody, we’d . . .   (continue reading on Jeremy’s blog)

Thanks Jeremy for a great World Series, and even more, thank you for being such an encouragement and example to the body of Christ in the Bay Area!!  Blessings.