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September 2013

Posts from August 2013

"Best of Both Worlds" - Miley's Twerking Exposes More Than You Thought

It's been almost a week since the media world, social media and the Twitterverse exploded with all things Miley. Oh, Miley Cyrus. . .what have you done?

MileyThe 2013 MTV Video Music Awards were held last Sunday evening. Does MTV even show music videos anymore? I think the last time I watched MTV, even semi-regularly, was back in high school. I'd watch music videos and episodes of the game show "Remote Control." These were long before the days of "Jersey Shore," "Catfish" and "Teen Mom." Nevertheless, MTV has never been considered a bastion of family-friendly programming. It is, however, a view port into our culture and in many cases, a rudder for the culture.

Once the VMAs aired, the responses to Miley were everywhere. . .

  • "What happened to  Hannah Montana?"
  • "What is she wearing, a Chuck E. Cheese costume?"
  • "Who is that 7 foot tall woman wearing a teddy bear backpack?"
  • "What is doing with that foam finger?"
  • "Is that Robin Thicke? Wasn't his dad on 'Growing Pains?' What is she doing to him? He's old enough to be her father."
  • "So, that's twerking? Why?"

I didn't see the show when it aired, but you'd have to living under a rock to not have seen clips and images from Miley's performance this past week. It's evident she is doing everything possible to distance herself from her Disney persona. She's not the first actor to do so. 

Miley has done the seemingly impossible. She has made Lady Gaga seem mainstream and the N*Sync reunion an afterthought.

"There's no such thing as bad publicity."

That seems to be Miley's mantra. Perhaps she should consult Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes about that. The responses from conservative, family and religious groups were as expected. No surprises. In fact, most of these groups probably had their press releases typed up prior to the airing of the show and then just input the names of the most offensive entertainers before sending.

In Miley's case, even though there are a good number of entertainers and public figures encouraging her publicly and stating "she has a right to do as she wants" there were many more in the industry whose tweets seem to say "Uh. . . you've gone too far."

  • Singer Kelly Clarkson (@kelly_clarkson): Just saw a couple performances from the VMA's last night. 2 words... #pitchystrippers
  • Singer B.o.B. (@bobatl): when a black girl twerks, it's ratchet. when a white girl does it, it's entertainment
  • Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler): I just watched the #VMAs & I know I'm going to have nightmares about Miley Cyrus playing a tiny harp where her "red light area" is.
  • Singer Natalie Maines (@1NatalieMaines), referring to Robin Thicke's striped suit: Referees that wear their uniforms to the strip club are creepy.
  • Actor Clark Gregg (@clarkgregg): Oh Miley...
  • Actor Kevin McHale (@druidDUDE): So confused #VMAs2013
  • TV personality Michael Strahan (@michaelstrahan): That was uncomfortable, weird and hard to watch!
  • TV personality Alexa Chung hoped it was all a dream (@alexa_chung): Just woke up from a nightmare about beetlejuice and a child in latex underwear grinding on him.
  • Actor Max Greenfield (@iamgreenfield): Billy Ray SIGHrus

Ok, so we mostly all agree that Miley's performance wasn't good. It was bad on numerous levels. It's been talked about, tweeted about, reported on and now. . .well, it's old news.

So what now? Does this lead to protests of MTV? Banning Miley Cyrus CDs at your local Walmart? Cancelling the Disney Channel? Uh. . .go ahead if you want. That may make you feel better, but really won't do anything lasting. In the end, Miley will still sell music (at least one more album), reports will continue to come out about child-stars and their attempts to run from the "Disney-image" that made them famous. Teenagers and preteens (and younger) will buy music and wear clothes modeled by Miley. Mark my words, on Halloween this year, you WILL see young girls with their hair put up in horns like Miley's, they'll be walking around with their tongue hanging out and most likely will be wearing a teddy bear suit (I hope they don't opt for the nude bikini.) These costumes will be put together by moms and dads who think it's funny. They will be wrong.

Maybe it's my age. It's definitely tied to my upbringing and my faith. When I see images of Miley from the VMAs and in the media, I don't get angry. I know some do. My first reaction is not that I'm appalled, though I am. I think like a parent. I know Miley is an adult, at least legally due to her age, and she can do whatever she chooses. In fact, so can all other "adults" of legal age in this country. I am saddened. I cannot fathom as a dad, seeing my child on a stage, being "pimped" by the media and her handlers like that. 

Miley is just a public persona acting out what many young people in our culture are feeling and experiencing. Like no time in recent history (yes, I know the Romans were this bad, that's why I said "recent") our culture has been "freed" to be sexed up like never before. Access to the internet has brought porn to the mainstream. Innocent apps like SnapChat, Instagram and Vine have become tools for students to share their "Miley" moments with friends and the public. High schoolers, junior highers and even elementary school students are sexting, propositioning, and experimenting with sexual talk, sexual acts and things that, not too long ago, were never mentioned by children, and not even by considerate adults. (BTW - parents, if your child has a social media account of any kind, on the computer or phone, get the passwords, check it regularly, check deleted messages, read the texts, look at the photos, etc. Don't presume "not my kid.")

One person responded to a tweet about Miley with "You should pray for her instead of condemn her." Good advice and yes, we should be praying for her. That's always good advice. She needs prayer, just like I do and everyone else I know. So do her parents (regardless what public statements they made following the show.) While there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, there are consequences and she will reap them. . . as will others. 

Miley's ranchy show is not the end. How should the church respond? Well, who cares how the church responds to a televised awards show? Really? We respond with disgust and sadness. It's a given. The question is how to we respond in our community? In our own families? For the sake of our children? Not about Miley, but about the bigger picture?

There is a battle going on. It's raging now and the hearts of our children are at stake. They've been sold a bill of goods. I'm talking about "church kids" too. They believe they can have it all, be whatever they want to be, do whatever they choose and still experience the "best of both worlds."

It's a lie. 

Little girls and little boys have heart questions that aren't being answered. Girls ask "Am I beautiful and worth it?" Boys ask "Do I have what it takes?"

Moms and dads (and pastors, leaders, coaches, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.) need to answer these questions. These questions have been answered by God and we must echo them. The answers are "Yes!" 

The answer must be given over and over.

The answer does not give license to sin, however. When the true answer is given, by words and actions, consistently, many children will cease to find the answer elsewhere. 

Miley is seeking that answer, just like I am and everyone else I know. 

She, like many, just cannot or will not hear the voice of God answering. We must remember, as God's ambassadors, we are to answer the question.


Ever Feel Abandoned?

LonelyFeeling abandoned? Everyone, at some point in life, will face feelings of loneliness, abandonment, hopeless and fear. 

Doug Grote's story from Sunday resonates with this message. As he shared from the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, it became clear that these feelings are more common that we would like to think.

Author and teacher, Josh McDowell, known for his best-selling book Evidence That Demands a Verdict as well as books such as Right From Wrong and years of speaking to students and parents throughout the world has produced a film sharing much about his early life.

Josh's early life was very difficult. He grew up with many heart wounds and he hated God. In fact, he became an atheist, not believing that God even existed. If there was a God, then why would his life be so very hard? These questions echoed for years in Josh's mind. 

The clip below from a film titled "Undaunted: The Early Years of Josh McDowell" gives us insight into this chapter in his life.

 

Of course, he later came to Christ while in college. He was attempting to disprove God's existence and through that process was confronted with the reality of God and His love. 

The feeling of abandonment runs through all our stories. Doug's. Josh's. Habakkuk's. David's in the psalms. The widow's. The widower's. The single mom's. The forsaken husband's. The orphan's. The foster child's. The refugee's. The immigrant's. 

Your's.

Mine.

These feelings are common. Questions abound. Questions to God such as . . .

"Where are you?"

"Why aren't you doing anything?"

"Why aren't you listening?"

"Don't you even care?"

God hears. God cares. God loves. God can handle these questions.

When you're in the midst of the storm, as that cloud of doubt and discontent floats around your head, Romans 8:28 is the last verse you want to hear. Oh, the verse is true. It's powerful. However, in the midst of the storm, it often sounds empty.

God knows this. He also knows the message of that verse, and all others, is far from empty. It's powerful. It's hopeful. It's real.

I'm reminded of the power within the Great Commission. Most church attenders know this passage and focus upon the "go," "make disciples" and "baptize" portions of the passage. These should be the focus, but at the end of the commission is a sentence that offers comfort, power and grace to us. I think at times, the last sentence is just read quickly and often deemphasized. Here it is. Let this sink in.

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b (ESV)

The Creator of everything speaks to His children, as Father, and promises "I am always with you!" 

Lonely?

Fearful?

Angry?

Abandoned?

Remember His promise (and His promises are never broken) "I am always with you!" This is what gets you and I through the storms of life.


Why We Do What We Do - Doug Grote

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Upward Sunday 2013If you weren't here yesterday, I'd advise you not to skip over this posting or ignore this recorded message just because you think it's all about Upward basketball and cheerleading. It's about much more than that.

Yesterday was "Upward Sunday" here at First. Doug Grote of Upward Sports was our guest speaker and I had asked him to share about Upward some, but to not give us a one-hour infomercial on the program. Rather, I wanted him to share his story. I'm not sure our congregation was prepared.

Doug's story of tragedy through the death of his daughter nine years ago is so impactful and real. How do you worship when everything is falling apart? How to you "praise God" in the midst of the storm? How do you "give God the glory" when you're sitting in front of a judge awaiting sentencing on the tragic accidental death of your daughter due to negligence?

Doug's story struck a chord with me and others in our church.

Why do we do Upward Sports? The same reason we do anything we do. Because, as the old song states. . .people need the Lord. He is most glorified when we come to Him.

Doug's honesty and message is resonating in me and others today. It's evident in the emails, messages and notes I'm receiving.

Habakkuk 3:17-18(ESV)
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.


Beauty Restored: The Rescue of Porn Star Crissy Moran

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As you know, we have scheduled Crissy Moran to speak during our 9:15am & 10:45am worship services on Sunday, September 22 at First Baptist Church of Orange Park. I blogged about Crissy's story back in 2008 and connected with her via email about the potential of having her come back home to Jacksonville and share her story.

The right time to have her here didn't work out. Perhaps it was just scheduling? Maybe it was the need for Crissy to go a little further in her journey with Christ? It could be that the church in Orange Park just wasn't ready yet to address this? 

Honestly, how many Baptist churches set aside a Sunday morning service so a former porn actress and model can share her story? Based on the emails of encouragement I have received once we announced this, the answer is "Not many. . .if any."

The years went by and recently, I felt God leading us to reconnect and see about having her here. 

At FBCOP, we have been speaking all summer about the elements of a Gospel-centered church. One element of a church grounded on the Gospel, focused on Christ and set to expand the Kingdom is the evidence of "Many God-stories." While God-stories are everywhere, as we grow and journey together, the evidence of these moments become clear.

God-stores are stories of transformation. They're stories of redemption and hope. They're stories of peace and comfort in the storms of life. They're stories that do not always work out as we would plan, but in God's plan work to bring Him glory.

I talked with Crissy yesterday about the upcoming service in September. She's nervous. Jacksonville is her home town and . . . well, it's hard to come home sometime, especially when sharing a story like hers. Her mother and family are so very supportive and they will be here. It will be a good day. It may not be easy, but it will be good. It will be good because Crissy will be able to express how God has redeemed her. We'll talk about her past. It's part of the story, so it cannot be ignored, but we will focus on the redemption.

Her story is about a wounded young woman from Jacksonville. It's a story about seeking love and acceptance. It's a story of being hurt and feeling helpless. It's a story about believing lies for so long the truth was unrecognizable. It's a story of a little girl lost. . . then found.

Crissy left Jacksonville back in 1999 for the glamour of Los Angeles. She soon became one of the top adult actresses in the industry, making around $14,000 a month. Money, fame and parties were the norm. In the world's economy, she had everything anyone could ever need. Yet, on the inside, she was empty. Something wasn't right and she knew it. She just didn't know what it was. She didn't have the capacity (and no one does) to fix it. Then, she met Christ, for real. This was not a "religious" experience. It was a moment of rescue, of redemption, of cleansing, an elimination of condemnation and an invitation to life and true intimacy.

There's so much more to her story and she'll share more in September. 

I smile as I remember what she told me yesterday. Crissy said, "I just never dreamed it could be like this." That was a statement of joy and relief. She was giddy as she explained the love she's found in marriage (married just a few months ago) and how God is using her and her husband in newfound ministries. It's still all new, but it's evident - God's not through with Crissy. She never dreamed or desired to be "in the ministry." There's pain in her voice as she references the past, but she knows that God loves her and is Healer. She also desires that no other young woman fall into the lies as she did. She hates that men have been duped by the Enemy with addictions and lies the porn industry propagates. She wants to be used by God to help others.

It's a God-story. It's powerful and it's still being written.

DETAILS ABOUT OUR DAY WITH CRISSY

WHEN: Sunday, September 22, 2013 at 9:15am & 10:45am

WHERE: First Baptist Church, 1140 Kingsley Avenue, Orange Park, FL 32073 (www.opfirst.org)

TOPIC: Redemption Stories. Crissy will share via "interview" with me about her story. The topics will not be presented in a crass or "shock-filled" way, but due to the subject matter, we have extended children's small groups & children's church activities in both hours up through grade 6. While some may desire their junior high & high school students not hear this information, may I respectfully suggest that you allow them to be in attendance. I spend time each week on a junior high campus. Believe me, they (students) know about sex, internet porn and other things I won't address here. They get a skewed version of all of these issues. The church is speaking about the issues in a biblical, truthful way. 

WARNINGS: I have been asked if broaching this subject is a good idea since so many men struggle with internet porn (and the number of women dealing with this issue is increasing dramatically as well). The alternative to not addressing the issue is to do nothing. Friends, that's been done for decades by most churches and, well, we see how well that strategy has worked.

A note about Crissy and the internet. She has ONE official website. However, there are many out there that claim to be her's. A number claim to be her "new" site. These are bogus. They are owned by former boyfriends, producers and porn distributers. Unfortunately, the legal contracts Crissy signed years ago were pretty airtight. In other words. . .she doesn't own her images. The sad truth is that once a picture is put on the internet, it's there forever. This, too, is a great message and warning for our internet and social media savvy students.


Rebooting Upward: The Challenge to Avoid Consumerism & Be Missional

There are very few ministries marketed to the local church that truly embrace the concept of living missionally. Those which do are often corrupted by the consumerist mindset that is so very difficult to escape in our culture.

For years we have hosted Upward Basketball and Cheerleading at First. Each year has been eventful and fun. Children have played basketball and cheered in our league who otherwise would never have had the opportunity. Some have excelled and gone on to play on our local junior high and high school teams. Families have come to church. Some for the very first time. Lives have been transformed as some have come to Jesus Christ as Savior.

Upward-Basketball6-1024x855Has Upward been successful at First? Well, sure. . .on some scorecards. How could anyone say that children coming to know Christ personally and families being engaged for the sake of the Gospel is bad? It is not. 

Last year, our Upward Basketball and Cheerleading sports ministry was shelved for a year. There were numerous reasons, primarily based upon the lack of registration and scholarship funds available. It frustrated some, angered others and disappointed many. As I look back, it is clear (remember, hindsight is 20/20) that cancelling Upward last year was the very best thing to do.

Why? This clearing of the calendar has allowed us to take an honest, focused look at the ministry. Evaluation of the "why" of Upward has been essential.

We are starting Upward up again this year. I'm pretty excited about this reboot.

We are not rebooting the ministry based on the desires of Christians who want a league for their church-attending children (though, we desire that many in our church participate.)

We are not starting again just to add something else on the calendar. That actually goes against our core beliefs. Remember, busy-ness is not God's business. Burned out believers are not our desire.

We are not beginning again just to get the next Upward shirt for our personal collections (though I actually like those coaching shirts.)

We are intentionally and strategically rebooting Upward Basketball and Cheerleading at First as a missional expression. How can this be? The term "missional" actually describes the church, being the church, outside the building in which it gathers. It would be missional for believers to volunteer to coach in a local sports league such as OPAA or FIAA (which we encourage.) But, to create a "Christian" version of a local sports league does not actually fit nicely in the missional box. . .in most cases.

So, why do Upward again? How can it be missional?

We are in a unique situation in our community when it comes to this league. While the majority of churches (based on discussions with leaders at Upward and other churches) tend to only gather church kids and friends in their leagues, our league, based on our connections with local schools, has actually been effective in bringing in children and families totally disconnected from church. 

Is that missional?

It can be, but it requires intentionality and strategic planning.

If Upward is seen only as a children's ministry for kids in the church. . .well, we need to shelve it again. That does little more than prop up Christian consumerism, which is the polar opposite of missional living. However, if we understand and remember that Upward is one of the greatest connecting ministries with our local community, we must move forward. Very few activities at the local church actually draw unchurched people from the community. Upward does. At least it does here.

As we move forward, pray for the leadership team guiding this endeavor. Pray for the children in our local schools and neighborhoods who need to know Christ as Savior.

The harvest is ripe. Workers are needed. Pray that God's people will respond and step into this opportunity to live missionally (and have fun in the process) by serving and volunteering in Upward this season.

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. John 4:35 (ESV)


How Does It Feel To Know You Can't Change Anything?

It's a frightening feeling, especially for a parent. . .especially for a man. We like to fix things. Pastors like to fix things. We desire to see the broken mended, the sick healed, the confused clarified, etc. Change is not something I fear. Well, most of the time, anyway.

ChangeRealizing there are things that I have absolutely no power over is a humbling and frightening experience. Especially when the things that need to change, to grow, to mature, to behave are so very obvious.

That question was asked of me a week ago. Actually, it was typed to me online. It was not one of those innocent questions, it was phrased as an attack, but nevertheless, it caused me to think deeply.

How does it make me feel to know I can't change _________________?

Terrible, actually.

And relieved.

You see, if I were the change agent for my friends and family, even for the people in our community and church, they would be in serious trouble. This doesn't mean my role in God's story is to sit in the back row as an observer. God does use us in His plan and transformational processes. It's just that we (i.e. I) are not the needed element for transformational change. Jesus Christ is the change agent. He alone is the "Way, Truth & Life." 

It's humbling and right.

My selfless obedience to God's commands puts me in a place of usefulness. 

When asked "How does it make you feel to know you can't change __________________?" I am reminded that I am not the Holy Spirit. Only He convicts and calls. I am not Jesus Christ. Only He paid the price of sin. I am not God. He is the fullness of the Gospel.

The Gospel is the "good news" and the good news is God. Life. Hope. Transformation. Change.

So, what do I do?

I do what I've been told.

I seek the Lord. I fight for the hearts of those I love. I shepherd others. I lead, because I follow. I speak of change. I acknowledge that everyone on the planet is "born that way" and "that way" is into sin. That's why we need a Savior. 

We have One.

He is that change agent.


Leadership Intensive: Part Three - Dr. Allen Jackson

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Allen JacksonDr. Allen Jackson, Professor of Youth Education and Collegiate Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary wrapped up our Leadership Intensive on Sunday evening with details on how to lead and engage others through small group ministry. Whether called "Sunday School", "Small Groups", "LifeGroups" or any other new title, the pricinciples of engagement and discipling remain the same.

Dr. Jackson gave practical details on how to lead small group ministry to live out the principle of multiplication and to be on mission.

Then, as Dr. Jackson often does, he showed a movie clip as an inspirational close. You can view it below:

 


Leadership Intensive: Part Two - Dr. Rick Wheeler

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Rick WheelerDr. Rick Wheeler, Lead Missional Strategist for the Jacksonville Baptist Association, led our leadership team through an overview of the DISC Profile. While this profile has been around for years, and many have taken the test at work or in other groups, most small group leaders are unaware of the implications of knowing how this fits into God's plan for us.

Dr. Wheeler did an incredible job explaining the profile, but more importantly how the uniqueness of how we have been created is intentional in God's plan.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10


Leadership Intensive: Part One - David Tarkington

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Yesterday, we hosted our first "Leadership Intensive" at First Baptist Church. This three hour conference featured an overview of the missional strategy and discipling process we are implementing across the board and through our small groups.

The first hour featured me (David Tarkington) explaining the process of BELONG, GROW, SERVE & ENGAGE as well as practical aspects of missional mapping. Success in our small groups is no longer determined by the number of people we can gather in a room, but by the number of disciples we launch out to do ministry.

One of the best, straight-forward clips regarding living upwardly and outwardly focused is from Jen Hatmaker at the Verge Conference. I showed this last night in closing. Clip is below.