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The Chatterbox / You Failed Me
« on: April 17, 2018, 11:16:00 AM »

You Failed Me
By Kurt Bubna -
January 3, 2018

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard from two different men, “You failed me.”

Neither one of them used those precise words, but what each did say was clear. They both had unmet expectations of my leadership and me, and they felt like I had let them down.  And in many ways, I had.  I own that reality.  Without a doubt, in over 40 years of leading, I’ve made many mistakes. Fact is, my leadership blunders, oversights and missteps are common and have led to lots of frustrating moments for others (and me).  I’ve said it a thousand times: Unmet expectations are the source of most conflict. When someone anyone doesn’t do what you think they should do or does something you didn’t expect, the natural response is disappointment leading to struggle.  I am more aware of this painful truth than you can imagine.  Especially now.  The two guys I mentioned matter to me a great deal. One I have viewed as a brother and the other as a son. And it kills me to know that I have let them down. For days now, I’ve gone through a range of emotions from hurt to frustration to anger to depression. It hasn’t been pretty (ask my dear wife).  It took me awhile, but I finally got on my face and prayed.  “God, what’s wrong with me? Why does it seem like the one thing I’m ‘good’ at is letting others down?”

I even had some empathy for Elijah, who once prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4).

Relax. I’m not suicidal. No need to call 911 for me. But I did pray, “Lord, I’m good with going home anytime now.”

Elijah had just come off an incredible victory. God had used him to defeat 450 false prophets on Mount Carmel. (You can read about it here.) However, when threatened by Jezebel, Elijah became afraid and ran for his life. He went from ecstasy to agony and then ran off alone to be in the wilderness where he prayed, “Just kill me, God. I’d rather die at your hands than at the hands of anyone else” (my paraphrase).

Elijah was overcome by emotions. He lost sight of the bigger picture. Now, alone, discouraged and feeling like a failure, he wanted to take the easy route. He wanted to quit.  Been there.  What I love about our God is that even when He finds us in the wilderness hiding, He meets us there right there in the midst of our pain. And then He speaks, “Get up. Stay the course. No easy route to heaven for you! I’m not done with you yet.” (Read about Elijah’s encounter with an angel and then the Lord here.)  So, early this morning, I’m sitting in the dark, staring out the window, praying (more like complaining to God about my recurring idiocy as a leader), and the Holy Spirit whispers to my soul:

When you fail someone, in whatever way you do, that does not mean you are a failure; it means you are human.  That word wrecked me in a very good way. It was the Lord reminding me, “Get up. Stay the course. I’m not done with you yet.”

I’m literally weeping even now as I realize.  I’m human.  I fail.  But in God’s eyes, I am not a failure.  I am His.  I am called.  I still have a job to do.  He’s not done with me, yet.  That, my friends, is epic grace.  For the record, I will fail others again. I will fail you. As God so clearly reminded me, it’s a human thing.  That doesn’t excuse my failure. That doesn’t mean I don’t need to grow. Of course, I do, and by God’s grace and in His power, I will continue to mature.  But you know how we grow?

We fail.  We confess our sins and inadequacies and weaknesses.  Then we walk in forgiveness.  And we learn and grow.  It’s a human thing.  It’s a God thing.  It’s our ever-present reality on this side of eternity.  And it’s OK.

Story / The Graduation Gift Story
« on: September 29, 2017, 10:07:28 PM »
A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer's showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted.  As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car.  Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study.  His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him.  He handed his son a beautiful wrapped gift box.  Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man's name embossed in gold. Angrily, he raised his voice to his father and said, "With all your money you give me a Bible?"

And stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible.  Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was very old, and thought perhaps he should go visit him.  He had not seen him since that graduation day.  Before he could make arrangements, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son.  When he arrived at his father's house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart.  He began to search through his father's important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago.  With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. His father had carefully underlined a verse, As he read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible.  It had a tag with the dealer's name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words PAID IN FULL.

Story / Trust in God's Plans for You
« on: September 29, 2017, 09:58:17 PM »
Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said, "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure in the world!"

The second little tree looked out at a small stream trickling by on it's way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world."

The third tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave this mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they will raise there eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world."

Years passed. Rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me."

With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. "Now I will be made into a beautiful chest. I shall hold wonderful treasure!" the first tree said.

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "this tree is strong, it is perfect for me."

With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell.  "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!"

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looker her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter toppled it. Any kind of tree will do for me." he muttered.

With a swoop of his shining ax the third tree fell.  The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure. She was covered in saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day.  Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail an ocean, or even a river; instead she was taken to a small lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" the once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God."

Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. "I wish I could make a cradle for him,' her husband whispered.

The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful," she said.

And suddenly the first tree knew she was holding the greatest treasure in the world.  One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, "Peace, be still."

The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew she was carrying the King of Heaven and Earth. Early one morning a couple years later, the third tree was startled when her beam was yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But three days later, with he sun shining and the earth trembling beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong, And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God, that was better than being the tallest tree in the world!

Ladies Locker Room / A Prayer for Suicidal Women
« on: September 29, 2017, 09:38:29 PM »

A Prayer for Suicidal Women
Meg Bucher (Megs) Contributing Writer
2017 26 Sep

Human suffering is a part of life. It’s crucial to remember what we know about God in the moments when we teeter on the edge of leaving it behind. Our hardship is never in vain, though we feel deserted and desperate. God loves us (John 3:16). He promises never to leave us (Hebrews 13:5). He hears us (1 John 5:14) and answers us (1John 5:15). God alone is fit to judge us (James 4:12). We are not fit to sentence ourselves to death. God’s timing is perfect (Ecclesiastes 8:6). He cares for us (Matthew 10:30) and has a purpose in place for each and every life (Jeremiah 29:11).   Repeated together in prayer, God’s Word has the power to lift us out of the deepest pit, the darkest despair, and soul swallowing sadness. Look to Him in confidence, knowing that He is especially close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).  Father, proof abounds of the work of Your hands but we can’t see it. We are too engulfed in depression and angst, tragedy and pain, to look up. Help us hold onto the truth proclaimed in Proverbs 3:5-6. To trust You with our whole hearts and lean not on our own understanding.  Thank you for Jesus. Because of His death on the cross, we know that He understands our pain and suffering. Though we do not possess the ability to process our pain with His clarity, we can take solace in knowing that even Your Son struggled on this earth. You promise us that Your grace is sufficient for us, Your power made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Father, forgive us for considering any other plan but Your own for our lives. In the middle of the pain, it’s hard to remember what we know about how good You are. That our humanity is subject to sinful nature, and all of the struggle and consequence that comes along with it. But you never leave us, never abandon us. Jesus died so that we could cry out to You. Sometimes, we can only cry, yell, or throw our fists in the air. Thank You for the comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit translates our hearts to You.

Psalm 27:14 tells us to wait for you… to be strong and take heart and wait for you. For “Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God’” (Luke 18:27). In these desperate moments and trying hours, we need to remember that our thoughts are not your thoughts. There is no possible way that we can understand You, or Your ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). We just have to trust that You are good… You are love defined, and You will defend us. Micah 7:7 says, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”

Father, bless and heal our hearts and our ailments. Restore our hope in the One who has the power to do something about our circumstances. In a world that is throwing us around, help us to see Your hand reaching down to pluck us out before we are trampled. Help us to believe that our lives have a meaning and a purpose greater than what we can tangibly understand on this side of heaven. Instill godly confidence in us to live by Romans 8:28:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Psalm 86:7 says, “When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” It doesn’t say, “because You might answer me ...”

Answer us, Father. Help us. Heal us. Restore our life and fill our hearts with the hope that only You can provide. For Your glory, we want Your will for our lives above our plans and escape routes. You place people purposefully in our lives, Father. People who need us who need to witness Your miracle in our comeback. People who need our love, which we are free to give because of the way you extravagantly love us. At our best and at our worst, Your love is unchanging.  Restore our lives, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Humour, Sillimess and Games / Burglar
« on: September 29, 2017, 09:21:37 PM »
A burglar, needing money to pay his income taxes, decided to rob the safe in a store.  On the safe door he was very pleased to find a note reading: "Please don't use dynamite. The safe is not locked. Just turn the knob."  He did so. Instantly a heavy sandbag fell on him, the entire premises were floodlighted, and alarms started clanging.  As the police carried him out on a stretcher, he was heard moaning: "My confidence in human nature has been rudely shaken."

The Chatterbox / What Every Leader Needs: Silence And Solitude
« on: April 22, 2017, 10:45:27 PM »,%202017&maropost_id=742347701&mpweb=256-3269956-742347701

What Every Leader Needs: Silence And Solitude
By Charles Stone on Apr 13, 2017

In essence, silence and solitude are tools God uses to restore our souls by breaking engagements with the world. This discipline is really more of a state of heart than a place. Granted, it does include away-ness from others, but as you mature you can actually be in a huge crowd and experience the rejuvenating power of solitude. It can create the ability to carry around with you your own portable sanctuary, sacred place, place of rest, connection to God even in a loud, distracting world.On the other hand you can become a hermit and never experience the power of solitude.  Before I give you my suggestions, read this funny story.  A monk newly initiated into his order was told that he’d have to spend the initial 20 years of training in complete silence. He was told that he would only be allowed to say two words every three years. After 3 years of studiously keeping this vow he was summoned before the Abbot and asked if he had anything to say, in two words or less. He replied, “Food bad.”

Three more years went by when he was again summoned before the Abbot. “Well, do you have anything to say now,” the monk was asked. “Bed hard,” was the answer. After three more years the Abbot found our friend and asked him if he’d like to speak. “I quit!” said the monk.

“Well, I’m not surprised,” said his Abbot. “You’ve done nothing but complain since you arrived.” (source unknown)

Now, the practical benefits of practicing silence and solitude and tips for building it into your life.  Practical benefits of practiing silence and solitude

1. It breaks the power of hurry.

It breaks the adrenalin addiction, the “have to do” mentality of life. Willard explains it this way. The person who is capable of doing nothing might be capable of refraining from doing the wrong thing. And then perhaps he or she would be better able to do the right thing.[1]

2. It brings spiritual renewal.

Francis de Sales said (1500’s), “There is no clock, no matter how good it may be, that doesn’t need resetting and rewinding twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. In addition, at least once a year it must be taken apart to remove the dirt clogging it, straighten out bent parts, and repair those worn out. In like manner, every morning and evening a man who really takes care of he heart must rewind it for God’s service.  Moreover, he must often reflect on his condition in order to reform and improve it. Finally, at least once a year he must take it apart and examine every piece in detail, that is every affection and passion, in order to repair whatever defects there may be.[2]

3. It reminds us that life will still go on without us

It interrupts the cycle of constantly having to manage things and be in control. It breaks us from a sense of being indispensable.

4. It clears the storm of life and mind for wise decision making and planning.

Jesus illustrates this in Luke 6:12-13 before he chose his disciples. “And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.”

5. It creates inner space to hear the voice of God.

After Elijah’s power encounter on Mt Carmel with the Baal worshippers he fled because he heard that Queen Jezebel had a price on his head. He hid in a cave and whined to God. God told him to step outside the cave and cover his face because he was about to speak to him. A storm and wind and earthquake and fire appeared, but God was not in any of those. Rather, God spoke in a whisper. 1Kings 19.2.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

6. It helps us disconnect from the world and deeply connect to our soul.

Henry Nouwen said, “In solitude, I get rid of my scaffolding.”

Scaffolding is the stuff we use to keep ourselves propped up, friends, family, TV, radio, books, job, technology, work, achievement, our bank account, etc.[3]

7. It helps us control our tongue

If frees us from the tyranny we hold over others with our words. When we are silent, it is much more difficult to manipulate and control the people and circumstances around us. Words are the weapons we lay down when we practice silence. We give up our insistence of being heard and obeyed.

8. It helps us with the other disciplines

It enhances the other disciplines.  Practical tips to incorporate silence and solitude into your life.

1. Plan for it.
2. Find a quiet place.
3. Be considerate of those who will be affected.
4. Zip it
James 1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
5. Expect some apprehension.
Our busy world often hinders us from looking within, so don’t quit if deep things in your soul begin to surface
6. Length?
Walk before run.
7. Realize that this discipline comes more easily to some.
I recommend a great book to understand your particular spiritual pathway. It’s a book called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.
What do you find most difficult about silence and solitude?

Humour, Sillimess and Games / The judge
« on: December 25, 2015, 03:08:51 PM »
In the traffic court of a large city, a young lady was brought before the judge to answer for a ticket given her for driving through a red light. She explained to the judge that she was a schoolteacher and requested an immediate dismissal of her case so she could get to the school on time.  A wild gleam came into the judge’s eye.  “You’re a schoolteacher, hum?” he said. “Ma'am, today I shall realize my lifelong ambition. I've waited years to have a schoolteacher in this court. Sit down at the table and write ‘I went through a red light’ 500 times!”

Thanksgiving / How a Church Greeting Saved One Man’s Life
« on: October 26, 2015, 04:15:44 PM »

How a Church Greeting Saved One Man’s Life
By Brady Boyd • September 7, 2015

Almost every Sunday, I encourage New Lifers to find someone they have never met and introduce themselves.  It is probably the most important thing we do as a church family besides the Sacraments and the Scriptures. A few Sundays ago, a New Lifer turned around and met a man for the first time and probably saved his life.  This man had planned to take his own life by driving off a cliff later in the day, but decided to come to New Life beforehand to give God one more chance. When the New Lifer met him at the end of the gathering, he was obviously distraught. Instead of ignoring the man’s pain, the New Lifer prayed with him and introduced him to one of our pastors who took him to an office and met with him for about 90 minutes.  He was a totally different person after that time and assured us he was content to live now and would resume seeing his therapist, which he did, because we checked.  All of this, because a New Lifer turned and said hello. Sometimes ministry to people is so simple look at them, listen to them and care about their stories.  Several times in Paul’s letters to the churches, he encouraged them to greet one another with a holy kiss. The kissing part does not go over so well in Colorado, but the greeting part sure does.  If church is an assembly of believers who belong to the same family, then sincere greetings should be a big part of the family gatherings every week. If not, we will become the cold “sit, listen and leave” church.  Not every handshake and introduction will save a life, but every close friend I have today started with one of us introducing ourselves and asking some questions.  For some, this is super scary, for others it is not. No matter the nervousness, it is a powerful part of the local church becoming a close family and is proof to a distraught world that there is a place for them in God’s healing home.

Humour, Sillimess and Games / Drumming
« on: August 15, 2015, 08:04:42 PM »
There was once a small boy who banged a drum all day and loved every moment of it. He would not be quiet, no matter what anyone else said or did. Various attempts were made to do something about the child.  One person told the boy that he would, if he continued to make so much noise, perforate his eardrums. This reasoning was too advanced for the child, who was neither a scientist nor a scholar.  A second person told him that drum beating was a sacred activity and should be carried out only on special occasions. The third person offered the neighbors plugs for their ears; a fourth gave the boy a book; a fifth gave the neighbors books that described a method of controlling anger through biofeedback; a sixth person gave the boy meditation exercises to make him placid and docile. None of these attempts worked.  Eventually, a wise person came along with an effective motivation. He looked at the situation, handed the child a hammer and chisel, and asked, "I wonder what is INSIDE the drum?"

No more problem.

Humour, Sillimess and Games / The Techno Generation
« on: June 18, 2015, 11:56:06 PM »
Daughter:  "Daddy, I am coming home to get married.  Take out your checkbook.  I'm in love with a boy who is far away.  He lives in Australia.  We met on a dating website, became friends on Facebook, had long chats on Whatsapp, he proposed to me on Skype and now we've had two months of relationship through Viber.  Dad, I need your blessings, good wishes, and a big wedding!"

Father:  "Wow! Really!  Then get married on Twitter, have fun on Tango, buy your kids on Amazon, and pay through Paypal. And if you get fed up with your husband sell him on eBay!

Humour, Sillimess and Games / Life After Death
« on: June 18, 2015, 11:54:29 PM »





















Humour, Sillimess and Games / Cat in Heaven
« on: April 25, 2015, 06:43:20 PM »
A cat died and went to Heaven. God met the animal at the Pearly Gates and said, "You have been a good cat all of these years. Anything you want is yours for the asking."

The cat thought for a moment and then said, "All my life I lived on a farm and slept on hard, wooden floors I would like a real fluffy pillow to sleep on."

God said, "Say no more."

Instantly, the cat had a HUGE fluffy pillow.

A few days later, 12 mice were simultaneously killed in an accident and they all went up to Heaven together. God met the mice at the Gates of Heaven, with the exact same offer that He made to the cat.  The mice said, "Well, we have had to run all of our lives from cats, dogs, and even from people with brooms. If we could just have some little roller-skates, we would never have to run again."

God answered, "It is done." All the mice had beautiful little roller-skates.

About a week later, God decided to check on the cat.  He found her sound asleep on her fluffy pillow. God gently awakened the cat and asked, "Is everything okay? How have you been doing? Are you happy?"

The cat replied, "Oh, everything is just WONDERFUL I've never been so happy in my life! My pillow is always fluffy and those little "Meals-on-Wheels" that You have been sending over are delicious."

Humour, Sillimess and Games / Super Bowl
« on: April 25, 2015, 06:35:21 PM »
A man had 50 yard line tickets for the Super Bowl. As he sits down, a man comes down and asks if anyone is sitting in the seat next to him.  "No," he says, "The seat is empty."

"This is incredible," said the man. "Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event in the world, and not use it?"

He says, "Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away. This is the first Super bowl we haven't been to together since we got married in 1967."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. That's terrible. But couldn't you find someone else-a friend or relative, or even a neighbor to take the seat?".

The man shakes his head.  "No, they're all at the funeral."

Thoughts / 7 Ways to Bait the Hook for Tomorrow's Sermon
« on: February 22, 2015, 10:03:44 PM »

7 Ways to Bait the Hook for Tomorrow's Sermon
Author: Bruce Johnson

How often have you sat down on a Friday (or Saturday) afternoon and thought, “Oh no, how am I going to start this message?”

It’s the curse of preaching, isn’t it?

Unlike professional speakers who can come up with one message and travel around the country giving that same message over and over again, you have to come up with 40–50 great intros, week in and week out, every single year!  What complicates this whole scenario is that the people you’re speaking to are widely diverse. You have graduate school alumni as well as high school drop-outs; you have senior citizens as well as Millennials; you have stay-at-home moms as well as moms who head up large organizations; you have singles who’ve never been married as well as singles who’ve been married as well as marrieds with children still at home as well as marrieds whose children have all left the roost along with those marrieds who’ve never had children.  So how do you hook all those divergent people, week in and week out, so that the majority of them want to listen to what you have to say to them that day?

That is the question, isn’t it?

It begins with remembering everyone is motivated by self-interest. Since we all have a sin nature, we’re all most interested in what’s interesting to us not to someone else (let alone a preacher).  Hopefully, you noticed how I started this article. I didn’t start out by telling you, “Here’s how to create a hook …” I started by thinking about you and your self-interest.

In fact, here was my thought process (shortened): “What is the biggest pain and frustration pastors experience when creating a hook?”

My answer was, “Looking at a blank sheet of paper each week and wondering, ‘How do I start this week’s message?’ and secondly, feeling the frustration of ‘How do I come up with anything that can hook such a widely divergent group of people?'”

Once I thought about you and your issues, the hook became easy to create. But it all began with the idea that to hook someone, you have to appeal to their self-interest you have to connect to what’s most interesting to them (not to you, or in this case, to me).  If you really own that principle, you’ll be light years ahead of most preachers who almost always start with themselves and what they’re most interested in (or want to teach on) vs. what the people they’re speaking to are most interested in learning. I cannot overstate how different those two starting positions are nor how different the effects are.  So if you want to start creating a better hook every week, here’s what I’d recommend. Take out a piece of paper and at the top on the left side write “X1.” At the top of the right side write “X2.” And in between the two draw an arrow. Your job in preaching is to take a group of people (your congregation) from X1 (which is where they start) to X2 (which is where they need to be at the end).  Now, by definition, you can’t take someone from where they are if you’re not clear on where they’re starting. In light of that, here are seven questions you’ll want to ask yourself each week if you want to create better hooks.

1. WHOM am I speaking to?

Note: You can answer this question once and then copy it from week to week, but don’t rush past it this week. I guarantee that you (like everyone else) have a perception bias. For example, you may think most of the people in your congregation are married with children (like you, if you’re married with children), but based on most community demographics, you’re probably wrong. So what percent are married?

What percent are single?

What’s the breakdown economically?


How many are seekers?


What percentage are in each of the major age brackets?

What do they read?


Listen to?

Etc. Trust me, most congregations aren’t as homogeneous as we think.

2. What do they KNOW about this topic?

Don’t assume everyone knows what you know. One of the great things about hanging out with seekers or leading a small group of normal church people is that it reminds us that most people don’t know a whole lot about our faith and the Bible. Then again, you also want to be reminded that there are some people who will be listening who know a whole lot. Your job is to hook both.

3. What are their FEARS and FRUSTRATIONS about this topic?

If you want to connect deeply with people, connecting to their fears and frustrations is one of the quickest and easiest ways to hook someone into listening to the rest of your message.

4. What are their WANTS and NEEDS about this topic?

This may be the most obvious of the seven questions, but if you really want to connect here, you want to focus on URGENT wants and needs.

5. Where is their PAIN or HURT concerning this topic?

I’ve said for years, if you focus your preaching on speaking into people’s pain, you will never lack for an audience. If you want a quick church growth principle, this would be it. Connect to people’s pain (and then show them a pathway out of it), and your church will grow.

6. What PROBLEMS or OBSTACLES do they need to overcome related to this topic?

If you’re starting to think that some of these questions might sound similar (“Hey, isn’t a pain or a fear a problem?”), the reason you want to ask them is because the questions you ask determine the answers you receive. For example, on the subject of giving, someone’s fear might be, “If I do this, I won’t be able to make ends meet.”

Whereas their pain may be, “You don’t understand, I have bill collectors calling already.” Whereas their problem may be, “I don’t really trust God” or “I have so much debt I can’t possibly give God 10%. I have no margin.”

7. What’s their INTEREST LEVEL about this topic?

I always add this one in to remind myself (and now I’m encouraging you to do the same) that your answer should usually be LOW. Why?

Because it’ll remind you and me that we should never assume anyone is interested which should make us work harder on the hook.  Once you finish answering those questions (the BOLD words are the ones I write under the X1 on my sheets), I think you’ll find it infinitely easier to come up with a great hook because you’ll have gotten out of your world and into theirs. And getting into their world is essential if you want to create a great hook, because every great “hook” is based on offering “bait” that the “fish” you’re trying to catch are interested in (not the “bait” you want to offer them).  If you’d like to download a sheet with the seven questions already written out, you can do so at

Parenting & Marriage / When Your Son Is Tempted By Porn
« on: February 22, 2015, 09:50:58 PM »

When Your Son Is Tempted By Porn
Why you need to go beyond Internet filters and "the talk"
By Dorothy Littell Greco

Our son was recently on a regional athletic team. During lunch after one of the away games, the other parents shared stories about their sons’ showering habits, which apparently included waterproof cases for their handheld devices and excessively long stretches spent behind locked doors. Wink. Wink. They all laughed. Unable to cheerfully engage, I excused myself and went for a walk.  According to statistics, their boys are in the majority. A Covenant Eye’s article confirmed “93 percent of boys are exposed to Internet porn before the age of 18. Seventy percent have spent more than 30 consecutive minutes looking at online porn on at least one occasion, and 35 percent of boys have done this on more than 10 occasions.”

What’s a mother to do?

Do we have other options besides shrugging our shoulders and acquiescing to the truism that “boys will be boys,” especially when it comes to porn, masturbation, and other forms of sexual temptation?

Our sons desperately need our help and advocacy in order to make a different choice.

Internal Barriers to Honest Communication

The ride through adolescent sexual development is bumpy, intimidating, and sometimes outright terrifying for both parents and teens. Despite their incremental and developmentally appropriate transition to autonomy, our teens still rely on us for guidance, affection, and love. The media complicates matters by bombarding our sons and daughters with the message that we their parents are incompetent. Because we so seldom feel like experts, that accusation lances our insecurities, triggering doubt and paralysis particularly when we try to press in with a child of the opposite gender.  As a mother of three boys (aged 15 to 21), I often dodged these feelings by handing off the more vulnerable or potentially conflict inducing conversations to my husband because, after all, he’s the resident expert on testosterone. But in the past five years, I’ve felt a growing conviction that I, too, have a unique role in educating and supporting my sons.  When I was growing up, my mother and father were silent about the changes my body was going through and offered no advice regarding how I might steward my sexuality. I was confused, occasionally scared, and often struggling with shame about what I was doing and viewing. Those memories have motivated me to do better with our sons though I realize that determination alone won’t give me sufficient traction for the long haul.

Conflicting Messages

Scripture has given me courage and vision to guide my sons through the maze of their sexual development. It’s irrefutable that God created us as sexual beings who are meant to experience and enjoy the pleasures of sex within the confines of a marriage between one man and one woman. This message sharply diverges from our culture’s agenda, which promotes sexual expression and exploration without boundaries or consequences.  The notion of self-control, regularly promoted and extolled by the Bible, is largely absent from the conversations that take place in schools and in the media. One of my sons recently said, “It’s like they don’t believe we have the ability to say no.”

Our sons (and daughters) already have self-control just watch them perform on the athletic fields if you have any doubts. They can readily learn to extend the same self -discipline they demonstrate in sports, music, dance, and theater to their sexuality.

Elevating God's Message via Proactive Conversations

We are the ones who are called to present that radical idea to them as a viable option. This happens through conversations about self-control, sexual development, and sexual feelings that should begin long before the first harbingers of adolescence. Rather than assuming you can check off a box after having a defining conversation about intercourse, you can plan to have an ongoing dialogue with your son about body functions, pregnancy, erections, and even taboo topics such as abortion and masturbation.  When our then 11 year old asked during dinner one night why women have abortions, I resisted my impulse to cross examine him and calmly explained the procedure and why some women choose to have one. Later, I asked if he wanted to discuss it further and shared my perspective on this controversial topic.  I have not found any studies that confirm this, but it’s my hunch that curiosity drives some of our sons’ furtive Google searches. They may wonder, What does a woman’s body actually look like?

Or, exactly what happens during sex?

Though their questions might be totally innocent, it only takes five key strokes to find porn.   We need to think out ahead of them and proactively communicate in order to satisfy at least some of their natural curiosity. For example, while pubic hair probably won’t register as a worthy topic of conversation, our preteens might freak out when those coarse hairs start poking through their skin gasp! down there. Similarly, erections can happen for boys before they have their second birthday. A “frozen penis” (as one young boy described his erection) certainly deserves an explanation, as well as the assurance that no surgical procedures are necessary to correct this phenomenon.  Our sons generally feel too self-conscious to breezily initiate these discussions after school over milk and cookies. Nevertheless, by asking them non-threatening questions preferably when engaged in an activity together so they don’t have to make eye contact we can draw them out.  This past week, I received an email with an image of a nearly naked woman in a come-hither pose. Mindful of the potential embedded in this, I explained what happened to my son and asked if he ever had a similar experience. Such intentional, five-minute conversations will help establish us as trusted allies as well as lessen any anxiety about what’s going on in their bodies. Based on the mistakes I’ve made as a parent, I know that if you start having these conversations when your child is 6, it will be easier to have them when he’s 16.

Pediatrician and author Dr. Joshua Sparrow affirmed this approach:

The guiding principle is that if parents provide accurate information at the time and of the kind that children need, then they establish themselves as reliable sources of information. This can strengthen their relationships with their children through adolescence and help protect the children from seeking out unreliable or disturbing sources of information.

Putting Sexuality in a Larger Context

In addition to establishing ourselves as reliable and trustworthy sources for all things developmental, my husband and I have found it helpful to zoom out and offer our sons a redemptive view of male-female relationships. Through the use and proliferation of pornography (as well as highly sexualized mainstream media), our sons increasingly get the message that it’s normative to objectify women. By exposing these messages as lies, we’re not simply fighting for our sons’ sexual purity; we’re fighting for them to understand women are their co-heirs in Christ and equal partners in bringing God’s kingdom to earth. If we communicate this verbally and embody it within our own marriages (or in our friendships with men if we are not married), our sons will begin to understand using women for sexual pleasure is neither optimal nor godly.

The Need for Engagement

Rest assured, both you and your sons will make mistakes my sons and I certainly have. In preparation for this article, I created a survey for parents of teenage boys. Ninety-five percent of the respondents admitted their sons had either viewed pornography or engaged with social media in an inappropriate manner. When this has happened in our house, I’ve always felt tempted to sever the cable and ban all electronics. But because we have diminishing control over our children’s choices as they grow up, we need to understand that reactive impulses will not accomplish the deeper transformation of their hearts.  So instead of pulling the plug, I’ve opted to become more engaged than ever, even though our sons don’t always welcome or appreciate this. With their full knowledge, we set parental controls, apply filters, and monitor all of our sons’ social media accounts (forbidding certain ones such as Snapchat and Yik Yak). The younger two must endure random spot checks, limits on where they use their computers, and occasional conversations about content. While we don’t expect them to cheerfully applaud our efforts, my husband and I strongly believe our role as their parents is to protect them from harm whenever possible, gradually decreasing our intervention until such a time when they are able to make wise decisions on their own.  As mothers, we have been given a sacred assignment from God to equip and educate our children. We know their strengths and weaknesses more intimately than anyone. In order for us to raise godly sons who honor women and have both self-control and integrity, we need to consistently engage. At times, we will feel both incompetent and uncomfortable. But God, our perfect Father, will be by our side cheering us on and filling us with the love, patience, wisdom, and grace we need to carry out this assignment.

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