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Free Marriage Booster Event at Reston Bible Church

 

 marriage-booster-0514 (1)Are you looking for a date night for this Friday?

We have just the idea. Come out and join other couples at the Reston Bible Church – Marriage Booster this Friday night. Nothing draws a couple together like a shared vision, a mission of everlasting significance. That’s what we have for you this Friday.  Mike Meyers will be sharing with us on the topic of generational discipleship. Mike is currently the Director of Children’s Ministries at RBC and served on the mission field in Brazil for 7 years among at-risk children and youth (click for full bio). Be prepared to laugh, cry, and be inspired as we uncover biblical principles for raising a generation that knows Christ and makes Him Known. This is open to all, so if you don’t attend RBC, no problem!  Come on out!

Friday May 2 , 7:45-9:30 PM @ Reston Bible Church  Registration is FREE – www.restonbible.org/marriagebooster

 

 

 

 

Shark Wranglers continued…Lucas’ story

Continued from previous post… I learned a lesson that day. When our mission is just and godly we cannot let fear stop us. 

The Great Claim & The Great Promise

What could be scarier than going on a rescue mission into a hostile world in the name of Christ?  Most of us are familiar with the Great Commission as recorded for us in Matthew chapter 28. In this famous scene Jesus commissioned the disciples, and those disciples not yet born, to go into the world and share the gospel with the nations.  What most of us forget is that there are bookends to the Great Commission, namely the Great Claim and the Great Promise.  Let’s take a look.

     “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [the Great Claim]. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.[the Great Promise]”

Number one, Jesus first claims the authority, all authority, to say what he is about to say.  No one in their right mind charges into battle on the orders of a Private 1st Class.  It just doesn’t happen.  We want to know authority backs up the orders. Jesus has been given all power that exists, in heaven and on earth.  This command comes from the highest of all authorities.

After Jesus lays this very scary battle plan on us, he follows it up with a promise.  “Not only do I have the authority to send you on this mission, but I myself will be fighting along with you every step of the way.”  Do you believe him?

Lucas continued

When we left Lucas he was beginning to attend a new school, a gathering of the worst of the worst from the city’s overburdened school system. Their first “field trip” would change his life forever… Lucas’ class would be going to a local swim school that had been contracted by the city to teach swim lessons.  A shark wrangler by the nickname, “Zinho,” is the school’s owner as well as a former coach for Brazil’s Olympic program and a follower of Jesus Christ. He was on hand that first day.  He looked on as these unruly delinquents plunged willy-nilly into the pool. One of them in particular caught his well-trained eye.  This smallish, Afro-Brazilian boy dove in headfirst and, although he had no idea how to swim, he seemed to be at home in the water. Zinho called Lucas from the pool and asked if he would like to learn to be a competitive swimmer.  Lucas wasn’t sure what was involved, but he sure liked the pool and figured it was a good chance to spend more time there.

Zinho, Lucas and Michael

Right to left – Lucas, Zinho, and my son Michael

me and lucas

Lucas & me

In those days our organization, Open Arms, was also beginning to lead Bible-based, civic and moral education classes in Lucas’ new school.  Because my sons were also swimming at Zinho’s academy, he and I talked a lot together about the school and about Lucas.  We agreed that Open Arms would start a Bible study with the children on the swim team. Zinho recruited an older gentleman from his church to also meet with Lucas for one-on-one discipleship every week. Lucas began to split his time between our home and the swim school, where Zinho had made up a room for him. 

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Our Family at Christmas in Brazil

It was a bumpy road, as Lucas had no experience with limits or personal discipline of any kind. His brothers were drug users and well-known thieves and tough guys in one of the most notorious neighborhoods of the city (coincidentally one of Lucas’ brothers was incarcerated with Eduardo from our earlier story). His mother had no interest in caring for him but held on to legal guardianship in order to receive a small pension that was intended for his care. He once asked me tearfully, “Why did GOD give me such a terrible family? Why couldn’t I have a family like yours? Why couldn’t Maikinho and Rapha (my two boys) be my brothers?”

Lucas swim 2011

Lucas still has a lot of hurt to overcome, but in the context of a safe, healthy relationship with godly men and their families, Lucas gave his own life to Jesus.

Today Lucas talks of college and eventually a wife and family.  He told me recently, “I will never quit now. I know what I want and I know what GOD wants of me.”  For Lucas, the psalmists’ words are his own, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” (Psalm 27:10).

 

The Spirit of GOD works through the lives of men committed to be fathers to the fatherless.  It’s time for the shark wranglers and bull elephants of the Church to stand up and step out. It can and will make difference in the lives of the children you touch. 

Shark Wranglers continued

see previous post...https://lastmanstandingchurch.com/2014/02/21/shark-wranglers/

Substitute “Strong Man”

Brothers, we all know it is our GOD given duty as men to care for our own children, to protect them, to fight off the sharks of this world and guide our children on the narrow path that leads to life.  But as Christian men we have a call that goes beyond just our own little ones.  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16.  It is not enough to hide with our children, or the children of the church on shore, within our homes, our safe neighborhoods or the walls of the church building, when there are still children in the water with the sharks.

Ladies, are you laboring with the men in your life as a team to pull more children away from the sharks, like the aunt in our story, binding up the wounds of one child while he goes back for more?  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, as a substitute.  When the “strong man” in the life of a child has been removed we, as Christ imitators, the last men standing, have the privilege to step into the gap, in the name of the Savior, as a substitute and sure up the walls in the life of that young person. bridgingthegap

Does that sound scary?  Sure it does.  But “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).  If this is a mission from our Father, and it is, then we must trust in the words that GOD said to Joshua and to all those warriors who would follow, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

 

Eduardo continued… From “Last Man Standing” the book

Eduardo continued

…When we left Eduardo he was serving out his time in the infamous FEBEM juvenile prison system of Brazil, never hearing from a single “friend,” his only visitor being his mother.  But then he got a letter that would change everything. The letter, came from a an old P.E. teacher from his grade school years, Marcelo, and was accompanied by a photograph of the two of them together with some other boys from one of the many schools he had passed through in his childhood.  Marcelo wrote that he had heard from some friends of the trouble Eduardo had gotten himself into and let him know that he was praying for him and would like to catch up with him upon his release.  It was a simple letter, but it was also the only letter Eduardo would get from anyone throughout his 18-month sentence.

The day of his release came and it wasn’t long after getting home that his so called, “friends” came to welcome him back. Their first order of business was to invite him on a home invasion they were planning in the coming days.  He accepted.  In the mean time he thought he should at least track down Marcelo, this P.E. teacher who he still couldn’t believe remembered him, and thank him for the kind letter.  He found Marcelo, thanked him and, after a little chitchat, was ready to go back home, mission accomplished.  But then Marcelo invited him to come out to a party with some youth from his church.  Eduardo was leery of going to a “church” thing, but Marcelo assured him it was purely social and not a worship service.  He accepted, completely missing that the night of the party was the same night as the planned robbery.

Attending that party with Marcelo, Eduardo was taken aback by the other youth he met.  They were different.  The way they talked to each other and to him was completely foreign to him, but he liked it.  The next day his “friends” came around and asked why he had blown them off and not shown up as planned.  Eduardo made some excuses and rescheduled for another night the following week.  The day of that robbery Marcelo paid an unexpected visit to Eduardo and invited him to join them again for a night out.  This time Eduardo jumped at the chance, completely forgetting that he was “double booking” himself yet again. Once more he had a great time with Marcelo and his new friends and was more and more intrigued by what made them so different.

The next morning the old crew showed up at his home, even more frustrated with being dissed another time.  Eduardo wasn’t so sure of the sincerity of his apology this time, but

Marcelo & Eduardo (center)

Marcelo & Eduardo (center)

rescheduled once more just the same.  The day came and this time it was Eduardo calling Marcelo to ask if he could please come to a worship service being held for the youth at a local church that night.  It was the last time Eduardo would schedule a robbery, because that night, as Marcelo shared the good news of Jesus with the youth gathered together, GOD stole Eduardo’s heart for good.

Eduard at FEBEM

Eduardo outside the juvenile detention center

Soon after, Marcelo introduced Eduardo to Patricia and me at an Open Arms outreach project and we got him plugged in as a volunteer, teaching hip-hop dance to the kids.  Marcelo, Patricia and I have been walking with Eduardo ever since.  He has lived in our home, sharing a room with our boys, when things were going badly in his.  He has shared meals and holidays with our family.  Eduardo has gone on to go to college, has planted (at the time of this writing) three Open Arms outreach projects, has shared his testimony all over Brazil, began an outreach back into the same juvenile facility he spent time in, and has led untold numbers of children and youth to Christ.  Eduardo says today, “After about three months of resisting the temptation of returning to drugs and crime, my so-called “friends” stopped coming around.  Had it not been for my new-found faith in Jesus and friends from Open Arms, I don’t think I would have made it.”

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Eduardo and I at an Open Arms Outreach

Du e Claudia

Eduardo and his bride, Claudia

An interesting footnote to this story of Eduardo is that, on one particular evening soon after his conversion, he was invited with some of the other church youth to a meeting at a house belonging to the family of one of the girls in the youth group, one of his new best friends.  As they arrived at the house Eduardo’s jaw dropped.  It was the very same house he and his crew had planned to rob the day he went to jail, the day a voice inside him said, “Not this house.”  He knew now whom that voice belonged to.

God is in your corner: Come out swinging!

From Chapter Four of, “Last man standing”

“You are coming to fight against me with a sword, a spear and a javelin. But I’m coming against you in the name of the Lord who rules over all. He is the God of the armies of Israel. He’s the one you have dared to fight against.

1 Samuel 17:45

Let’s come up and take a breath for a moment. Are you feeling a little overwhelmed? Take heart, I have been where you are.  It’s a lot to take in.  We have learned of the special place children hold in the heart of GOD and how He has commanded his people to take seriously the task of teaching them.  We have explored the very unique way we as GOD’s creation are “wired” and why that “wiring” makes it critical as parents and the church to reach all children early with quality, relational discipleship.  We have exposed Satan’s strategy for leaving the children in your family, church, neighborhood and around the world vulnerable to his plans by tying up the “strong man.”

So now is the big moment when we should be asking ourselves, “What do I do with this information?” Will I reorder my priorities so that I am fully engaged in discipling my children? Will I engage my church leadership to encourage them to make our biblical instruction and treatment of children more robust and effective? Will I get more involved in encouraging other men in the church to follow me in this?  I pray that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “Yes!”  But there is more.  There is a place beyond our church walls where the fight is even more intense, a bare knuckle place where the potential for heartbreak and frustration are only off-set by the enormous blessings to be enjoyed.  It is a place of a most Christ-like sacrifice where the object of your gift is powerless to give anything in return.

to be continued…

 

Strong man down (the conclusion) – “Who is the last man standing?”

“By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my GOD on me and what the king had said to me.

   They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.” Nehemiah 2:13-18

    Our assessment is complete and the news is not good.  It is downright discouraging to be exact.  I echo Nehemiah when I ask, “Do you see the trouble we are in?”

You may be asking yourself now, “Why did I pick up this book?  There is enough bad news in the world to wallow in and now this!” That could not be further from my intention here but I believe it is important to not understate the gravity of the situation, and to make clear the truth that the answer lies with us, the body of Jesus Christ, the Church.

The body of Christ is the “last man standing”

While leading a team from a church in Brazil on a mission to work with children in a neighborhood that had grown up around the city trash dump, one of our team members and a dear friend, upon seeing the poverty, unsanitary conditions and widespread fatherlessness, commented, “Where is our government!? Why is this allowed to go on?” My answer to him, and others that might think that the government, or any other institution, holds the key, is this, “The root of the problems of fatherlessness, poverty and crime are not only, or even primarily, physical, educational or financial, but spiritual, and the church of Jesus alone is capable of answering all of these needs.”

Civil Servants of the Kingdom

The responsibility for addressing these needs does indeed belong to the government, but not the earthly one my friend had in mind.  The job belongs to the civil servants of GOD’s Kingdom and that means you and me.  If you are a man reading this you might be thinking, “Here we go, another thing I am responsible for.” But let me assure you, this is not another hammer to pound men over the head with.  We have enough of those today.  These are GOD sized problems that no one of us alone, man or woman, can completely remedy.  The answers lie with the whole family of GOD empowered by the grace of God through Christ.  Nehemiah did not call only on the men to stand in the gap and rebuild the walls, but rather for the men to lead their families in this great endeavor.

“Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.” Nehemiah 4:13 (emphasis added)

We have done it before.  Just consider this excerpt from an article written by Timothy Larsen for the web site Christianhistory.net about the early Sunday school movement.

“By the mid-19th century, Sunday school attendance was a near universal aspect of childhood. Even parents who did not regularly attend church themselves generally insisted that their children go to Sunday school. Working-class families were grateful for this opportunity to receive an education. They also looked forward to annual highlights such as prize days, parades, and picnics, which came to mark the calendars of their lives as much as more traditional seasonal holidays.

Religious education was, of course, always also a core component. The Bible was the textbook used for learning to read. Likewise, many children learned to write by copying out passages from the Scriptures. A basic catechism was also taught, as were spiritual practices such as prayer and hymn singing. Inculcating Christian morality and virtues was another goal of the movement. Sunday school pupils often graduated to become Sunday school teachers, thereby gaining an experience of leadership not to be found elsewhere in their lives.”

Far from gloom and doom, my hearts desire is to hear the Church of Jesus Christ say with gusto, “Let us start rebuilding,” and begin the good work of reestablishing our defenses and going on the offensive for the hearts of children in GOD’s Kingdom.

 

“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land…” Ezekiel 22:30a

Strong man down, continued (part 3)

We are losing ground in…

The Church

Where should we find a bulwark against the plan of Satan to take down the “Strong man” defense system? Who is the “last man standing,” that GOD put in place if not the Church of Jesus Christ?  The Church and its men should be an impenetrable fortress, protecting their children from the enemy of their souls.  Beyond that it should be a source of reinforcements for the families and communities who are losing their fathers.  Certainly in the Church we should find men, followers of Christ, committed to fulfilling their role of provider, protector, teacher and friend.

So where are they?  Again, some recent sociological research provides less than encouraging news for those children suffering on the front lines of fatherlessness.  It is not my purpose here to theorize on the causes (that is one bull’s-eye I do not wish to paint on my back), but the reality is stark as it regards men in the Church.

“Are males really less religious than females? Most of the studies made on the question seem to indicate that they are, and this appears to be true for all the Christian churches, denominations, and sects in western civilization.” [1]– James H. Fitcher,

“women are twice as likely to attend a church service during any given week. Women are also 50 percent more likely than men to say they are ‘religious’ and to state that they are ‘absolutely committed’ to the Christian faith.” – George Barna,

“Church attendance in the United States is about 60 percent female and 40 percent male. The more liberal the denomination, the higher the percentage of females.”[2]      – Leon J. Podles,

“Women, more often than not, take the lead role in the spiritual life of the family,” “Women typically emerge as the primary — or only — spiritual mentor and role model for family members. And that puts a tremendous burden on wives and mothers.” – George Barna[3]

 

The news out of Western Europe is much the same, and in Brazil the numbers are almost identical, with the ratio of Christian women to men at roughly 57/43% according to the IBGE – Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatístic in their 2000 census report.

While good people can disagree as to the cause of the masculinity deficit in the church, whether it is the feminization of sermons, worship and teaching in the church, liberal theology, a lack of vision driven churches or a generally feminized view of Christ and Christianity dating back to before the Reformation, there can be no disagreement over the plain fact that many Christian churches in the world today are not producing “strong men,” and those that are, by and large, are not sending them out into the world to stand in the gap for children who have been left defenseless by Satan’s schemes.


[1] James H. Fichter, “Why Aren’t Males So Holy?”Integrity (May 1955): p. 3.

[2] Leon J. Podles, “Missing Fathers of the Church”

[3] George Barna,Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators(Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996),p.87.