Five for Friday (9.5.14)

five red button“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ― Henry Ford

Here are a few articles to help you keep learning!

Learn From my Divorce – powerful words for us all.

How to Help a Grieving Friend: 11 Things to Do When You’re Not Sure What to Do – great perspective for anyone helping someone walk through a loss.

Her Right to Choose – An incredible article on abortion and life.

11 Things You Think are in the Bible, but Really Aren’t – check the list to to see what you’ve assumed about the Bible!

10 Reasons Why the NFL is Better Than College Football – amen and amen.

6 Ordinary Things You Can Give Your Kids That Will Have Extraordinary Results.

Here is some incredible parenting advice I learned from Reggie Joiner’s book Playing for Keeps. He makes the argument that the most important commodity you have with your children is time. Time makes what matters matter more. If you give your children six ordinary things consistently over time, you’ll build a legacy in them that will last a lifetime.

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TIME over time gives someone a sense of history. Each week as a microcosm doesn’t seem like much. You’re making dinner, you’re changing a diaper, you’re reading a book. But small increments of time given over a long period of time gives a child a sense of history. That’s why it doesn’t work to ignore your kids all year and try and make it up with one big vacation. They want your time. A way to put this into practice is to visualize time. Get something like a jar of marbles to visualize how much time you have left with your children. Learn the rhythm of their week and be intentional. Make sure every weekend you’re doing something with your children.

LOVE over time gives someone a sense of worth. Research has shown that love is more important in the life of a child than in the life of an adult, because the deposits accumulate over time. Everyone is wired to love. The way to put this into practice is to prove it. Show up in their lives; be present. Give them rules; discipline shows that you care about their future. And truly know them; children change over the years and it’s on us as parents to keep up with their changing likes and dislikes.

WORDS over time give someone a sense of direction. That’s why the words we say around our kids and to our kids are so important. They can shape the direction of their lives. As parents it’s up to us to expand our vocabulary. Learn a new language. Weigh what you say around your kids. Recycle big ideas. Get involved in a good children’s/youth ministry and learn what they’re teaching so that you can reinforce it at home. A great idea for this is to create a custom poster with your child’s name on it and 7-10 words that cast a vision of what their life could be (words like ‘courageous,’ ‘honest,’ etc.) Put that poster up in their room and let them look at it everyday for a decade, and see what difference it makes.

STORIES over time gives someone a sense of perspective. We’re wired for stories. You can teach your child about courage, or you could tell them the story of David and Goliath. You could teach your child about trust, or you could tell them the story of Peter walking on the water. You could teach your child about God’s love, or you could tell them the story of Jesus dying on the cross for them. As parents we have the opportunity to amplify the story. Expose them to good stories. Create teachable moments throughout life. Discover the arts together. Stories are everywhere. Over time, stories will give your children incredible perspective on life.

TRIBES over time gives someone a sense of belonging. Every child wants to belong. No one wants to be the last one picked for kickball at recess. We all identify ourselves by tribes: mom, Baptist, feminist, saints fan, conservative, reader, pirate, etc. As parents it’s on us to be intentional about living in circles. Give your kids tribes to belong to. Keep traditions in your home and eat meals together; they give a child a sense of belonging. Find them a seat in meaningful tribes. The two critical tribes you can connect your child to are a healthy family tribe and a healthy church. Make sure your kids belong to those tribes, and they’ll do well in life.

FUN over time gives someone a deeper connection. Kids are created with an inner ‘play’ drive. So play with them! I know as parents we are programmed to protect, but make sure that your ‘don’t’ list doesn’t overtake your ‘do’ list. Your kids need to play. And more importantly, you need to play with them. So make it fun. Loosen up. Lose the agenda. Learn what they like to play and play with them. As you play with your kids over time, you’ll create a deeper connection that will last a lifetime.

Whatever matters will matter even more over time. Love is just love. It’s a second-hand emotion—until you put it over time. Then it does something amazing. It gives a kid worth. Words are just something to help you win at Scrabble. They’re something you tweet to get more followers—until you put them over time. Then, they become a collection of messages that moves someone in a better direction. Stories are just experiences that happen to have happened. But when you collect stories over time, they expand a child’s imagination in a way that can shape his or her perspective. Tribes are just people linked together by common interests. They’re clubs you can sign up to attend—until you put them over time. Then they become a family or community where a child can experience belonging. Fun is just a good time. It’s fun, period, just an Indie pop band – until you put it over time. Then it creates a powerful connection. It takes your friendship with your child deeper. What you are doing every week will matter more in someone’s life when you do it week after week, month after month, year after year. And when you combine love, words, stories, fun and tribes together over time, they gain collective momentum, they make history, they build a legacy.

*All worthwhile content on this blog post came from this amazing book, Playing for Keeps. Order it today!

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Why I’m Preaching in Saints Gear This Sunday

We dress casual at Mt Vernon, but we’ve never dressed this casual before. We’re asking everyone who comes this Sunday (Sept. 7) to dress in their favorite team’s gear. We’ll see a lot of Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama and Auburn fans decked out from head to toe. I’m more of an NFL guy, so I’ll be representing my New Orleans “Who Dat” Saints. Why?

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Because this Sunday we’re kicking off a new sermon series called “Fanatics,” where we’re leveraging our love of sports as a picture of what true devotion looks like. Middle aged men who sit stone-walled in the pews of a church and refuse to sing in worship because it’s beneath them will dance up and down when their favorite team scores and will cry like a girl when their favorite team loses. They know what passion looks like, just not in the church.

I can talk about anything I want to on Sundays in September, but there’s only one thing that people are talking about Monday through Saturday: football. The SEC is king. The NFL has followers nationwide. Since we’re all talking about one thing during the week, we’ll leverage that same thing on Sundays to see what we can learn about being devoted fanatics of God.

Look forward to seeing you there! If you’re not in town, you can Livestream our services at: www.mtvchurch.tv.

You can always catch up on my sermons on my Vimeo page: www.vimeo.com/joshdaffern.

Who Dat!

Leaked Pics: The Dangers of the Digital Age

The celebrity world is abuzz with nude pics of famous celebrities (hacked from their phones) making a momentary appearance on the internet over the weekend before being drowned out in a sea of lawsuits. The majority of us simply shake our heads and ask ourselves, “what were they thinking taking those pictures in the first place?”

9.2.14

© Getty

Single men and women doing things intended only for married men and women is nothing new. As much as they might deny it, when your parents were tempted to fool around. As cosmically destructive as it might be to even comprehend, your grandparents were tempted the same way: do things you’re not supposed to do, show things you’re not supposed to show.

But here’s the difference: if your great-grandmother (God rest her soul) was tempted back when she was a teenager to show off something she shouldn’t have, it was a momentary indiscretion. It was in the moment, with nothing but a memory for the eye of the beholder. But today with the advancement of technology, our momentary indiscretions can now be captured digitally and used to haunt us for the rest of our lives.

A few years ago (back when I was a youth pastor) I counseled with a girl who was emotionally distraught. She wrestled with self-mutilation, she struggled in school, and she was broken emotionally. Why? Because of a topless picture she sent of herself to a guy she liked at the time. Just a momentary indiscretion, but one in the digital age. Once the boy lost interest, he still had the picture. He forwarded it onto his friends, it went viral at her school, and her world collapsed.

Technology is a double-edged sword. It enhances the speed of life, but it also enhances the speed at which life can be ruined. Beware.

The wise see danger and take refuge,
    but the fool keeps going and pays the penalty. Proverbs 27:12

Step One in Strengthening Your Marriage

originally posted as Step One: Pray Together on August 27, 2012

I don’t know where you are in your marriage. You may be just starting out or rounding out twenty years together. Your fire may still be burning bright or may have died out a long time ago, leaving only lukewarm embers.

As I’ve counseled with couples about their marriages, I’ve found that every situation is unique. Every marriage has its own baggage and history. But there are a few things that will help any marriage. Here’s one I want to share with you today.

Your marriage may be on the ropes or going strong. You may need serious intervention or just a minor tune-up. But wherever you are, step one to making your marriage stronger is to pray together everyday. The good news about this step is that it’s free. It won’t fix all your problems, but it’s a good first step. Here’s what you’ll discover when you pray together:

1. It’s hard to hate someone you pray with. As you pray for and with your spouse, you’ll find your heart softening up for them. You’ll begin to see them not through your eyes (as a selfish or controlling spouse) but through God’s eyes (a messed up sinner in need of grace). Try this. It works. If you have hard feelings towards your spouse, pray for them and with them. See how God sees.

2. Praying invites God into your marriage. By praying, you’re acknowledging that you need a greater power in your marriage. If you’ve been married long enough, you realize that you can change your spouse only up to a certain point. If you really want to see life change in your partner, then God’s got to be the one to do it. Praying invites God to do what only He can do.

3. Praying humbles you. Prayer is a great reminder that we can’t do it all on our own. Prayer asks God to do what we can’t. It doesn’t seem like much, but humility goes a long way in God’s economy. Pride and arrogance, on the other hand, are the surest ways to derail anything God wants to do in you. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10

4. Praying unites you with your spouse at a foundational level. This is why praying together is so much more beneficial than simply praying alone for your spouse. It’s hard to explain. It’s something you need to experience. When you pray with your spouse, you’re engaging in a deeply spiritual activity with another person. The spiritual is the deepest part of you, so you’re connecting with someone at their deepest level. Praying with my wife unites us in a way that almost nothing else can.

Try it for a week. It will only take five minutes. Whether it’s at the breakfast table or by the side of your bed, carve out time everyday to pray authentic prayers together to God, and see what happens to your marriage.

QUESTION: How has praying together with your spouse benefitted your marriage?

 

image: www.freedigitalphotos.net

The Greatest Compliment Someone Gave Our Church

“What a big church!”

“What great preaching!”

“What amazing worship!”

“What great buildings!”

8.28.14Those are all nice things a church can hear. But the other day I heard one of the best compliments our church could get. It came from an unchurched, unbelieving, alcoholic lesbian. I met her recently through the Recovery House, a local in-house rehabilitation facility (drug and alcohol addictions) that allows me to come and talk with the ladies there once a month. Every Sunday they make the journey to Mt Vernon church. 9:00 am, second row, every week.

As I was getting to know one of the new ladies there, she told me her story: she was born up north but raised in Mississippi. Her parents didn’t go to church and she went very sporadically growing up. Never considered herself a “believer.” She wrote church off for good eight years ago when she came out as a lesbian. Years go by and she decided to enter rehab to conquer an alcohol addiction that had grown out of control. Upon arriving to Recovery House she learned that the girls go to church every week. She freaked out a little and asked if she could get out of it. Everyone has to go to church, but she could sit in the van if she’d like.

Grudgingly, she made her way onto our campus for the first time two weeks ago. Naturally apprehensive, she told me how surprised she was that she actually liked it. It wasn’t like the other churches she visited growing up. The next Saturday night, talking to her parents on the phone, she caused their heads to turn on a swivel when she told them, “I’m actually looking forward to church tomorrow.”

Isn’t that great! She still has a long way to go. She’s not a believer (yet). She is in the beginning stages of conquering a difficult addiction. She has a lifestyle that doesn’t line up with traditional evangelical beliefs. And yet she feels comfortable enough at Mt Vernon to start exploring a relationship with God. I’ll take that kind of compliment (and those kinds of people) any day!

Five for Friday (8.29.14)

5Here are five good articles that kept me thinking this week. Hope they help you as well!

Pastor David Platt succeeds Tom Eliff as IMB President – here’s the new leader of the Southern Baptist missions effort.

What the ALS Challenge Taught Me about Life – great perspective on the challenge that’s sweeping the nation.

Why I Turn My iPhone Notifications Off & You Should Too – I believe this! I turned most of my notifications off a long time ago.

Census Figures Show More Than One-Third of Americans Receiving Welfare Benefits – This won’t end well for us.

20 Reasons College Football is Better Than the NFL – I don’t buy into this as a rabid Saints fan, but it’s still a good article.

“He’s So Lucky He Has a Stepdad!”

It’s eye opening to experience first hand the innocence of youth. Recently a new family moved into our neighborhood. They have boys. That’s a good thing. There are currently 10 boys (now 12) in our neighborhood that play together, roaming around like Hell’s Angels on their Huffys and Schwinns. My oldest, Zeke (7), befriended one of the new boys and came home one day and told me, “[My friend] is so lucky, he has a stepdad!” Record scratch, head jerked sideways, “What you talkin’ about Willis?”

8.27.14I asked him what he meant. Apparently when Zeke was asking his new friend about his parents, he was told he lived with his mom and stepdad. Zeke had never heard of a stepdad before. What was that? It was like another dad that he lived with. So Zeke told me, “He’s lucky he has a stepdad because when one dad goes to work, the other one gets to stay home and play with him.” Wouldn’t it be great if it worked out like that?

I had what we call in the business “a teachable moment” and got to introduce my 7-year-old my the finer intricacies of divorce. Afterwards, Zeke didn’t think his new friend was so lucky. The whole episode reminded me of the simplicity of what marriage is supposed to be. One man, one woman, together for life. That’s what our kids are born expecting. We’re the ones who mess things up.

12 years strong married to Zeke’s mom (and my wife). With every power of my being, I never want Zeke to ever have to walk through a divorce first-hand. I never want him to have a stepdad.

The Best Self-Inflicted Pain I Subject Myself to Every Monday

Every Monday at 10 am, the pain comes. As crazy as it sounds, it’s good pain. It’s the pain I asked for. It’s time for the weekly worship service evaluation. Each week Mt Vernon’s creative leadership team sits down and rips apart the previous Sunday’s worship services. We nitpick stuff that most people don’t even notice: Was the service intentional? Were the transitions smooth? Did we achieve excellence? Was hope made tangible? 8.26.14

The first part is easy: we talk about the music. Song selection, notes missed, transitions. What did we get right? What could we have done better? It’s easy for me to pick apart someone else’s job performance. It’s all done in an effort to get better at what we do. The music’s the easy part. Then they get to the sermon. I’ll be honest: it hurts. I work hard each week to craft a sermon that engages and effectively communicates truth from God’s word. I labor over illustrations, applications, and an occasional one-liner just to keep things interesting. I always get the expected “amens” and “well done preacher’s” from the crowd on the way out. So why do I subject myself to the service review? Because I want to get better. As tempting as it is to hide behind the cloak of spirituality and assume that since I’m preaching for God every sermon is going to be a home run, I know better. I went too long in one area, I failed to adequately explain the main point I was trying to get across. Laying my work bare before others is never enjoyable, but I do it because I want to get better. I walked away from yesterday’s meeting with my sermon relatively intact, but more importantly, with an incredible piece of advice that will help me get better. Even if no one notices the results, I’m glad I subject myself to this every Monday.