Satan, culture, and economic success.

By now we have all heard about Lil Nas X and his new video where he is giving Satan a lap dance. He also released a shoe that contained human blood and satanic symbols. Those same satanic symbols are obviously spread throughout the video and across his brand. I had numerous people ask me about it and my thoughts on the whole thing. I think some were shocked when I said its just a rerun. My whole life I have seen music artist do this. They use satanic symbols, language, and imagery to sell records. It is all a ruse to get attention and sell records and in turn make money. Ozzy Osborn, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Billie Eillish, and now Lil Nas X, have all used the same ideas and imagery to sell albums and garner attention. It is an old trick to get us to talk about and listen to or watch their videos or music. Which in turn makes them money, which is their whole goal. Look how fast the Lil Nas X shoot sold out. Look at the backlash against him and against Nike who had nothing to do with the project. Shoes are selling for thousands of dollars on the secondary market, the video has millions of views, and he has plenty of attention. Thats the name of the game folks, attention. Attention leads to views and views lead to profits. PT Barnum said “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” That has been proven true numerous times.

So, lets talk Satan for a moment. There is true evil in this world, Satan is alive and well. He is not red and does not have horns. He is not interested in the Satanic symbols or their church. He wanted to be like God and therefore he wants the worship of Gods people. He wants his own kingdom. He is the master of camouflage. The modern church and society has done a poor job of putting Satan and his plans in front of the church. His plans and methods remain the same, imitation, deception, and guilt. So be aware that evil is real and it always has a plan, to steal, kill and destroy.

Conversation Starter #1

Parents, you know that teenagers are hard to talk to. They give you short answers, no answers, or just noises. So, I thought that I would give you some conversation starters to help you and your teens communicate more efficiently. People love to talk about themselves and their dreams, goals, plans, and beliefs. So why not take advantage of that insight and use it to get some dialogue flowing with your teen. So here is the first conversation starter.

“If there were no risk, what would you try tomorrow?”

This is a great question to get dialogue flowing. It may jam their developing brains up at first but it will soon get them talking. Why? Because they have dreams that we as parents have no clue about. They have dreams hidden in their brains that stay hidden and locked away because of fear, rejection, or lack of information. I would love to take credit for this question, but it is a guy by the name of Ken Coleman who asked this question first. I ask my students this question all the time and it always is fun to listen to them dream outloud. It is exciting to see them open up and expose their dreams to the light. It is a great exercise for them and it empowers them to overcome fear and objections.

Now parents, please watch what you say in response to this question. You may have the tendency to reply with something negative, DO NOT DO IT!!! Just listen and watch them. See if they light up, see if they get passionate, see if they have a dream concealed from you. It is not a time to offer criticism or to try and redirect them. It is a time to shut up, listen, and observe them. Ask follow up questions to encourage them to dig deeper into why that is their dream. This is not a conversation about your thoughts but about the dream but the opportunity to gather insight into your teens brain, passions, and thought process. So take this opportunity to ask the question and observe them.

A Glimpse of Hope at the end of Good Friday

Its close to sundown on Good Friday and I wanted to give you a little glimpse of hope. See God brings hope to the hopeless through Jesus. So what about Jesus’s Disciples and followers when Jesus dies upon the cross? God did not leave them hopeless as I am sure they were. They did not have the advantage that we do of hindsight. They had watched the leader, who they had come to see as the Messiah, die upon the cross. They had to be distraught and down. Had to be. We know now that Jesus came back on the third day just like He said He would. The Apostles did not know that but God gives them a sign. In Matthew 27 verse 51 God gives people a sign. “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,” In the temple there hung a big veil, or what we in the south would call a curtain. This was no ordinary curtain though, it was huge. 30 feet high, 30 feet long, and 4 to 5 inches thick. This veil separated us from the Holy of Holies. Now in layman terms, it represented a barrier between God and mankind. In King Solomon’s Temple the Ark of the Covenant was in the Holy of Holies and God would, in smoke form, rest on the Ark. Nobody was allowed past the veil. The veil symbolized sin and the barrier between God and mankind. Jesus dying meant that He became the veil and thats why the tearing of the veil was so important. It gave hope that we as mankind would be able to approach God personally. Which is exactly what Jesus said He is “The way, the truth, and the light and no man comes o the Father except through Me.” in John 14:6. Jesus tells us He is the veil. You cannot get into the Holy of Holies, aka to God, except coming through Jesus, aka the veil. See how it all ties together? God leaves the Apostles and Jesus followers a sign. A huge sign. God always gives us Hope. He did then and He does now! Now wait till Easter Sunday when this story gets really wild!! Sundays Coming!!

Survive and Thrive in a Crisis

My sermon on sacrificial giving from Palm Sunday.

1.  WE MUST LEARN TO BE ____________________ GIVER’S

Sacrificial giving is giving beyond our means. It’s no secret that we are part of a generation known for living beyond our means.

A.    Holy Week is all about sacrificial giving.

·      Jesus was our _________________________.  (1 John 2:2)  (propitiation)

·      Tetelestai means ________________________. (John 19:30)  (paid in full)

2.  THREE REASONS SACRIFICAL GIVING IS HARD

A.   ______________ Hinderance. (Debt)

  • Crunch Bar 70%aka normal (broke busted and in debt)
  • Milk Duds2%Drowning in Credit Card Debt
  •  Average Credit Card Debt per household is $7,027 and nationwide is $416 BILLION dollars
  • Zero Bar 16%Zero, Zilch, Nada. Do not pass go, do not collect $200
  • 100 Grand Bar10%Debt Free and Living Large
  • Payday 2%You are a millionaire

B.   _________________ Hinderance. (Love)

If we love the world and the things in the world then our love for God is superficial.

(1John 2:15-17)

C.    _________________ Hinderance.   (Heart)

When our lifeis surrendered to God then our moneycomes along with it.  (Romans 12:1)

Facts Over Fear

Teenagers ask my advice on decisions all the time. Some take my advice, and some do not. I always tell them to make decisions based on facts rather than fear. I know that sounds simple, but teens and adults alike make decisions based on fear rather than facts. A quick Google search on facts over fear will net you 600 million results. The top ones are all about the Covid 19 vaccine and the facts about it. See fear motivates people to make decisions in a stressful moment, and usually those decisions are not sound ones. The fear is real and seeps into our lives and we start to make decisions based on dealing with or overcoming those fears. Teens are afraid in decision making because some have been sheltered, controlled, or do not have all the facts. So, here is how I tell teens and adults alike to make decisions.

  1. Gather Facts

One of the best ways to root out fear in decision making is to replace the unknown with facts. “Google is your friend” is a statement I use to guide people. The “More You Know” was a series of infomercials in the late 80’s and encouraged people to become better educated on certain subjects. This little piece of advice is key to rooting out fear and replacing fear with facts.

2. Seek Counsel

When making big decisions in life, seek wise Godly counsel. Find a few people you can talk to and explain your plans to. Be prepared to be told your decision is unwise or not the best plan of action. Accept that advice and choose wisely.

Proverbs 15:22

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

These two steps seem very obvious, but people fly right by them and do not slow down to work through the issues. So, do your homework, seek guidance, and pray about the decision. Ask God for the wisdom to guide your decisions and He is faithful to give you both wisdom and guidance.

Anchors

An anchor is defined ay object used to hold something firmly in position. Over the past year I have really been focused on helping move people out of their comfort zones. I have found that people get anchored down in jobs, relationships, mistakes, and many more scenarios. I started thinking about how these anchors affect or lives and how we respond to those anchors.

  1. Our own anchors: Jobs

We put our anchors down and will stay anchored there forever. We do that in jobs. Many of you are stuck in jobs that you hate, yet get up and go to everyday. Why? The pay, the retirement, the health benefits, the friendships, or the__________________, anchor you there. I try to encourage teenagers to find something they are passionate about and pursue it without hesitation. As a parent I encourage my own kids to figure out what makes them happy work wise, and go after it. Hey parents, here is a tip. If you are miserable in your jobs, your kids know it. Internally they ask themselves “is this my future” “is this what adulting looks like”. They know you hate it and they become scared, and a scared teenager just shuts down. They are scared of working a job that they hate. We as parents should be too! As a Christian we are all created to do work that matters and have a certain roll to fulfill. So parents, talk to your kids about finding their talents, likes, and where they can do work that matters to them.

2. Our Own Anchors: Relationships

Let me start here, all healthy relationships have room for improvement. There are no perfect relationships, contrary to what everything in our culture tells us. Those cute social media couples, that perfect couple at church, that wonderful couple at work, that couple at ________________. Trust me, they are not perfect. I know because they involve two human beings who are flawed and have their own issues. Teenager love is a whole other world. They crave a relationship and will seek them out, even if they are unhappy or toxic relationships. If you can get your teen to talk, ask them about dating apps. They are familiar with them. It is amazing how many people find relationships on the internet. Dating apps, websites, and social media have increased the size of the dating pool. So relationships are as old as humanity. Yet sometimes we anchor in a bad relationship, because of ________________. That blank has many answers such as: we’ve been together so long, well they will change, we love each other, and so many more. Truthfully, some relationships are just not healthy and our teens need to know that. We have to communicate that relationships are important. Parents please do not dismiss your teens relationships. It is one of the most important things in their lives. We as parents know the chances of their high school sweetheart becoming their future spouse is slim to none However; each relationship helps them define what is and is not important to them. So talk to them about what a healthy relationship looks like; a healthy relationship with God, a sound financial base, a great work ethic, open communications, and healthy language. Now some of us as parents are going to have to work on those items ourselves. There is a lot to the “monkey see, monkey do” mentality. So look at your relationship, if it needs work, get to work!

3. Our Own Anchors: Failures & Mistakes

Nothing defines us like our mistakes and failures. We have the habit of allowing our mistakes and failures to anchor us down. They will come to hold us in place and keep us from our full potential. Here is the truth, we all fail. Failures are the stepping stones to success. However; we can not hop that path while anchored in failure. Maybe you have blown it, failed spectacularly, blown it up, burned it down, stepped all in it, and done the stupidest things and now you define yourself by those mistakes and failures. Here is the good news, you are allowed to fail and try again. Everyone has some failure in their lives. Dave Ramsey was bankrupt, President Grant was a failure, Oprah was a dropout, Jay-Z sold drugs, and President Lincoln failed at business and lost an election. So I think we all can just step back and look at the failures and mistakes in our lives and learn from them and move on. No need to allow them to anchor us down and keep us from our bright, successful future.

After we address some of the anchors that we place upon ourselves, we have to address anchors that other people place on us. People will put anchors on us that keep us from moving forward. Lets look at a few anchors people put onto us.

  1. Your Past Mistakes and Failures

People will put your past mistakes on you and anchor you to those mistakes of the past. Some of you know exactly what I am talking about. A mistake you made 10 to 20 years ago is still how some people see you. No matter what you do you are still seen as that exact person from that time. They have defined you according to their mistakes. So how do you deal with that and those people? I always say that a conversation is the best place to start. Simply talk to them about how you feel. Tell them how you have grown and moved on from those mistakes. Remind them of this, your mistakes do not define you, they help develop you.

2. Their Past Mistakes and Failures

People love to project their own failures onto other people. I always say that people who talk negative about peoples dreams and goals are people with little to no success in their own lives. They are trying to anchor you down in their own failures. My default way to deal with these type of people is by using this phrase: Don’t take diet advice from a fat person. Or financial advice from a broke person. You feel in the blanks with your own situation.

Do not take _____________ advice from a __________ person.

3. Preconceived Notions and Preconceived Ideas

People have opinions on things they have no information or true understanding about. If you ask me my opinion on topics that I have no idea about, I am not afraid to tell you that I have no clue. Some people have an opinion on everything and if you allow them, they will spread it all over you. Look at social media, so much misinformation out there on any topic you decide to look at. People have those preconceived issues about everything. The best way to avoid them is to not ask their opinions, advice, or thoughts on a subject. Don’t engage with them because they will anchor you down with misinformation.

The Land of Milk and Honey is Terrible

While I was teaching on Numbers 13 in my youth group the other night, I had the oddest realization that negativity flourishes no matter the evidence to the contrary. In Numbers 13:27-14:10 the Israelites are on the verge of entering the Promised Land after wandering the desert for 40 long years. So Moses sends in 12 spies to get a lay of the land. Ten come back and tell of all the wonders they had seen to all the people in the camp. Then they drop the other shoe. There’s giants, mean people, walls and fortresses, and they are all armed. They, say it is best we forget it and maybe even return to Egypt. It’s then that Joshua and Caleb give a great pep talk, I mean a halftime speech for the ages, a Miracle on Ice speech, a run through a brick wall speech and do you know how the people of Israel responded? They said these two men should be stoned. So lets look at a few things in this story of Israel and translate them to modern times.

  1. When we are close to success, we have a tendency to retreat.

The Israelites had wandered for 40 long years, seen God do miracle after miracle, had endured, had victories, and had finally arrived at the promised land. They were so close to the ultimate goal but they thought about giving up. Not only giving up, but going back to Egypt where they were slaves, where they were treated horribly, back to a place God had freed them, back to where they were beaten, tortured and killed. Now as we sit here today, it is easy to shake our heads at them and wonder about them. However, we live in that same state. People go back to what is comfortable. Old habits, jobs, churches, toxic relationships, and anything that is known. It is the uncertainty, the what ifs and the maybes that keep us from finding our own promised lands. We see people almost reach their dreams and goals; they are on the cusp, but then they retreat and go back to comfortable.

2. Negativity is like kudzu.

Kudzu is from Japan and was brought to Alabama in the 1900’s. Here in Alabama it has spread everywhere. If you plant some in your yard, within a year it will be overrun. The same goes for negativity. Negativity spreads like kudzu. Negativity in our workplace can kill morale, job performance, and friendships. It is the leading cause of low workplace moral. Negativity was evident in the spies report back to Moses. Negativity permeates our culture today. Look at social media, the news, Twitter, churches, or listen at the break table. Negativity is everywhere. It can and does destroy jobs, friendships, churches, and can destroy a person. It spread throughout the Israelites’ camp and then when two poor brave souls had the audacity to stand against the negative reviews of the land of milk and honey, they were almost stoned to death. No good deed goes unpunished ehh? If we stand against negativity in our lives we are going to be punished. Why? Because negativity is easy and comfortable. People not being successful are negative people. We all have at one point or another been around a negative Nellie. Remember how quickly we became negative too?

3. We forget victories.

The Israelites had seen God do so many victories and miracles. He provided water and food (aka manna). He delivered them from Egypt, He parted the Red Sea, He lead them day and night, and so many more victories. Yet, when confronted with another hurdle, they simply said, “Well, this is the one God cannot overcome.” In our lives we simply forget the victories that we have had. Sure, some time may have passed between big wins but they do not play the Super Bowl every Sunday. We have to put ourselves in position to get big victories by seeing the little victories. I am a huge Dave Ramsey guy. His plan involves “Baby Steps” which in turn are just little victories on a pathway to huge financial victories. When you pay off that little $7.50 debt in Baby Step 2, it is a little victory. However, when you pay off that mortgage in Baby Step 6, I hear that it is like a Super Bowl celebration with champagne, confetti, and a huge celebration. Okay, maybe that doesn’t happen but it should. It is a huge victory that starts with a very small victory. That is how we should look at our lives and see the little victories and celebrate the wins that get us to the Super Bowl celebrations!!

The Israelites had seen the Promised Land. The spies had been in the Promised Land, tasted it, smelt it, wandered it, and yet did not believe God would give them victory. We do that too. So take a few minutes to remember the victories God has done in your life and prepare for the Super Bowl/Promised Land victories to come in your life.

P.S. The Israelites do eventually take over the Promised Land, as promised.

Teens and Body Image

I stood there watching all these 8th grade girls take selfies from all different angles. Then they all gathered around the phone and inspected the photos. Then they deleted and started over. Finally after 10 minutes they had a set of 5 photos they liked. Then these photos were edited and filtered and touched upped and finally shared via Snapchat and Instagram. Sound familiar? That means you are around teenage girls alot. The self image and self awareness is so important to themselves. They are serious about their image and their photos. If their photos do not get enough likes on Insta, cue hip lingo, then they delete. If they are not getting enough views on TikTok, delete. So they are aware of the image and social media status. So how does this affect them? They believe you have to be camera ready all the time and what happens if they are not? Lets look at an example.

In October of 2020 a picture of Billie Eilish leaving somewhere was taken. In it she was not wearing her usual baggy oversized clothes. No, she was wearing a tank top and sweat shorts. The media storm and comments that followed honestly shocked me. Now for you parents that do not know who Billie Eilish is, let me introduce you to her. First, she’s an multi Grammy winning musician. She is 19. She has sold millions of albums. She came from out of nowhere. I am not a fan of her lyrics. She has body image issues. She is kind to her fans. She still lives at home, which along with her brother, is where she recorded her Grammy winning album. She has a issue with her body so much that she used to cut herself. Then this photo was released and all the comments really made me pay attention. She has always wore baggy clothes for a couple of reasons. First, she said that she wanted to be judged on her music and not on her looks. Second, she has stated that she hates her body so she chooses to cover it up. So the comments ranged from making fun of her body to calling her a sellout. People did not like that she was wearing a tank top and called her a sellout for using her “sexuality” to sell albums. Others made fun of her body shape, or her body color, or her breasts, or her wardrobe choice. There were so many negative comments and reactions. Of course there were thousands of positive comments supporting her but we all know that the negative comments are the ones we hear. She went on to talk about it in the March issue of Vanity Fair. http://www.vanityfair.com/style/2021/01/the-charming-billie-eilish-march-cover

So how does this affect our teenage girls? There are so many issues that our girls suffer from. They think they are too skinny, too fat, they don’t like this or that about their bodies. They all have to be filtered. They, like Billie, are also getting negative comments on their pics and post. They, like Billie, struggle with those comments and in turn struggle with their body image. So as a parent how do we deal with this issue. Here are three conversation starters.

  1. All through history women have been held to impossible standards.

This topic is one all moms know. This is a great place to start talking to your teen girls about how society tells us what women “should” look like. How they should dress, and what beauty trends they should follow.

2. You are made to be special and unique.

This is a Biblical foundation. We are all made in the image of God. In that image we are made perfect and made to fulfill a perfect role.

3. Modest is Hottest.

There is nothing wrong with modesty. Our culture will tell these young girls the opposite though. They tell 13 year old girls to be sexy and to dress sexy. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but 13 year old girls are not designed to be sexy. Talk to your daughters about modesty and what it means.

Conversations are how change begins. Lots of our teenage girls have major body issues and that leads to depression, suicidal thoughts, self harm, and suicide. Do some research parents. Have these conversations. Listen to these girls. Tell them God made them perfect!

Under Pressure

Our teenagers are under so much pressure. There you go, a gem of helpful information wrapped up for you as a parent. Now some of you are going to shake your head and act like these teens have no clue what pressure really is. Some of that is true and some of it is not. If you are thirty years old this year, you were 16 when the first iPhone came out. Facebook would not launch until its app on the iPhone until late 2008 or early 2009. Instagram wouldn’t launch until 2010 and Snapchat in 2011. Your MySpace page did not probably get a lot of likes or traffic. So as teens then you were not under the pressures these teens are today. I am 45 and way back when I was a teen we didn’t even have cell phones, yes I know that’s like ancient history. So as parents, we have to see the pressures our teenagers are under and try to talk to them about those pressures.

  1. External Pressures

There are so many external pressures our teens face on a daily bases. Parents, teachers, coaches, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, bosses, and even pastors apply pressure to these teens every single day. We all as parents have had these same pressures. These pressures are universal and generational. These are the ones that we as parents are used to and equipped to deal with. Shoot, some of us still have some of these pressures today. So we know the standard answers and advice to give. Now I am not saying that healthy external pressure is bad, quite the contrary. Teens need a lot of external pressures. Teens by nature are lazy, sleep a ton, and are not the most over the top go getters. So positive pressure is needed. We all need somebody to push us to be the best we can be. That is what coaches, parents, and teachers do. We push and prod and poke and pressure these teens to move out of their little comfortable bubbles and become successful. We all need that positive pressure in our lives as teens and into adulthood.

2. INTERNAL PRESSURES

Internal pressures are the pressures that our teenagers are under that we as parents may not have much insight into. Social, academic, athletics, relationships, hobbies, financial, extracurricular, and sexual pressures are just some of the internal pressures our teens are up against. Here is where our teens internalize pressures and respond. They have all of the aforementioned pressures. We as parents may not realize those pressures our teens are facing. Some students put a ton of pressure on themselves academically. Of my three kids, my youngest puts the most pressure academically on herself than the others. She just falls apart at the thought of not getting A’s and B”s, while the other two just are not concerned and happy to just pass. Athletically the two oldest kids are deep into baseball and track while the youngest has no athletic ability. The pressures they put on themselves is palpable. They train, diet, study, practice and work hard at their respective sports. Those are positive internal pressures. They want to perform, they want to win and succeed. Your kids have all those same internal pressures. We as parents have to wait. Wait till they succeed and celebrate those victories. We have to wait till they fail to lift them up and help them understand why they lost and encourage them to dig deeper and try harder. That helps their internal pressures become validated and helps them move forward. Your teens, my teens, and us adults all have internal pressures and learning how to mange them is a lesson we all need to learn.

3. PEER PRESSURE

The old standard. The bread and butter. The one we as parents know how to deal with, maybe, and can identify easily. A peer is defined as a person of the same rank or kind. You know, the people around us everyday. As parents we may think of peer pressure we faced in High School or in the adult world we live in. Peer pressure is defined as influence from ones peer group. As a parent you may think you have outgrown this but you have not. We have and always will face peer pressure. We did as kids and teens and we do now as parents and adults. Don’t believe me? Answer these questions:

Do I compare myself to other parents?

Do I compare my life to others around me?

Do I compare my kids to other kids?

Do I second guess my parenting decisions?

Do I try to make sure my kids have all the cool stuff?

If you answered these honestly, you found that you do indeed have peer pressures in your life. Now as we get older, find success, find purpose and mature, we care less about what our peers think. It is a sign of maturity. However, our teens are not mature and do indeed care about their peers opinions. Their peers may not share the same values and morals that your child does and therefore the pressure is different than we as parents may understand. Helping our teens learn that it is ok to be their own individual selfs is hard for them and hard for us. We as parents do not want our kids to be the odd man out. We want them to be accepted but do we want them to be accepted for the sake of just being accepted or do we want them to be accepted for the individual that they are?

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