Christian Extinction

moses_joshuaI’ve recently been able to share at a few churches a growing concern over our youngest generation of children. Are our children just a generation away from Christian extinction?

Barna research indicates nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.

That is great news but let’s take that a step further.

Barna’s research also shows that 84% of those children that accept Jesus as their savior turn away from their faith before they graduate high school. Some reports are saying as high as 94%. To me this is alarming. We are not passing on a robust Christian faith and an accompanying commitment to the church.

If we love as Jesus loved and show children Christ by investing in their lives, the likelihood of “Christian extinction” diminishes. We may never see the influence we have on these kids while we’re here on earth, but you can never tell what seeds God has used you to plant in the lives of children.

joshua milk_honeyAre we handing down our faith like Moses handed it down to Joshua or are we a Joshua that dropped the ball and “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” Are we leaving the spiritual development of our kids to chance or are we being strategic and intentional?

We are the Joshua Generation! Who are we handing down our faith to and who are we mentoring? It’s time we take a closer look at what we might have to do differently to reach this generation for Christ. What might we have to change and how might we have to approach our young people so that they don’t grow up “neither knowing the Lord or what he had done for Israel”?

If you would like for me to speak to your congregation and encourage them in the task God has set before them, feel free to contact me. I would love to come share what God has laid on my heart for this generation of children.

High Ropes Adventure

karate kidIf you were asked to climb up a 24’ telephone pole, stand upright on the top and then jump off, how would you respond? Well, that indeed was a question that I had to answer on this particular weekend. (And yes, that is me perched on the top of the pole like Karate Kid) We were looking for adventure and true to its meaning we had both fun and excitement interlaced with some running, swinging, climbing, jumping, and soaring. We pushed ourselves, tested our limits and literally went out on the proverbial limb.

But it went far deeper than that. We learned more about who we are and who we can become personally and in our walk with Jesus. We learned about ourselves in significant and transforming ways and the importance of unity and trust within a community of believers.

Ephesians 4:13-16 sums up our focus for the weekend, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

People may not jump at the opportunity to spend time team building but without working together how do we ever expect to spread the news of who Christ is and how He can change our lives. The weekend left us with great memories, created lasting bonds, and ultimately will help make us better people and Christ followers.

I encourage you to take your team to Cedar Ridge Adventures. The team there is amazing and will share their faith as they help your team find the unity that is needed to mature and grow in the Lord.

pass right

Our fearless group

Beetrice, the honey bee, visits Frederick

beetriceThis was a day destined to ‘bee’ life changing. What begins as a conversation between Beetrice, the honey bee, and Dr. Stinger, ends with the salvation of seven children. Who is Dr. Stinger and was he actually talking to a honey bee? Dr. Stinger is a ‘bee’ therapist and Beetrice is a honey bee that thinks she needs to be a lightning bug so that her father would ‘bee’ proud of her. One day as she was collecting pollen she heard some kids saying, Matthew 5:16  “In the same way let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Being a honey bee she interpreted that to say, that when she used her light to SHINE on how GOOD SHE WORKED then they would give HONEY to her FATHER who lived at the HIVE INN. She says she heard Matthew say that at exactly 5:16. Or,  she thought that’s what time it was.

You can see why Beetrice felt like she needed to ‘bee’ a lightning bug, she had no light to shine but thanks to the kids she soon realized that her light wasn’t a physical light but rather her light shines when she does something that helps someone else know Jesus.

This might be a silly approach to the idea of sharing our faith walk with others, but it was an approach that led seven children to making a decision to invite Jesus into their lives and there is no silliness too great when that is the result.

Priceless!

I’ve been in the process of reporting how the “Homes of Hope” funds were spent and as I was giving account of the cost for every item purchased, in the end all I could say to what happened on that Apache Reservation was “PRICELESS”. I want to thank each and everyone of you for praying, giving, and going so that others might have HOPE. Because of you, lives have been changed for eternity. That is “PRICELESS”

instrumental collageTake a look at what your generosity helped provide in the community of Whiteriver AZ, White Mountain Apache Reservation.

Washer
Dryer
Gas range
Refrigerator
CD player
2 Burner hotplate
2 floor fans
Slow cooker
Cookware
Dinnerware
Utensils
Bathroom towels for 7
New Windows
Protective bars for windows
Outdoor shed
Laundry room addition
Bathroom renovations
Bathroom fixtures
Kitchen plumbing
Bedroom renovations
Carpet
Paint
3 bunkbeds
6 mattresses
6 sets of bed linens
6 pillows
6 blankets
Electrical repairs to church
Block for retaining wall
Block for room foundation
Masonry tools and supplies
Cement
New laminate floor for 4 rooms
School uniforms for 8 kids (5 sets each)
Winter coats for 8 kids
Drywall
Nails
Roll roofing
Felt paper
Basketballs
PomPoms
Sculpting balloons
Water coolers
Sports camp snacks
Exterior door
Light fixtures
Fender portable sound system
Speaker stands
3 weeks employment for 3 families
and much more…..

In total $30,962.48 was invested in the community of Whiteriver AZ, touching more than 10 families with renovations and/or building supplies, 2 families with school uniforms and 3 families with employment during our 3 week stay in that community. Not to mention the many families that allowed their kids to attend MegaSports Camp or Extreme VBS where each child had opportunity to invite Jesus into their hearts and lives.

God is not done in that community and there are still people that need the hope that only Jesus can give. As we look forward to next year we are planning to return with another team to continue the work of the ministry that God has called us to.

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

 

HELP THE PROJECT

You can help us continue to bring hope to children and their families by donating to “Homes of Hope”. When designating funds to this project be sure to indicate “Class 43-Homes of Hope” in the COMMENTS area before submitting form.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE NOW

In The Masters Hands!

It’s been about 2 months since the teams completed their work on the Apache Reservation in Whiteriver Arizona and I am still sharing testimony of what God was able to accomplish through 66 obedient men, women and children. It still amazes me that God orchestrated 3 teams in such a way that I saw sheer perfection in how we were able to complete 2 weeks of sports camp, 1 week of VBS, a bathroom renovation, a laundry room addition, repairs to the church, the building of an outdoor storage shed and the complete renovation of a room that would provide a bedroom for 6 children. Let me share how God’s hand was on this team from the very beginning.

As teams were submitting their applications to be part of the 3 weeks in AZ, I could not have purposely organized the teams with such strategy and wisdom. Each week seemed like random selection to me but in the hands of the Lord the teams were created into a masterpiece.

The projects we would undertake were determined in advance of the teams arrivals. Week 1 of the trip we needed skilled laborers in the areas of masonry, flooring, and drywall. We had people on the team that could perform those tasks and we had no one skilled in plumbing or electrical. Yet we had the people needed for that week

wk2collage

Week 2 we were ready for rough carpenters, inside carpenters, and plumbers. We had people on the team that could perform those tasks and no one that could do masonry or electrical. We had the people with the skills needed for that week and no more.

wk3collage

Week 3 we needed an electrician, painters, inside carpenters and room decorators. We had people on the team that could complete the projects that had been started and no masons, or plumbers as part of the team. But, we had everyone we needed to finish that work. No more or no less.

God had orchestrated the team with members that could perform the skills needed on each particular week. What I thought was being left to chance was “The Master” orchestrating every detail so that His will could be accomplished.

I stand in awe of Him!

I Have Cancer. Please Pray!

I feel as if I fell off the social grid from June through September.

For a children’s missionary the summer months are the busiest. God did great things! We rejoiced with a minimum of 121 first time decisions to follow Jesus, 8 baptisms in the Holy Spirit, 12 children called to ministry, 28 healings and countless lives changed for eternity. In all that was done over the summer I can only credit Jesus with the transforming power I saw working in the lives of kids.

The following story will give you an idea of what God was doing in the heat and humidity of these four months.

It was the beginning of the fourth week of kids camps. God had really spoken to my heart as I traveled the hour and half to Gore VA. This was the year to focus on the fact that “Jesus Saves”. The staff had been oriented, preparations were complete and we anxiously awaited the arrival of more than 250 campers and chaperones. As each church arrived, kids were greeted, chaperones given instructions and Jesus was invited to be part of all that happened that week.

Right before service, I was handed a letter, written on the back of a Sunday School paper, and it read,

As I read the letter tears came to my eyes and I was hit hard with the reality that Isaiah, more than anything needed the healing power of Jesus. As I shared this letter with Josh, the other director, I could see the wheels turning. The next thing I heard was let’s call Isaiah and have the entire camp pray for him over the phone. And that we did.

Two weeks later, while ministering on the Chippewa Reservation in Minnesota, I receive an email from Isaiah’s children’s pastor. Here’s what it said, “First off, his mother told me that when we called him from camp and had the whole camp pray for him, there was a nurse (an unbeliever) taking Isaiah’s vitals while we were praying. The nurse began crying and told Isaiah’s mother that that was the most beautiful thing she had ever witnessed! God used the prayers of children to touch this woman’s heart!!!

Second, Isaiah went in for a PET Scan yesterday…they couldn’t find any evidence of cancer in this chest, lungs, etc. The only thing they saw was that his spleen was enlarged and looked like it had a spot. The doctors were going to run another scan on Monday, but today they decided to go ahead and scan the area again…they couldn’t find anything!!! They have declared him cancer free!!! The spleen is still enlarged, but no cancer!! As a precaution, the doctors want Isaiah to have 2 more chemo treatments…but, we’re believing that God will complete the healing so that he won’t have anymore treatments.

Please share this with your kids and keep him and his family in your prayers!

Can you say…….GLORY!!!! Blessings, LaDona”

Isaiah continues to be cancer free. As I’m traveling I take every opportunity to share Isaiah’s testimony. We need to be reminded that God not only hears but also answers our prayers and the prayers of children.

Isaiah is not the only kid that faces difficulties, struggles, hardships and yes, death. We can’t forget that adult issues are becoming more and more prevalent in the lives of children. We MUST pray for children and through the knowledge of Jesus, give them hope and a future. Thank you for being part of our ministry. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for your words of encouragement. But most importantly thank you for sharing Jesus with others.

 

Children’s Pastors take Vacation?

Being a children’s pastor myself, at one point, I found it very difficult to actually take a vacation where I wasn’t preparing for the following Sunday. I would even plan to leave on a Sunday and return Saturday so that I wouldn’t miss a service. Why? Mostly because I wanted to make sure that every service was delivered with excellence. You knew the importance of those two hours each week and you wanted to make sure they connected with Him.

There were certainly other members of the ministry team that could oversee the service but when you invest in the kids the way a children’s pastor does you want to make sure everything points them to Jesus. Besides, it was my responsibility, not my teams. Or that’s the way I would think. (That’s a lesson for another time)

Now that my role has changed to a Children’s Missionary, that’s when I was blessed to be able to help. One of the great joys of being a missionary is being able to fill the pulpit when a children’s pastor wants to take a vacation. That’s why I’m glad God informally added “Assume the role of the children’s pastor while they are on vacation” to my ministry description.

I love coming into a church, partnering with the ministry team and serving alongside of them to conduct service. I know that I’m helping to bring some much needed rest to a servant of God. God himself rested but often times our Children’s Pastors don’t find that rest frequent enough. I am able to focus full-time in preparation for that service thus relieving the anxiety of the children’s pastor trying to make sure everything is covered that day.

Even when I do assume their role they are still checking in with me to make sure everything is in place and people have showed up on time and I have everything I need. They want the best for the kids in their congregation. They exemplify the saying “Ministry is a lifestyle, not a job”.

Thanks to all those who serve in a full-time role as Children’s Pastors. May you be renewed in strength, mind and spirit as you occasionally take the opportunity to rest from your responsibilities of pastoring children.

Operation INASMUCH

What happens when you give over 600 volunteers, 35 churches and 6 community agencies the opportunity to serve their community as one? Well, homes get repaired, landscaping is completed, blood is donated, food banks are stocked, clothing is distributed, the elderly are appreciated and the love of Jesus is shown to an entire community. It’s my second year being part of Tappahannock Operation INASMUCH and to see so many people come together, crossing denominational lines, with one goal, to serve as Jesus served, gives us a glimpse of what it will be like in heaven one day.  To see people come together to meet the needs of people exemplifies the goodness in humanity.

Each year brings new hope. Seeing the commitment of Gleta and Steve as they dedicate countless hours to reaching the children in Tappahannock with the love of Jesus is such a source of encouragement. Watching the kids as they give their time making crafts to bring joy to the elderly and seeing a community join forces as one demonstrates the spirit of unity in Christ.

As part of that day I was given the privilege of spending some time teaching the kids the importance of serving others. I encourage you to raise up your kids to serve others as Christ served us. Let Jesus be the everlasting example of how we should commit our lives to meeting the needs of others. Allow them to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, make new friends, give clothes to those in need, take care of the sick, and visit those imprisoned.

As it says in Matthew; “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, INASMUCH as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”

Can anyone stop the plague?

Is there hope in Psalm 130?

When you read this Psalm it’s about Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and all seems hopeless until you get to verse 30, “but Phinehas had the courage to intervene, and the plague was stopped.” (Psalm 106:30, NLT) and again the chapter turns to Israel’s unfaithfulness.

When I read this verse it didn’t appear to be a very uplifting portion of scripture. It wasn’t until I shared a lesson with the kids about pointing others to Jesus that this passage spoke to me. Verse 29 is speaking about a physical plague that came upon the Israelites because they continually turned away from God. In comparison, I see the plague today as a spiritual plague affecting millions of people who are being deceived by false gods. Both physical and spiritual plagues have the same affect on people; death! There are so many false religions and being introduced into our society today that are luring people to follow false gods.

Phineas had the courage to step in on behalf of a people who had turned from God and, because he did, the Israelites were spared physical death. We must be willing to step in on behalf of those who have been deceived and are worshiping other gods so that their lives can be spared from spiritual death.

This scripture may not be warm and fuzzy, but it’s certainly a passage that should resound in our spirit. It should challenge us in our Christian walk and encourage us to share our faith so that this plague of false gods will stop. There are millions of people who have no hope or future, but God has a plan for their lives. We were created to glorify God and to tell others about His love and forgiveness. We must have the same courage as Phinehas and step in and stop the spiritual plague that is sweeping across the world.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14, NLT)

In all reality we are plagued with many things in our lives, but perhaps the greatest plague affecting our culture is the onset of false religions and our ineffectiveness in reaching the people that are deceived. Do we have the courage to step in and stop this plague?

POINTS TO PONDER

1. Phinehas was so upset about the immorality of the Israelites that he felt he needed to step in. Do you have that same zeal for the Lord?

2. Although God was upset with the Israelites, Phinehas had the courage to step in on their behalf, perhaps risking his own safety. Do you have the courage to go before God on behalf of those that don’t follow Him?

3. Is your christian walk strong enough to point others to Jesus, or are you expecting someone else to witness to them?

4. To point others to Jesus, it helps to have a basic understanding of those religions that are luring people to believe in false gods so that you know how to talk with them. How much do you know about other religions so that you can steer unbelievers to the one and only true God?

Love is patient…

As she enters the room strumming her guitar, Lucienne Love recites the greatest poem ever written about love. “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, love does not boast. Love is not rude, love is not self seeking. Love is not easily angered, love keeps no records of wrong. Love does not delight in evil, love rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, love always trusts. Love always hopes, love always perseveres. Love never fails.” The greatest writer to ever touch on the topic of love is God himself, for God is love.

According to the scriptures we are to treat everyday as if it were Valentine’s Day. Jesus said, “This is my command: love each other.” John 15:17

God wants us to love everyone – those who are easy to love and those who are our enemies and not so easy to love. Although love is perfect, our lives are not perfect and often times we are hurt by our experiences which can leave our heart broken and hurting. Talking with the kids about broken hearts led to a time of prayer allowing them to express their hurts. At that moment I was reminded how important it is to allow children to be heard and to acknowledge their pain and struggles. They are very real.

We can not always love those who cause our hurts, we must rely on Jesus to give us that supernatural power. The Holy Spirit can help us love even the most difficult people. When we love our enemies, we follow Jesus’ example and show others that we love Him.

Take time to listen to a child today. Allow them to express their hurts and spend time in prayer with them; that they would be encouraged by the love that God shows to each of us.