What is the Gospel and How to We Live It – Part 2

To our project directors we asked this question: This gospel that needs to be preached, what is the Gospel? What is the message that we are supposed to preach to the world? What exactly is the good news?

There are a lot of different ways we can express what the Gospel is. In fact, if we all went around, we’d likely each have a different way of saying it.

I want to present to you a picture, another way of thinking about this.

Think about yourself as a human in these concentric circles:

You’ve got a body, mind that is supposed to control your body (it doesn’t always—how many every did something out of habit without thinking about it?), and your will that controls both your mind and your body. You choose what you will your body and mind to do. Your soul is the real you, hopefully, working in harmony with all three of these parts together—this creates an integrated life, based on integrity. The problem, the brokenness of humanity, comes when we know our will and our soul gets vexed and crushed, living in constant anger and self-loathing—I hurt that person, I made that compromise, I can’t believe I did that . Whether it’s that you left your wife, or abandoned your children, or lied or stole; it gets heavier and heavier, this brokenness of the soul that is inevitable. It is impossible to live an integrated life, harmony with our soul without first living in harmony with Him.

Another word for soul in scripture is the heart—Scripture talks about how he comes to mend the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3).

When we talk about the salvation of our soul usually we think, “Oh that means going to heaven.” But that is your spirit that lives on for eternity. Your soul is that part of you that God gives that very easily represents whether you’re a wholesome person or not. If you see someone who is vexed and broken, they are a broken soul. They may not even realize all that is going on.

When we are thinking about what the Gospel is and how do we preach it, one of the things we talk about with our Project Directors is this. The best way of learning anything is to discover it rather than being told, as a child experiences the wonder nature for the first time. Often when we think of the Gospel we imagine a lot of shouting and finger pointing from a pulpit, or maybe even telling someone in a kind way the Truth of the Gospel.

When we allow people to discover the Gospel, there is this awesome, God-breathed wonder that we can’t manufacture ourselves.

We often hear the telling: 1. You’re a sinner 2. You need to repent 3. You’ll be forgiven and go to heaven. But we know that sin isn’t just something we do it’s who we are, in Psalm 51 it says we were born into iniquity, like a disease. This thing on the inside. As a result, the symptoms are that we do bad things that destroy ourselves. The evidence is all around us. We don’t get mad at a dog because it barks; it barks because it’s a dog. Sinners sin because they’re sinners. Many times, the Gospel is preached in an angry way, “You’re a sinnerrrrrr!” When the person is thinking, “It came naturally; I didn’t even have to try!” We were born with this thing.

How clueless of us would it be to say to a dog, “Hey! You’re barking!” The dog knows it’s barking! Why would we yell the same thing to a sinner? It’s obvious; everyone knows this brokenness and felt this disease that overtakes our lives and turns us into humans we don’t want to be, hurting others and ourselves. However masked by, drugs, alcohol, intellectualism, the right words, sex…you name it, we have all felt the brokenness of the soul.

So if we help people discover their own brokenness. Evangelism is like taking a glass of water with a crack in it and asking someone to find the crack. It’s not a big mystery. You don’t have to tell them where it is, you help them unearth the brokenness it all over again.

These is what we’re doing as followers of Christ, as we love Jesus and follow him with all our hearts, we work toward this life of integrity. What I say, what I do, what I think—I want it all to harmonize. And as we reach out to other people, our job is to help them understand the brokenness in each of our souls. Salvation is not just about going to heaven, it’s about God healing us now, bringing wholeness, new life, and freedom to our brokenness when we know Jesus.

It seems that the “quick, pray the prayer so you can go to heaven” mentality has developed in America over that past 100 years sometime. But then we would still live in hell on earth because we haven’t received any wholeness here—no integration of the soul with the mind, body, and will.  When we begin to walk with Christ right now, he begins to make us whole right now.

So as we think about what we’re here to do—to raise up an army of people who will go and change the world. Jesus said,

Matthew 5:14-16The Message (MSG)

14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

This has to do with the right now, who you are today. Sharing the Gospel is not simply, here’s a track, let me tell you about God and you’ll go to heaven. God is saying I put something on the inside of you that is so illuminating you can’t keep it a secret. He doesn’t ask us to force information on anyone, he tells us to light up the place! This about all the ways you can light up the place, by seeing people, loving people, live a life that people want to be influenced by. Why are you so kind? Why are you so patient when you should be out of your mind right now?

We shouldn’t compartmentalize the Gospel. We’ve got to live within it. It’s who we are; we are lit up with the love of Christ. What if our lives made people ask what is that? That light provokes an insatiable curiosity—this is illogical, unnatural behavior for humans. Then you can tell them why.

That is my challenge for us that we live in such a way that makes people what to know Jesus. Ultimately, our job is to be this person specifically in places where they’ve never even had one chance to see the light, as we preach the Gospel to all nations.  We will go ourselves and we will raise up an army to go.

What is the Gospel and How Do We Live It – Part 1

Matthew 24:14 New International Version (NIV)

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

When I first got turned on to Jesus I heard a lot of different ways people would say, “Hey, Jesus is going to come back at any minute.” There was a book that came out in 1988, 88 Reasons Why Jesus Is Coming Back in 1988. I guess it’s out of print now…

People say that he could be coming back any day; it could happen at any minute. But Jesus was very clear that the end is not going to come until the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached throughout the whole world.

We live in a world chock-full of terrors, ISIS and Ebola, war, and natural disasters. In an atmosphere where there is tension in the world, bombs going off, and people being kidnapped- all of these things going on, the Gospel still needs to get out. The passage earlier in the chapter (Matthew 24:6) is clear that, “There will be wars and rumors of wars…but the end is still to come.” Just because we are faced with intimidating circumstances that make us logically think, oh we couldn’t dare to bring the Gospel into a world like this, we must! Because the end will not come until we do. Every person has not yet been reached.

The word “nations” in this passage often makes us think of countries, but it actually comes from the Greek, ethnos, meaning ethnic groups. In the theology of today, we call them “people groups,” groups of people with their own language and their own culture. They are all going to get the chance to hear the gospel of the Kingdom in a way that makes sense to them before the end comes.

The fact is, there are still over a thousand people groups, millions and millions of people, who have never heard the gospel. Some live in the middle of nowhere. So this Great Commission that we talk so much about has still not been completed. Everyone has still not yet had a chance.

So this is what we labor for. This was the last commandment, the Great Commission for all believers. This is why we push, why we pray. I honestly believe this is why the Lord has given us favor for all these years with Acquire the Fire.  It’s truly a miracle that a youth conference has been sustained for over 20 years. I believe it is because we always emphasize the Great Commission. We’ve presented missions in all different kinds of ways; we talk about it all weekend long.

All the work and all the sweat is for this. Our job as a ministry is to build an army of young people to go change the world. Our mission statement is:

To provoke a young generation to passionately pursue Jesus Christ and to take His life-giving message to the ends of the earth!

That’s building an army! We don’t want to just have a Christian raw-raw session and a Holy Ghost goose bump, high five each other and go home. We want people’s lives to be changed in a way that they want to then go and change the world. All the while, we are still thinking about all these ethnos, all these groups of people who have never gotten the chance to ever hear.

What If Judas Had a Blog?

We have all felt that sensation. You are scrolling through social media and it seems as if a few people’s steady stream of negative comments shout louder than if you could hear all the new babies picture that flood your feed scream simultaneously in one voice! Those comments that mock, criticize, and slander others, most often people whom the author has never met.

Explore with me for a moment what it would have been like if Judas Iscariot had a blog…

Maybe he would have talked about how Jesus was so cruel because he cast out the money changers, or how he made us walk all the time and he made us work even though we were hungry, we had to pass out food to other people then pick up the crumbs afterwards. Jesus is so rude, so selfish. We are carrying all this money around, but look at all the poor people around us. Why doesn’t he give it away, or at least buy us some decent food?

 One day we had to row back across the lake, and then we had to walk another 10 miles. Day after day, we walk.  What does Jesus think we are, a bunch of camels?

You get the idea. These would have been reasonable accusations that people around Jesus could have made, if perhaps, they didn’t know his heart in each situation or trust it. This is how the events would have been interpreted through Judas’ lenses because he had a poisoned heart, therefore he believed the worst.

It’s a good thing that Judas didn’t have a blog because then the people who hadn’t really met Jesus would have only seen him through his jaded eyes.

When we read anything online, consider the credibility of the writer of a blog/post etc.  Are they seemingly always trying to demean or build up? Do they spend their time trying to make lives better or the opposite? Are they experts? Is their dialog constantly negative?  Why should their opinion influence your thoughts? How do you know they are not simply a Judas of some sort dressed up in a beautiful web site?  If I do not know their credibility why would I use my time to read their posts?  It has the potential to put unjust doubt in my mind as I think about the person to whom they are referring.

We all like news, information and hearsay especially about leaders. We know if someone were to say “hey I want to gossip to you about this person…” Most of us would not give that person the time of day.  But then we find ourselves from time to time spending our precious time soaking up hearsay on the internet. Why would we read the random post of a would-be Judas?

As we write or repost what we read, let’s exercise some discernment and caution before we are tempted to pass on what we “know” in a conversation about another person (whether true or not). Would this edify? Do our ego’s want kudos for being the first to share some news about another? We must continually weigh what we say or write if we are to be ones whose words are valued as credible.

Let us be careful lest we become the pen in the hand of Judas.

Consumed by the call,


Worth Risking Everything

Here at the beginning of this new year, I’ve been asking myself some soul-searching questions, such as: What is the vision that God has given you? Are you pursuing it like there’s no tomorrow? Are you giving your all to him and for him?

These are tough questions, but they are important ones.

During the years 2004-2007, Teen Mania embarked on a campaign that we called “The Battle Cry.” Some of you will remember that we released The Battle Cry for a Generation. This book, based on the compelling research of leading experts, showed how our nation was facing a make-or-break moment: If we did not do something radical to shift the millennial generation,  we would lose not only that generation, but also our future as a predominately Christian nation.

During those years, I did whatever I could to awaken leaders to what was at risk for the Church and society at large.  We helped rally the Church around this cause. I traveled more extensively than I had—and I already traveled a lot—and we held leadership events all over the country. In a 40-city tour, I shared with thousands of senior pastors and youth pastors the research and implications about this generation, and what they could do about it. I preached at denominational leadership conferences and met with leadership teams, as they would ask, “What can we do to reach kids through our youth groups? How can we build our ministries?”

Over and over again, I shared with leaders the message God gave me: “It is for such a time as this that you were born. Now is the time to do everything possible to reach the kids in your community, to make your church a “next gen church!” To this day, my heart melts as I remember altar after altar filled with senior pastors weeping, crying out for this generation, pledging to do their best.

I was compelled to impress on these leaders the urgency of the moment. The only thing I knew to say was that it was worth risking everything to reach this young generation for Christ, even worth “selling the farm.”

I repeated that statement over and over again.  Of course, what is embedded in that phrase is the urgency of it’s worth taking great risks and making every effort we can make. If we don’t seize this moment, and it passes us by, then we are going to live with regret.

Next, we took our message directly to the youth. We held a number of “Battle Cry” stadium events in addition to dozens of Acquire the Fire events. We hosted massive amounts of youth—groups of 10,000,  20,000, and up to 40,000 young people in major cities from Philadelphia to San Francisco to Detroit and beyond.

These events came with great financial risk, but I was willing because we had asked pastors and donors to also take a risk as we sowed into this generation in every way possible. The staff and interns worked passionately and tirelessly to sound the “Battle Cry.” Thousands of people supported the initiative, and I made the decision that we would give our all to change the course for this generation.

So I, along with our staff, advisors, and board members, did everything that we knew how to do. Making decisions like that always requires a step of faith—a step of faith financially… a step of faith toward humility not knowing if you’ll be successful in accomplishing what the moment asks of you.  It requires utter trust and confidence in God, and a personal resolve that says however things turn out, I don’t want to live in regret.

Looking back now, I can tell you that all that traveling (about twice as much as I normally would, with the permission of my family), all the financial investment and all the challenges were worth it.

While in many regards, the battle for the soul of this generation continues, we saw thousands of youth and their leaders take a stand for God and give their all to him!  And though there is no longer a Christian majority in the millennial generation, I trust that God is raising up extraordinary young men and women who will help reach their generation for God’s glory.  There is also still much that Teen Mania can do—and is doing—to rally the Body of Christ to help nurture and direct this generation for Christ.

It’s true that some of the challenges we experience today, as an organization, are because we gave everything we had to the cause. We spent and invested in a tremendous effort to reach the young generation.  I feel like this is what God requires of us when he puts a calling on our life—whatever your calling might be—if it’s a calling from God, it’s worth whatever it takes.

Whether we have a robust bank account or a humble one, we must have the same dependence on Him. To God’s glory, we have the same dependence on God now as when we started Teen Mania 29 years ago! And the dreams that God has put on my heart for the future—for impacting young people here in America and around the world—are bigger and brighter than ever!

Wherever you are on your journey with God, I want to encourage you right now to live with no regrets. Pursue your dream. Pursue the vision God has put in your heart like there’s no tomorrow. Make sure you have a dream that is worth giving your all for and then throw yourself into it. Because it’s not just the attaining of a dream, it is in the giving your all in pursuit of the dream God has put in your life that fulfillment is found.

Consumed by the Call,


Remembering our Friend and Brother, Myles Munroe

Here in the Christmas season, our thoughts naturally go to our family and dear friends.

In this spirit, I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my memories of Dr. Myles Munroe. As you know, this great Christian leader died in a plane crash Sunday, November 9, 2014, along with his precious wife, Ruth, and other dear souls.

I met Myles when I was a passionate and yet still green-behind-the-ear student at Oral Roberts University. He was a couple of years older than me, and had a staff role on campus.

Myles held these prayer meetings that were unlike anything I had ever experienced. He’d teach on prayer, then we would pray fervently for an hour, then he would teach again, and then we would pray. It was awesome! It reminded me of what it must have been like when Jesus took his three disciples to the Mount of Transformation. He didn’t take them there to be transformed; he took them there to pray. That’s what we felt like Myles did with us, he showed us where he went every day and by following him, he would teach us how to pray. 

When Myles left to start the church in the Bahamas, he allowed me to come one summer to serve and learn. This was my first mission trip ever, and the entire experience was revolutionary on a number of levels. Still a young college student, I didn’t know anything except that I loved Jesus like crazy. During the six weeks I was there, I read through the entire Bible. It was like a fire hose from heaven!

Later, Myles officiated Katie’s and my wedding, and when we started Teen Mania, he coached us through every step. We spent our first summer of marriage living in the Bahamas under Myles’ and Ruth’s roof, soaking in the way they lived their lives and did ministry.

Myles served on Teen Mania’s Board for about 10 years. He ordained us and prayed over us as we entered into ministry. So many of our roots and foundations, from a faith perspective, were cultivated under Myles’ ministry and leadership. During this time, we grew very close to the founding members of this church.

He remained my mentor and friend. When my daughter, Hannah, survived a plane crash, he called me immediately afterward, preaching to me and encouraging me for more than an hour over the phone.

Now it has become our time to comfort those who are mourning. In this plane crash, Bahamas Faith Ministries body lost not only the father and mother of the church, but essentially its entire core leadership.

Many people have asked me to share a little about the couples’ home-going ceremony. Katie and I actually attended a series of funerals while in the Bahamas. We landed at noon in the Bahamas, after getting up at 3 a.m. to catch our flight, and went straight to the first funeral which was for Pastor Rich, who was also on that flight. We feared we might have arrived at the end, but after two hours, they were only half way through the service. We spent the rest of the afternoon with the people.

The next day, the Bahamian government had a national memorial for Myles at an enormous stadium. There must have been 10,000 people in attendance. It was broadcast live on national television. The Prime Minister of the Bahamas was there and a number of important people flew in just to give a few minutes of condolences. The ceremony lasted five hours.

The following day, at Myles and Ruth’s home-going service at their church, you had to have tickets because there was limited room. It was a state funeral so they had military carry the coffins; the Prime Minister was there, as well as the Governor of Generals. This funeral was also broadcast on TV and lasted six-and-a-half hours.

Myles was the type of person and the kind of teacher, if you ever heard him preach, that kept you listening to his every word for two-hour sermons. The details of his life, ministry, and service to God were just as captivating. 

The processional to the gravesite was another two hours—and was deeply touching. There were 1,000 wailing and weeping Bahamians lining the streets as the coffins went by, and people were reaching out to touch them. It was very moving to watch these dear people who loved and admired Myles and Ruth.

On Sunday, I spoke at Myles’ and Ruth’s church. I shared with them how Myles had called me right after Hannah’s crash, and I told them many of the same things he spoke to me in terms of how to reckon with the pain and walk through the grief. I don’t think it was an accident that we were able to help and be part of this experience with them.

Pastor Dave and Angie Burrows, who will now lead the church, are our longtime friends. They both went to ORU, as well. Dave would stay at Katie’s and my apartment when he would visit Angie during their courtship. Our hearts are for them and we have committed to do anything we can to support them as they transition to the next chapter as senior pastors.

It was an honor to be there for that week and to walk with them as they start leading the church. We did whatever we could to love on them and their congregation. In the days to come, if you would, please continue to pray for Dave and Angie Burrows as they walk their congregation into a new season of ministry.

God bless you for praying for us. We felt your prayers and were strengthened by them. We love you and pray that you are finding comfort and joy in Emmanuel… God with us.

Still Consumed by the Call,

Ron Luce

Press Release – Myanmar

Teenmania Process Color C17.45 M48.5 Y100 K1.86 with tagline(8.15.2014)

P.O. Box 619010 || Dallas, TX 75261 || www.TeenMania.com

Outreach to Include First Acquire The Fire Youth Gathering in a Formerly Closed Country

(DALLAS) Dec. 8, 2014—Ron Luce, founder and president of Teen Mania International, announced that the Dallas-based ministry will embark on a history-making missionary venture this coming summer to Myanmar, the nation formerly known as Burma.

The announcement was made live on YouTube from Myanmar with Luce informing ministry friends and partners that, “After 60 years of being closed to the West and to Christianity, Myanmar has once again opened its doors—and has invited Teen Mania International to come share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their people.”

The unprecedented invitation came after Luce established a relationship with the Myanmar Evangelical Christian Alliance, a group representing 90 Christian denominations. Rev. Dr. Zin Hla, chairman of the alliance, told Luce that Teen Mania’s partnership at this moment in time is an answer to prayer.
With a population that is 90 percent Buddhist, the vast majority of people have never heard the message of salvation. But Teen Mania hopes to change that July 16-30, 2015, with Mission Myanmar, which will have the added distinction of featuring the ministry’s first Acquire The Fire (ATF) mass youth gathering on the continent of Asia.

While Acquire The Fire youth events are well known in North America—with 3 million teens having participated in 500 U.S. and Canadian events— this will be the first Acquire The Fire held internationally.

No stranger to big events, Acquire The Fire has reached crowds as large as 71,000 in recent years. In this case, Teen Mania has identified a 10,000-seat venue for the historic event in Yangon, the nation’s most populous city. Luce wants to fill it with Myanmar youth from villages near and far to attend the two-day Acquire The Fire event.

Teen Mania will rely on Global Expeditions, its youth missions division, to organize and lead the two-week outreach. The ministry has already opened registration to American youth pastors and their youth groups, as well as to teams from across Asia, to join this historic missionary outreach to the recently opened country.

In the past 28 years, the ministry has taken 76,963 teens into 67 countries to share the gospel—and has led 1.3 million men, women, and children to Christ.

Some of the youth-led activities in Myanmar will include music and drama, children’s ministry, sports activities, and service projects, among others. The ministry believes that every expression of love, care, and compassion will communicate to Myanmar that God has not forgotten them.

Luce summarized the importance of this historic opening this way: “There are moments in history that arise for just such times. This is our moment to stand with the Christians of Myanmar. We can inspire their youth to live for something bigger than themselves, to take their nation for Christ, and to fulfill their destinies as tomorrow’s leaders,” Luce said.

Those who wish to know more about Mission Myanmar or who desire to participate in this historic outreach, are encouraged to visit www.TeenMania.com for more details.

About Teen Mania International
Since its 1986 inception, Teen Mania International and its partners have been engaged in a passionate battle for the hearts and minds of America’s teenagers in a society that has largely turned its back on God and His ways. Teen Mania engages teens through two primary outreach ministries: Acquire The Fire (ATF) youth events and Global Expeditions (GE) mission trips. ATF, to date, has challenged more than 3 million teens not to settle for the things of this world but to live totally sold out to Jesus. Global Expeditions (GE) has become the worldwide leader in teen missions, taking an unprecedented 76,963 teen missionaries into the mission field, both internationally and domestically. To date, Global Expeditions teen missionaries have led more than 1.3 million men, women and children to Jesus Christ.

Visit: www.TeenMania.com, www.GlobalExpeditions.com, and www.AcquireTheFire.com for more information.

For more information, contact:
Kerry Park || Director of Communication || Mobile: 405.568.7482 || Email: KerryLPark@msn.com

Teen Mania’s Heartbeat: Alumni Changing the World for Christ

Dear Friends,

Last week, I received an e-mail from an Intern Alumnus back from 1994. I’ve included it below so you can read it too.

It is so exciting to hear how God used Teen Mania in Justin’s life to prepare him for the even greater work that he and his wife are now performing in Honduras. This is God’s ripple effect in action. One life is touched, and then another, and then a neighborhood, and then a community, and then a city, and before you know it—a nation has been touched for God’s glory!

These testimonies encourage Katie and me to keep running the race.  As we think about our lives in whatever sphere of influence the Lord places us, reaching people for Christ, growing the kingdom of God, and ministering to the hearts of our fellow man are planting seeds for an irrevocable harvest which is what life is all about.

Justin, Katie and I love you and thank God for you! We are joining you in prayer for Honduras—and encourage our friends to lift up you, your wife, and Sparrow Missions, as well.

How about you? Do you have a story to share about how God used Teen Mania to equip you for ministry?  We’d love to hear it! Write me at partners@tmintl.org

Hi Ron,

I hope you’re doing well.  Grace and peace to you.  I was an intern in 1994 – 1995 in Tulsa on the ATF road crew for the majority of the year.  It was a lot of work but it was a major step of making me who I am today.  Thank you for pushing and challenging me.  I needed it.

My wife and I are missionaries in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  You may see our fine city on the news as “the most dangerous city in the world”.  I would argue that point but I saw two dead bodies yesterday that had been murdered.  We founded an organization called Sparrow Missions.  “Sparrow” is based off of Luke 12:6.  “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents yet not ONE is forgotten by GOD”.  We target discipleship and development for those who have been forgotten by the world but not by God.  God has done amazing things.  We are watching one of the poorest and hazardous communities being transformed.  God is so faithful!

The average age in Honduras is 20.  50% of the population is under the age of 16.  Honduras is a giant youth group.  I would like for you and Katie to come down for two or three days to visit and pray with us about having a series of ATFs in Honduras over the next few years and targeting Honduras.  Our neighborhoods are controlled by cartels that were run out of Mexico and Colombia.  The youth will save this country by the grace of God.  I’ve been looking for a way to work with Teen Mania again and I think that we have an amazing window of hope for these young people.

Love you, Ron.  Take care and know that we’re behind you.

Justin Ross
Executive Director

“Not ONE is forgotten by God” Luke 12:6

Charisma Magazine – Stand Tough in Tough Times

In September, Charisma Magazine asked about my new book RESILIENT that addresses our faith in God midst the hard times. RESILIENT explores the watered-down,feel-good ways that Christian faith is often presented that results in a shaky foundation.

During the course of conducting interviews for the book release, TBN was so excited about this project and the message of the book that they have recently announced their intentions to create a 13 part series about the book. To God be the glory. I hope this article encourages you.

Click on the link below to read the article: Stand Tough in Tough Times on pages 56-58

Charisma Mag full header

A Revolution in Our Hearts

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing about checking the spiritual condition of our hearts and our need to forgive and to be forgiven.

Whether we realize it or not, you and I are in desperate need of a revolution in our hearts. But it’s not until we really see our need and understand the extent of our brokenness that we can fully come alive in Christ.

Let me show you what I mean by sharing a brief excerpt from RESILIENT: Bounce Back Stronger—No Matter What knocks You Down. 

In the passage from Luke 18 Jesus tried to show the rich young ruler his need.

The man said, “I’ve been doing all these rules since I was young. What else do I have to do to have eternal life?”

The man knew there was a problem, but he thought he could solve it by observing another rule. Jesus explained, “Rules aren’t your problem. You don’t need to add one little rule to your life. And you don’t just add Me to enhance your life, either.” Jesus did not die to merely enhance our lives and make them a little bit better. He did not die so we could add a little bit of Him to our lives like a woman applies makeup before she leaves her home. Jesus died to completely revolutionize our lives and change our total value system.

We can follow all the rules we want; we can be as good as we know how to be; but until we wake up to our most essential need, we remain lifeless and without the freedom that we desire. The sin issue is not just about the things we have done. The root problem is that we were born in sin. We are sinners because of what we are.

You can tell a dog not to bark, but he was born a dog, and dogs bark. You can tell a sinner not to sin, but he was born a sinner, and sinners sin.

People too often have looked at the world and said, “Just stop doing those bad things.” How does that help them? They cannot stop. They were born that way. They were not born to bark, but they were born to sin. All of us were. We do bad things because we were born in sin.

Let’s say we go to the doctor because we have a pain. We ask him how bad the situation is. What the doctor says determines how desperate we should be. The fact is, we were born with a condition so bad that no set of rules could take care of it. We don’t need rules. We desperately need heart transplants. We may try to fix the symptoms, as so many people do, but fixing the symptoms never solves the sin problem.

We can’t just decide to stop doing this or stop doing that or be a better person. Changing the heart fixes the problem. Jesus tells the rich young ruler, “Do all the rules you want, but they will never solve the root issue.” This is why Jesus said we must be born again (see John 3:3).

Too often in the Western world, we try to fill our lives with enhancements that mask our pain. We are lonely, we are broken, we are filled with rage and hatred. So we take a drink or a drug. Or perhaps we watch television, drowning our sorrows and emptiness in entertainment. But what we really need is the grace and forgiveness of God. We need a new heart. We need to become brand-new people.

Let me repeat those last two sentences: “We need a new heart. We need to become brand-new people.” This is the life-changing revolution that Jesus alone offers us!

How many of us try to live our faith by just trying to stick to the rules or to find new ones like the rich young rule? But Jesus is telling us what we really need—new hearts given to us by Jesus Himself.

I want to urge you not to waste one more day trying to fix yourself for Jesus. Just give yourself to Him and let Him do what only He can do. Let him give you a new heart and help you to see the world as He sees it. He will renew your purpose and  help you love others as He does.

Will you join me?  Let’s let the revolution begin with our hearts!

Lord, I pray for my friends—my brothers and sisters—who are reading this message right now. Lord, we need a revolution in our hearts and lives. Take our hearts and wash them clean with the blood you shed for us on the cross. Renew our hearts and minds. Give us eyes that see the world you do and the compassion and fearlessness to love others the ways that  you’ve loved us. May we bring honor and glory to your name, Lord Jesus. Amen.

If this blog was helpful to you, I’d love to hear from you! You can send me an e-mail to me at partners@tmintl.org.  I write a lot more about this topic in the book RESILIENT which you can order here, if you like. I pray that it will be a blessing to you as you seek to have a more resilient faith that will Bounce Back Stronger—No Matter What Knocks You Down.  God bless you!

Choosing Forgiveness – Some of My Story

Last week I shared on this blog about how important it is for you and I to do check-ups on our hearts so that we don’t grow bitter from holding on to hurts and mistreatment.

This week, I want to expand on this theme a bit more by sharing a few things I’ve experienced and how I’ve endeavored to deal with them from a biblical perspective. We can learn from each other and encourage each other to interact honestly and with integrity.

As you know, Christians are not immune to being mistreated or hurt. It is part of the human experience. This is why God directs us to guard our hearts. So what do we do when a fellow Christian hurts us deeply or even betrays us? It’s painful, I know.

As I said last week, when Katie and I started in ministry, several church and ministry leaders shared with us how badly they’d been hurt by friends. I wondered back then why they’d share this with us; I wondered if they were trying to discourage us. But now I see they were preparing us, because hurts and misunderstandings are inevitable in relationships. This is why I shared my experiences with the staff at Teen Mania International, because many of these staff members and apprentices will be leading their own ministries one day.

A look back at the journey…

When Katie and I started travelling on the road in our little car we’d be gone for a month or two at a time. We had no idea how we were going to survive or where our next paycheck would come from, but that’s how God led us, and He was faithful. Later, we set out in a van with interns, and later still we flew to events that were farther apart.

From the very beginning, our time was in God’s hands. Katie and I didn’t worry about how hard ministry was or how much work was involved. We didn’t count the late nights. As long as God would help us make a difference in the lives of people that was all that mattered to us.

Teen Mania continued to grow and we began holding Acquire The Fire events. Because of the extra responsibility that would fall on Katie when I was away from home, especially after we started having children, I sought Katie’s approval regarding the number of events we scheduled. At first we had events on seven weekends, then 13 weekends, and we got up to 33 weekends for a while. We were doing one event each weekend, then we began doing double events—two events on each weekend.

When we had three children, Katie would stay home with two kids and I would take one with me on trips. There were a lot of 5:00 a.m. flights that I caught while carrying a child, and a lot of late nights getting to the next venue. Even so, we didn’t spend time resenting how hard it was to be apart from each other. We always put God first and our family right after that.

We lived this way for years and years. Truthfully, I never knew what other people did on Saturdays. I still don’t, because I’m still not home on weekends. I’m flying and as soon as I arrive I’m preaching. The next morning I’m either preaching or catching the earliest flight to the next venue, or getting my child back home so they can be with their mom and siblings. This has been our routine every weekend of my kids’ lives for 20-something years.

The reason Katie and I never complained was because we knew there were missionaries who sacrificed far more than we did. We had friends who packed up their belongings and set out for the mission field and didn’t return home for three months at a time or longer. We’ve known missionaries who never made it home again who literally gave their all for God.

So whether my flight was delayed, or I got snowed out of a city, or had to drive through the night by myself and had to preach as soon as I got there the next day, none of these things ever mattered to me.

I’ve spent my adult life just doing everything I could to reach teens, and we’ve been blessed to see so many come to Christ through this ministry. That’s what mattered.

Hurts and misunderstandings are not only part of the human experience, they are also part of the ministry experience. That’s why I share this with you today, because I’m certain you have suffered hurts as well.

For instance, it hurts my heart when adults don’t seem to care about what is happening to our teens. I was sharing with a group of adults a while back about how revival broke out among thousands of teens at one of our events. It was amazing, and yet the adults I was addressing absolutely didn’t respond to what I was saying. I couldn’t find the right words to reach them.

These adults understand that America’s youth are in trouble, and they don’t know how to help. So I ask them to help support Teen Mania International as we reach out to teenagers across the land. I ask them to stand with us by giving whatever size donation they can afford. Then we use their gifts to reach more kids—or to pay a staff member or subsidize an intern who is helping us reach teens.

For years and years, it has actually cost more to sustain an intern at Teen Mania than the funds they raised. It was not unusual that I had to raise an additional $1,000 to $2,000 for most interns each year, but I was willing to raise the funds, as hard and as frustrating as it could might be at times, because interns were so vital to our operations. It provided them with valuable ministry and work experience,  and was a great help to Teen Mania.

But as Katie and I had been warned years ago, the very people we sacrificed for–helped raise support or salary for–were the ones who hurt us and misrepresented the ministry to the public online.

Perhaps you can relate. So often, the people who hurt you are the very ones you are trying to love, to help, and to develop as part of the team.

It happens in ministries more than you’d think; it happened to Jesus. We all know the story of someone betraying Jesus, and we think, “Who would do that?” But when we experience a little bit of that in our lives we understand it a little better. So often it’s the person you thought would never say something hurtful, or who cast the ministry in a negative light, who does just that.

I have sacrificed time and energy for the very people who have hurt me and the reputation of Teen Mania. It hurts my heart, but there are 1.8 billion teens worldwide waiting to be challenged to live a life sold-out to God—and that’s what matters. So I have to let God minister to my heart and, likewise, trust Him to restore and protect the reputation of the ministry.

Forgiveness is not an emotion. We don’t realize we are hurt and go, “WOW! I am so excited about forgiving you today!” If you’re like most people, you’ve never said that in your entire life. But you will have to make the emotional choice to do it. We have to choose to forgive.

One of our tendencies as humans is to think we have the right to be mad at someone. For some, this unwillingness to forgive  becomes their entire identity. They think they are hurting the person they have a grudge against, but without forgiveness, they are hurting their own hearts and their witness for Christ. That in itself is a tragedy.

This is why we are told to examine our hearts, and are directed to “forgive others as Christ has forgiven us,” as Jesus taught His disciples to pray. If at all possible, we need to go to the person and sort it out with them. If you’ve hurt someone, try to make it right. If you’ve been hurt, let the other person know so they have the opportunity to ask forgiveness.

There are some instances in which this is impossible. For instance, if your parent hurt you and he or she has passed away, you can’t go to them. But you can still forgive them with God’s help. Maybe you were abused and don’t even know the person who hurt you, or the person who spoke words that wounded you. You can choose to still forgive and let go.

During chapel service at Teen Mania, I’ve told our staff and apprentices that if there’s anyone whose feelings I’ve hurt, or if you feel hurt by Teen Mania in any way, I want them to come to me. I want to make sure we have forgiveness flowing at all times. I said the same thing earlier this summer at our Reunion Weekend to our alumni, and we had an amazing and refreshing time of love and healing.

When we are hurt, the world teaches us to put on a “happy face” and to just fake it.  But if you want healthy thriving relationships, forgiveness has to be a part of it.

So let’s live Proverbs 4:23 and guard our hearts against the infection of bitterness, anger, and hurt by:

  1. Examining our hearts.
  2. Choosing to let it go.
  3. Making it right so far as it is within your power to do so.

Will you pray with me?

Jesus, come Lord. You know our hearts. You have brought things to our minds that we need to deal with, things that have hurt us. Some of us have been hurt by a parent, a sibling, a boss, a coach, a friend, or some other person. Others may feel that someone has let them down.

Lord, I pray that even today, as we examine our hearts, that we will feel the fresh flow of your grace. Forgive us and grant us the grace to forgive others, as you’ve forgiven us. Thank you for the grace and power to choose to let go and to choose to forgive so that our hearts stay clean—even when we don’t feel like it.

If there’s somebody you need to forgive right now, lift that person to the Lord. Do it even if it doesn’t feel logical, even if they haven’t asked you for forgiveness. Just let it go and give it to Jesus. Maybe  they didn’t know they were hurting you, or even if their actions were vindictive and knew they were hurting you, let it go.

Jesus, we choose to forgive by Your grace, and we ask that you would give us the grace to have conversations when possible to make things right. We pray that you would heal vendettas, family feuds, and longstanding broken relationships. Give us the grace to know what to say and how to say it so that healing and forgiveness can abound. We lift it up to you in Jesus’ name. Amen.