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,

Ron

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 risking it all; it’s worth going for broke! 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.

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 risk, 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. It’s like I told those pastors years ago, It was worth “selling the farm.” I have no regrets.  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 like you’re willing to sell the farm… and 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.

Still Consumed by the Call,

Ron

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

TEEN MANIA INTERNATIONAL ANNOUNCES HISTORIC OUTREACH TO MYANMAR
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
www.sparrowmissions.com

“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.

Our Hearts Need A Checkup

Proverbs 4:23, “ Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life” (Modern English Version).

I  want to talk to you this week about the condition of our hearts.

It’s so vital that we think about this. Another  translation of Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart for out of it flows the springs of life.”

The words “above all else,” tell us to pay attention, to make this is a priority—and the rest of the verse tells us why, because whatever is in your heart is going to come out!

It’s true! Whatever you or I have locked away in our hearts is eventually going to come out. If there’s bitterness, hardness, brokenness, anger, it’s going to come out no matter how hard we may try to hide it or mask it.

God doesn’t want an army of fakers, people who pretend all is well. We’re really good at putting on a happy face in America. But God wants us to deal with what’s going on inside our hearts.

One of the biggest challenges we will face is in our relationships with other people. You know, if it wasn’t for people you would never get your heart broken. In fact, you’d never get mad at anybody, but of course, we encounter people everywhere we go.

I’ve heard pastors joke around saying, “You know, I love church, it’s awesome except for the people!” Incidentally, pastors aren’t in this alone. People from all walks of life and professions feel the same way. There’s no getting around it. People will let us down; they will hurt us; it’s part of life.

So what do you do with that? Well, I’ll tell you.

Some people who have been hurt try to insulate themselves from others. They say, “Forget it! I’m not going to let that happen again.” Then they close themselves off from people, and with time, they grow cold and bitter. That’s their idea of “guarding their heart.”

Thankfully, that’s not what the Scripture is talking about in Proverbs 4:23.

This verse is urging us to guard our hearts from getting filled up with bitterness and brokenness that comes from holding on to hurts and vindictiveness. We do this by assuring that there is a fluid, regular dose of forgiveness from heaven washing our hearts where people are concerned.

I shared this message in chapel a couple of weeks ago with the staff and apprentices of Teen Mania International, because it is so vital. I reminded the team that everything we are doing here at the ministry to reach this generation for Jesus Christ is impacted by the things that are in our hearts. The work that each person does, every connection they make is impacted by what’s in their hearts.

I think about this especially when I’m preaching. I want my heart to be as pure as it can possibly be. I don’t want to present just a good sermon with nice and clever things to say. What a waste that would be, and people can sense if there’s something lacking, if it’s just a “cerebral thing,” or if this thing is coming from the depth of my heart. Whatever is in my heart is going to come out for people to hear and to discern. So I want to be pure of heart so that I’m able to present a message that can revolutionize someone’s life… or that, at least, revolutionizes in my own life.

Every now and then, we each need a physical check up to make sure we are healthy and that everything is working as it should in our bodies. One thing the doctor always does is listen to our hearts.

In a similar manner, you and I need to perform a regular “spiritual check up” to examine the condition of our hearts. Anger and bitterness can easily build up over time when we’re not paying attention.

Sometimes we quickly try to reassure people that we are okay by saying things like, “No, no, I’m fine.” We avoid talking about things by just tucking away the issue in a little room, closing the door, and pasting a fake smile on our faces. But that doesn’t really work, does it?

Jesus didn’t come down off of the cross just so we could be a bunch of plastic fake people! Jesus wants the essence of His life to flow through us and out of us to others. This is how His life can change us and heal us and make us whole.

Katie and I have had to be careful, especially these last several years,  to really guard our hearts. Early in ministry, we heard many horrific and catastrophic stories about pastors and other people in ministry who had been treated very badly. We were grateful that we had been spared that experience as much as we had.

Then, during the last few years and as recently as the past six-to-eight months, we found ourselves in a conflict with some people who have worked with us in the ministry in various capacities. They got something under their skin and didn’t want to talk it through and didn’t want to find a resolution. It was deeply painful.

There are people who move from place to place, to a job, ministry, or a church, and they stay until they start hating everybody, and then they go to another place and do the same thing. They don’t realize that there has to be grace in relationships, you have to have forgiveness for others.

Katie and I have spent time just crying, praying, forgiving, asking for forgiveness, doing everything we know to do to make sure our hearts were right, and to make things right with others. We had to make sure that the hurt we experienced didn’t poison our hearts or cause us to become bitter, even in those situations when we had done nothing wrong. It is too easy to carry that hurt, but we knew that we had to keep our hearts right before the Lord, because—as I mentioned earlier— whatever is in your heart is going to come out, and it will color—your words, your countenance, and your actions.

There is no telling how often the enemy uses anger and bitterness to destroy churches, to destroy ministries, to destroy great things, all because humans are humans.

But we don’t have to allow that to happen.

Allow me to ask you, “What is the condition of your heart?”

Are you guarding your heart and making sure that you’ve dealt with hurts so that you can be the vessel that God needs you to be?

This fall, as we start a new chapter at Teen Mania International, it’s my goal that each of us would stay mindful about guarding our hearts. I hope you’ll join us.

Maybe the Lord is bringing some things to your mind that you need to deal with even now. Maybe you’re remembering some people who have hurt you, or perhaps you’re angry over a slight that happened.

As you think about this, I urge you to remember the prayer that Jesus taught the disciples to pray, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer. He prayed:

“Our father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Let’s stop right here and look at the sentence that I’ve bolded. Jesus gave His disciples (that includes us!) a model for prayer that very intentionally includes forgiveness. He ensured that we would give ourselves a fresh dose of forgiveness every time we prayed this prayer!

We need to follow the model of Christ and coat and bathe ourselves in forgiveness. We need to walk in a perpetual state of willingness to forgive others because we know we need it.

Let’s make a habit of doing a heart check up on a regular basis so that God can work through us as He desires.

May God bless and make our hearts clean vessels through which His love can flow!

What Tribe Do You Belong To?

I hope you’ve purchased your copy of my newest book RESILIENT: Bouncing Back Stronger, No Matter What Knocks You Down. If you haven’t, you can take care of that today right here on this site!

I wrote RESILIENT for every Christian who has been sent reeling as a result of a difficult life crisis—and I know that has happened to a great many of us.

Without a doubt, life can be extremely difficult at times. But God didn’t create us just to struggle and flail in our faith. So when difficult times come our way, one of the first things we need to do is remember Who we belong to… to remember that we are part of the Tribe of Judah and that the Lion of Judah is our leader!

As part of His tribe, we learn to discern the difference between the “roar of heaven” and the “roar of the imposter.” We were created to be fierce in our faith. We must persevere in the mission we’ve been given, just as the faithful who came before us, and to be a strong witness for those who will come after us.

So we have to make a choice when challenging times come our way. We can wither and run and hide, or we can choose to see difficulties as times that discipline us and strengthen our faith, making us more resilient.

Please notice that I’m using the word discipline and not punishment! I’m talking about the discipline of working out physically or the discipline of running a race. These challenging events get us in spiritual condition to endure. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and complaining about our pain or misfortune, we can step up and endure the difficulty with grace knowing that it will cause us to grow spiritually. Nobody EVER grew spiritually by whining and complaining nonstop.

Becoming spiritually resilient is not about how great we are. It’s about how mighty God is! The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:7–11:

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”

Look, Paul’s not saying that these experiences were painless… or that they didn’t make him weep. He’s saying he endured them with the help of Jesus who lives within Him!

This is your hope and it’s my hope in Christ Jesus—that we can endure life’s trials and hardships with the help of Jesus who lives within us! This is our battle cry: Christ in me, the hope of glory!

Jesus wants to develop in the heart of every follower a warrior’s spirit! Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is tough. He is fierce. And He is looking for us to grow a backbone, and to hate and resist the devil.

The devil wants so badly to be like the Lion of Judah that he goes around growling and trying to frighten us but he is an imposter. 1 Peter, 5:8 tells us: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Without being trained and equipped in our faith, we could be easily intimidated by the imposter. We might hear his roar and forget whose tribe we belong to.

But we are called to confront this “lion” and to defeat him, and it’s the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus, who can train us to do that. We have to learn to take pain, to grow strong, to be strategic, and to be on guard, prepared to protect ourselves and our families from this world.

This will not happen by accident. We must follow the lead of Christ and as it says in James 4:7, “to hate sin, love what is true, and resist the devil so he will flee.”

Jesus pursues you relentlessly.

Part of our training and instruction as followers is understanding how loved and valued we are by Jesus Christ. You are being relentlessly pursued by Christ.

But this is a two-way relationship. Are you relentlessly pursuing Him? Are you spending time with Him? Is something holding you back from pursuing Him with your whole heart?

The resilient are relentless, too! We choose each day to say, “I’m going to pursue You, Lord, with all that I am and have. By reading, praying, and listening, I will fill myself with Your truth. Then I know You will fill me with Yourself. Your joy will give me the strength to be resilient.”

None of us are capable of the perfect pursuit of God. We can easily get distracted. Things happen that get us off track. But God is both gracious and merciful. All we need to do is to be honest about the struggle, and ask for His help, and He is waiting to help us!

Aren’t you glad that we follow the great Lion of Judah?

I hope God’s been speaking to you these past few weeks through this blog and through the message I share in RESLIENT. God wants YOU to have resilient faith—to be able to bounce back no matter what life throws at you! I hope that’s something you truly desire. No follower should want to live a complacent, self-satisfied, or defeated life.

When life circumstances come along and threaten to blow you off the road, you can do more than just survive. You can learn to endure and to grow stronger and more resilient in your faith!

If your heart longs to be more resilient…

If you hunger to relentlessly pursue Christ…

If you want to learn to endure the discipline and training of tough times…

I hope you’ll purchase a copy of RESILIENT and start reading it today!  Share it with your friends. You can purchase it by clicking here! 

I encourage you to take a moment and read some of the encouraging words and endorsements that today’s Christian leaders have to say about RESILIENT and how they believe it will bless your life on the page linked above.

You can be an extra blessing to Teen Mania International by making a gift of $100 or more to the ministry. When you do, we will send you a signed copy of RESILIENT as our way of saying, “thank you” for helping us reach today’s young generation for the glory of Jesus Christ! Together we can “Reach The Youth and Change The Nations.”

Today’s the day to grow more resilient for the glory of Jesus Christ!

God bless you for standing with Teen Mania International. Together we can “Reach The Youth. Change The Nations.”