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.”

Thoughts from “Resilient” – Part 3

I’m so glad you come coming back to my blog to learn more about my book RESILIENT: Bouncing Back Stronger, No Matter What Knocks You Down. The book is now available and I pray that it will be a tremendous blessing to you!

You can purchase the book through our website. And for a limited time, if you make a special gift to Teen Mania International, we will send you a signed edition! I’ll explain more at the end of this blog.

Resilient living requires training!

It’s not enough just to understand that we need resilience. It’s like marathon runners who set their sights on running a certain race. They can’t just buy the right shoes and think they are all set. They do all kinds of physical and mental training because they know what the marathon course is going to be like; there will be challenges ahead.

In this same way, you can only run an effective spiritual race by preparing for it! In John 13:33: Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world” (NIV).

You see, Jesus is telling us that we will face difficulties in life. But the good news is that He has made it possible for us to go through these tribulations victoriously. We can learn to endure and to go through some of the hardest things that life brings our way with our hearts and minds intact.

The secret is keeping ourselves spiritually prepared and trained so when life’s difficulties do come along they don’t just blow us off the map. To run your race to win, you have to prepare your whole person from head to heart to toe. Runners call it building endurance.

The writer of the book of Hebrews gives us tremendous insight on how to build resilient faith for resilient living. Remember, no one finishes a marathon by accident! Take a look at Hebrews 12: 1-2:

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

What are the encumbrances and sins that you need to lay aside in order to run your race? The more we lay aside, the stronger we grow spiritually, and the better we will endure life’s hardships.

Spiritual Training Disciplines

Imagine if a man went to the gym and just watched people workout and then blamed the gym for his poor results. He might say: “That gym membership is not helping me a bit! I get there, people are sweating and working hard, and I’m watching them and trying to get into it, but when I leave I’m not any stronger at all. It’s a stupid gym! I’m not going back!”

Just joining a gym is not enough. Unless you lift the weights yourself and train your muscles yourself, you will not get stronger!

This is exactly what too many people do at church on Sundays. They go to church and watch other people workout. They watch their pastor, their youth pastor, the worship leader “pumping iron,” as it were, talking about their faith and what God has been speaking to them, but they don’t do any work of their own. Then one day they say, “I don’t know about that church. It just doesn’t seem to help me.”

There are spiritual exercises you need to do if you’re going to run a successful, lifelong spiritual race. In my book RESILIENT I go into some depth on the array of disciplines we need to practice to develop resiliency in our faith.
A couple of well known disciplines that every follower of Christ needs to exercise are the disciplines of prayer and Bible reading. These are essential and there are others besides that I describe in the book, such as the disciplines of silence, service, fasting, solitude, reflection, and Scripture memorization. These disciplines have been given to us by God for growth and the more we exercise them the more spiritually resilient we will grow.

Focus on the Finish Line

Marathoners will tell you that you can have your muscles trained, you can have great nutrition, you can be disciplined, but if you’re not determined to finish, you probably won’t!

This man collapsed 100 yards before the finish line, but after these people helped him, he stood on his own feet to cross the finish line. What determination!

The Apostle Paul makes a similar reference in Philippians 3:13–14, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

It’s time to take stock of your spiritual life and the spiritual race you’re running.
Remember, no one but you can run your race! It’s yours and yours alone.

What’s competing for your attention? What’s causing you to wander off course?
Are you training intentionally for the race you’re called to run?
Are you practicing the disciplines of your faith?
Are you keeping your eye on the finish line; determined to finish strong?

I wrote RESILIENT for this very reason—to help you run your life race TO WIN! You can purchase a copy of the book by clicking here!  Also, please scroll down on the RESILIENT book page and read the Endorsements to see what today’s ministry leaders have to say about the book. It will encourage you!

Please consider being 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 teach teens in America and around the world to start living resilient lives for Jesus Christ.

May God help you to grow more resilient with each day! Together we can “Reach The Youth. Change The Nations.”

Thoughts from “Resilient” – Part 2

I’m so happy to share with you again this week some thoughts with about my new book RESILENT: Bouncing Back Stronger, No Matter What Knocks You Down. The book, published by Charisma House, will be available on September 2nd! But you can get your copy through this blog. I’ll tell you how in a moment!

Please pray with me that this book will be a blessing to many across the Body of Christ! I believe the message is so important for each of us to hear and understand. God wants us each to have a resilient faith that can sustain us for a lifetime.

This kind of faith remains strong regardless of what life brings our way. Resilient faith holds up when hit by life’s setbacks and curve balls. It chooses to follow the Savior no matter what.

Whether our experiences feel good, support our theology, complete our plans, or make sense to our natural minds, resilient faith holds steady. It is the kind of faith Jesus always meant for us to have.

This flower is remaining strong despite all the difficulties around it

But here’s something that’s vital to understand—we don’t develop resilient faith just by knowing we should, and certainly not by accident. It comes through relationship and following Jesus.

Taking that first step of “followership” is a step in the right direction, but it is only the first step. There is another step to take the next day and more steps the days after that. The adventure Christ has for us unfolds day by day, step by step. We keep walking with Christ and living with Him, and being like Him.

Following Jesus is what we all want to do, it’s what we hope to do, but things don’t always work out that way. What’s standing between you and a resilient faith?

You’re probably familiar with the word dysfunction. It’s a popular topic these days. There may be a little dysfunction in every family these days—even in the family of God there are children who are in a dysfunctional relationship with their Heavenly Father.

This kind of dysfunction goes way back, and started the moment Adam and Eve, the first children in the family God created, attempted to live without Him. Since that time, children of God have suffered all types of dysfunctions.

One of these dysfunction is the “Failure to Thrive Syndrome.” In a human sense, we see this syndrome a lot in orphanages where the workers don’t have time to pick up, hold, and love the babies. After months of not being interacted with enough, these children stop eating, stop growing, and stop smiling—simply from not being loved.

Many Christians fail to thrive, too. They fail to realize how much God loves them. They feel like they have to earn God’s love and provision rather than just basking in it and loving Him in return.

Have you seen Christians who don’t smile, who aren’t full of joy? There’s a good chance that they are not thriving. Maybe they’re not eating spiritually; they may be drying up inside, just like an unloved baby.

In RESILIENT, I provide insights into a number of dysfunctions that can prevent us from growing in our faith. It will give you insights into your own life and spiritual growth, as well as those you care about most.

Resiliency stems from our relationship with Christ. We are called to a new kind of relationship!

Dysfunctions have the power to keep us self-directed and complacent in our faith. They cause us to make weak choices. We say things like, “I’ll follow Jesus only if this happens … or that happens,” instead of “I’ll follow Jesus, even if this or that happens.” When we lay everything down and follow Jesus, we can start making bold resilient life choices! Do you see the difference?

Remember the Sunday School lesson in the book of Daniel about three Hebrews who were on trial for their faith? The king threatened to kill them in a fiery oven! In Chapter 3 verse 18, they made an important statement during their trial. They said our God “will deliver us from the king’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (v. 18, emphasis added).

Isn’t that amazing? They walked through the fire with “even if” faith—even if everything came apart at the seams, even if they ended up in the fiery furnace, and even if they didn’t understand, they would not bow down. And the Scriptures tell us that when the three men were put in the furnace, four people could be seen in the oven! God was with them and they came out unharmed.

Talk about resilient faith!

Friends, this is the kind of faith God wants to give us as His children. Following Him is not simply choosing to obey a bunch of rules; it is submitting yourself to His authority.

If you’ve had a hard time following Jesus because something in your life doesn’t make sense or doesn’t line up with your theology, I encourage you to choose to trust anyway.

Pray now and tell Jesus you want a new relationship. Surrender your logic and understanding to Him. Put your confidence in Him. He will not fail you!

Want to know more about developing a resilient faith? You can purchase a copy of RESILIENT by clicking here!

If you like, you can see what some of today’s best-known Christian leaders have to say about RESILIENT by scrolling down the RESILIENT Book Page.

Also, please consider being 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 The Youth and Change The Nations!”

God bless you and may He help you to grow increasingly resilient with each passing day! Together we can “Reach The Youth. Change The Nations.”

Thoughts from “Resilient” – Part 1

Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you some thoughts from my new book that will be released on September 2nd. It’s called, RESILIENT: Bouncing Back Stronger, No Matter What Knocks You Down.
What does it meant to be truly resilient?

In a practical sense, we can see examples of resiliency around us. We see it in all kinds of sports, don’t we? Football players expect to get tackled when they try to advance the ball toward a goal. Sometimes they get thrown for a terrible loss of yardage, but they get back up and keep going with the next play. That is resilience in action.

Resilience in Action

The world of sports offers countless examples of resilience. Athletes train to become increasingly resilient day by day, and in a similar way, God wants us, as believers, to grow more resilient day by day, as well.

Read carefully how the Apostle Paul describes a resilient faith in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10.

“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless night and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

Clearly, Paul was well acquainted with the concept of resiliency, having endured extraordinary hardships for the cause of Christ. Is it possible that we, as fellow followers of Christ, can have this same kind of resilient faith?

Yes! Not only is it possible, we should pursue it with everything we have!

This is the very heart of my book RESILIENT. Christ wants to equip us with the ability to bounce back from life’s difficult challenges and horrible experiences.

Here’s the problem—too often believers have a complacent faith.

It’s a human tendency to focus on what culture tells us is important rather than on what we really need and what’s best for us. This results in a passive, weak, or complacent faith.

In fact, some Christians get so tuned-in to pop culture that they end up being more like the world than like Jesus. Then, when tough times come along, they are completely thrown for a loop! They wonder, “Where did Jesus go? Why did He let this happen?”
When this happens, it’s an indication that our faith roots are underdeveloped. When our roots are not firmly in Christ or His Word we’re going to be easily bowled over, and we’ll be at the mercy of our feelings and emotions.

But Christ offers us such a better way to live!

We don’t have to be blown away by life’s circumstances. Through a relationship with Christ, we can become the resilient believers He created us to be. We can remain strong even after going through something that almost breaks us!

I urge you to take a moment and ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I complacent in my faith?
  • Am I truly a resilient believer?
  • Do I think of Jesus as someone just added to my life, rather than the one transforming my life?
  • Am I overcome by life’s events and circumstances?
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a backbone of steel that would enable me to endure the toughest times?

If you answered Yes to any of these questions, I pray you’ll read RESILIENT. I believe it will answer many of the “why” questions you—and others you know and love—may have. It will help you take active and intentional steps toward developing a resilient faith that cannot easily be shaken!

You can purchase a copy of RESILIENT by clicking here.  Scroll down on the “Resilient” book page to see what today’s Christian leaders are saying about the book.

If you wish, you may also 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!

Let’s not let another day go by without endeavoring to grow more resilient in Christ! God bless you for helping us “Reach The Youth. Change The Nations.”

Teen Mania Alumni Weekend!

What an amazing and refreshing time we had with hundreds of our alumni that returned this past week for what was the last reunion that will be held on the East Texas campus. Future reunions will be held near our newly rented headquarters in the Dallas/Fort Worth area!

Katie and I were deeply moved that so many people came from all over the country, as well as from Mexico. Alums drove 10, 15, 18, and some over 20 hours to attend! They brought their spouses and children, and what a beautiful time it was. We actually had representation from every single class of interns all the way from the first class in Texas!

We were very encouraged to see that so many alums are serving the Lord; I am so proud of the marriages and families they’re building and those who are leveraging their lives for the Gospel. We heard from a number of interns who are currently living on the mission field who sent us special videos encouraging their fellow intern alums from around the world. It was moving to hear so many stories of what God did in their life as interns and what they’re doing now as a result.

It was amazing to hear over and over again how alums and their families were blessed by attending the weekend event. Alums would embrace me and tell me the story of what brought them to the Teen Mania weekend, and then described in detail the life-changing infusion from heaven that they experienced through one of the retreats, teachings, or as a result of a relationship they’d built.

Spouses who had been “adopted” into the Teen Mania family often chimed into the conversation saying, “The teaching you did really helped us. My spouse had me listen to it or shared the notes,” or “It’s because they went up Pike’s Peak that they’ve been able to deal with or overcome challenges in their marriage.” It was beautiful to see the families playing around the pool when they came over to Katie’s and my home for a cookout, picnic, and water fun.

Alumni BBQ

I was honestly overwhelmed to see the response of the alumni as I shared my heart Saturday and Sunday night about the past, present, and future of Teen Mania. So many expressed their excitement for the future that God has called us to as we explore creative ways to minister to the 1.8 billion teens around the world.

Because of their longstanding relationship with the ministry, I shared information with them that I hadn’t shared online or through social media. I spoke personally and frankly about our shared past and our vision for the future, because the ministry and I need their prayers; we need their tremendous capacity for virtuous dialog.

At our first session together, I invited these alumni family members to share on a slip of paper their insights and suggestions about the future of the ministry. I invited any questions that they might have so that we could address them.

The loving embrace and overwhelming positive response regarding our future was more than words can express. The most moving time was during our final moments together when someone from the crowd spontaneously stood up and asked for everyone to join in prayer over Katie and me. We felt so loved and encouraged and truly ministered to by this alumni body.

Throughout the course of the two days staff and alums alike experienced the resolution of misunderstandings and joyous tears of forgiveness. We saw hope and encouragement renewed. There were stories shared by alumni of how they’d experienced failure in an area of their lives and, with God’s help, were putting their lives back together.

God is so good! Amen!

Katie and I wish that each of you could have been here for this beautiful weekend. We want to stay in regular communication with you.

I’ve attached the Saturday and Sunday night sessions and have included the Q&A for you so that you can watch at your convenience. I encourage you to listen and watch and I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have. E-mail me at partners@teenmania.org regarding any of the information that I shared.

Saturday Night Session

Sunday Night Session

One idea that was suggested that I want to share with you now was for an Alumni Marriage Retreat—open to Teen Mania alums and their spouses. We had one such marriage session during the Alumni Weekend and it was very encouraging. We all need to strengthen our marriages. If you’d be interested in this possibility, please respond by clicking this  link  so we can gauge alumni interest.

Also, Katie and I are seeking to build a Personal Prayer List of friends with whom we can share the specific needs of Teen Mania. We are grateful for the number of alums this past weekend who agreed to pray with us regularly. If you’d like to join us, please let us know by clicking on the link provided.

I hope each of you will join when we gather for the  next Teen Mania Alumni Weekend. Be sure to stay in touch so that we can send you an invitation!

We love you and appreciate you. God Bless You!