Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Speaking @ Youth Rally

On Friday night I had the privilege of speaking to over 200 students at a youth rally at Dix Hills Evangelical-Free church. Such a great night!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Devotional Classics

I very much enjoyed my journey through the daily wisdom of voices down through church history. Pick up this great devotional here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Despising Our Youth

Someone gave me a little one-page article called "Despising Our Youth" by Janie B. Cheaney from the September 25, 2010 edition of World Magazine. I found the last two paragraphs the most interesting.

"Youth group is often seen as a way to keep kids off the streets. Yet just the opposite should be true. 'Go!' Jesus told His followers: Hit the streets! Youth delights in revolution; it's a great way to take one's own measure. Jesus came with the most revolutionary, countercultural, radical message ever. Every time the church tries to settle into complacency, He shakes it up again. He's shaking now, raising the alarm among all ages. Teenagers should be pulling their boots on and listening to the Harris boys: 'Do hard things.'

"It's a great day for challenges. 'Let no man despise your youth,' indeed - but more importantly - don't despise your own."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Open Letter to Parents of Teens

By: Scott Linscott

The church in America is puzzled. Young adults are leaving in droves. Magazines, books and blogs are wagging the finger of blame to point out who is responsible. Some say it is a failure of youth ministry, some point to church budgets and some nail the blame on outdated, unhip worship services. We parents are shocked that our kids just really aren’t all that into Jesus.

When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start.

If you’re a parent, I’m might tick you off in this post. But, hear me out. I think that we, as parents are guilty of some things that make it easy for our kids to put faith low on their priority list.

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith:

1) Put academic pursuits above faith-building activities. Encourage your child to put everything else aside for academic gain. Afterall, when they are 24 and not interested in faith and following Christ, you’ll still be thrilled that they got an A in pre-calculus, right? Instead of teaching them balance, teach them that all else comes second to academics. Quick … who graduated in the top 5 of your high school class? Unless you were one of them, I bet you have no idea. I don’t.

2) Chase the gold ball first and foremost. Afterall, your child is a star. Drive 400 miles so your child can play hockey but refuse to take them to a home group bible study because it’s 20 minutes away.

2b) Buy into the “select,” “elite,” “premier” titles for leagues that play outside of the school season and take pride in your kid wearing the label. Hey now, he’s an All-Star! No one would pay $1000 for their kid to join, “Bunch-of-kids-paying-to-play Team.” But, “Elite?!?” Boy, howdy! That’s the big time!

2c) Believe the school coach who tells you that your kid won’t play if he doesn’t play in the offseason. The truth is, if your kid really is a star, he could go to Disney for the first week of the season and come back and start for his school team. The determined coach might make him sit a whole game to teach him a lesson. But, trust me, if Julie can shoot the rock for 20 points a game, she’s in the lineup. I remember a stellar soccer athlete who played with my son in high school. Chris missed the entire preseason because of winning a national baseball championship. With no workouts, no double sessions, his first day back with the soccer team, he started and scored two goals. Several hard-working “premier” players sat on the bench and watched him do it. (Chris never played soccer outside the school season but was a perpetual district all-star selection.) The hard reality is, if your kid is not a star, an average of 3 new stars a year will play varsity as freshmen. That means there’s always 12 kids who are the top prospects. Swallow hard and encourage your kid to improve but be careful what you sacrifice to make him a star at little Podunk High here in Maine.

2d) By the way, just because your kid got a letter inviting him to attend a baseball camp in West Virginia does not mean he is being recruited. You’ll know when recruiting happens. Coaches start calling as regularly as telemarketers, they send your kid handwritten notes and they often bypass you to talk to your kid. A letter with a printed label from an athletic department is not recruitment. When a coach shows up to watch your kid play and then talks to you and your kid, that’s recruiting.

3) Teach your kid that the dollar is almighty. I see it all the time. Faith activities fly out the window when students say, “I’d like to, but I have to work.” Parents think jobs teach responsibility when, in reality, most students are merely accumulating wealth to buy the things they want. Our kids learn that faith activities should be put aside for the “responsibility” of holding a job. They will never again get to spend 100% of their paychecks on the stuff they want.

3b) Make them pay outright for faith activities like youth retreats and faith community activities while you support their sports, music, drama and endeavors with checks for camps and “select” groups and expensive equipment. This sends a loud and clear message of what you really want to see them involved in and what you value most. Complain loudly about how expensive a three-day youth event is but then don’t bat an eye when you pay four times that for a three-day sports camp.

4) Refuse to acknowledge that the primary motivating force in kids’ lives is relationship. Connections with others is what drives kids to be involved. It’s the reason that peer pressure is such a big deal in adolescence. Sending kids to bible classes and lectures is almost entirely ineffective apart from relationship and friendships that help them process what they learn. As kids share faith experiences like retreats, mission trips and student ministry fun, they build common bonds with one another that work as a glue to Christian community. In fact, a strong argument can be made that faith is designed to be lived in community with other believers. By doing all you can to keep your kids from experiencing the bonds of love in a Christian community, you help insure that they can easily walk away without feeling like they are missing anything. Kids build friendships with the kids they spend time with.

5) Model apathy in your own life. If following Jesus is only about sitting in a church service once a week and going to meetings, young adults opt out. Teenagers and young adults are looking for things that are worth their time. Authentic, genuine, relevant relationships where people are growing in relationship with Jesus is appealing. Meaningless duty and ritual holds no attraction.

There are no guarantees that your children will follow Christ even if you have a vibrant, purposeful relationship with Him. But, on the other hand, if we, as parents do not do all we can to help our children develop meaningful relationships in Jesus, we miss a major opportunity to lead them and show them the path worth walking.

I want my kids to see that their dad follows Jesus with everything. I want them to know that my greatest hope for them is that they follow Him too.

Mt. 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (The Message)

On a personal note: I know the struggle. My wife and I have lived the struggle firsthand. My son was recruited by a few D1 NCAA schools for baseball and opted instead to attend a small D3 school. My daughter was recruited to play field hockey by a couple D2 programs and ended up playing D3 when the scholarship offer was not enough to make her top school affordable. Both played in “premier” leagues. Both got A’s in high school though we often told them not to stress out too much over it. Both are in honor societies in college and my son now has offers from UNC, Univ. of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins and Weil Cornell for a Phd in Pharmacology. Neither ever missed a youth group retreat, conference or mission trip because of their sports or academic commitments. Both missed a game or two to attend faith-based activities. Both missed school for family vacations. Both held down part-time jobs in high school and learned to give employers advance notice for upcoming retreats. My son often changed into his baseball uniform at church to arrive in the third inning of Sunday games. Robin and I did all we could to make sure they connected in student ministry even when it meant driving straight from a tournament to a music festival at midnight so that they would not miss out. It was that important to us. My youngest, a culinary student, lost a restaurant job because he went on a mission trip. That’s fine. Thankfully, all 3 have strong faith walks today. That is due only to God’s grace. But, I do believe that our efforts and example helped them long for a community-based faith.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

See Ya At The Pole 2010


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hand Dancers ... Awesome!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

After Edmund Concert Tickets

Buy your tickets for the October 10th Harvest Fest with Grammy-nominated band After Edmund at All students welcome! Click on the poster to enlarge for details.

New High School & Middle School Programs Launched

Sunday Night we launched PI-912, our new high school ministry for 9th-12th graders. It meets weekly from 6-8pm.

Monday Night we launched PI-678, our new middle school ministry for 6th-8th graders. It meets weekly from 7-8:30pm.

PI-912 High School Pics:

PI-678 Middle School Pics:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why Faith Matters by Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair

Former British prime minister Tony Blair says that we should strive to understand one another's beliefs and work together to build a better world

Blair and his father, Leo, in 2001. [Photo by Matthew Polak]

I remember very clearly what would nowadays be called my spiritual awakening, the moment when faith became something personal to me. Until that day, I had been an extremely lucky child. I had a loving family and a comfortable life, and my father was a successful lawyer.

When I was 10 ... Read the full article here...Why Faith Matters |

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Youth Sunday Announcement Video

Conspiracy of Kindness Notes & Discussion Questions

Here's a brief recap of some of the things I shared today in my message "Conspiracy of Kindness" at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle. (The students came out and showed the simple things that we can do to demonstrate God's kindness in our everyday lives. Their shirts spelled "Kindness of God". When I got out of the way you could see it.)

"Be kind to one another" (Ephesians 2:4).

Kindness = Usefulness

Revelation 3:14-19 - The Point: God was disgusted because - in their self-sufficiency & pride - the church was not being a source of healing and refreshment; they were not fulfilling their purpose. (The Useless Church)

How we can be useful:

  1. Speak Kind (useful) Words.
  2. Practice Random Acts of Kindness (Simple things that meet needs and bless others.)

"God's kindness leads you toward repentance" (Romans 4:2).

Repent = To turn around, re-think, think again, reconsider.

The BIG IDEA: My small acts of kindness demonstrate the love of God to people and cause them to consider and/or reconsider the message of Jesus.

Here are the questions for reflection & discussion:

  • How are you actively partnering with God and being useful in His work?
  • If you’ve been passive and indifferent about the things of God, what do you need to repent of today in order to make yourself useful to the Lord?
  • What are the needs around you every day?
  • What are three things you can do this week to demonstrate the kindness of God to people in your sphere of influence?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

What To Do When You Make Your Senior Pastor Upset

What an incredible summer we’re been having! Two missions trips, summer camp, several service projects in our community.
Yet in the midst of it all, I’ve had a tough few weeks. Trying to remain upbeat and function as a leader has been challenging.
So what happened? Well, I’m sure no one else has ever had this happen, but ... READ FULL ARTICLE HERE.

Claudia Sharing About Her Georgia Missions Trip @ SGT

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gov. Paterson Signs Antibullying Bill

On one hand, I am glad this happened. I'm always on the side of truth and of defending the defenseless and weak. But I am also saddened. What a commentary on our generation. It's tragic that we live in a day when we need to have a law to make people simply live by the golden rule taught by Jesus which has virtually unanimous agreement among world religions as the standard of human ethics and a guide to our interaction with others.

Here's the report from Yahoo! News ...

Students in New York State who are bullied in schools will have a little more protection after Gov. David Paterson signed the Dignity for All Students Act into law Wednesday.
"Every student has the right to a safe and civil educational environment, but far too often young people are ruthlessly targeted by bullies," Paterson said in a statement. "Bullying and harassment have disrupted the education of too many young people, and we in government have a responsibility to do our part to create learning environments that help our children prosper."

The law would require . . . READ FULL ARTICLE HERE.

Another School Year Begins

On Wednesday my girls began another school year. Claudia started 7th grade and Natalia started 4th grade. We had a good but very busy summer and it flew by so fast. I can't believe their back in school already. We need a vacation! Oh, good ... that's coming up in a month-and-a-half!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dancing Merengue Dog

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Secret Message of Jesus

Just finished reading the very excellent book The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian D. McLaren. I so appreciate McLaren's ability to articulate the message of the gospel with a refreshing objectivity. He really helps readers get a handle on the context in which the Bible was written that is largely ignored today as many translate the Bible in a modern vacuum marked by their theological assumptions. He dispels so many of the myths that are being perpetuated throughout Christianity about the message of Jesus, the "end times," and discusses what it all means for us in terms of practicality. Wonderful and highly recommended!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Spirit-Led Encounter

On Friday I had one of those incredible, no-doubt, God-encounters. Usually a Barnes & Noble kinda guy, I ended up at Borders Bookstore in an area I seldom visit. Here's how it went down ...

The girls and I dropped Adriana off at work and decided to bum around for a few hours rather than return home as we were going to head over to Hofstra University for a soccer game after she finished, and her work was closer to the University than our home. The girls and I went to a diner for breakfast then went to Borders where we sipped on some drinks and read for a while. 

As I was reading, two fellas, about my age, met at the table next to us and began talking. I was honestly trying to focus on what I was reading, but I inevitably overheard different parts of their conversation. I heard words and phrases like, "divorced," "the kids," "got the seven-year-itch," "weren't happy," etc. As I was reading I suddenly felt God sort of shake me and say, "Kevin, look at what you're reading."  I was finishing up the last chapter of the book Sacred Marriage. The entire premise of the book is, What if God intended marriage not to make us happy, but to make us holy? In that moment I felt the Spirit of God drop an idea into my mind. Go. Buy this book. Give it to these guys. What? God, are you serious? How am I going to explain to them that I was listening in on their conversation? But the thought persisted.

So I got up, went back to the section I thought it would be in, and found the book. But there was only one copy. Dilemma. God just said, buy it for them. So, I went to the register, paid for it, then returned to my seat. I continued reading my copy, waiting for an opportunity to awkwardly introduce myself and give them the book. Finally, one guy got up and walked over to get something. I approached the man who remained and said, "Excuse me. My name is Kevin. This is going to sound strange, but ... I am sorry, I couldn't help overhearing bits and pieces of what you guys were talking about. I have been married 14 years, and I was sitting there reading this book on marriage. Even after all these years I still find that our relationship takes work and requires investment. Something told me I needed to get a copy for you guys. Just from what I heard I thought you might find it interesting. They only had one, but I bought it for you. Maybe you can share it. There's also a discussion guide if you would want to use it to open up some further conversation. I am a Christian, and the book is written from a Christian perspective. I am not sure if you are of any particular faith-persuasion, but I believe the principles inside are really excellent and you might find them helpful."

Shocked that I had purchased the book for them, he tried to pay me for it (which, of course, I declined). He then explained their situations to me. Both had been through some difficult relational circumstances, which is actually what had brought them together. He said that the other guy was into Christianity. When his friend returned, he shared what had just happened, and said that I was a Christian. The returning man said, "My brother is a pastor." 
"Really," I said. "What church?" 
"Integrity Christian Fellowship." 
"I know that church! And I know that pastor. Tony, right?"
"That's right," he replied. 
"You won't believe this," I added, "but Tony actually performed my mother-in-law's wedding a couple of years ago." 
"Get out of here!" he said. 
I gave them both my business card and said if they needed anything to feel free to give me a call.

After saying farewell, the girls and I headed out. In the van we had a teachable moment. We talked about the importance of being open and sensitive to God, and of responding in faith and obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, even when it seems strange. Was it a bit awkward to do what I did? Sure. Was it uncomfortable and stretching? You betchya! But I was convinced that God had spoken and that I needed to obey, trusting that He would do what He wanted to do. Then He sort of winked at me when the incredibly odd connection was made. What are the chances? Plus, this is a Borders I have only been to a few times (less than 5) in 5 years. We then took a minute to pray, thanking God for the divine connection, for the opportunity to sow seed, and asking God to speak deeply to both of these men's hearts of His love, grace, and purpose for their lives in the midst of whatever they are going through. May God continue to draw them to Himself.

Fun Night with Relatives (Ziemans)

On Friday evening we headed over to the Hofstra University Invitational Women's Soccer Tournament. My third cousin (I think that's what we determined we are) Sarah Zieman is a goalie for Fordham University and they were playing St. Johns University. Unfortunately they lost 1-0 [and we believe it was] because Sarah didn't play. Bummer! The good news is that she might be playing in their game on Sunday. In any event, after the game we got to go out to dinner with Sarah and her parents Matt and Linda at Cheesecake Factory. We had a wonderful time, and it was so nice being together. (Click on the pic to enlarge.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sacred Marriage

Just finished reading Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. A fantastic book! One of the best I've ever read on the topic of marriage. Thomas' premise ... What if God designed marriage not primarily for our happiness, but for our holiness? A must read! Highly recommended for those who are married and those who are contemplating marriage. Do yourselves a favor and read this book! It also includes a discussion guide which my wife and I are currently working through. Order your copy here.