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Hope for Egypt

Ryan and Sphynx

Last Wednesday, we drove by the pyramids and Sphinx, and I was amazed to witness something man-made that has lasted over 6,000 years. And it made me wonder: how often do we really concern ourselves with what will matter generations after we’re gone – and into eternity? Egypt has a president who is trying to bring freedom to people of all faiths – at the cost of tremendous opposition. Egypt has an economy on the continual verge of collapse. And Egypt has a lurking presence of radical Islam that is constantly threatening takeover.

Asmi w Kids

In the midst of all the turmoil, there’s a new school and medical center available to the Zabballene people – some of the poorest of the poor – thanks to the funds raised by the children of Kingsland Baptist last year at VBS. This new work carries the hope of offering something better to future generations of Egyptians – not just economically, but spiritually as well.

David & Pastor Ryan

A Few Thoughts on Fasting

Plate

 

On the last Sunday of 2013, I shared a message on one of the most powerful tools of the Christ-follower: Fasting. I feel God leading me to kick off 2014 with a 21-day fast – something that some others in our congregation have felt led to do as well, and something a number of other local churches in Central Texas are also doing.

You can click here to watch the message when you have a few minutes. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite resources online:

My Very Favorite: Bill Bright’s Guide to Fasting and Prayer. The late founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now “Cru”) put together the most comprehensive, easy-to-use guide I’ve ever seen – and it is absolutely free to anyone online. Check it out by clicking here. 

One of the best books of all time on fasting, in my opinion, is Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, by Dr. Elmer Towns. You can purchase it online, but the study guide is available free – and you can get a sense of the principles he shares. Click here to access the study guide.

I mentioned two interesting recent articles about fasting in secular media that you might want to check out as well: one from Scientific American, and another in the Chicago Tribune

Finally, let me share a few brief pointers for anyone ready to try an extended full fast (liquids only) that I’ve learned in my own experience:

– Day 2 is the hardest. That may be different for different people, but by the evening of day 2, I have a headache and I’m starting to get HUNGRY. By day 3, the headaches linger, but they start to dissipate. 

– By day 4, I’m not starving. That sounds counterintuitive, but if you hang on, you’ll find that you’ll experience an amazing freedom from your appetite that is powerful.

– I’ve had several people warn me through the years to avoid caffein of any amount during your exended fast. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve heard enough warnings to know that it could be really bad for you. Beyond that, you’re not going to need it with your heightened mental acuity by the fourth day. I am wide awake when I’m awake, and I sleep wonderfully when I rest. 

– Finally, I really encourage you to keep a writing pad and pen nearby throughout your fast. I’ve received some of the best ideas and insights of my life during times of fasting. I’ve written entire sermons and songs during times of prayer, retreat, and sometimes just moments throughout my day. 

Get ready for an adventure you’ll never forget. And let me know how it goes!

Talking to Kids About Tragedy

Dad and Kids Hugging Small
Newton, Connecticut. Boston, Massachusetts.  West, Texas.  Moore, Oklahoma. Recent tragedies have  broken our hearts as so many others before, but some of these have been different. They invaded the lives of young children – little ones that looked a lot like our little ones. And because there were children involved, our kids are going to be asking a lot of questions.

As parents, one of our primary roles is to be constantly teaching. When it comes to “Life 101,” class is always in session. This doesn’t change in the midst of tragedy, as awkward as the role may be. Most kids are asking the same innocent question that we all ask – “Why?” – and our ability to respond correctly can help turn a terrible situation into an opportunity to talk about some tough-but-necessary topics.

As a father of three and a pastor and author who has dedicated two decades to helping parents, I am still left wanting for the right words to say in such an awful situation. Still, I’ve learned a few things along the way, and hopefully these ideas will help you navigate this difficult road with your children:

• Remind them that they can trust God – even in tough times. Consider saying, “Sometimes things happen that we can’t completely understand. We know that bad things happen in this world because there are bad people. But it doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about those little children. In fact, that’s why Jesus came – so He could rescue us from evil and be with Him some day in a perfect place!”

• Pray for everyone involved. We do this, most importantly, because God hears our prayers and answers them. But prayer also does something else: it reminds us that God is with us, and that He can help in ways that no one else can.

• Don’t act like you have all the answers. They won’t believe you anyway if you start making stuff up. It’s okay to say, “You know what? That’s a good question, but a hard one. I’ve wondered that too.” But follow it up by sharing something that you DO know. You don’t have to pretend to be certain about everything if you can demonstrate that they can be certain about many things: your love for them, God’s love for them, the fact that you will do everything you can to protect them, that their schools are safe – and will be even safer – after this, etc.

• Listen and don’t ignore questions or inquiries. Pay attention to even the most passing comments. If your child knows anything about what happened, you can count on the fact that he’s thinking about it, and you want to be ready to talk when he is.

• Keep life normal and routine. Young children always fare better when life is as stable as possible.

• Sharply limit media exposure in young children, and be there to explain what is seen. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that “overexposure to the media can be traumatizing. It’s unwise to let children or adolescents view footage of traumatic events over and over. Children and adolescents should not watch these events alone.” Kids may have a hard time discerning that only one gunman went into only one school, for example, when they see reports for hours on end on different channels as they’re looking over your shoulder.

After you take those initial steps, you have an opportunity to proactively use a tough situation as a teachable moment. Point out the good things that can happen:

• Place emphasis on the heroes of the events – emergency personnel, teachers, and other students. Perhaps write a letter of encouragement to people who worked to help from the area police departments.

• Seek out stories about the people who are working to help the families who have been hurt by this tragedy – churches, doctors, and even school personnel. Talk about how wonderful it is that people are willing to help others.

• Share the ways that your local schools have announced they are working to improve security. Almost every school district made some sort of statement about the tragedy. You can find most of these statements online at your school’s or school district’s website.

Help kids find ways to help – let them come up with creative ways!

Finally, look for any signs that might indicate high levels of anxiety in your child. Remember: what we see as replay footage or something horrific that happened in another town, our children may interpret as something that keeps happening very close to home. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology points to the following symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in kids:

o Refusal to return to school and “clinging” behavior
o Persistent fears related to the catastrophe
o Sleep disturbances such as nightmares, screaming during sleep and bedwetting.
o Abnormal behavior problems.
o Withdrawal from family and friends.

If you start to see any of these behaviors in the following week, it might be worth a call to your doctor, pastor, or school counselor to inquire about some additional help.

It is almost overwhelming to take in the magnitude of the tragedy that has taken place in multiple locations over the past few months. It’s even more challenging when children hear that it involved children just like them. It makes me angry that such conversations have to take place. As a Christian, I’m grateful for the promises of something better – because Christ has overcome the evil in the world and will one day eradicate evil, sin, sickness, war, and death from this earth. In the meantime, God has put moms, dads, grandparents, and mentors like you in their path to remind them everything will be okay.

Parenting Advice from Tim Smith, “The Parent Coach”

I recently connected with my friend Tim Smith for a chat about simple parenting strategies that you might find helpful around the Christmas season. This five-minute conversation offers some wonderful insights that can help you get the most out of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Enjoy.

Christmas and Humilty

BBC Christmas 1920x1080 111912

What a wonderful time of year! Christmas brings feelings of joy, peace, comfort, but the Apostle Paul thought there was a more important theme of Christmas, and wrote about it in Philippians 2:3-8:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (ESV)

When we think of Christmas and Christ’s incarnation, we should be drawn to thoughts about humility. But the world’s definition of humility is not the same as God’s definition of humility. We often get humility wrong. In fact, Dictionary.com offers what I would consider to be an inaccurate definition of humility: “Having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience.” That’s not humility. That’s depression!

That’s what’s so beautiful about the birth of Christ as an illustration of humility: Christ did not have feelings of inferiority, but willingly placed the needs of mankind above His own.

Nelson’s Bible Dictionary defines humility in a way that better illustrates what Jesus did at His birth. Humility is, “A freedom from arrogance that grows out of the recognition that all we have and are comes from God.”

Phillip Brooks put it this way: “The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.” (Quoted in Burning Out for God, E. Skoglund)

This type of humility is of far greater value to us, because it extends beyond mere feelings of inferiority to a call to raise the value of others, and measure our value against the glory of God.

Can you imagine what would happen if we connected the attitude of humility to our Christmas celebrations with the same fervor as we do joy, cheerfulness, and the like? Imagine how your holiday could be transformed if you chose to live out acts of humility among your family and friends this Christmas. What steps might you take to imitate the Son of God – surrendering your rights and reputation for the good of another, regardless of what you will receive in return?

Expressing and cultivating humility – the genuine kind – can can be an intentional part of our Christmas celebration. Here are three ways I plan to dwell on it in the next few days.

1. I will intentionally seek out others I may bless who are likely not willing or able to bless me in return, reminding me of the grace extended me when Christ came. For example, rather than telling people about our Singing Christmas Tree Presentation at Bannockburn this weekend, I will INVITE them to join me and my family at the Tree. People want connection and acceptance more than they want gifts or information. Connection is harder. It often requires humility.

2. I will take inventory of all the blessings and gifts I have been given, and then offer thanks to God for them. Gratitude is the antidote to false pride. (The 2012 BBC Advent Devotion is a great tool to help with this!)

3. I will ponder the humility extended by the King of All Kings, as He wrapped Himself in flesh out of love for us. How can anyone dwell on such a thought without a recognition of his own desperate need?

This Christmas season, I’m compelled to think that the greatest form of worship of Jesus my King may be to imitate His active humility. Would you join me?

Chris Fabry Live

As you might imagine, by now I’ve talked about the walls people face – and my book about Walls – hundreds of times before live and radio audiences.  Yesterday was different.  On Chris Fabry’s excellent daily radio program on the Moody Network, we took live calls nationally from people who were facing real walls.  In several instances, you could almost feel the walls beginning to fall as we addressed the challenging issues they were facing.

What was different about this show?

– Chris Fabry is an incredible radio host.  As the host of a daily show myself, I know how challenging it is to come through in such a personal way to one’s listeners.  It has to, first and foremost, be genuine.  Chris’s willingness to share about his own walls – and his own assessment at FaithBreakthroughs.com – was a blessing to me and to many.

I was scheduled to do a brief interview at 2PM Central, but that morning I got an email from their production staff stating that Chris really sensed that God was leading him to carry the subject over into two hours – something he stated on the program that he rarely does.

– I hate to say, “You had to be there,” but if you were listening you could actually sense the HOly Spirit working in the lives of the callers in an extraordinary way.  And likewise, while there is no way to measure it, each call brought a sense that there were hundreds of other just like that caller who were receiving a special blessing by those testimonies.

Moments in ministry when you feel like God has taken over and said, “Step aside.  I have some important work to do, and I’ll take this from here,”  are extremely special.  Thanks to Him, and for Chris Fabry’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading, yesterday’s show was one of those moments.

As it turns out, you didn’t have to be there!  Chris puts all of his shows on podcast and you can check out Friday’s show by CLICKING HERE.

Quick-Start Ideas for Connecting Church and Home

When people hear that Bannockburn is about connecting church and home, they often assume that means we’re all about parenting classes and marriage seminars.  While those programs are GREAT and important, that’s not the substance of connecting church and home.  Our vision is bigger than that: it is about making sure that what people know of Jesus at church is the same as the Jesus they realy know at home.

If you are in church leadership, the way to make that happen can seem overwhelming.  But it doesn’t have to be!  It’s about choosing “little wins” to help people begin to naturally live out their faith in real life.  Consider trying one of these three “jump start” ideas right away:

  1. Home Discussion Guides: Offer a handout or section of your bulletin next Sunday featuring discussion questions related to the message.  Challenge every household to set aside that day to walk through the application of the Scriptural principles that were discussed.  Celebrate with those who did it the following week!
  2. “Man Huddles.” My friend Jim Weidmann challenges pastors to conclude the service every now and then with a “man huddle” down front – challenging the fathers to carry home a simple devotional tool for that week.  This provides excitement and “peer pressure” for your congregation.
  3. The “Nine Minute Challenge”: Ask every household in your church to pray for nine minutes of uninterrupted, media-free time together with everyone for nine straight weeks.  That may seem like a very low number, but we found this to be revolutionary in our church for many families.  And once they set aside nine minutes, they wanted more!

Take the first step today in connecting church and home.

An Opportunity to Influence the Austin City Council…

Austin City Councilman Bill Spelman announced earlier today his intention to propose a new code requiring Pregnancy Centers in town to post a sign at their entrance indicating that they do not perform abortions.  The argument is made that this is done in the interest of full disclosure.  After seeing the vehement comments that have already been posted at the announcement on Statesman.com, I fear we may miss the opportunity to  do something positive here.

Rather than automatically accusing the Councilman of an agenda to funnel women to abortion providers, why not respectfully request that the postings become effective for all pregnancy centers in town – regardless of position?  That would be just fine with me.  After all, it would remove the  accusations that NARAL has made that pro-life centers are trying to trick women into choosing life or adoption, and provide a new opportunity for abortion providers to step up and be forthcoming about their own intentions.  (By the way, I spoke with Councilman Spelman on the phone earlier, and he has agreed to call into the Ryan Rush Show on Tuesday or Wednesday and take your questions.)

Before you let the proposal ruin your weekend, I would recommend that you send a respectful email to Councilman Spelman – and perhaps the others on the Council – asking them to consider expanding the proposal to increase clarity for all women.  Something along these lines:

Dear Councilman Spelman,

Thank you for all of the work you do on behalf of our city.  I noticed today that you have submitted a proposal to the Council for a vote next week regarding signs at the city’s pregnancy centers who do not provide abortions.  As you have stated, the signs would not be inflammatory in nature, and are not intended to be divisive, but instead are intended to provide clarity.  Disclosure can certainly be a good thing – especially for those who are facing such a difficult situation.  I want to ask you and other members of the Council to make one adjustment.  Why not require such postings at all pregnancy centers, requiring clarity regarding their abortion services?  That way, a woman could know at the entrance exactly where that center stands.  A center that does provide abortions would have the same-sized signs stating simply, “This Center provides abortions or refers to abortion providers. This center also provide or refers to providers of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved birth control drugs and medical devices.”

As a supporter of area Crisis Pregnancy Centers, I believe that this could help to further enhance everyone’s understanding of the variety of clinics in the city.  Thank you for your consideration of this proposal.

Respectfully Submitted,

______________________

You can reach Councilman Bill Spelman online at this link.   Before you get angry, consider the opportunity this may present.  Have a great weekend!

This Just In… Family Devotions are Not the Answer.

Maybe we’ve been telling people the wrong answer to success at home all along.  Wouldn’t it be just like Americans to over-categorize our answer to the most pressing problem in our culture?

Deuteronomy 6 is an oft-quoted verse by many pro-family speakers – including myself.  However, I must admit that we all might have taken some of these words a bit off the path of their original destination.

Verses six through nine of this dynamic chapter challenge the families of Israel as to how the wonderful book of the law should be used: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”(NKJV)  In other words, the Word of God should be taught at all times!

Now, here’s where most of us take a bit of a wrong turn.  I can almost hear myself tell a group of families, “Now, don’t you see?  God is making it clear that we should have a specific time of family devotions every day in our homes!  If it’s that important, shouldn’t we set aside a time every day to spend as a family in the Word?”  While the PROMISE of that statement will always be very positive for any family, the PREMISE of it is not the content of those key verses of Scripture.

Continue Reading…

The Three Walls that Separate the Church

For the past five years, our church h has been connecting church life and home life using a process we call Faith Breakthroughs.  A Faith Breakthrough is a turning point when a person intentionally moves beyond spiritual barriers to the blessings God has promised.  There is no doubt that our walks with God were never intended to take place in one building on Sundays; yet a large proportion of American Christians find themselves stuck in their faith when it comes to real-life transformation.

The process of a Faith Breakthrough begins with identifying specific “walls” that are holding back the believer.  These walls are barriers of unbelief that keep us from living the life God intended.  Walls are not circumstances, as the Scripture makes it clear that Christ Followers overcame all sorts of circumstances.  Instead, walls of unbelief take the shape of bad attitudes, unhealthy choices, and rebellious acts – all of which hold us back from the abundant life for which we were made.  We’ve seen walls of resentment, of doubt, of anger, of greed, and many more.

We have also seen God tear those walls down, and He always uses the same weapon.  Walls are built by unbelief, and walls are destroyed through a process of believing God’s promises!

Not only do walls hold back people, there is evidence in Scripture that walls can hold back churches as well.  Laodicea faced a wall of pride.  Pergamum faced a wall of compromise.
They are not alone: most congregations have dealt with the reality of unbelief – and the barriers it causes.  These walls keep them trapped inside their internal programs and agendas – distracted by unimportant things that matter little in eternity.  These walls also isolate individual congregations from the Church as a Whole – the Body of Christ in Austin and beyond.

Continue Reading…

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Start your faith breakthrough now!
The spiritual barriers people face are countless, but they can be categorized into Eight Primary Walls. These walls correlate with the 8 primary breakthroughs that everyone needs.
1 of 48
I have too many of my own problems to deal with the problems of others.
2 of 48
I find myself drawn to things I know are bad for me.
3 of 48
It humbles me to think I can know God.
4 of 48
I feel strong relationships are hard, but worth it.
5 of 48
I try to avoid temptations that would bring me harm.
6 of 48
I believe God is willing and able to answer my prayers.
7 of 48
I feel compelled to make the world around me better.
8 of 48
People would describe me as a giving person.
9 of 48
I am so busy that I find myself ignoring the most important things in my life.
10 of 48
It troubles me that God has not answered my prayers.
11 of 48
I have a hard time trusting people.
12 of 48
I spend too much of my energy pursuing material things.
13 of 48
I am grateful for the things I have been given.
14 of 48
I have to guard against judging people when I learn they are dealing with tough circumstances.
15 of 48
I believe truth is the same for everyone.
16 of 48
My faith practices are more about routine than relationship.
17 of 48
I believe the Bible has answers for today's circumstances.
18 of 48
I feel there is a disconnect between who I really am and how I act in front of other people.
19 of 48
I am confident God has forgiven me for my past.
20 of 48
People who have hurt me in the past cause me to avoid some relationships today.
21 of 48
I think that God will meet all my needs.
22 of 48
I worry about the problems that the future holds.
23 of 48
I observe things that make me wonder if I should believe the Bible.
24 of 48
I have been wronged in the past in a way I cannot get over.
25 of 48
I believe God wants what is best for me.
26 of 48
I question why God allowed certain things to happen in my life.
27 of 48
I am willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for something better down the road.
28 of 48
I believe God is loving and kind.
29 of 48
I look forward to good things in my future.
30 of 48
When looking back on my life, I tend to focus on all of the things I did wrong.
31 of 48
I feel with God's help, I can face any situation.
32 of 48
I am willing to serve others for nothing in return.
33 of 48
I am intentionally seeking to grow in my relationships with others.
34 of 48
I feel I can turn to God for direction.
35 of 48
When I am facing a difficult situation, I feel like I can solve problems on my own.
36 of 48
I find myself more focused on the things I don't have but wish I did.
37 of 48
I know a lot of people, but don't feel very close to many people.
38 of 48
I tend to expect the worst to happen.
39 of 48
I think God cares about the details of my life.
40 of 48
I am amazed at God's power.
41 of 48
I believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing God.
42 of 48
I have witnessed things that make me wonder if God is in control.
43 of 48
When bad things happen, I feel like I am getting what I deserve.
44 of 48
When bad things happen, I wonder if God can make things better.
45 of 48
I don't believe anyone can ever know what is absolutely true.
46 of 48
The possibility of gaining a good friend is worth the risk.
47 of 48
I believe God loves me in spite of who I am.
48 of 48
I worry that God is angry with me.
Great you have finished the evaluation.
Ready to see the results?