Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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Called Out Episode 010: Barnabas Piper

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One of the prevailing attitudes of our day is cynicism. This form of cynicism shows itself as a state of negativity and questioning where we can never believe anything at face value, and then we do our best to keep everything at arm’s length, rather than embracing it. You see this in the constant talk about fake news, because if some news is fake none of it should be believed, or so we think. We see this in relationships, because if one relationship or friendship fell apart, then none of the future ones are worth trusting in.

In order to look at the subject of cynicism from various angles, I had a conversation with my cynical friend Barnabas Piper. Having known him for several years I knew he would self-describe as cynical (as I would), and be able to share not only how cynicism develops, but also how it wreaks havoc on those around it. Then, toward the end, we share some encouragements for helping you stay away from cynicism.

You can listen to the full episode below (click here email readers):

Or find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Soundcloud || Stitcher || Overcast

A few links mentioned in the episode:

—Barnabas Piper’s books The Pastor’s Kid and Help My Unbelief.

—The book mentioned in the episode by Barnabas is his latest release The Curious Christian.

—Barnabas also has a podcast he’s one of the hosts for, called The Happy Rant.

—Brett McCracken’s article on Hallmark movies: “Formulaic for a Reason: The Existential Appeal of Hallmark Movies”

—Theme music by Shoring.

We’ll be back with new episodes starting again in September. Between now and then you can support this podcast by leaving a review wherever you listen, and by sharing episodes you have found helpful. Thanks for your support!

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Reliving 90s Youth Group

screen-shot-2014-02-05-at-6-23-25-pmWhile I did not graduate high school in the 1990s, I spent the majority of my church youth group years of middle and high school in the 90s.

If you haven’t noticed, nostalgia is all the rage. From Stranger Things to IT to 80s rock synth on every indie album, you can’t escape the push toward the past.

So with that in mind, I created a playlist of the best 90s youth group music. If you have Spotify you can find it directly here, or by listening below.

Enjoy some nostalgic bliss.

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The Gift of Encouragement

A few weeks ago I preached on the section of Romans 12 where Paul mentions about spirituals gifts: “if it is to encourage, then give encouragement” (Romans 12:8). This verse has always stood out for me because in one of my first years of my seminary studies I had a professor say to me, “you don’t have the gift of encouragement do you?” It had never stood out me that I tended to be analytical and critical, but it’s never left my mind since then.

Ever since then I’ve believed (at least in part) it wasn’t my job to encourage, because ‘it wasn’t my gift.’ I’ve focused on playing the devil’s advocate, I’m comfortable being a contrarian, and I have no issue with confrontation. But what I do struggle to do is encourage people around me, except in obvious situations.

thank you cardAround this same time, I received a card from an elementary-aged child in my church, telling me that when I lead worship he is inspired. Some of the children at my church have started writing a thank you card every week for a different person. The card reminded me how easy encouragement is. If a 4th grader can do it, you can too.

In preaching this section of Romans I challenged my church to specifically and intentionally encourage 7 people over the course of the next 7 days.

This shouldn’t even be difficult to accomplish. Encouragement costs nothing but blesses the encouraged beyond measure.

I chose this specific application for my sermon because I firmly believe people never develop the gifts they don’t practice. Maybe I don’t have the gift of encouragement because I never encourage? Somehow, despite my lack of encouragement gifting, I was able to accomplish this 7 encouragements in 7 days challenge.

Yes, some gifts are given by God immediately following the Spirit indwelling, but most often I think God works through what we put our time and energy towards, and He more greatly allows those things to develop in us.

One thing is for certain, I am who I am today because of the encouragement many others have given me for the past three decades of my life. You would not be where you are had it not been for the encouragement of others either.

Put plainly, all of us should seek to encourage others, whether we sense it is our gift or not. Yes, for some, encouragement oozes out of their pores all day, every day.

For some, encouragement takes more effort and intentionality (I am one of those people).

But all of us should be encouragers.

The Body of Christ is missing out when you choose not to stretch your encouragement muscle.

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Called Out Episode 009: Mo Isom

called out mo isom

As sex has become a commonplace subject within pop culture, whether it be television, movies, music, or mere conversation, it has led many toward an acceptance of sexual activity outside of God’s design. In response we often ignore sex, pushing it away, thinking of the potential damage it can cause. Lost in this, is that God created sex for a purpose.

In this podcast episode I talk with Mo Isom about her story of sexual brokenness, and what healing looked like in response to it. We also chat about purity rings, true love waits, how sexual brokenness in her past has shaped her marriage, and where modesty fits into this whole conversation. I’m grateful to Mo for her willingness to share honestly, without glorifying her brokenness.

You can listen to the full episode below (click here email readers):

Or find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Soundcloud || Stitcher || Overcast

Other links from the episode:

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Blogging: What It Got Right and What It Got Wrong

I’ve been writing on this space and others that were precursors to this space for about 11 years now. After graduating college I realized nearly all my favorite writers were putting their writing on their own websites and making it available for free. I was shocked! After a while of just reading blogs, I started my own, with the goal of posting something every day.

Blogs have largely been cast aside by larger journalist pages where great writers can work together to produce quality content and by social media which allows us to share life happenings and opinions much more quickly than a blog.

While I have no intention of stopping my habit of writing on this space, I recognize that doing so is fairly uncommon today, whereas 8 years ago it was the norm. So I’ve given some thought about why I’m still doing this, and why nearly all of my, what I called, “blog friends” have quit.

What Blogging Got Right

It’s a normal human desire to want to share. Share thoughts. Share life events. Before social media expanded, blogs were the easiest way to share in one confined space.

Others were drawn to blogging because it provided a space to write, for an audience. All throughout high school and college, I was a fairly awful writer. And this was for one very simple reason: I did not write often. With the goal of writing something new for my blog every day, I forced myself to become a better writer, by simply writing, a lot.

Some people are naturally good at creating through the written word, some people become better writers primarily through reading, but there is no substitute for writing in order to become a good writer.

As blogging diminishes and the web moves toward tribes of writers on websites and social sharing, how will this online space known as in the internet help produce quality writing?

In the years since publishing my book, a common question has been asked of me: how can I grow as a writer? I give the same answer every time: read and write as often as you can. For me, blogging was the necessarily carrot that kept me working on my craft, day after day.

What Blogging Got Wrong

A few years after I started blogging I first heard the term “platform” used in association with internet writing. In the years prior to this, not once had it ever crossed my mind that a blog could serve as a tool to advance a writer’s career. Shortly after this I had friends who started teaching others how to do what they did. Start a blog, write some words, do this a lot, publish a book.

Supposedly it was that easy. And a lot of bloggers did it. Including me.

But once blogging and online writing became focused on the need for supporting a platform it became work. Now you needed to get more people to subscribe. Now you needed to let people know about your writing, all the time.

You see, first blogging was about the craft, but then it became about the career.

And slowly but surely, people quit. Why? Because when you write for the platform and the career eventually it lets you down, guaranteed. But when you write for the craft, the reward is the work, not the results.

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A Year Through The Bible


If you’re too busy to read, you’re too busy.

I just recently finished a year-long Bible reading plan, for the second time in my life. It did, however, take me 13 months to complete, because I’m human. On my previous one-year read through of the Bible the reading was part of a school assignment so I’m not sure that should even count.

To read through the Bible in one year is a big commitment of discipline and time. To accomplish the goal you can’t miss more than a day here or there or you’ll fall too far behind. You also need to set aside 25 to 45 minutes every day just to accomplish the necessary reading every day.

And I have to say, I loved it.

A few years ago I had lunch with some fellow Ecola Bible College professors, which included Dr. Ron Frost. During the lunch Frost explained to us that what instructed his teaching most was reading through The Bible (here’s Frost explaining his reading plan), twice, each year, at a minimum. I laughed. Out loud. Seriously. “Who has time to read The Bible twice in one year?” I thought.

I did not have time to read The Bible twice in a year, let alone once. Or did I? I was convicted. The Word of God is more accessible today than at any other time in history, yet I’m a great example how people cherish God’s Word less and less, despite our access to it. Couldn’t I set aside enough time to read the entire Bible for a whole year?

I made the decision to read The Bible in a year (*13 months) for a few reasons:

1. As a pastor I encourage people to make The Bible a consistent part of their life, but that isn’t always true of me.

2. It’s easy to avoid large sections of the Old Testament when you choose your own reading plan.

3. If I didn’t have time to read The Bible every day, I was quite simply, too busy.

A few lessons I learned in the process of my one-year (*13 months) Bible reading

1. I’m not really that busy.

This was the big hurdle to get over. Do I have the time to read 3-4 chapters in the Old Testament, a Psalm or Proverb, and 1-2 chapters in the New Testament, every day? “No way” has always been my answer. This year I put that question to the test. And the answer was a resounding yes. Yes, I have time.

How did I make the time? I stopped doing largely pointless and meaningless things. I made less time for tv. I sacrificed some sleep. I did not need to change my life in any dramatic way. Often we feel busy, but our time is filled with purposeless activity. It’s pretty easy to give up some of those things.

2. The Bible is vast in its approach.

Poetry, narrative, prophesy, apocalypse, exhortation, encouragement, sin, redemption. There’s so much variety in the Bible. This gives us a glimpse of God and his relationship with us in so many different ways. You can’t help much worship God for the expanse of his greatness as you work through the various literary forms the Bible presents us.

3. Just as you read the Bible, the Bible reads you.

Through this variety of literary forms, we engage with more than simply words on a page or screen, but God revealing himself. Even as he reveals himself through words, those words ultimately unveil the reality of our own hearts. As Eugene Peterson says, “This text is not words to be studied in the quiet preserves of a library, but a voice to be believed and loved and adored in workplace and playground, on the streets and in the kitchen. Receptivity is required.”

Nothing has had a larger impact on my ministry as a pastor in the last year than my year-long read through The Bible. It has allowed me to draw close to God, allowing him to search my heart, and has continually provided insights into opportunities for teaching.

If you’re considering reading through the Bible in one year, I recommend the Bible in One Year website and app put together by the great folks behind Alpha. Even if you don’t rely on their devotional writing and prayers, their format for getting through the daily reading is quite helpful.

With that being said, I highly discourage you from reading on a screen unless you are willing to shut off notifications. The single worst thing you can do while reading is increase the possibility of distractions.

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