We moved to Central IL, in October, and Jennifer and I probably underestimated how much work it takes to move 600 miles north! A close friend called to “check on me” after we were here a couple of months. I was telling him how I felt “very out of sync” with everything. He said, “A good friend told me once that it takes about four months to feel settled after a big life transition.” I was trying to connect with area juvenile centers to see what kind of ministry needs and opportunities were there. Jennifer and I were trying to formulate a plan to remodel an older home we bought a few blocks from her parents. We were trying to find a church home that felt right for us. We were trying to figure out where to put our stuff that fit into the house we sold in Tennessee but didn’t exactly fit in the house in Illinois. We were dealing with missing our kids, who are now in other states, and even though we are close to Jennifer’s family, we were wrestling with the idea that we don’t have any other close friends here. But a lot has come together in four months.
We had many ministry supporters step up with donations in December, and we were able to provide Christmas gifts, Bibles, and spiritual growth resources to fatherless teens in the juvenile centers in Nashville, TN, Memphis, TN, Indianapolis, IN, Peoria, IL, Normal, IL, and Rockford, IL. Over 300 teens received the gospel message, and I pray God will use the seeds sown to bring many of them to Christ.
I have now met with the program director of the juvenile center in Normal, IL, and am starting a weekly Bible study with the youth there. I also met with the program director at the Peoria, IL, juvenile center, along with a few other friends I’ve been collaborating with in Peoria. I start our new ministry outreach in Peoria today. I’ll be teaching a group of teenage guys, most of them are fatherless, about God as a Father and about how to be a real dad in the future. I created a nine-week study a few years ago based on God’s role as a father in our life and His plan for us to embrace God as a father and prepare to follow His model as a Godly father to our own kids someday. This really is the path to reshaping the family tree and creating a spiritual generational shift. This Friday, I’ll be in the juvenile center in Galesburg, IL, and will be starting a regular Bible study there along with a friend of mine, Rob Skow.
While in the Peoria Juvenile Center last week, meeting with and getting to know some of the youth, a teenage boy spoke up and took his hand, and began patting himself on the chest as he repeated, “I need this, I need this… we all need this. I’m all in.” The program director at the Normal, IL juvenile center said, “It’s been such a struggle to get people here “post-Covid” to meet the spiritual needs of our youth… I’m glad you are here.” Another ministry leader in Peoria recently said, “I believe God brought you and Jennifer here at this specific time to meet some very specific needs of our youth.”
Thank you so much to all our prayer partners and ministry supporters. Please continue to pray for us as we are in the “start-up phase” in three juvenile centers at the same time. Moving and setting up a new office and outreach also brings a lot of expense. It’s much more expensive than we even realized. Your support and extra gifts are greatly appreciated as we try to navigate through this part of the process.
Your gift will help bring the gospel to fatherless youth!
Early one morning in November of 2007, I was reading the Bible. I had studied the book of Psalms for several months, and this morning, I read a few verses about the hurting and fatherless among us. It was as if God was speaking directly to me, and He was saying, “You need to pay attention here.” Maybe you can relate to this, but it was clear that God wanted me to do something. I had been in full-time youth ministry for twenty years, and it seemed God was saying there was something else I needed you to see. It is the mission field in your backyard. Later that morning, I decided to walk through the doors of the local juvenile detention center in Indianapolis. God revealed more to me about the needs of youth all around us who are fatherless.
Some teenage boys who were in the juvenile center, most of them were fatherless, were asking for someone to have a Bible study with them. I volunteered to start a Monday night Bible study. Over the next few months, God led me to start High Impact Ministries, and we have seen hundreds of youth accept Christ, and now they are no longer fatherless. They have a heavenly Father who guides, protects, and cares for them.
Our Christmas project is to provide gift bags to 300 or more teens in juvenile centers in Tennessee, Indiana, and Illinois. Each teen will receive a gift on Christmas with personal toiletries, a Bible, and a devotional book. Your gift will impact hundreds of youth. Your support will also help us expand our youth outreach to fatherless youth in Illinois in 2023.
Join us and make a difference in the life of a fatherless teen on this “Giving Tuesday.”
Caring about and acknowledging others impacts joy, health, and even the effective spreading of the gospel.
John said in III John 1:14 to salute and greet Christian friends by name. The Greek word used for salute and greet was originally described this way. When you see your brothers and sisters in Christ, you are to warmly receive them, fold them in your arms, embrace them, and receive joyfully. The word is used over 60 times in the Bible.
The University of Wroclaw, Poland, researched the subject of “emotional touch” in 2021. The research gave insight into the pandemic’s impact on the health and well-being of others. The study involved 14,000 people from 45 different countries. While different cultures have different ways of greeting, acknowledging, and showing affection toward one another, the focus was on “emotional touch.” In other words, the act of communicating genuine love and care. While people from different cultures greet one another in different ways, the fact that being surrounded by people who genuinely care about you has many positive benefits such as lower stress levels, a higher level of happiness with life, and even better health. The study showed that older people who are hugged often versus those rarely hugged have significantly better health.
Churches are shrinking. Many people claim the church is shrinking because people just aren’t interested in church anymore. I’d like to suggest a different perspective. Maybe the problem isn’t that people aren’t interested in the church anymore; perhaps it’s that the church isn’t as interested in people anymore.
If you do this one thing, show genuine interest in others, you will not be able to keep people from coming back to your church. And you will not have to worry about people coming back to you to learn more about how Jesus has changed your life. They will come back with intriguing questions and a desire to know what makes you so different.
So when the Bible says things like greet the brethren with a holy kiss, don’t get freaked out about that! You don’t have to do THAT, but there is something vital and even Biblical about the way we choose to care about one another. Learn to be better at friendship, look people in the eye, speak, listen, show interest, and care about others. Jesus kept it pretty simple when He said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart and love people with all your heart.
When the Bible tells us to “greet” or “salute” one another, it isn’t something we should overlook. People everywhere are looking for authentic connections with others who genuinely care. After searching the Bible and reading each place the word is used, I found a pattern that shows a variety of ways we can become better at putting this into practice. In place of the word “greet” or “salute,” I will use the word acknowledge to describe how we can impact those around us. Here are the ways scripture instructs us to acknowledge others.
Acknowledge Jesus And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. Mark 9:15. The most important person you will ever acknowledge in life is the person of Jesus Christ. Make it a priority each day to listen to Him, talk to Him and allow Him to be your master teacher in all things.
A Single Acknowledgment by an Individual Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name. 3rd John 1:14. When you as an individual pause to acknowledge another person, by name, you are showing more than just friendliness, you are proving to a hurting world that each person matters to God and each person matters to you. Of the 60+ times the word is used in scripture, this is the way it is used most often. An individual person acknowledging another person speaks volumes about the love of Christ that is in us. A few years ago, my wife and I visited a church in Tennessee to hear a young youth evangelist preach who grew up under our ministry. When we walked up to the church entrance, a small neighborhood dog was waiting at the door and excited to see us. We petted the dog, and after the service ended, we stood around for several minutes thinking we might meet people. People looked at us talked to their own friends and family, but no one spoke to us. We made our way to the parking lot, and on our way to the car, we looked at people everywhere, expecting someone might speak to us. No one did. After we got in our car and closed the doors, we realized something ironic. The only person who cared about us was the dog. Unfortunately, people walk in and out of churches every week without ever being acknowledged.
A Group Acknowledgment by a Friend or Family All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Titus 3:15. To communicate that you and your friends or you and your family acknowledge a person says that it’s not just me, but my whole tribe thinks you matter, you are important, and you are cared about. When you realize not every person has a strong, loving family, and you choose to link a friend into your extended family, you give a priceless gift to a lonely person.
A Corporate Acknowledgement by a Faith Family Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Philippians 4:21-23. The message of care can come from a higher level. The message is that our entire church family cares for you; we pray for you and are here for your spiritual needs. Even though a person has a friend at church, they need to know the church as a body cares.
A Goodbye Acknowledgement as People Come and Go Acknowledgments send a subtle message at two significant moments. To acknowledge a person when you meet and when you leave sends a much more authentic message of care. Everyone has experienced the odd moment when a person “just left without saying goodbye.” The extra care at both ends of a connection are important and mentioned in scripture.
A Generous Non-Exclusive Acknowledgement And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Matthew 5:47. One of the greatest pains people have with the current church culture is the experience people have with believers clustering together and creating insiders and outsiders around the worship experience. Only acknowledging your own friends, your own relatives, your own neighbors, people who are only in your small group or Sunday school, from your own area of town, those with students in your own school, or even those of your own economic status or race, are all ways we divide ourselves. But as the Bible says… how does that make us different because even the unsaved world does that?
I read a story years ago about missionaries who visited an orphanage in the former Soviet Union. When they were taken into the room where the babies were kept, they saw a room full of cribs but noticed the only sounds they heard were the squeaks of the cribs as the babies moved around. The missionaries asked why none of the babies were crying. The staff explained that while all babies cry sometimes, the babies in the orphanage learn that when they cry and no one comes, there is no reason to cry. Our world is full of people who still need God’s love and need to hear the gospel’s message. It may seem that they aren’t interested but don’t let that fool you. They just need to know that someone cares.
There’s never been a more urgent time to reach a generation of youth than now. God has given us a fruitful year of ministry in 2021, and we are excited to see the miraculous, life-changing impact of the gospel in the lives of high-risk and fatherless youth in 2022.
We are entering our 35th year of full-time youth ministry. I thank God for His blessings and His faithfulness.
We are so thankful for your friendship, prayer support, and financial partnership.
Year-end gifts made by midnight tonight will help us take the gospel message to fatherless youth in 2022! Just a few more donations will help us reach our goal for 2021. We are within $10,000 of our goal for the year.
Some people struggle their entire life dominated by a specific sin and never experience relief. They even memorize Bible verses about it. They quote the verse when temptation comes. That’s supposed to work, right? Like taking a pill for a headache and expecting it to go away or spraying for ants and watching them roll over and die! The Bible says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.” It’s right there in Psalm 119:11. So what’s the deal with all this ongoing struggle and lack of victory in our life?
Here is how the Bible solves our sin problems.
It Starts with a Complete Reliance on God.
The phrase “Thy word” tells us that God is the source of all truth and He is the source of all strength and victory. He has proclaimed Himself through His written word and His word is powerful. People have great ideas, good advice and can give all kinds of opinions but ultimately we should believe and know that God’s word trumps all other sources of wisdom. When we become fully persuaded in our heart and mind that God and God alone is enough and He is at the core of all that we believe, we are on the right foundation to experience victorious living.
We Must Allow His Word to Be Carved into Our Character.
To “hide God’s word in our heart” is much more than memorizing a Bible verse. It’s way more than that! To “hide” means to essentially be so convinced of the truth of His word that it becomes carved into the fabric of our hearts. Our heart is at the depth of who we really are… it’s deep into the core of what shapes our character and our entire belief system. We are so convinced and convicted of its truth that we are willing to say, “I don’t know that I could ever disobey God in this way… this is just so wrong and unacceptable.” It’s not that we will never sin again… but it takes our commitment to obediently follow Him to a whole new level.
The Bible Breaks the Bondage of Sin.
If I understand that He is so powerful and He is the source of all truth, and I allow His word to be carved in to the core of my heart and character, then I will experience much more victory over what used to be the bondage of sin. Sin will not be so powerful because the light of who God is will be so much more powerful.
Realize this… you and I have been given a powerful source of truth and an instruction book for life called the Bible. People throughout the ages have tried to eliminate the Bible from civilizations and many people that have gone before us have died for their belief in the Bible. People have spent their lives in prison to defend the Bible and others have sacrificed everything just to have one page of scripture. Please don’t take it for granted today and commit yourself today to start reading God’s word and trusting it with all your heart!
If you struggle to read the Bible you are not alone. When I was a youth pastor in Indianapolis, IN I surveyed our youth group of almost 100 teens about their relationship with the Bible. Most of them were living in strong Christian homes and were attending church and youth group weekly. I found that only 20% of them ever opened the Bible on their own during the week. So, 80% of them never read the Bible on their own. But let’s be honest… this struggle is common among so many of us!
As I think back to my teenage years, I remember struggling with Bible reading too.
One of the reasons I struggled with my relationship with the Bible is that I thought I needed to read A LOT of the Bible for it to count. But I learned later on that it’s not about reading chapters and chapters in the Bible, it’s that we just get into the Word, that counts.
So, I created a process to encourage teens to read smaller portions of scripture and make short entries in a spiritual journal. I learned that reading literally 5-15 Bible verses a day was a game-changer. After deciding to read smaller portions in the Bible, over 80% of the teens in the same group were reading the Bible at least 4 out of 7 days each week!
Think about this quote. “You will be the same person in five years you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Charlie Jones, author of Life Is Tremendous.
So, if reading can change a person so dramatically… imagine how much more enriched our life would be if we read the Bible… the most powerful book ever written?
So here’s my challenge to you… begin to read with a desire to grow! This is different than reading out of obligation to complete an assignment. And make reading the Bible a top priority.
Here Are 9 Benefits of Reading the Bible From Psalm 119
1. Victory Over Sin In Your Life
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Verse 11
2. Cleansing From Sin
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. Verse 9
3. More Joy
I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. Verse 14
4. Wisdom and Direction
Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Verse 18
5. You Will Be Revived… Rejuvenated
Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O Lord, according to thy lovingkindness. Verse 159
6. Renewed Strength
Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually. Verse 117
7. You Will Experience Liberty and Freedom
And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts. Verse 45
8. Less Shame and Embarrassment
I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed. Verse 46
9. Comfort in Affliction
This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me. Verse 50
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
After twenty-one years in church youth ministry I established an outreach ministry in 2008 with a key focus on reaching troubled youth in the community of Indianapolis, Indiana. Our ministry moved to Tennessee in July 2010 and I continue to minister to high-risk and fatherless youth.