Tag: Faith

Becoming a dad is the solution

DSC_0754What would a world without dads look like? Here are some surprising statistics from fatherless children:

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home

Fatherless homes make up nearly 22% of American children. A father in every home will not eliminate crime, but it would not hurt. An involved and time invested father in every home, that would radically change the country. A life without fathers would be catastrophic, and the issue is growing not shrinking. So, here is the solution, if you’re a father, work hard at being a dad.

First step to being a dad is to find a good, godly dad and learn from him
Modeling is critical as being a dad is something that is caught. Just being in the presence of a dad who is active in the life of his children will give one great insight. Interact with this dad and learn all that you can from him. There is no such thing as the perfect dad, but there is such thing as godly examples. By networking with other dads, a growing dad can gain insight, accountability and skill in raising children. Dave Simmons, in his Dad the Shepherd Series, calls this an e-team (Encouragement- team). This is a group of three to five dads who hold each other accountable and learn from each other as they work through how to be a dad. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Second step to being a dad is to be a part of the body of Christ
The family and the church should not be at odds with each other. My dad’s three goals in my life made church a natural connection to meet those goals, where else could I effectively learn the Bible, discernment and service at the same time? Serving the Lord was the highest ideal growing up. My parents had missionaries over, pastors over, speakers over, ministry teams over, Christian musicians over, Bible studies, etc. They did this to serve Jesus. People from all over the world that call Christ their savior celebrated Christmas at one time at my parent’s house. The mission of the Woznek family was to serve the church because that meant serving God. Get your family to serve together.

Third step to being a dad is to be intentional
My dad had set three clear goals for me, and he held vigorously to them. The goals set for me were simple and guided the decisions he made. My dad did not sub-contract my life to other institutions; he used them to accomplish the goals he set. I wanted to serve at a camp I spent much time at during my summers, but dad would not allow it. This was a great frustration to me. Serving every summer at one camp would limit other experiences I could have. That decision was invaluable. While serving in various ministries, I had multiple experiences to draw wisdom, far more than had I only served at one place. It fit in with my dad’s goal, and it enriched the times I did serve at my desired camp. The way dad used other institutions in my life to reach certain goals produced another attribute to my life.

Fourth step to being a dad is talk talk talk
De-briefing was a regular part of my life. If a dad is not intentional in how he builds his children, debriefing is a very difficult thing to do. The de-brief is the ultimate indicator that involvement is taking place. My dad and I talked about everything. This happened because my dad started when I was young. In my later years I would voluntarily talk with my dad about the days events, there was no “How was school today.” Joys, victories and practical jokes were all shared. De-briefs, however, were also hard when dealing with failure. Without fail a discussion would occur as to why discipline measures were taken. Discipline was talking. Dad would walk me through the choice that was made, and the consequences of that choice. This taught me how to think and how to think biblically.

The bottom line:
The fifth step is the most joyful and the most painful: my dad let me go and became a cheerleader and resource to me. While his goals were met, it is never easy to let one graduate to adulthood. The fifth step would never have had happened if the others were not followed. If I need advice, or to bounce things off someone, dad is there.

Church would be better if people thought like and agreed with me!

Coffee-LoveI finally found the solution to ALL the church’s problems! For sure this will be a chapter in my up and coming book “Humility and how I achieved it.” Oh wait! I do have a chapter about that! Let me be frank, cause I love you. Church has a big y’all don’t agree with me issue. Here is what I mean:

Be a cheerleader
That’s right. Start off by trying to encourage people not be a critic. (Yeah, some of you preacher boys should just stop reading right now and focus on this part.) We all have too many critics but not enough cheerleaders. My critics practically killed me! Cheerleading is a choice.

Be loving
There is nothing more comfortable than being around a loving person. That person may even point out where you’re wrong, like a loving mommy saying “you’re not wearing that are you!?” while baking you epic chocolate chip cookies. Seriously, love comforts. Don’t pour gas on a bad situation. Bring about peace and comfort. That’s what I do.

Be a team
You live as a team or you die as a team. Period. Work together. I do believe the Spirit is readily available to help with this. After all, if we don’t row together alike a team… Work it out and be a team. Easy to do when the above is true! So, get in line and be like me!

Be Loyal
We have affection and and sympathy for people we are loyal to. An we even do that for friends of our friends. So, care about the people I care about.

Be one
Here is what it comes down to: You need to have the same mind and love as me. Really. Church would be so much better this way. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this whole thing is be in arrogant. “Oh course everything in church would be better if we thought like you, duh!” “You’re just thinking of yourself! What about diversity all?” My response? You’re just thinking about you. In fact, you think church would be better if people were one with you and not me.

Why I’m right and you should be like me
I could have had the good life, but I didn’t. I sacrificed and worked hard just like you do. But, I did it for you and not myself. I put up with a lot. And frankly, it killed me. You humiliated me and being in this job I got blamed for things I didn’t even do. But hear me out. There is a day coming when everyone will agree that I am right and people should be like me. Mark my words: everyone.

The bottom line:
This chapter is called Philippians Chapter Two. My brother Paul wrote it for me. (If y’all think like and agree with him you’ll be well on your way to being like me.) Humility is the KEY! So, what church to be better? Be humble like me. It’s the only thing that work.

Love you all!
~Jesus

Faith & Family

DSC_0286Faith & Family is the foundation to our society and the solution for our society. Undermining these two critical areas will open wide the door to evil. In times of tragedy there is a resurgence in the valuing of faith and family, but there is seldom sustaining action to support them. This foundation needs to be reinforced.

Secularism
I believe there should be no state church. Marriage of church and state proves disastrous. For the church, this became clearly evident in the dark ages. That said, complete removal of religious influence in the public square has not helped our society. In and of itself its a promotion of a religious view. What is lost by this push is the reality of the human soul. Quickly the value of life, morality and civility fall away. Secularism created in our country a narcissistic view of a person with no moral foundation and no purpose. The push to be oneself or pursue one’s dreams leaves a gaping hole in a person’s soul.

Life
Secularism lead to a devaluing of life. While not popular to say, millions of innocent lives are ended each year. As a society we don’t mourn these losses, though we do debate to what extent such loss should be allowed. Millions of marriages, kids, ideas, art, dreams, etc are never given the light of day. A majority of these ended lives are for connivence. Single percent issues (worthy of its own debate) are being used to excuse 98% of atrocities. Either life is precious or it is not. Let us be honest, secularism lead us to value our own connivence more than life.

War on manhood
For at least two decades a war on manhood exists. While the news of late talked of a war on womanhood, I’d submit the opposite is true. We have undermined the role of men in our society and even paint being a man as problematic more than helpful. In the name of equality we undermine, subvert and destroy what is most critical, most needed and most lacking in our society: dads. Look at the crime statistics in relation to fatherless homes.

Privacy laws
Privacy undermines prudence which undermines parenting. It is increasingly difficult for parents to get information about their children, and yet they’re still responsible for them. From medical issues, to even school issues, the issue of privacy as a right isn’t protecting our children. It isn’t protecting marriages either. When we cannot make the wise choice because of privacy law, there is a problem. Further, such undermines the trust that is essential for healthy relationships and healthy families.

Faith
People are seeking their purpose in life. Post-modernism, which I submit is beginning to decline, left society with no bearings. The fruit of both secularism and post-modernism left us bankrupt. We think we’ve evolved given the easy access to technology, yet we’re backwards in our ability to relate to one another. Faith is the glue that holds a society together for faith speaks to the soul and to the conscience. This is something that government and education cannot do. It is also why marriage of church and state should be prevented, but not to the exclusion of religions from the public square. We must deal with our soul.

Family
We need a resurgence in fatherhood. This includes healthy marriages. Most people don’t learn well stressed. Given the raging sea that is many families, is it a wonder we have an education problem? Dad’s provide the bearings and the foundation needed for success. Are there exceptions to this? Yes. But the exception is not the rule. Again, just look at crime statistics in relation to fatherless homes. I’d submit if there was a resurgence of healthy marriages and dads society will greatly change.

A solution
The foundation of faith and family is the solution to our society. This is hard for society to take for this solution requires submission, servanthood, love, endurance, wisdom, responsibility, and moral absolutes. This solution is hard because it requires work, it is messy, and it isn’t easy. It means a debate between what our laws state and what is truly beneficial & prudent for families. It means sacrificing our connivence at the altar of peace. The irony is it’s what we really want but we don’t want what comes with this solution. Faith and family have nothing to do with guns, yet it’s the crux of why we’re seeing the rise of evil in our country.

Prayer Mentoring: Attitude

Attitude counts. Like in any relationship, bad attitudes create bad results. When we pray, we need to make sure we have a proper attitude towards God.

Authentic
Matthew 6:5-15 describes the Lord’s Prayer. Before and after the prayer Jesus addresses our attitude. Prayer isn’t a check list thing, or showmanship. Prayer is a genuine conversation with a real God. Be real and be genuinely concerned for others.

Faith
James 1:5-8 describes the need for faith. Let’s face it, Jame’s words are hard to take. If we doubt then we’re unstable. Prayer is an act of faith where we realize and submit to God being in control. This is one of the hardest aspects of our relationship with God- waiting on and trusting in Him.

Obedience
1 John 3:22 describes the relationship between obedience and God acting. Again, like any relationship, if you violate the relationship things get awkward and out of sorts. A heart that seeks to live out God’s Word is key to God answering prayer. (Note verses 20! God is bigger than our mistakes!)

Humility
1 Peter 5:6-7 describes what is essential to any relationship and especially to God. Humility goes a long way in relationships. Key to this verse is submitting to God, recognizing He is in control. Note that these verses are not a legalistic pacify God thing. God’s heart is to exalt and to care for His own.

The bottom line:
Our attitude matters when we talk to God. If you sense your prayers are not heard or being ignored, check your attitude. Don’t focus on false piety- be real. God wants to hear from you and He wants to answer prayer.

My guide to become a recovering fundamentalist: Legalism

“As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” ~St. Paul

Legalism as the issue
There is a bit of legalism in everyone. As we look at the concept of becoming a recovering fundamentalist it’s important to focus on heart issues and not a strawman. Legalism is a major heart issue to overcome. Often people who flee traditional legalistic churches swing to progressive legalistic churches. It’s the same heart issue, just a different “standard” of what being spiritual looks like. So, be careful and don’t thank God that “you’re not a legalist like those people over there.”

Control
Legalism lacks faith and is really about control. There is a strong desire for us to want to merit Grace. We simply need to trust Jesus. God already showed His love towards us. Apart from Jesus, anything good we do is rubbish. Without faith it’s impossible to please God. We desire legalism because we desire control. Sometimes we even call things legalistic that aren’t because we hate to submit and desire to control. You and I are control freaks. Faith means placing trust in and submitting to God. It means He’s in control and not us.

Gospel plus nothing
Legalism is adding to the Gospel to be saved or sanctified. It’s a false Gospel. The Bible clearly teaches it’s the Gospel plus nothing equals salvation and sanctification. Simply, the Gospel is the “life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Act by placing faith in God. Don’t react by trying to control, you and I are lousy at being God.

I missed the boat
When we think of heresy we think of denying Scripture, the cross, miracles, etc. Legalism is right up there with that list. I often viewed legalism as an issue to be addressed, and not a false gospel to be condemned. Look up what accursed means and you’ll see my point. Paul’s quote above is in the context of dealing with legalism. Fundamentalism would be viewed differently if the movement vehemently stood against legalism as other false Gospels.

Semantics
To avoid the accusation of legalism people often try to hide it using various terms. Rules, standards, being missional, oh my. Let’s be honest and call it for what it is, it’s legalism. Even the touch of “we do this to honor God” sugar coats the idea. Legalism springs to judgement of one’s spirituality based on a set of rules. It creates a putrid environment whereby people look to please people instead of focusing on pleasing God. If the “standard” is a mark of spirituality it’s legalism.

Two examples
Legalism is: I visited a church where everyone (infants included) was in a suit or dress. I was one of the few (the only in the coming conversation) not in a suit. As a person was striking up a friendly conversation the tone shifted dramatically when I said I was a pastor. This wasn’t a fluke as the conversation happened numerous times. The eye glares were interesting to say the least. I was wearing a white polo shirt and khaki’s (a friend of mine calls them baptist pants) and brown dress shoes. The temperature was in the upper 80’s. I was on vacation.
Legalism isn’t: Doing open air evangelism in New York city we were told to dress and carry ourselves a certain way, no exceptions. This was a mater of safety and also respect for the cultures we were trying to reach. Do I have the freedom in Christ to wear want I want? Yes. I also have the freedom to give up that right to best meet the spiritual needs of those I’m trying to reach. Standards of conduct do not equal legalism.

Methods and programs
Often legalism set’s itself up in the form of a method or program. We think that a certain way of doing ministry will make us more spiritual or God honoring. We get so tied down with performing a certain way that we look down at (really we’re judging) others for how they do ministry. I’m not anti-program or anti-methodology. Our faith, prayer and theology should come before our programs and methodologies. We should act in faith & the power of the Spirit.

The bottom line:
Legalism is a false sense of control. It’s heart issue we all struggle with and a false Gospel of grace by works. Legalism is one of the great heresies of our day. Act in faith instead of reacting by trying to control. God already loves you. In Christ your salvation is secure. Rules do not mean legalism, but can easily become such.

Planning, God’s Sovereignty and Cheese

In my first years of vocational ministry I was introduced to something incredible: 5x Sharp Cheese. Bill Anderson’s Farm Market carried it. My first taste was an all american made, fresh-baked apple pie. And with it? 5x sharp cheese. Mana from heaven must have come close to tasting like this. The cheese makes any store-bought “sharp” cheddar block seem like a playdough knife. Planning and God’s sovereignty is like 5x sharp cheese.

God has a plan for us
The Bible is clear on two things: 1) God has a plan for us and 2) We don’t know the details of that plan. The Bible teaches wise planning, crazy steps of faith, and that whatever happens God is interested in our Christ likeness more than anything. Consider this the ingredients of a plan: God’s Word, Faith, the Gospel, growth, wisdom of others and a leap of faith. Think of the flavor that will come as the image of Christ.

God gives all 24/7 to accomplish His will
A wise professor stated that God grants every person 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to accomplish His will, and some of that is sleeping. With all the ingredients to make cheese, that is all you have, cheese. Regular cheese just doesn’t taste great with all American made, freshly baked Apple pie. To get to 5x sharp heavenly goodness cheese you need one key thing: TIME. Working your plan is the aging process. It involves two key understandings: 1) Faith in a God at work and 2) Understanding that things will be clearer at the end of the process, not the beginning of it.

God loves celebration
The key to planning and working your plan is celebration. Celebration isn’t about what we’ve done. Celebration is savoring what God did. It’s that first bite of all American freshly baked apple pie with 5x sharp heavenly goodness cheese. All the pain, waiting, anticipation is worth it when we taste and see that the Lord is good. To get there takes faithfulness in our actions and waiting upon God.

The bottom line:
In starting a new chapter in ministry, I’m in the planning stage. I’m looking forward to celebrating what God will do. In drawing on the Spirit, the mentoring I’ve received, God’s people and the Gospel, I’m listening and seeking where God wants the ministry to go. It will take time. 5x sharp cheese isn’t made in a day, it takes years. It’s worth the wait, and that’s part of God’s plan.

Oh, and if you’re in Cortland, NY, look up Anderson’s Farm Market. Order some 5x Sharp Cheese. Obtain a freshly baked all American apple pie, and see how a good plan tastes!

http://www.billandersonsmarket.com/

Why I stayed in church

I’ve constantly dealt with the question of why 20’s and early 30’s were leaving the church. I never asked why I didn’t leave. Here is a first attempt at answering the question. It revolves around one key thing: God.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 1:6

Religion is a crutch
True. We do not need a crutch, we need a savior. We don’t need help or an aid, we need something that will radically change us. The biggest thing to me about the church is the Gospel. The central message of the Gospel is death to life; sin to righteousness. This isn’t found by a right of passage or a self-help crutch. It is founded on Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

Christians are just hypocrites
True. We’re also liars, thieves, fornicators, cheats, gossips, gluttons, drunkards, murderers, slanders, etc. Funny thing is, as I look across the human experience, I see the same thing. The church isn’t made of perfect people, and if it were, we’d at least be liars according to 1 John. Church is family. We’re not perfect, but being perfect is not the point. Again, it comes down to the central message of the Gospel. Church is filled with redeemed people not perfect people.

Church doesn’t meet my needs
True. Here is the paradox of church: If everyone comes to church focused on meeting everyone’s needs, everyone’s needs gets met. Church is not about what you can get, it is about what you can give to others. Why would someone join something that is not about them is a bit crazy. This goes back to the central message of the Gospel: Jesus gave Himself on our behalf. His focus was on our needs and the Father’s will, not Himself.

The Gospel
I did not quit because I believe Jesus died and rose again. Believing this means being a part of a community of people who also hold that belief and seek to proclaim the message of death to life. The Gospel is central. Church is not about what I get, but as Jesus modeled, church is about what I give. The hardest principle to get is realizing the church is not about me, it’s about Him.

The Church
I embrace the church because it is Jesus’ most prized possession. In pursuing Christ and helping others, ultimately our own needs get met. In getting the focus off ourselves we gain depth and a spirituality that can only come from the grace of the Cross. In church we realize the greatest need of all mankind and the only solution. We’re messed up, and knowing that fully, Jesus still reached out to us.

The bottom line:
I did not quit church because Jesus did not quit on me, those in the church, or those who still have not heard the Gospel. The church isn’t perfect and neither am I, and that’s ok. Christ is the one who makes us complete and perfect. The problems of church become less and when I pursue God and help others more.

Dream: Living the dream

Faith discovers great dreams. Living the dream is not about amusement, fantasy or having all the answers. Dreams require pursuit to be lived. Living the dream is living by faith. It is the bedrock for both the great and small.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” ~ Hebrews 11:1-2

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” ~ Hebrews 11:6

Will happen, not might
We live for our dream because it will happen. This is not a gamble, this is a reality. It fully understands adversity, but adversity is couched in certainty. As people of history and now passionately pursued God, they know that what is to come will. Dreams exist not in vapors, but in stone. “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” ~ Hebrews 11:15-16

Define great
Living the dream is not about having great things, but doing great things with what you have. Jesus tells a parable of a master who gave his servants Talents (money). To one he gave 5, another 2 and a third 1. The master judged the servants based on what they did with what they had. The servants with 5 and 2 Talents doubled and were blessed. The servant with 1 Talent nothing with it. This angered the master. Everyone will not be great in how society views greatness, but we can all do  great things! (We’re expected to.) Think growth, instead of achievement.

Hidden treasure is worthless
If a man hides a pot of gold and it is never found the gold is worth less than food scraps or dung. Food scraps and dung turns back to dirt and is usable. Such at least does something. Hidden gold does nothing. Living the dream has nothing to do with status or possessions, but everything to do with God. A better day is coming. Until then, what are you doing to pursue that?

Pursuit more than destination
The pursuit of the dream is more important than the destination. If we pursue God, He will lead. You can’t steer a still ship. If you want the dream you have to go for it. God gives to those who pursue. Pick a direction and pursue it. And, know that God will likely change your course. Or, He may not. Either way, we must move.

The Bottom Line:
Live the dream. Don’t worry about what to do or even where to start. Focus on pursuing God and working with what you have where you are at. God will lead. So dream, but don’t hide your ‘Talent.’ Reflect on this though:

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” ~ John 3:21

Faith is not the absence of doubt

At BBC there is the all holy seminary reading room. It’s a humorous title, it’s just the seminary room. One day we were brought into this room. I do not remember which professor it was, but I do remember the warning:

“Many of the books in this room were written by men who knew more about the Bible then some of you ever will, but they missed the point.”

It perplexed me that many of the Bible study tools we have today were built on the work of those ho actually doubted the Bible or doubted inspiration and inerrancy. How can doubt produce coldness to God in once sense, and bring others closer? I don’t know, and hence I’m perplexed.

I do not think scholarship, reason or doubt is the enemy. I do not think giving up these things in the name of faith, pragmatism or focusing on what is most important is biblical. Let me give an analogy for each:

Faith: We sit in many chairs without seeing them first verifying they will hold us up. I say that as I sat in my kitchen chair one day and it collapsed underneath me.

Pragmatism: There is nothing pragmatic about romance. ‘Nuff said.

The biggest thing: Coffee brings me great joy in life, but it’s not the meaning of life. (Though, enjoying it does help ponder the larger things in life.)

Often in churches we get very nervous when someone questions or doubts. We get more nervous when someone declares their doubts. In our quest for Christ likeness, do we forget Thomas- one of the foundation stones to the church. Saul was a doubter. The Roman centurion was not. Is one better than the other? I think not.

The Bible has stories of doubters. I do not think doubt is the enemy of faith, but squelching doubt is. The trial by fire for each human is different. For some it will be life circumstance, others pride, addictions to some and some it will be doubt. People will succeed or fail in these challenges.

Truth is truth. If the Bible is fully truth, as I believe and I am convinced of, then in the end truth will prevail. And if we fear those who doubt, or worse question whether they are really saved in the first place, then we poison the situation. The Bible makes it very clear that salvation is solely a work of God and kept by God. The Bible makes very clear that humans will doubt.

Is our faith in God or in people who don’t doubt? Do we believe salvation is by faith or in people who do not sin? How we approach issues can prevent the ability to help or open the door to greater depths of our faith. Which is more important to us and God? Yes, God gets frustrated by doubt. God also gives them an answer in due time. The bigger issue is pursuing God.

The Bottom line:
Squelching doubt is an odd form of denying the power of God. Like any other challenge in life, we should treat doubters with love, patience and respect. Not from  superiority and they are wrong, but a human understanding that each person has their own trial by fire… Let’s be honest, we all at times have doubts. God knows that.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13