Monday, December 9, 2013

Reading the Bible: Learning from my grandmother's stiff upper lip

My very British grandmother became a nurse at the age of 14 as the war with Germany was escalating and the Germans were practicing the newly developed and imprecise science of rocketry on the stiff upper lips of Londoners. This meant that each time my grandmother took the train back to the hospital in London where she worked, another building around the hospital was gone, along with the people who were in it at the time the rocket fell. In spite of this daily danger the doctors and nurses, including my grandmother, stubbornly fixed their jaws and served the people of London, running up to the roof to extinguish incendiary bombs as they fell on the roof, rescuing patients from the basement as it flooded with water from a broken water main, and in countless other ways demonstrating a kind of courage that we rarely see in o
ur soft and self-centered world today.

As I seek to help young men to understand why they should love the Bible and how to approach such a unique text, it has occurred to me that the same reasons my heart would beat a little faster and a smile would creep over my face as I heard my grandmother tell her stories are the same reasons that should cause us to thrill at the message of the Bible.

Why should I have cared so much about my grandmother’s stories? My grandmother is dead. I wasn't

Friday, November 15, 2013

An Update on Karen's Neck

This is what the x-ray looked like right after surgery.
So if you were to ask "how are things going?" the answer would have to come in two parts. Day to day things are pretty good. Karen is up and around, schooling the kids, managing the home, working a bit in the garden and generally doing those things she was doing before she fell. She continues to wear the neck brace and will continue to do so at least through mid January. Her neck gets sore and fatigued through the day and Karen is being a good girl ... resting without being forced to do so. So other than the brace and her need to take it a bit slower and more carefully than in the past life is basically ... normal.

But two weeks ago at her two week post-operation appointment we got news that was made me take another deep breath.

The bracket that was affixed to karen's vertebrae has 4 screws. Two are screwed into her C-6 vertebrae and two are screwed into her T-1. These screws were inserted straight. Unfortunately, after two weeks the x-ray showed that the screws had "subsided." That means that the bone is was not strong enough to support the screws and they had beguin to slip. At the appointment two weeks ago the Dr. said that if they stayed where they are then he would be happy and no further surgery would be needed. If, however at our next apointment on November 26th the screws have slipped or the plate has no longer flush against her vertebrae than that will most likely require a new surgery, this time approaching from the back of the spine. This is not preferred for lots of reasons.
This is a model of a bracket and screws similar to what was used for Karen

Please pray that the screws find a nice solid home in the bone and no longer slip. Karen has increased her calcium and D-3 intake to help. We are also trying to get a bone stimulator which apparently helps improve bone strength. Please pray we can get one and that it helps.

Thanks for your prayers!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Sexual Sneeze

What can you say when a young man seems to be struggling over and over with the same sin? On the one hand he hates it and on the other he loves it. So what kind of counsel can you give? The short answer is the answer that we should always turn to: The Gospel. For those of us that have forgotten let me remind you, this means "good news." Good news is not the same as excusing sin but it also does not mean loading a boat load of guilt and shame on the back of a young man or woman already burdened by their sin. Fortunately the Gospel is simple enough to be grasped by a small child but is also vast and deep enough to provide a pool of resources to prevent you from needing to become a broken one dimensional record.

Below is a letter I wrote to a young man struggling with lust and who had fallen once again. My hope in this letter was to remind him of the grace of God as well as the significance of the sin that he continued to turn to using some analogies that I thought might be helpful. I hope you find the letter helpful as well.


I was praying for you this morning and reflecting on the last fall you had. The focus of my prayer was directed at asking God to grant you a growing keenness and awareness of your actions. It’s so easy to allow life to slip by in a thoughtless series of reflexes. Many men go through their whole life doing things and thinking things based solely on the urges they feel in the moment. This way of approaching life could hardly be called making decisions. It is more appropriate for animals than men. And yet men often ignore the responsibility that attends the blessing of being divine image bearers and choose to behave as if our impulses are the standard of acceptable behavior.

As I mentioned previously, this is the modus operandi of childishness. So as I pray for you I pray that this aspect of childishness will be replaced by an acute mindfulness of the motivation and telos of every decision you make. As Paul admonished the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 10:5 “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” This means we are always on our guard, and it also means that we have a healthy suspicion of our own motives because as Jeremiah announces in Chapter 17:9 of his denunciation against rebellious Israel, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

I fully understand why within the course of three fleeting minutes you could turn from Albertus Magnus to masturbation. Your approach to the latter subject has until now lacked the kind of mindfulness that should always be present whenever we approach a subject of power, potency and importance.

But until now, it appears that your approach toward masturbation and probably your sexuality in general is more akin to the character Scotty Smalls in the movie the Sand Lot in the infamous but hilarious “great Bambino scene.”

You can see a clip of that scene here:

But remember how Scotty, needing a ball to play baseball with grabbed the signed baseball from his step-dad’s room and used it to play with not having any clue that it had been signed by Babe Ruth. And of course the ball gets destroyed and hilarity ensues. We laugh and groan at Scotty, but we are

He Bravely Confessed His Sin. This Was My Initial Response.

He bravely confessed his sin. This was my initial response.

I understand the risk you took in being so open and honest. It took quite a bit of courage I know. There is no need to hold your breath regarding my response, if that indeed was what you are feeling. My respect for you has only increased. You are not alone in your battle. Where you stand among the few is in your willingness to both seriously battle your lust as well as to talk about it and ask for help.

Believe it or not I love the fact that you wrote a lot! I tend to write long tomes and appreciate someone else who is willing to afflict me right back! J I also want to be very clear. I do not consider any of the time or effort that I have or will invest in you as a burden. The church is far to full of young men who couldn’t care an iota about Jesus Christ, obedience to him, growing in sanctification, purity, the lost around them, or any of the other things that have eternal value. You will not have a real sense for how encouraging it is for ME to get a message like the one you just sent until you have enough years under your belt to be looking back at the next generation. If some time, prayer, genuine concern, well meant nagging, and annoyingly specific questions can help you thrive in your growth as a man of God then I am perfectly willing to do these things with a happy heart. You get my drift?

I do ask a few things from you in return.
  • Promise to be honest
  • Promise to discerningly help other young men
  • Promise to train your sons so that YOU become their chief source of accountability. In this way your sons will be spared the heartache that you and I experienced due to the abdication of the previous generation regarding these “taboo” subjects.


Isn’t it interesting how in the Church, of all places, where we teach and understand the total depravity of man and the deceitfulness of sin, we feel this dastardly ironic compunction to wear masks and erect facades of sinless perfection? We of all people should be open and honest, right? Not gratuitously, but honestly. Some of us adults think that we can protect our children from lust in all its forms by simply keeping the world out. Even assuming that this is possible, as one Puritan put it,

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why Not Africa?

I often look at my friends doing mission work in interesting and needy places like Africa and ask myself “why would we bother to plant our ministry right here at home?” We are privileged in every comparable way to the suffering peoples who comprise the majority of the world’s population. Why would I want to serve people who often times think their biggest problem is the barista forgetting that they ordered a NON-fat quad grande six pump vanilla one inch steamed breve Americano? But the answer that seems so clear to me and that drives me with passion every day is that this is NOT the biggest problem that we privileged Americans are suffering.

The reality is that our culture has medicated our sin by covering it over by the white noise of our first world problems. This certainly begins with the sins of abdication and rebellion that are so clear once the surface of our privilege is scratched, but my concern deepens and adds urgency to the mission of our ministry when I consider the disaster toward which our culture is so unwittingly racing.

If the church does not arrest this spiral of prodigal rebellion, if we continue to squander the inheritance with which God has blessed us, then we should not pretend that we will continue to have all these lovely first world blessings to help us ignore our growing intimacy with sin.

But even with this harsh criticism still hanging in the air, it is not fear that is my primary motivator. If that was all I had then it would be easier to simply hide rather than to fight. What really gets me out of bed excited each morning is that I see every day the life changing work that God is doing in the lives of men and boys, Fathers and sons. Though most of this would never be sexy enough to find its ways into a made for TV movie, I believe that God is laying the deep and lasting groundwork for a revival that will reform our  culture in a way that eventually WILL be noticed in the history books.

We hope that the stories we’ve included in this blog will give you a strong sense for what God is doing and that you will be inspired to join us in our ministry through prayer and financial support.

If you have been considering becoming a financial partner in our ministry please know that now is the time when we really need your help. Please prayerfully consider supporting our ministry as God has seen fit to bless you.

In Christ,

A very grateful Gregg Family!

A Letter From a Dad

Our program ministries (Tree Climbers, Stockade, Battalion), as well as our summer camp ministry are designed to foster a context of discipleship. Often this provides great opportunity for Dads to engage their sons and to be challenged to respond more consistently to the call that God has placed on their life to walk alongside their sons and to help them grow into godly men.

This is a letter I received after one of our camps this summer. My hope in sharing this is that you will be encouraged and that you will also come to better understand the kind of ministry to which God has called us.

Dear Dave,

Thanks for the great week of camp. It was a great experience for Jason and me. I was reviewing the week with my wife and noticing all the areas of growth opportunities I had written down, both for Jason and myself. A totally worthwhile experience. I was continuously impressed by the focus of the camp, the subject matter of the Bible Ex and the Christian maturity of all the leaders.

Spending the week with you cemented my belief that God has placed you in your position with great wisdom and purpose. You did a fantastic job in engaging all the campers and providing an excellent example of a Christian man. Both Jason and Josh spoke highly of you all the way home.
I'll continue to pray about ways that God can use me and specifically the areas you mentioned.

This week convicted me on areas in my roll as Father to my boys where I need to grow. God resounded two words that came through in nearly every Bible Ex, devotion and memory verse this week.


I've been too passive in allowing misbehavior in my family. That passivity has also trickled down to my mentorship of Jason’s spiritual growth. I've also been convicted about several areas that, while I claim are with selfless motivation, are really selfish areas I need to eliminate. I appreciate your prayers as I work to make these areas reflect God's will for my life.

Your brother in Christ,


Dorito Stains and Other Annoyances

There’s nothing natural about that orange color that they put in Doritos. And it does unnatural things to van upholstery that deserves a warning label. Neon upholstery isn’t the only evidence of another long summer of camping ministry. Our van is abused, filthy, and completely used up by the end of each summer. Garbage, sand, dirt, body odor blending with the smell of salt air, lonely socks, and miscellaneous electronic equipment are lodged like the casualties of war in every conceivable crevice.

Honestly, by the last week of camp I also feel like a casualty of war. Physically, emotionally, spiritually battered. Willing but wasted. It was in this depleted and slightly irritable state, as I drove a handful of weary junior counselors up from our last boy’s camp in southern California, that I had a short and surprising conversation.

A month prior to this moment Bob Nass and I had spent half a week training some pretty green counselors on the details of counseling boys. At that point it seemed to them, as it always does prior to stepping onto the field, that the task ahead would roll from one touchdown to another. Difficult … yes, but smiles the whole way. But a month later the silence of exhaustion was only softly broken by the periodic tapping of phones texting friends and family back home, held in hands attached to bodies sprawled on the bench seats of my van.

I remember driving along with only the hum of rubber pushing at asphalt, the glow of little screens illuminating the interior, and the wave like wash of headlights marking the passing of the miles left until home. This hypnotic silence was suddenly broken by Matt who had until now sat uncharacteristically quiet behind me.

“Is it as frustrating for you to deal with us junior counselors as it is for us to deal with campers?”

Hmmm … that had come out of nowhere. This kind of candid self-reflection deserved an equally candid response. “Yes Matt. It can be difficult … but it’s worth it.” I responded. “I love you guys and because of that I don’t ignore where you are today, but I also don’t focus so much on where you are today as much as where I see you heading. That encouraging prospect gives me the hope that provides joy in the midst of what can sometimes be very frustrating.” That was pretty much the end of the conversation but I could see a thoughtful and satisfied look rest on his face as I glanced in the rear view mirror. I hope he felt as encouraged as I did.

How many young men would have the ability to think so critically about themselves? There was so much good packed into that simple question. And it points out not only the caliber of young men that we have each summer serving as counselors at camp, but also reveals the major thrust of our camps. For sure our camps are about the campers who attend, but an enormous goal of our ministry is to pour into the lives of the junior counselors. Just consider the exciting opportunity that represents: a month of 24/7 training and discipleship through living and serving together.

The fruit we see each summer in the lives of our counselors is certainly worth a van defaced by months of ministry, and even a body wearied by the task.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Content With A Broken Neck

Seven years ago Karen was in the middle of body-abusing radiation treatments for brain cancer that had been discovered a few weeks before when I'd come home to find my wife unconscious on the floor. Those moments of fear and confusion seven years ago waiting for the ambulance, the pallor of death, the unconscious fear and confusion animating her face ... that picture forced it's way onto the mantelpiece of my consciousness like an unwelcome memorial where it will sit for the rest of my life.I have been spared familiarity with death, but I have not been spared familiarity with the look of a body in shock, desperately trying to gather its fading resources to to stave off that dark enemy.

The morning prior to that collapse seven years ago she'd woken with a headache and nausea and had been resting all day. Loathe to spend an entire day unproductive in bed She'd come into the living room to rest where life was still buzzing around her. I found her laying there on the floor after rushing home from errands with the most important goal on my mind at that time being to get Josh to his soccer practice. When I saw her unresponsive on the floor my priorities, and in fact my life, found a whole new order.

It was seven years ago this past Tuesday that our life was forced out of its comfortable unbroken tedium. This past Tuesday had the same cadence to it. Karen hadn't been feeling that well; a passing bug that had already inconvenienced many of our friends. An upset stomach had tried and done a pretty decent job of keeping her in bed much of the day. It was around 9:30pm and the girls were already in bed and asleep. Josh and I were sitting on the couch watching a video on dog training, an activity that indicates just how far from our minds was another life changing moment. Karen slowly walked down stairs having had as much as she could take of the prone position. A normal person in her weakened condition probably would have ambled over to the couch to rest. But if Karen is not asleep then she is doing something productive. So she made her way to the kitchen. I looked over and noticed her apparently unloading the dish washer. My attention turned back to the video and my hopes of a well trained fox terrier.

That was the last moment of comfortable normalcy we will experience for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Father/Son Team Day 2013 Memory Verse

For you go-getters, planners, and competitive types, here is this years memory verse for the Father/Son Team day. The memory verse is highly weighted not to mention the most important activity you can do with your son.

1 Peter 1:13-19   13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
The verse above is in the English Standard Version. You are free to learn it in any translation you prefer but please bring a copy of that version for use in judging the competition.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Who gets to take credit?

And herein lies the tension. God calls us to act, but not in our strength.
I struggle in knowing how to counsel people in their fight with sin. I don't want those I counsel to think, as is so often so easy, that if they just work a little harder the sin will simply sluff off like a case of dandruff. I also don't want those I counsel to think that the process of sanctification is a couch potato miracle that is really only a fat example of spiritual laziness. But how do we avoid the fall into either tempting counterfeit? i don't yet have an answer I feel brings it all together and so I often solicit thoughts from the fathers and young men who I have the privilege of coming to know well over time. The following short exchange is one such exchange on Facebook. This young man has been fighting to overcome a sin that had for years enslaved him but over which God has now granted a great deal of freedom. So I wanted to get his thoughts on how he approaches the fight without doing so in his own strength. I found his answer helpful and I hope you will as well.
Me: "I am glad that things are going so well! I'm curious on two things you mention above. The first is probably one of the biggest questions I have as I think through the actual process of sanctification and especially as I come alongside young men who are dealing with besetting purity issues. The fact is that we are not puppets at the end of cosmic strings. We are volitional creatures, free agents who must exercise our freedom (though not a libertarian freedom in the philosophical sense). However, you and I both know that God never blesses us when we try to find victory in our own strength. And herein lies the tension. God calls us to act, but not in our strength. So I am seeking to understand this tension better over time at least in terms of how to counsel myself and others as we seek to be faithful people but not in our own strength. So in the past when you've gotten too confident and had not been trusting God, would it be possible to explain what the lack of trust looked like and what you believe the more appropriate response now looks like? I figure over time with help from guys like you I might be able to be more helpful in aiding guys to understand more concretely what that looks like even if we never really understand how to bring the two together completely."
My Young Friend: "I feel that when I begin trusting myself it begins to manifest itself in my thought life. When I'm tempted I'll say things like "no, I'm not going to do that." Instead of calling on The Lord for help. I will mentally muscle through. Also, I think that it happens when a complacency sets in. I'm not spending the time in prayer or the word that I need to be. When that happens, it is usually only a matter of time before I fall."

I noticed one thing that jumped out at me from his response to my question. The actions that he takes that produce the faithful response he seeks are acts that communicate weakness. Turning to God in confession, the very act of prayer itself, fleeing into the strong tower of God's word, they are all confessions of weakness and need even if the words themselves are never spoken. This may not be a great answer to the philosophical tension that nags at me but I think I'm OK living with that tension.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Robin and Miley Really Showed Us

Discipleship should not wait until our culture shocks us into action.
It seems really naive for Christians to be so shocked at the recent performance of Robin Thicke and Miley Syrus. Seriously? You're surprised? I can think of a lot of appropriate responses to this situation, but instead I get the sense that in typical fashion parents are frantically scrambling around grasping for ways to explain what just happened.

That spectacle was simply the consistent expression of a culture that has for the past couple generations been progressively disconnecting itself from any of the biblical moorings that kept the storm of relativism from sweeping us out to die at sea. That performance was simply the death throw of a culture that has given itself over to the god of self. Responding in shock only makes us look like we haven't been paying attention.

But wait ... maybe that's the problem. Maybe we haven't been paying attention. At least not in the ways that count. If our kids somehow got a glimpse of that show and weren't automatically appalled, then we have not talked with our kids enough or about the things that matter. 

Discipleship should not wait until our culture shocks us into action. Christians are guilty of waiting until our hand is forced by the cultural influences around us, but by that time it is basically too late.

What is needed are parents who see every moment as an opportunity to disciple their children. From the baby seat, to the driver seat, and beyond. A culture of discipleship in the home that so saturates life that they are savvy enough to know the ugliness they can expect at the Video Music Awards and thus simply avoid them. And when the ugliness of a godless culture lands square in front of them, they have seen so much beauty placed before them that they are repulsed, though not surprised that this is what a fallen world is producing and placing before us as art.

We should be producing girls who have been taught  in word and by example that they are special, their bodies are special, and that they are not objects to be consumed. And young men who we have intentionally taught to recognize the counterfeit of pornography and who view women not as objects to be consumed but rather as image bearers of God to be honored.

If any good can come from the shocking display the other night let it be a shedding of the lethargy that so often constitutes the bulk of modern parental discipleship. If you are not still talking to your children about this subject next week and all the weeks that follow then for all your shock you are still only a part of the problem.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What is "Normal" Anyway?

Sophia on her way to the top of Yosemite Falls on our family trip
You may wonder why we sacrifice 8 weeks of normalcy on the altar of camp ministry each summer.
It's a good question. Karen and I really only get a day together between camps and those days are crowded with up to 10 sweaty teenage guys. "Down time" is filled with preparation for the next trip, paying bills, and trying to get urgent chores completed around the house, shopping, cooking, and repairing equipment.

But when Karen and I see the eternal impact that these relatively small sacrifices produce the sacrifices don't seem all that sacrificial any longer. How could we grumble against what God so clearly uses to change so many lives ... including our own.

Plus, I spent 4 weeks climbing, paddling, surfing and serving with Josh. I got a week white water canoeing with Hannah, spent some sweet time at Father/Daughter camp with Sophia, and saw all of the Gregg gals serve with Christ-likeness at Base-Camp.

With all of that said, I am thankful for a wife who never once bemoans the life to which God has called us, and who sends me notes of encouragement instead of complaints. I have a wife to whom I long to return!