Friday, September 28, 2012

Could You Spell That Again?

I don't know if you ever have trouble reading through the entire Bible. Sure, you might like the extreme action, but perhaps you struggle to read the more flowery parts. I wish I knew how to help you because I love the entire Bible, even the boring parts.

But there is benefit to reading every word, even the hard-to-pronounce names. You shouldn't skip these parts, even as a pastor. I would certainly never recommend a pastor changing his text simply to avoid Old Testament names. Again, I don't know anyone who would do that...

If you wander by Isaiah, at times both flowery and confusing (double win!), you can find this interesting story.

Then the Lord said to me, “Make a large signboard and clearly write this name on it: Maher-shalal-hash-baz.”  I asked Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah, both known as honest men, to witness my doing this.
Then I slept with my wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said, “Call him Maher-shalal-hash-baz. For before this child is old enough to say ‘Papa’ or ‘Mama,’ the king of Assyria will carry away both the abundance of Damascus and the riches of Samaria.” ~Isaiah 8:1-4

Okay, first of all, I would need God's help even spelling that name. How many h's God? 

Secondly, how many prophet's kids are named by points God wants to make to the Israelites? Hey, remember that time that Assyria came and plundered the land? Yeah, I was named after that. 

I try to imagine how little Hash-baz, as I like to call him, dealt with that name. Because he's a prophet's kid and trying to please, you just know this kid was the type who would not accept being called a nickname. No Maher or M-dizzle for this kid. He'd want to be called by his full name. It reminds me of a story of a kid named Ricky-Ticky-Tembo and his friend named Chang. 

You can read more about the story by Arlene Mosel if you like to read long names. To make a long story short, it doesn't end well for the Tembo-meister. So what can we learn from all of this?

  • Never skip parts of the Bible, because ridiculousness can be found in every corner.
  • If you're going to follow God, be prepared for Him to care about the details. 
  • Be okay with nicknames. Shalal-tweezy just may take off. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo! September 27, 2012

Nick Vujicic is unstoppable. Never heard of him? You should check him out. You can do so by giving this video a view.

Nick has written another book, aptly named Unstoppable. You can check out more here -

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Erasing Hell

Let's forget about all the hoopla with Rob Bell and Love Wins. After all, that was so 2011. Let's forget about everything you might wish were true about the afterlife. We should finally admit that maybe God knows what He's doing. Let's just look at this one book...just this once.

Erasing Hell, by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle, is a good book to begin with when discussing the topic of Hell. You should probably also forget that this book came out about 15 minutes after Rob Bell wrote his. It's not that Francis and Preston ignore Rob's work. They do reference it, but I could imagine Erasing Hell being a textbook on Hell within 5 years, or whenever people begin to forget about what caused it to be written.

The authors do an organized job at looking at the Biblical references to Hell, including everything Jesus, Paul and Peter said. They go section by section and verse by verse. They discuss what the original authors had in mind and why it makes sense.

Nobody who loves people enjoys thinking about these matters, but that is the point. In fact, that is exactly what they write:

Yet that's the whole point - we shouldn't just go on with life as usual. A sense of urgency over the reality of hell should recharge our passion for the gospel as it did for Paul, who, "knowing the fear of the Lord," persuaded people to believe (2 Cor. 5:11). We should not just try to cope with hell, but be compelled - as with all doctrine - to live differently in light of it. 

You may have other ideas about Hell. You may certainly wish it were different. But until you have looked at the teaching, in the context as it was written, it is really difficult to have an intelligent opinion about what's going on. I highly recommend this book. Give it a read, then decide.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Balancing Ignorance with Intelligence as a Parent

To hear my elementary aged children talk about it, the public school they go to is a mix of Lord of the Flies and Fight Club. They come home with wild tales of recess times gone very, very bad. There are stories of children who have been there so long they have to shave after lunch to keep from scaring the kindergartners. There are even legends of ghost children who died on the playground years ago and now only come out on the anniversary of their death, in an attempt to cross over...the monkey bars.

Okay, maybe all of these stories don't exist, but I have had my daughter, on more than one occasion, tell me that if I had any idea what goes on at school during the day...and then she trails off. So I ask her what would happen if I knew. She tells me I would opt to home school them or send them to a private school.

I scoff. Then I ask for an example.

The latest story is about a friend who uses bad language. Since my wife and I have raised the bar on what is acceptable language in our home, I wonder if the words in question are actually bad words, or if they are put-downs that we have outlawed. It's not that I'd be okay with the latter, but it might save some drama.

I'm told the word in question is another word for 'poopy'. My son, who must think I not only work at a church, but was born there and raised there by priests and nuns, proceeds to whisper the actual word to me. I tell him that I am well aware of the bad word in question.

But this tells me a few things about parenting.
Project Parent 365 - Day 1: The Hands

First, it tells me that perhaps our children are feeling the struggle between two worlds. There is the world they have at home, where we have family devotions and discuss love and attend church events. Then there is the world they experience at public school, where not every child comes from a loving home. It's a reality that every Christian lives in. We're citizens of another world, yet we live in this one.

As parents we have to teach our children how to be good examples and stand strong in the face of such pressures.

Secondly, I believe, as parents, we have to take time to ask the follow up questions. Gone are the preschool days when we can tell our children to simply play nice. We have to be aware of what they are dealing with and give them tools to better deal with the realities of life.

Lastly (for today), I know we have to be open and honest with what our children are dealing with. If we close our eyes and stick our heads in the sand, we'll have our children teaching us about the world, instead of the other way around. There is an age appropriateness to this last one, but it involves taking the time to ask the follow up questions and have thorough conversations.

Sometimes we will deal with 'poopy' situations, but parents have been dealing with stuff like that since they day they brought their little bundle of joy home.

Friday, September 21, 2012

This is How Salvation Works (Sort Of)

Germs on a Keyboard! 
I used this analogy with my youth a week or so ago. I doubt I'm the first to think of this analogy, but my family was doing some thorough cleaning and it struck me how futile it was. The kids are just going to dirty it up again.

Germs are funny things. Once they are out there, they continue to multiply and spread and are seemingly everywhere. And once they’re out there, they are seemingly impossible to get rid of. Which is why all the cleaning bottles tell us they get rid of 99.99% of germs. But .01% remain. And you know what that .01% will do? They will multiply and spread!

I want you to imagine that you could be in a perfectly clean room. It’s spotless, not even .01% of germs live in here. If you’re a germaphobe, this is your paradise. This is the one room where you can relax and know that all is right in the world. If you were ever a fan of the TV show Monk, then you remember his obsession with cleanliness.

But let’s say you leave the room, even just for a minute. When you return to this room, you know what you bring with you? Germs! Good luck getting it clean again, since all the cleaners only kill 99.99% of germs. Many attempts could be made to make the room clean again, but at the rate that germs reproduce it would not be possible. The solution would be to create a new clean room.

No analogy is perfect, but this is what God did in Jesus Christ. The sacrificial system was not working and so God made a New Covenant. I don't want you to assume God is a giant germaphobe with a bottle of spray cleaner in hand, but He does desire us to be clean. He uses to word holy.

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— ~Colossians 1:22

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo!... September 20, 2012

Whenever I even see the word 'assumption' or any of its derivatives, I always think of the popular saying that includes a......naughty word. I don't use them.

And I try not to use assumptions either. But the problem comes when I, without meaning to, actually do make assumptions about others.

Pete Wilson, Pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, makes a great point about what assumptions can lead to.

I say Woo!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

As For Me and My Crazy House

Brian Berry has written a good book here. There were moments when I wondered if he had cameras in my home. Because if there is a crazy house, it's the one I live in.

As For Me and My Crazy House is written by a youth pastor for youth pastors. The subtitle says it all; Learning to protect your heart, marriage, and family from the demands of youth ministry.

While many of the thoughts are geared towards those in youth ministry, the elements discussed in this book could be easily applied to any profession. Brian divides the book into 3 sections.

The Best Gift I Can Give My Marriage is a Healthy Self
The Best Gift I Can Give My Family is a Healthy Marriage
The Best Gift I Can Give My Community and Ministry is a Healthy Family

These divisions may seem to make sense, although many people don't actually practice their lives in this way. But Brian is far from predictable. I'll allow you to read the details, but he never seems afraid to disagree with current themes and buzzwords.

Brian becomes very passionate at points and with good reason. We have one opportunity with our ministry, our family, our marriage and our self. We need to get it right and I think Brian Berry gets it right.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How to Win and Lose a Job in One Interview

I haven't had to do a job interview for over a decade now. That's a good feeling. On the other hand, the interview I had is not one I have been allowed to forget. That can be a good thing, or a very bad thing.
Day 97: Having Anxiety for Tomorrow

People remember what you say in your interview. Many people don't think about that when they arrive. I was in a season of interviews, looking for what would eventually become my second stop in my youth ministry career. I had already had plenty of hit-and-miss interviews, mostly of the variety when you both realize from the interview this won't be a right fit. 

I was eager to make a good impression before the hiring team which consisted of several board members, a few youth ministry volunteers, some teen parents and even a couple of teens. I remember talking about my value of relationships being a foundational aspect of any ministry. No cameras were rolling and the secret recordings have been since been destroyed. All that to say direct quotes have been lost to memory.

But two questions have remained seared to the memory. One was light-hearted and referred to my enjoyment of playing tennis. One board member was intrigued and still wonders why we haven't played in 10+ years. Don't tell him, but it's me protecting my won-loss record against people who are better than me. I have found that my record looks better when I don't play.

The other question was more ministry related. The question and answer aren't important to this post, but just know that I made a commitment that I have not forgotten, as I continue to this day, to uphold. I have, and the ministry leader continues to be glad I do.

I'd like to think it was my smooth answers and great charisma that landed me the job. If the truth is to be told, however, it is probably due to my beautiful wife and the cute 9-month old girl I took with me to the interview. I never said I was above utilizing my greater attributes.

The point is that you better deliver on who you say you are. My second stop has not ended yet, at least in part because I keep in mind the promises I made at my interview.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Watching Television Is Not About You

Why can't I watch it, daddy?
~Because I find it annoying.

If I were submitting entries for Best-Responses-By-a-Parent, I might leave this one out, but it is definitely an answer I have given frequently. You can think little of me if you so desire. It's not like I have never watched my children's favorite programs that left me wanting to gouge out my eyes.
η τηλεόραση : television by Hana Kirana
For instance, I can tell you more than I wish I knew about Blue's Clues, The Wiggles and My Little Pony. I have heard classical music on Little Einsteins and seen Tootles rescue Mickey Mouse more than I care to admit. But as my kids get older, their interests are turning to shows reminiscent of Saved By the Bell, but without the acting talent.

It's the sort of TV that makes my wife question her career choice, since she could indeed write this stuff. That is, if she wanted to annoy people. It's half hour shows filled with plot lines so far beyond predictable that even the laugh tracks begin to groan.

But maybe, just maybe, some of the writers stole an idea from the old book of Esther. Now please keep in mind that I actually enjoy the story of Esther. A pretty girl, a brave choice and a bad guy to dislike. It's a good story. But if you are the aforementioned bad guy in this story, you almost have to see your end coming. Unless, of course, you've never seen Saved By the Bell.

Haman, the bad guy, is set up as a classic foil. Just as he's planning to hurt Mordecai (a guy who saved the king), the king is being reminded of how Mordecai was never rewarded for saving his life. A chance meeting with the king and Haman finds the king asking what should be done for the king's favorite guy. Haman assumes it's himself. (Prepare the laugh track.)

Haman gives a great idea for something he'd like to rewarded with, only to find himself giving that reward to Mordecai. The punishment set up for Mordecai, instead, ends up going to Haman. Talk about your lose-lose situation.

I suppose the best lesson for Haman is to never ever assume the story is about you. It doesn't end well.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Why I Don't Know 7 Billion People

I read an article from a blogger who didn't know Tobymac. If you just said who, stop reading my blog. No, really. (Unless you meant to ask who the blogger is...then you may continue reading.)

I've known Tobymac since the first DCTalk album, more than 20 years ago. And quite frankly, I am still optimistic for a DCTalk reunion. It's one of only a few acceptable reasons I have to wet myself in public. And yes, I purposely went old school for a picture of my fave band.

Needless to say, I was shocked to hear of someone who didn't know him, because Tobymac has dominated  the subculture of which I am a part.

But why should we be surprised? There are 7 billion people on earth.

We can't all possibly know everybody. What does this say about significance? Even the most famous are not known the world over. And even the super-famous only last for a time. I'm pretty certain Solomon covered this in his cheery book Ecclesiastes. He got it, so should we. Fame, like beauty, is fleeting.

I was talking with teens a few weeks ago, when i mentioned Billy Graham. Their response was 'Who?'


Then I mentioned Mother Teresa. More blank stares. You gotta be kidding me.

If a couple of household names from even just 10 years ago are so quickly forgotten, I suppose it's too much to assume my 15 minutes, if it comes, will be more than just a minor blip in a tiny corner of this world.

I don't know 7 billion people and they don't know me. I'm okay with that. I'm still searching for insignificance.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo!... September 13, 2012

I have a couple of woo's to give today. The first, and more important, is to the lady I woo'ed long ago. It's my lovely wife's birthday tomorrow and I just wanted all my fan to know. That is fan in the singular (I know you're out there.) It is also my oldest daughter's birthday. She'll be turning 11. I won't give my wife's age, but just be assured that she is older than my daughter. I say that only to quell the rumors that can run rampant.

Compared to the birthdays, my second woo will have to be content with second place. Yet, while it won't garner the celebration that my wife and daughter's special day will, this link is worth a look.

Scott Linscott writes a blog chronicling his journey through a liver transplant. He gives great thoughts while dealing with stuff that would make me curl into the fetal position and just tune the world out. Not only does he share his highs and lows, but he even shares opportunities to be there for someone else. This is a good reminder for us all.

Woo! Woo!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


If I had typed my original feelings of this book, you know, after reading 3 paragraphs, I would have told you how much I did not like it. After all, every book review cannot be cheery. I would have been ok with letting you know I read a book I didn't like.

Alas, I read the whole book...and liked it.

Claire and Eli have written a book titled Altared: The True Story of a She, a He, and How They Both Got Too Worked Up About We. Claire and Eli who? I'll get to that.

What these authors want us to know is that we, especially in American culture, are way too consumed with being marriage-happy an not concerned enough with loving our neighbor. At first glance, I was afraid this was a false dichotomy. Claire and Eli share their somewhat dysfunctional dating relationship. I wondered if they should throw other daters under the bus just because they struggled.

But in reality, what they write about is discipleship. And they proudly stand on the shoulders of giants and quote great writers extensively throughout the book. They come hard and don't stop until the reader is convinced that we have often softened discipleship and our focus has been askew. And by we I mean Christians, Church Leaders....everybody!

I would recommend this book because it will challenge you. But the big thing I still disliked by the end of the book was the mystery of the authors. Claire and Eli are pseudonyms. They attempt to explain that the reason is to keep the focus off of their relationship story, but for me, it feels a bit like hiding. They wrote a lot of great truth into this book. Don't be afraid to let your story stand.

Here's some link-love for them and this book.

My good friends at Waterbrook Multnomah gave me this book for free for the purpose of review. My review was not coerced in any way. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Making Your Heart Melt...and Maybe Your Face

File this one under: I don't know where she gets some of this stuff, but she's just so darn cute and you just know my wife already posted this on Facebook. (Yeah, my files are very specific.)

Out of nowhere my 6-year old told my wife (age undisclosed) that she, in fact, loved her more than ice cream. From the heart of a 6-year old, that's pretty big. I don't know if her Sunday School teacher has been talking about loving people more than things, but that sounds like right priorities to me.
Melting Ice Cream Cone Cake
Perhaps thinking I might feel slighted, the next day she told me she would let her ice cream melt if I needed her. Which is funny, because if my kids called me for help, my answer might be, 'Can it wait until I finish my ice cream?'

My hope in telling you all of this is simple. I hope you'll assume it was some amazing conversation that I had with my 6-year old that caused her to discover Christ-like love such as this. I kind of also hope you'll re-post this and drive traffic to my blog and cute stories of my children.

But mostly, I hope you'll consider making this your life mission statement to fill the void that's been there.

"Loving people enough to let your ice cream melt. And perhaps your heart as well."

Monday, September 10, 2012

God First, Man Second: Purpose Statements

I met with a college group I help lead last night and we discussed what has widely been held as the purpose statement of the Bible. It's found in Paul's second letter to Timothy.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. ~2 Timothy 3:16-17, New Living Translation

The question I asked them was how good a purpose statement is when it comes from the Book attempting to tell us what it's about. Admittedly, every book does that and usually un-apologetically so. A phone book's purpose is all about giving us information, specifically phone numbers and addresses. 

No one argues if the phone book delivers what it says it will deliver, despite the fact that numbers are often wrong. But because the Bible speaks about things miraculous, it is often questioned and maligned. But this never seems to bother the Bible. Or its Author...

And this is yet another thing that differentiates Creator from creation. Whereas we do not like to be questioned and attacks can cause us to waver, God stands strong in purpose and mission. God does not worry about our questions or doubts. Our wants to change Him actually change nothing. 

So when God inspired Paul to encourage Tim, He knew what He was doing. Whether God meant for this verse to serve as a purpose statement for the entire Bible can be debated, but God stands behind His Word. Yet another reason that He comes first and we merely follow.

Thank God!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Spoiler Alert Rules

A while ago I ranted about how people should be flogged for ruining the ends of movies or books before others have had an opportunity to watch or read. In this case it was a spoiler alert that ruined a book ending for me, while the series was still fairly new.

Porsche GT3 RS - Rear

I did admit that when someone comes up with rules for how spoiler alerts works, there should also be a statute of limitations on this kind of thing. With that in mind, I have come up with a list of spoilers that no one can get angry about.

And in case you're looking for the expected pastoral twist where I spoil the end of this world and tell you that Jesus wins and evil will be punished... I'm going to tell you right now that I won't do that. That's right, a spoiler within a post about spoilers. Consider your mind blown.

So, get angry if you want, but consider yourself warned. What follows will spoil your day if you have, in fact, lived under a rock for the last 50 years.
  1. The Titanic...yeah, it sinks.
  2. J.R. Ewing wasn't actually dead for an entire season of Dallas
  3. Rocky wins the fights
  4. Marty McFly does get back to 1985....3 times!
  5. Bruce Willis is dead the entire time in The Sixth Sense. The boy actually sees dead people!
  6. Darth Vader...I don't know how to break the news, but he's actually Luke Skywalker's father.
What would you add to this list?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo...September 6, 2012

One of my favorite scenes from Seinfeld is when Kramer is lost in downtown New York and calls Jerry to come and get him. When Jerry asks Kramer where he is, Kramer looks at the street signs and tells him to come to the corner of First and First.

As only Kramer can do, he steps back and exclaims, 'I'm at the nexus of the universe!'

I thought of that when I realized I would be pointing you to a blog post of someone else pointing you to links all over. Tyler Stanton has a weekly 6, where random seems to be the only rule. He calls himself the world's most trivial man, which is a concept I can get behind.

To be honest, I'm mostly sending you here so you can check out the video by The Flight of the Conchords. What they do in this video is nothing short of genius.

So go check out Tyler Stanton, be amused, and tell his followers to come back over here. They, of course, will get caught going back and forth, causing some sort of never ending black hole to form. But that's probably just a worst case scenario.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Keep Going!

Statue of Elijah
2 Kings 13 has an interesting story. The prophet Elisha is on his deathbed. The king of Israel, Jehoash, comes to cry. But much like every focused follower of God, Elisha isn't actually done...yet. 

Elisha told him, “Get a bow and some arrows.” And the king did as he was told. Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow,” and Elisha laid his own hands on the king’s hands.
Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, “This is the Lord’s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.”
Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.”
Then Elisha died and was buried. ~2 Kings 13:15-20

Jehoash probably wasn't expecting that. He didn't know he'd be getting schooled in life as Elisha was preparing for death. But let's try to learn the lesson before we think about death. 

Elisha got angry because of the lack of passion Jehoash showed. Maybe Elisha was quick to be angry because of his circumstance, but I imagine it's more than that. Here he was, working until the very end, so the least the king could do was show some passion. When a prophet spoke, it was on behalf of God. So you could say that God told the king to bang the arrows on the ground. 

If God tells you to do something, then let's act like we believe God has given us a mission, a calling, a job and the strength to complete it. You may get tired, but who said God ever got tired. 

I recently shared my rules regarding youth ministry, but the same applies to all of us. I have thought about trying something else. I have thought about silencing my writing, my preaching. I have considered that there are enough others that maybe my voice, like banging arrows on the ground, isn't all that necessary. 

I can't stop. I am compelled. So are you. 

Keep going!