Wednesday, October 31, 2012

God First...Even When We Deviate

This week I deviated from my routine blogging schedule. Comment if you noticed. I did so because Bryan Allain gave me a book and asked that I post on a particular day. I'm sort of rules oriented, so I obliged.

After all, the book was about building a tribe. In my case, the tribe consists of you, my readers. Many of the points in the book caused me to think about the purpose of my blog. After all, I'm trying to build it, but why?

This train of thought has twists and turns, but it caused me to ask what I'm doing here. What do I want to give my community? What do I want in return?

Some of these answers are simple, but some are not. The simple truth is my blogging is a creative outlet of my ideas. But my ideas are born out of my relationships. The most important of those relationships is with my Savior and Friend, Jesus. I understand that may limit my community, but perhaps that is part of the inherent danger of my message.

Among the many random things I discuss, a central truth I keep returning to is the idea that our significance is only significant when connected to God. God comes first. Always.

I will continue to explore this topic. I hope you will continue to explore and spread this message with me.

But no matter if we find each other at the beginning of the week or somewhere in the middle, keep in mind I'm trying to keep God first.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Signs


This is what we think we say.

This is what others often hear.
 Do Not Enter Sign Clip Art
  
It is quite ironic when we bemoan the declining number of people in church while at the same time not making it any easier for them to join us.

Even with our best intentions, sometimes the sign people see is this one.
 


There is no lack of people holding up this sign.


Perhaps we forget too easily there is only one sign we should be showing. It can be called antiquated and irrelevant, but it’s the solution we found. And it’s the only solution that’s ever been given.

Jesus is still the Way, the Truth and the Life.
 Cross

Monday, October 29, 2012

Community Wins



Certain books cause me to rethink what I'm doing blogging. Oftentimes, it's the books that force me to think about purpose and goals in connection with my blog.

That's what Bryan Allain has done to me this past week as I read Community Wins: 21 Thoughts on Building a Thriving Online Tribe. He's also the author of 21 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo. I read that one as well and it gives good insight. But Community Wins goes further by bring practical action steps for creators of all sorts of tribes.

In fact, this book would be more aptly called a workbook. Because that is what it is. Bryan tackles everything from understanding your purpose and defining your goals to networking online and offline. That does still happen, ya know.

Each short chapter comes with an exercise. Trust me, if you want the book to make a difference, do the exercises. Otherwise you'll be left seeing other people create while following these very do-able steps.

Here's the best news. You can get this book for free on Amazon starting tomorrow until the end of the week.   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009VIKF4S/


Friday, October 26, 2012

What We Do For Money

In my more sane moments, I do have to go back and questions what I was thinking. Actually, that's something I have to do a lot. But at the time, we needed the money.

And so did those teens I was working with. It seems so long ago now, but the danger seemed real enough then. And please realize that I was not alone in the absurdity of my thinking.

I take you back to a country church where I used to serve. Car washes would have been a waste of time for this youth group, because most people in the country liked a little dirt on their trucks. But have a fundraising contest to see who would have to kiss a pig and now you've piqued their curiosity.

Myself, another associate and a lay member all laid our lips on the line. The premise was that each of us would have a jar. Whichever jar had the most money, that owner would have to kiss a pig. A time limit of two months was set and cash was flying.

The associate pastor seemed okay with the possibility that he might have to pucker up for a pig. But he hadn't had any dates in a while, so a kiss is a kiss. The lay member was a country boy who seemed perhaps a bit too willing to be in the contest. That left me, a somewhat loud city boy who feared he would become the favored target.

The morning of the great unveiling, I drove into the parking lot to find the biggest pig I have ever seen. My wife started to worry that the money she had put in my jar might lead to my having some severe neck and facial wounds.

Speaking that morning, I attempted charm and wit to dissuade any last givers from putting me over the top, but my fate was sealed. As it turned out, one man decided all three of us should win. Oh happy day!

All is well that ends well. The youth group raised over $800 and the large, angry, snarling pig had a piglet for each of us to kiss. And since I love bacon, the kiss wasn't the worst I've ever had. I just hope the piglet can say the same.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo! October 25, 2012

As if I needed more to read, sometimes catching up on my blog roll means discovering new gems to follow. In honor of that, I am highlighting a blog which led me to another blog. Yeah, I know, this just got all Matrix vs Inception on everyone.

Here's the blog I already read. It's a wonderful mix of technology and theology.

Here's the new one I enjoy. This is just pure comic relief. And it has my 9-year old son's stamp of approval.

Woo!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens


Is there a way to decline an offer to review a Bible without saying that you hate baby Jesus? I couldn't think of one, so when my friends at Salem Publishing/YouthWorker Journal offered, I accepted.

The Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens is just that. Rock. Solid.

The scriptures are there, in all of their NIV glory. But on top of that, there are plenty of features. Each book has an introduction, the back is filled with maps and there are lots of sidebar features. Principles and thoughts, examples and applications, this Bible has something for everyone.

And for the teen who doesn't know where to begin, there are various reading plans. If you were trying to create a study Bible that removes all the excuses before teens even use them, then this one is a great fit.

If you want a starting place to find this for your teens, check out this link.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good Looking People?

I ask the question because it directly concerns me. After all, if I wasn't cursed with such rugged good looks, then maybe I wouldn't need the answer so badly. Of course, because I care for all of God's people, I'd still want to know.

So why do bad things happen to good looking people? We may never truly know, but more people seem to take looks out of the equation and ask why bad things happen to good people. As one of my leaders discussed this with the teens on Sunday night admitted, perhaps we should shorten the question to; why do bad things happen?

After all, Jesus told us that no is good but God alone and Paul affirmed many times that all of us are sinful. So to define a good person is to ask an entirely different question. But bad things? Well, that can be explained by sin, the world-wide disease for which there is only One cure.

Delightfully tucked away in the prophets, though, is a great reason that God has given us to ease our wondering.

The righteous perish,
and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil.
Those who walk uprightly
enter into peace;
they find rest as they lie in death. ~Isaiah 57:1-2

Sure, we talk about how loved ones are in a better place, but let's face it. It's not just where they are, but where they aren't. A quick glance at Twitter or Facebook will tell you there is plenty of drama here that would best be left behind.

Of course, this may not answer the meaning behind those who suffer and still remain here. I suppose for that we have to go back and be content that bad things happen because there's sin in the world. But buck up, little campers, Jesus has brought the cure!

That really should be enough, whether or not you have devastatingly good looks like me or not.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Maybe They Don't Want Your Help

Warning: The following story took place long ago. I wouldn't tell a story like about our current church friends. That is, not without changing the names and some details to make it barely recognizable. 

But the story is true.

It's not like my wife to tell people how to live their lives. Unless, of course, she's married to them. For that lucky guy, it's a daily update of what he can do better. But long ago, while living in a very rural area and with us serving at a country church, she took a stab at being helpful.

It started out with a country ride home. Between our home and the church we would pass several of the homes of people in our church. And since good ol' Ed is probably not trolling around the world wide web, we'll go ahead and use his real name.

As I drove over the winding road, she would glance here and there. That was when she saw what she has never been able to un-see. It seems Ed would unwind by walking around his house in nothing but his tightey whiteys.

So the next time we were all at church together, my wife informed Ed just how visible he was at home. And that's when Ed informed my wife just how comfortable he was in his home. "If people don't want to see it, they shouldn't look in his window." It was reminiscent of when Kramer (of Seinfeld frame) reversed the peephole on his apartment door and declared, "Jerry, we're comfortable with ourselves. If people want to look in, we say enjoy the show."

To this day, my wife has never commented about underwear to another guy. So, what can we learn from this story?


  • When driving down country roads, it's best to just face forward.
  • Some farmers wear classic underwear, in classic colors and styles.
  • When offering help, realize that maybe people don't want help. 



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo! October 18, 2012

This could have also been labeled my 'duh' moment for the week. I often get caught up in looking for resources to add the snap, crackle and pop to my teaching times.

Then I see a great verse or Bible story that reminds just how awesome God is, all by Himself. This is why Adam McClane should be given a 'Woo!' for reminding youth workers of this truth.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

50 Cent

Two quarters! That wouldn't have made this adventure anymore fun, but it would have helped.

I was having an exciting night out on the town, which is to say, I was picking up some milk from a grocery store. After jamming to the tunes blasting through the grocery store speakers, I danced my way out to the parking lot, only to find a flattening tire. On my vehicle.

The gas station with air for sale was right next door. So over I went. But then I dug around and discovered I only had 1 quarter. I needed 3. Nevermind my opinion on how much 'air' should cost, now I had a problem. Assuming I could purchase something from the gas station and get quarters for change, I walked over. After all, shouldn't a candy bar be just right for someone who had a flat tire.

I explained my situation to the attendant and he explained how they don't give money. But I must have looked sad, because then he handed me 2 quarters. I assured him I would pay him back. He nodded with all the assurance of someone who could probably feed his family if good intentions were 3-course meals. I guess that's why they say to always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.

I filled my tire and and went for some quarters to repay the man, at the same time hoping to restore his hope in humanity, his courage to do the right thing and his mentality that mankind might have a chance after all.

Yeah, I know. It was just 50 cents.

I returned with the money only to find a different gas station attendant. A different attendant. Now how was I going to restore faith in humanity? How would the original attendant ever know I brought the quarters back? Should I leave a note?

Then my words to my children came back to me. We do the right thing for the right reason. That really should be enough.

And it really should be.

Monday, October 15, 2012

God First, God Only

"In the beginning God..."

I enjoy seeking out the many scriptures that point out our second-to-God place in life. It's something I believe we should not only be okay with, but one we should cherish. But in the primary spot of all things sequential, we come across Genesis 1:1.

I was reminded of this verse as I discussed Creation Science and Evolution with my teens. We discussed dinosaurs, Darwin and those pesky little details like facts that science requires. All in all, it was a good time.

But beyond all the he said/she said of the very smart and elite is a God who assumes His own existence in His story. If it was anyone else, we might think them very assuming. But when you create everything, you get to skim by any detail You feel should be assumed.

God answers many questions in the Bible. Some answers we don't like. Some answers are hard to swallow. Some answers we'll have to wait on. But the question that is never asked is if God exists. God is present, from the very beginning of the story.

"In the beginning God..."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Trick Question

Trick questions abound. Every time my parents were upset with me about my behavior, there would be a crucial point in the conversation. If they were really upset and sensed I was being disrespectful, they would ask if I thought they looked stupid.


Should you be still living with your mom and dad, hear me now. If they ask this question, they are not looking for the truth as you see it. Be forewarned that you should not even allow a smirk to cross your face. This will not go well for you.

But that is not the only trick question out there. Here are some more.

A truck driver is going down a one way street the wrong way, and passes at least ten cops. Why is he not caught?

He's walking on the sidewalk.
____________________

Before Mount Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world?

Mount Everest was still the highest even though it had not been discovered.
____________________

Does Britain have a 4th of July?

Yes they do, and a July 5th and a July 6th.
____________________

Eskimos are very good hunters, but they never hunt penguins. Why not?

Eskimos live at the North Pole, penguins at the South Pole.


I sometimes wonder, though it's not actually a question, if Jesus was just tricking us when He said, "I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you." ~Matthew 18:19

I'm not one to question the words of Jesus. I just spoke this week at my church about reconciliation. But as I mulled over this topic, it struck me that reconciliation, even between one small church family, is very difficult. So it makes me wonder, did Jesus guarantee this because he knew two of us would never agree on anything?

I'll admit that I am not ready to put God on the same level as a parent who offers his children prizes for behavior that will never be realized. Which means that it should be possible for two of us to get along well enough to agree on what we ask of the Father.

Readyyyyy....go!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo! October 11, 2012

I write about many random things that cross my mind, but the recurring theme I always return to is the relative insignificant role I have in the universe. And the best way to remind myself of that is to get a picture of just how big the universe really is.

http://htwins.net/scale2/

Don't click this website unless you have some time to kill. It will blow your mind.

We are so small. The universe is so big. And don't forget, God, ho made the universe, is even bigger.

Woo!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alone With A Jihadist




Brave.

If I were to write just one word about this book by Aaron D. Taylor, it would be 'brave'. Alone With a Jihadist takes a lot of assumed knowledge and turns it on its head.

After spending one day, alone in a room, with a Jihadist, Aaron's world is turned upside down. He goes in attempting to defend his worldview without starting a holy war, but comes away with more questions than answers.

Readers of his book will come away with both questions and answers. I must admit the biggest question addressed concerns how followers of Christ live out their dual citizenship. There is a Heavenly Kingdom and a nation here on Earth. And Aaron writes directly to American Christians, who likely rank high in those who confuse which citizenship card trumps the other one.

Expect a good discussion on various topics, as Aaron shifts seamlessly from Biblical teaching to current events. Check out the many links below. I was given this book for free from my friends at SpeakEasy. They ask that I talk about the book, but don't tell me what to say.

Aaron’s blog: http://www.aarondtaylor.blogspot.com/

Holy Wars documentary: full-length. This is powerful; you’ll almost certainly want to embed it in your post:http://youtu.be/WpmCHHxvH7M

Evangelicals for Peace Facebook Page:https://www.facebook.com/evangelicalsforpeace

Registration for Evangelicals for Peace Summit:http://www.peace-catalyst.net/evangelicals-for-peace

Alone with a Jihadist paperback link:http://amzn.to/QNVH95

Alone with a Jihadist Kindle link: http://amzn.to/ORji5W

Bulk orders: Invite your readers to order a case! (If you want) Upper-right hand corner here:http://www.aarondtaylor.blogspot.com

#SpeakeasyJihad   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Extreme Hoarders



This is a picture of my daughter's room. Well, not the whole room. It's the floor. You might wonder why that's such a big deal. Well, the floor in question had not been seen for months. I'd show you a before picture, but I'm trying to protect the innoc...er....the guil....uhh....my daughter.

The facts are actually in my daughter's favor. She's very artistic and crafty. She's a bit of a pack-rat because she believes she can make something. She doesn't always know what she'll make or how she'll use the stuff she has, but that's her point. You gotta have a lot of random items in order to make masterpieces.

It's only a problem when her parents decide they want rooms to be clean. Because the world has yet to make enough storage bins to hold everything my little girl believes she can use. But I take solace in knowing that her hoarding practices are actually quite biblical.

In 2 Chronicles 29 we find the account of King Hezekiah and the grand re-opening of the Temple. The people of Judah and the Temple had fallen on some hard times, at least in part because the "ancestors were unfaithful and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God." ~2 Chronicles 29:6. So King Hezekiah told the Levites to clean up, themselves and the Temple.

We're told it took them 8 days from the time they began to even reach the entryway of the Temple. Then it took another 8 days to clean out all the garbage. So my wife should probably be relieved when it only takes a Saturday afternoon to clean the girls' room.

Every time we clean out a child's room, we invariably find something that was 'lost'. It tends to happen when we allow stuff to build up. I can only imagine the items the Levites found in the Temple. It was probably a lot more than missing Legos and Barbie clothing.

I believe the same thing happens for us when we dust off our Bibles and rediscover the hidden treasures God has in store for us.

Sooo, time to get cleaning!

Monday, October 8, 2012

God First, Woman Second

I can already hear it now. High pitched voices and fingers wagging to shame the male-driven societal perceptions that persist in my chauvinist mind. Ladies, I'm ready! Bring on the disdain!

It has long been noted that in this male-dominated society, women get the short end of the stick. I'm just reporting the facts. And the facts are that this was true in the days of the Bible as well. I'm not saying that God is down with all of that.

On the other hand, women should be okay with taking a backseat to God, just like men do. (They just shouldn't have to sit farther back than the men....can I get a holla back, girl?)

What's led me to women's suffrage? It was this little seemingly sidenote in the Gospel of Luke.

Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. ~Luke 8:1-3

What caught my attention was some of these women do not even get their names mentioned. But I imagine they were okay with that. They supported Jesus and what He was all about. They didn't do it for recognition. 

Neither should we. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

500!


I just recently posted my 500th blog post. That's a lot of words. Of course, as I am known to do, this is actually post #502, so I'm a little late to my own party. I figured I'd commemorate with a few random thoughts.


  • How much cooler would the movie 300 had been if it were 500?
  • I remember, early on in my blogging, coming across a demotivational poster with a comment on blogs. It said, "Never has so much been read by so few." That's probably true.
  • I've often wondered if each blog post could be a small chapter in a book, a very random book. 
  • Would you buy that book?
  • 500 posts seems like it warrants some kind of sale. But until I write that book, I have nothing to sell. 
  • I have seen this blog go through some changes since its' humble beginnings. I imagine that is somewhat like when a mom and pop shop becomes self-sufficient. You might have thought I'd say it's like when a mom and pop shop becomes a Wal-mart. But let's be real. This blog is no supercenter. Plus, I have no greeters here. 

I've put a lot of work into this. Well, maybe not this post, but you know what I mean. Perhaps you could leave a comment with how many of the posts you think you've read.

Here's to the next 500!



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo... October 4, 2012

I've said it to teens for years and I am now drilling it into my own children's heads. We do the right thing for the right reason.

With that in mind, I have two posts to share from the same guy. Adam McLane is a youth guy, part of The Youth Cartel. He writes about all kinds of things, but this first post had to do with faithfulness in our choices. Good stuff.

The second post has to do with a guy and his cat. I may have to expound on this idea at some point, but Adam makes a great point with few words and a sad YouTube video.

Woo!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Firing Jesus



I have had the opportunity to hear Greg Stier speak on several occasions now. And at almost every opportunity he has shared his belief that Jesus was a youth pastor.

The proof comes in the story where Jesus and Peter pay a temple tax. It's a miracle as Peter pulls the money out of the mouth of a fish. But lost in the miracle is that only Jesus and Peter pay the tax. All the disciples were with Jesus. It seems unlikely that Jesus would leave the rest of the disciples to fend for themselves.

I suppose Jesus could have dropped more coins in the mouth of the fish, but then the fish might have choked. That changes the entire story. The clue comes in the Old Testament Law which tells us that only those 20 years and older needed to pay the temple tax. Voila! Jesus was a youth pastor. As Greg likes to say, He had 11 teens and 1 adult sponsor. And, of course, one of those teens was a problem teen (Judas).

With that as a background, Greg writes Firing Jesus, asking what kind of youth pastor Jesus would make. Clearly, not a great one, since the entire story revolves around a Pastor's Cabinet deciding the fate of their youth pastor, aptly named JC. Get it?

As with other stories written by Greg, I enjoyed this. It's a great reminder of how ministry should be done, but also of the great way to convey truth; through story.

I did not offer any spoiler alerts, so I will not write any spoiler. I'm a good guy in that way. Besides, I think you should read this. It is written with a bent towards youth ministry, but if you are in any kind of ministry this is worth your time.

You can find this at dare2share.org or anywhere else you care to buy books.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why Begin With Patience?


My family has attempted a family devotional time in various ways and at various times. With young children who have a zest for life, this can be a challenge. And by ‘zest’, I mean they often act like their goal in life is to accomplish the equal and opposite goals of their parents. And by ‘challenge’, I mean it might be a more productive use of my time to train an army of squirrels to herd kittens for no pay.

Motivational Sunsets
My kids test this theory.

Nevertheless, we try. Our latest endeavor involved an exercise in 1 Corinthians 13, the famed love chapter. I began by reading the first 3 verses, which talk about a life of love being nothing more than a resounding gong.

The boy: What’s a gong or cymbal.
Me: It’s a big round instrument that makes an annoying sound.
The boy: Oh, you mean like this?

The boy then proceeds to make clanging cymbals, which delights and amuses his sisters. We move ahead.

I tell them Paul is talking about how our actions need to have a right motive, or it means nothing. Then I tell them I want to take each description of love in verses 4-7 and come up with ideas for how we can show love in these various ways. The first description is patience. Perfect, because these 3 hobbits are already testing mine.

We ask them ways we each lack patience. They share some thoughtful answers. Then we ask them how we can each better practice love as patience. All of the sudden my dinner table becomes An Evening at the Improv and it is clearly amateur night.

Instead of providing actual answers, they take turns showing us different ways they test our patience. The noise is only slightly less irritating than when Jim Carrey, in Dumb and Dumber, asks Mike Starr if he wants to hear the most annoying sound in the world. EEE-AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

Patiently gaining some order once more, my wife and I refocus them to giving real answers we can practice together as a family. They comply and it becomes a good exercise, one which we have tried again a few more times since that first night.

But it all could have been undone. That’s the truth with family devotions and living a life of love. Our first attempt may not be one for the record books. Yet, if we apply patience and keep looking ahead to the goal, a life of love, then it is worth putting up with a few distractions.

After all, love is patient. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

God First, Man Second: Random Thoughts

So I find it difficult to bash on Solomon. Despite the obvious character flaws he had, Solomon had that whole wisdom thing working for him. But while Proverbs is absolutely loaded, those other books he wrote don't often get preached on.

Now I'm not going to discuss Song of Songs because there's probably a post about my kids either right above or below this one. My kids don't need to be anywhere near that kind of stuff.

But Ecclesiastes? Now that's a different story. You can try to brush it under the rug, sugarcoat it or explain it, but that's when someone reminds you that Solomon was full of wisdom. So despite the discomfort of the subject matter, we're told to just accept it, instead of chalking Solomon up to a long line of angry old men who sometimes rambled on.

But what if God was serious when He told Isaiah that His thoughts were higher than our thoughts? What if that included Solomon?

I kind of think it did.