Friday, March 29, 2013

This Good Friday is the Best Friday

Since God is for us, who cares who is against us?

I'd heard this worded in this way a long time ago, but thoughts of Easter week brought it back once more.

Plus, the irony of this day and its' title always makes me pause. Good Friday. Think about the last time you came home or met up with a friend somewhere. They probably ask how your day has been. Now think about all the many, eternally insignificant, things that you consider when giving your answer.

I got to sleep in, the weather is nice, it's a good hair day, my cat didn't cough up a hair ball, so on and so forth. 

I'm not saying I don't have better days than others. But when we consider what was done on this one particular Friday, all our days got that much better. 

It was this line of thinking that clearly got the Apostle Paul fired up. Whenever someone asks questions and provides their own answers, they are either horrible conversationalists or they are ramped up about the topic at hand. Having never had a conversation with Paul, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he's really excited about  his topic. 

And who wouldn't be? 

We're no longer condemned because of our relationship with Jesus. And since God gave us His Son, is there anything else He won't give us? No! Is there anyone left to accuse us? No! Condemn us? No again!

Can anything separate us? Or does Gd no longer care for us if we are suffering? Nope and nope! Paul then concludes this section with some of the most beautiful verses in scripture. 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:38-39.

All of this, of course, begs the question. Since God is for us, who cares who is against us? 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Need a Rest?

I read part of a book not too long ago that talked about rhythm versus balance. In a nutshell, it said balance should not be our goal. Balance, in this person's opinion, was not even the prize we should be after, as it wasn't realistic. It talked of seasons in life where focus had to be given more towards one area rather than evenly divided, even amongst other things that were deserving of our attention. 

I hope that's right, because that is how Easter week feels. The schedule is full as we throttle forward to the big Sunday of celebration. After all, Easter egg hunts don't just plan themselves. 

And while I am in no way comparing how I am spending this week with how Jesus spent His final week, I do look forward to the rest which will week. I imagine, in spite of the impending pain Jesus no doubt new was coming, there had to be a part of Him that was forging ahead, knowing victory...and rest, would soon come afterward. 

Thinking about this also makes me long for that longer rest that is coming. While I do not endeavor to unpack the theologically rich book of Hebrews in this short post, I do find the promise enticing. When the work is done, rest is coming. So work. Push yourself to do your best. But when it's done, rest assured in a job well done, the job God gave you. 

So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. Hebrews 4:9-10

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Altar Ego

I wasn't sure about this one.

I had this book, Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel sent to me by my good friends at YouthWorker Journal. Since they are a youth ministry group, most of the stuff I see come from them has a direct correlation to youth ministry.

And, not to be judging a book by its' cover, this book seemed more generally suited for becoming a better Christian. This, of course, is good and is needed. But in the context of youth ministry, I was imagining trying to get my teens to read a book. Maybe a series of tweets. Perhaps a longer Facebook post. But a book?

Well, I stand corrected. Not only does Craig write in a manner that is both page-turning and convicting, this book is perfectly designed for those who preach and teach in monthly series. This is something I do, so halfway through this book I was imagining series names and small group discussions.

Divided into three parts, Craig adeptly deals with removing worldly labels and accepting the image God has given us in section one. In part two, which could be much longer, and an entire book or series of books in itself, he deals with some very core issues of how Christians should live, touching on integrity, patience, honor and gratitude. Lastly, he makes a call for Christians to live with boldness in various areas of our lives.

So this book will be good for any age. But I see direct implications for teenagers, who tend toward radical calls that have a promise. On that end, this book delivers.

Should you check this book out? I'm sure you should.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Be Brave...But Not Too Brave

Pac-Man Ghost Sours!
Have you ever been in one of those setting where ghost stories run rampant? Perhaps you're at a campfire or maybe it's an old abandoned house. Either way, it's creepy. Chances are there's some punk kid who is going around, sneaking up on people and screaming.

There's always at least one of that kid.

Well, as much as I hate to admit this, that place where ghost stories exist is also a place I walk in every single day. I work at a church and there have been rumors. I had heard stories from the past. But that's all they were. Just fun stories.

However, recently, more stories have surfaced, some even told by people I wouldn't expect to hear ghost stories from. What makes our stories unique? Our ghost whistles.

Yes. We apparently have a whistling ghost. Why does he whistle? He hasn't told me, but I assume it's because he doesn't know the words.

I digress. People have heard the whistling from different areas of our building, a large 2-story edifice. (I'm hoping the use of big words will help restore my cred from any doubters out there.) Sadly, I'm among those who have heard the whistle.

I'd like to, as I once did, just pass off these stories as fanciful and of the sort of legend that's fun to tell, but mostly unbelievable. After all, ghosts don't exist, do they? So I do what I always do when I need answers. I turned to the Bible. What did I find?

Both Mark 6 and Luke 24 record times when the disciples thought they saw a ghost. Of course, both times the ghost was actually no ghost at all. It was Jesus. But still they had the idea of a ghost, which meant they had heard stories as well.

Then I recalled 1 Samuel 28. It's the story of the dingy King Saul conjuring up the spirit of the prophet Samuel from the dead. They have a conversation. It actually happened. The Bible uses the word 'spirit.' But is there any real distinction? Spirits. Ghosts. Neither one should I be seeing for the most part.

I was discussing this with my 11-year old daughter the other day. She theorized that maybe no one knows why there's a ghost whistling at our church because no one has stayed around long enough to listen. After a conversation in which we debated that perhaps a whistling ghost is a friendly ghost, I assured her I would hang around next time I heard it.

To which she replied, "Well, make sure someone's with you, just in case."

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Bible That Shouldn't Be Printed

What better way to begin a week than to take the focus off of me and to point you towards the good thoughts of another blogger, this time Rachel Held Evans.

Even better than that is the topic at hand is how the focus shouldn't be placed squarely on any of us as individuals.

In this post, Rachel tackles her thoughts on a new version of the Bible, one I agree shouldn't be printed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

God First, Man Second: Jesus and the Word Just

If you've been wondering what has happened to my God First, Man Second series, I have an explanation. My blogging is subject to my whimsy.

For some of my readers, you had no idea that I even had a blogging plan, much less enough focus to provide series. For others, I lost you when I mentioned whimsy.

Either way, the God First, Man Second series is where I point out scriptures that clearly put God first and man second. Yes, I'm a wizard when it comes to naming things. But the absence of this series has not been due to any lack of my reading scripture. It's just been due to....


Nevertheless, here's what I read recently.

The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” 3 Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.
4 Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” 5 And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. ~Mark 6
Anyone who has ever tried to go home again and show just how different they are than when they were last there probably has a feeling what Jesus went through. That is, except Jesus is exactly who He said He was and we can often be blinded by who we think we are.

The people mocked and said Jesus was just a carpenter. Sadly, they were missing the fact that Jesus wasn't just anything. The people were amazed by His teaching. Then they were offended. Then it was Jesus' turn to be amazed.

This unbelief didn't stop Jesus from moving forward, from doing what He did. Jesus was still God. He knew that. It took people a bit of time to catch up. It still does.

That's why God comes first.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rick's Rants - Honking That Accomplishes So Little

I'm going to go ahead and put this idea out there, knowing it will make someone else rich. I have no protection or patent on this idea. I just want to help people. That's what I do.

Allow me to paint you a picture. You're in your vehicle and you have a reason to get somebody's attention. Wouldn't it be nice if you had some way of doing so?
1913 Bugatti (p4150234)
Before you mock and assume your superiority, please know I am not talking of simply a car horn. I am talking about a Vehicle Voice Magnifying System. Think about this...we have thousands of words in the English language to display our thoughts and emotions. One does not have to settle for saying they feel good or sad or 'grunt'. 

So why limit ourselves to a mere honk while on the road? We're not geese and, aside from that whole teamwork-flying-V thing they have going, there's nothing about geese for us to be jealous.

It's annoying when people honk their car horns. You have no idea who they are honking at. Was that me or the idiot driver behind me? Speaking of this guy behind me, can we at least get a choice of which direction to honk our horns? Glaring in my rear-view mirror accomplishes nothing.

I'd like to invent a horn that is voice activated. It would be your voice. That way you could yell directly at whoever you wanted. 'Hey, Moron! You in the blue Prius! You cut me off!' Or you could even just say hi when you recognize someone on the side of the road. Or you could explain to the beggar why you're not making eye contact. (What, that last sentence hit too close to home? Then help them!) The usefulness for something like this will just grow and grow.

So don't worry if you get rich off of this idea and never even mention me in your infomercial or offer to buy me one of this product. Let's just go and change the world.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Customer Rules

I am not sure if I would consider myself a customer as part of Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program. But since that is what I technically am, let me say they know how to treat their customers. 

Imagine walking into a store and being told that, without asking for it, they were giving you something they knew you would like. That's exactly what my friends at Waterbrook have done. 

As with most things in life, I have filled out a profile. Now I know they have read that profile. How do I know? They surprised me with a book that I didn't ask for, but one I have enjoyed reading. It's called The Customer Rules by Lee Cockerell. 

Even if you don't recognize Lee by name, you'll know the places he has helped improve. He is a former Excutive VP at some little operation in Orlando, Florida starring one Mickey Mouse. Before that, Lee also held positions at Hilton Hotels and Mariott, hotel chains that seem to do well. 

What he has done here is opened up the warehouse of information by explaining 39 rules that will deliver sensational service. And even though I am a youth pastor, which is probably the equivalent of an executive VP, I found plenty of fodder for the Church.

Our volunteers may not necessarily be considered customers, but how the Church treats its' guests can determine its' success, much like any business. This book is well organized with short chapters, perfect for bite-sized chunks of information. A team of leaders could read a couple each week and work on implementation. 

And implementation is the key to growth, something that Churches should be all about. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bracketology Meets My Family

The challenge has been set. The gauntlet has been laid. And the chances are against me going anywhere but McDonald's when the game is over.

March brings Madness for any fan of college basketball. Madness is nothing new for my household, so let the insanity commence! I print out a bracket for each of my family members. This includes my children, ages 6, 9 and 11. We've done this for years now, each member selecting their winners.

Then, as the tournament progresses, I keep track of points. The person with the most points gets to select the next restaurant we eat at. It's harmless. After all, we're going to eat out some time. Someone has to choose. We might as well make it fun.

What's fun for me is putting my college basketball knowledge, based on ESPN analysts, against the whims of my family members.

There's my wife, who choose teams based on who was good back in the 90's, when she last paid attention to college ball.

There's the 11-year old who wants to know what colors each team is wearing.

The 9-year old, my boy, relies way too heavily on the rankings.

Lastly, the 6-year old makes her choices based on which team has the funnier sounding name. This is also the reason she cleaned up a few years ago when BUTT-ler made it to the Final Four. She has also been known to ride Cinderella teams to the Championship game, even though they never made it past a play-in game.

One might think I have an incredible winning streak going against this clan. Alas, I haven't won in years. But the whole thing is worth it for an experience that brings our family together. None of the kids care about the bracket past those fateful trips to McDonald's. But we have some unique fun each year around this time, giving us something to joke about and connect on.

We'll watch a few games, cheering on our picks, eating our share of nachos. I get to explain the game I love to my young ones. They get to hang out on the couch with their mom and dad.

In the end, no one cares too much who wins it all and cuts down the nets. But if I had to pick, I'd say the family being together is a #1 pick.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Joy Comes Even With No Sleep

I was reminded this weekend about joy versus happiness. I was with my youth group at an over nighter. We were being entertained by the comedic styles of 3-2-1 Improv. Mike, Tim and Carl were hilarious and kept our attention for over an hour.
321 Improv
Towards the end they shared the very important message that teens need to hear. Actually, everybody needs to hear it. Not only does the pursuit of pleasure lead to fading happiness, but God designed us for more than that. We are made to live with joy, something that can't be taken away by circumstances.

The guys from 3-2-1 Improv showed by their unique ministry that God has gifted us all and we can pursue that. Each one of us has a unique gifting and calling from God.

I'd probably say more about this, but I believe I mentioned that this was an all nighter. I'm still catching up on sleep. While it may be a temporary pleasure to take a nap, it brings me great joy knowing that I can take one.

Friday, March 15, 2013

50 Ways to Not Grow the Church

I know the danger of listening to music simply because it has a good beat. Would it help if, in this case, the song was humorous as well? I'm speaking of Train's 50 Ways to Say You Died. Here's a sample:
That's cool, but if my friends ask where you are I'm gonna say

She went down in an airplane
Fried getting suntanned
Fell in a cement mixer full of quicksand
Help me, help me, I'm no good at goodbyes!
She met a shark under water
Fell and no one caught her
I returned everything I ever bought her
Help me, help me, I'm all out of lies
And ways to say you died

I'm not condoning lying. I like creativity, but dishonesty drives me crazy. The lead singer, Pat Monahan, has some fun ways of avoiding the truth. But in the end, he knows the truth. I think people who say they love Jesus know the truth as well. 

Christians give a lot of reasons why they don't share Jesus Christ with others.

They may ask something I can't answer. I hope so. If every question they ask is answerable by you, then either their imagination isn't very big or your God isn't.

I'm not very good at speaking. Go read Exodus 3 and then tell me how well that excuse worked out for Moses. Sharing Jesus does not require a 3-point sermon. It involves you sharing why your life is full of peace and joy. 

My life is not full of peace and joy. Then maybe someone needs to share Jesus with you. 

I don't want to be _______.  Go ahead and fill in the blank. Pushy? Know-it-all? A hypocrite? Yeah, Jesus doesn't want you to be those things either. 

The fact is we are missing the point when we consider many evangelism techniques. The strength is not in how natural our acrostic is or how relevant our witnessing tools are. The key is found in the truth of a God who loves the world. It's revealed by people who are changed by that truth. 

So, perhaps if we did more practicing and less preaching, we would be sharing Jesus a lot more.

Pat Monahan wasn't fooling anyone. Neither are we. It's time to live what we say we believe. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I Believe That Children Are Our Future

The 4-14 Window

If you can't see it, click the link...

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 
~Judges 2:10-13

How is it possible for an entire generation to not know God? How is it possible for an entire generation to be lost?

How can we return our focus to where it needs to be?

One of the biggest fears I have is that I might come to the end of a long life of hard ministry, only to find out I was doing it wrong. One of the scariest ideas would be to finish and realize the next generation was lost.

I don't want my work to be wasted and I do not believe that my elders want to consider their work had been done in vain.

So what are we going to do about this?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You Must Realize

Lead me in the right path, O Lord,    or my enemies will conquer me.Make your way plain for me to follow.My enemies cannot speak a truthful word.    Their deepest desire is to destroy others.Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.    Their tongues are filled with flattery.[a]10 O God, declare them guilty.    Let them be caught in their own traps.Drive them away because of their many sins,    for they have rebelled against you.
Pictured here is a trophy. Yes, it’s one of mine. Yes, it’s for a spelling bee. Yes, my mom is very proud. 
Trophies are something we pursue, be they trophies from contests, higher salaries, trophy wives. Our trophies take different forms, but I would suggest we need to watch what it is we pursue.
The idea we often keep in a box is that when the evil ones profit, they have won. But who says money and fame is what we should be pursuing? There is also a temporary pleasures aspect to this. Our vision is often extremely short-sighted. We see bad people get good things (and don't even get me started on how we judge who is good and who is bad.), but we see evil prosper in the short run. We see good people struggle in the short term.
We forget that we serve a God who is not dealing with time like we deal with time.
David points out our need to Realize that evil does not pay - their intrigues do become their downfall (vs10).  
Since evil will be punished, we need to ask God to lead us in righteousness (vs8) I found it interesting  that the word ‘enemies’ is literally 'watchers', thus the need for righteous living.
People are watching us. They see us for who we are. They see what we pursue. Right or wrong, they are judging us based on what we go after. So we too need to pray to God to lead us into righteousness.
As we live, it can be easy to put God back in this box and act as if actions don’t have consequences.
It seems like Jesus said something on this matter when He talked about the things we pursue. Matthew 6:19-34 was pretty clear. I'll summarize Jesus' thoughts on pursuing earthly treasure with one word; Don't.
Realize God is Holy and wants us to be as well.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

You Must Remember

How do you handle life when it gets real and life-like? Life has a tendency to do that, you know, to become more real than Reality TV. How do you handle the changes to your schedule, the stresses from work and home, the bitterness and discouragement that can come when dreams are dashed and hopes are shattered? When loved ones are lost while the wild world just keeps spinning on, seemingly out of control?
I think Psalm 5 can help us out. The fact that this is a morning prayer reveals that sometimes life’s troubles will follow us, even after we’ve had a night’s sleep. But notice that David began his day by crying out to God.
O Lord, hear me as I pray;    pay attention to my groaning.Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,    for I pray to no one but you.
It sounds like David knows his audience. I’m not talking to anybody else here, but you God. And addressing God as King was to appeal to the covenant relationship between God and His People. 

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.    Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

The NIV words it this way;  ‘you hear my voice’. This is like telling God, ‘I know You hear me.’
So while David may feel like his life is in the tank at the moment when he sings this song and brings his sacrifice, but he brings it anyway, waiting on God. David trusts that God will respond. He believes that God will not leave him alone to languish in despair.
How could David be so confident? Let’s read on.
O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness;    you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked.Therefore, the proud may not stand in your presence,    for you hate all who do evil.You will destroy those who tell lies.    The Lord detests murderers and deceivers.Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house;    I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe.
Have you ever considered how we use calendars? Calendars are very useful, since we live by the calendar. Whether we use a calendar like this or a pocket-size appointment calendar or if we keep our schedules on computers and tablets, it is important for us to be a reminder.
But the thing is that most all of us use it to remind us of things that are coming in the future, doctor’s appointments, important meetings, birthdays and anniversaries. But what happens to the past? We tear out those calendar pages when we are done with them.
We attempt to constantly forget the past and focus instead on the fairy tale green pastures that we think may come. But David tackles his problems by Remembering who God is and what He has already done.
We often assume evil always prevails - the bad guys get away with it, the innocent suffer, that God isn't interested in day-to-day righteousness, etc. But that is not what happens here.
Remember God's character - He listens to the righteous, protects them, blessing them. (vs 4-7)
I don’t know what kind of calendar the Israelites used, but I know they were purposeful about remembering. We’re told in various stories of the OT how they set up rocks as a reminder of what God had done there. I've often wondered how they remembered which rocks were for which story, but one of my favorites is found in the book of Joshua.
The whole army was needing to cross the Jordan River to go and show the city of Jericho who was boss. The only problem is that the Jordan River was at flooding levels. But once the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant touched the edge of the river, the waters stopped and the entire army crossed on dry ground. When they crossed, 12 men picked up 12 stones from the middle of the river bed. They carried them to their camp that night and set them there.
It was left there and in later days when children asked why there were 12 stones there, the Israelites could answer, “Because God rocks!” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Remember God’s Character.

Monday, March 11, 2013

You're Not Alone

Alone XIII
Ever had one of those days, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? So you pushed the snooze alarm a couple of more times... Maybe you know what's coming and you don't want to face it at all. (Do I have an example?)
Anyone felt that way this morning? (Pause) Nope, just me?!? Well, I have come across a simple exercise that usually helps. It is a stress management technique recommended in the latest psychological texts.
1. Picture yourself near a stream.
2. Birds are softly chirping in the cool mountain air.
3. No one but you knows your secret place.
4. You are in total seclusion from the hectic place called "the world".
5. The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.
6. The water is crystal clear.
7. You can easily make out the face of the person you're holding underwater.
Sometimes we feel that way. You're not alone.
Listen to Psalm 5.
O Lord, hear me as I pray;
    pay attention to my groaning.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,
    for I pray to no one but you.
Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.
    Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

This is a morning prayer! It was a Psalm sung at the time of the morning sacrifice. Already King David is sighing and groaning, crying out to God.
David had those days. You need to remember that this is King David, the Giant-killer. This is David, the I-eat-Philistines-for-breakfast guy. This is David, the I'll-dance-half-naked-in-the-streets-if-I-want-to guy. This is David, anointed as a boy and stuck with God to see it come true, king of Israel. A man's man if ever there was one, killing bears and lions with his bare hands. 
But this David woke up on some days and all he had for God was a groan, a lament, a soft whimpering while he lay in the fetal position in a corner. So if you've ever had confidence to conquer the world one day and then woke up the next day wondering how you possibly ever felt a shred of hope, much less confidence, let me assure you that you are not alone.

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Woo to a Youth Worker

Okay, this isn't a man-crush, but here's why I like MarkO. He's good at what he does (youth ministry), a great thinker and writer (it sounds like I am gushing), and most of all, he still does junior high ministry.

You may have never heard of him, but he's a name in youth ministry. Along other things on his blog, he has this series of posts of things he hears in his 7th grade boy's small group. Good stuff!

Go here to check out the latest. 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Prayer Requests and Sitcoms

Dear God, here before and unto you we submit our prayer request

Each week I give time for my teens to write down things for which they would like prayer. It keeps me from having to write them all down when I ask if there are any special prayer requests, plus I don't have to rely on my memory, which is clearly storing much-needed information about my wife; birthday, anniversary, credit card usage (Yikes!).

So the teens write them down and put them in a Baggage Check box we made. We do this at the beginning and then they can focus on the discussion, knowing they have been heard. (By the way, I stole this idea, a practice I highly recommend...stealing ideas, and praying.)

Now perhaps it was a weak moment the next day at the office when I was reading through the list of prayer requests. But while praying for certain requests from my youth, I sighed, because it seemed that I had seen several of these requests before. I was discouraged that they haven't moved on from that need. After all, didn't we pray for that just last week?

It's not that the prayer requests were bad. Although I'm not sure praying for Justin Bieber to notice your comments on his videos is really something to discuss with God. It was just that these similar requests did not represent any progress.

It was then I was reminded that life is not like a television sitcom, where all our problems are neatly solved within 21 minutes, leaving time for commercial interruption.

So how do we remind ourselves that if they took the time to share a request, we should take the time to pray it forward? And how do we help them without going insane ourselves?

Offer hope. The need may appear to be the same every single day, but it won't last forever. As Mark Lowry used to say, 'It came to pass. It didn't come to stay. Either it will pass or you will.'

Offer peace. Whenever I find myself lying awake at night, I notice that I am stressed or afraid. Dreams about cookies and milkshakes rarely wake me from my slumber. But once I am awoken, my mind has this habit of shifting straight to the problems in my life. Before I know it, an hour of sleep has been lost. However, when I have remembered to pray, I fall asleep rather quickly. 

I'm not promoting prayer as a means to more sleep. (That could backfire when you're in church or a Bible study.) But clearly giving matters over to God leads to peace. 

Offer purpose. The reason we submit our requests to God is because we believe God can do better than we can. Whether it is something we continue to struggle with or something we can't figure out, by giving it to God, we're trusting He will do what we cannot.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rick's Rants: Collecting Information


I walk in. I get what I want. I pay for what I want. I walk out.

That is the ideal order of things for me. When I'm not shopping with my wife, that is a possibility. But there's been something new going on that has prevented my solo shopping trips from being so swift and succinct.

Apparently I am so desired that ladies at the check out counters ask me for my phone number and email address. I guess that's why they call it the check out counter.

Alas, since I am a happily married guy, I'm not sure I need to be giving out all this information just so I can purchase a tube of toothpaste. Maybe I don't want all your emails telling me of another made-up female holiday for which my wife would be extremely grateful if I bought her tubs of lotion. I'm looking at you, Bath & Body Works!

Just like in every other area of life, I would appreciate jumping through less hoops and just give me the good price. I shouldn't need a card or a code or a swirling blue light in order to find a good price. And I really don't think a sale should be based on whether or not I am willing to give you my digits.

Just let me buy my toilet paper and go!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

God Laughs

4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath ~Psalm 2:4-5
It could seem at first that God has multiple-personality disorder. Or perhaps just an emotional version of ADD, where He's not sure how He wants to feel. Or He could simply be a moody teenage girl, changing moods faster than Clark Kent changes clothes in a telephone booth. (Does he still do that?) 

But God is not suffering from any of the above. 

God laughs... then rebukes... In my head, this is  a funny picture. As my pastor preached on this recently, I had to stifle my own laughter as I pictured God laughing a big, mocking laugh. Then, in my head, God stopped laughing abruptly and got serious. 

Why are we given this picture of God anyway? Why does He seem to change more often than the women in my family when deciding what to wear in the morning? The first 3 verses of Psalm 2 will clear this up.

Why do the nations conspire    and the peoples plot in vain?The kings of the earth rise up    and the rulers band together    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,“Let us break their chains    and throw off their shackles.” ~Psalm 2:1-3

It's like when my children were younger and they would triple-team me, trying to knock me over. I laughed. Then I would pick up the youngest and use her as a bat to swat the other two away. They were no match for me. 

I laughed. Then I mocked. Then I would get serious again when my wife said it might cause brain damage to swing our daughter like that. So now I don't hold the youngest by her legs. I hold her by her head. 

Nevertheless, a bunch of men ganging up to go at God is a ridiculous picture. It's just not going to go the way they think it will. From this, I take great comfort. God's got this. He's in control. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Heaven Is For Real

So as I was telling my kids about this book, it struck me very quickly that reading the Bible should do this for each one of us. Yes, God's Word alone should be enough to convince us all. But let's be honest...

Now allow me to back up a step. 

I had a long distance meeting, one in which I'd be driving for more time than I'd be in a meeting. For me, this means redeeming the time with an audio-book. This meeting's selection was Todd Burpo's Heaven is for Real

Yes, I know I am woefully behind when this came out, as well as any controversy that came with it. I think this book is worth your time, so I will avoid giving away any of the juicy details. But I will tell you some...

Since this book is older, it is beyond what is worthy of needing a spoiler alert. Suffice it to say that Colton Burpo, the 3 year old boy (at the time), needed some emergency surgeries. During this time, he was allowed a view of Heaven that many have wanted. 

The story is well written and very intriguing. If you're looking for a simple Q&A about Heaven, this isn't it. It's so much more. You'll hear the story before and behind the story that gained national attention. The struggles of the parents and the questions they had. 

But it still does raise the question I started towards at the beginning. If we're called to be people of faith, then reading of one child's experience shouldn't make it all different. But for many, it does. On the other hand, if God chooses to give a select few an experience to go back and encourage the rest of us, shouldn't it make a difference? 

If we are allowed a picture from a fellow brother in Christ, even if he was 3 at the time, it should cause us to stop and think. I wasn't having any crisis of faith about Heaven, but this book is making me think. And I am using it to have discussions with my children. 

I would encourage you to do the same, because Heaven is for real.

Friday, March 1, 2013


I haven't read much from The Robert D. just yet, but I liked this. In fact, the only part of the American Idol season I even watch anymore is the beginning when tone-deaf people walk in (and out) with all the overconfidence in the world.



How do 100,000 people who can’t carry a tune in a bucket show up to audition for American Idol?


Somebody lied to them. At some point in their lives, somebody told them that theycould sing.
Somebody wanted to make them feel good. Somebody didn’t want to rock the boat. Somebody might have even thought they were helping.
Somebody justified it, thinking it would build self-esteem.
We all have had that somebody in our lives. And most of us have listened to him.
But success is built on a foundation of wisdom and truth. And if we’re going to find it, we have to get good at catching our own delusions.

Another Question:

How do you spot the person around you who has been telling you lies?


Look in the mirror.
For most of us, the greatest liar in our lives is ourselves.
Lazy people say it’s just not their personality type to be ambitious. Fat people say they have no time to work out.
Both are avoiding the hard truth in exchange for superficial self-esteem…and that’s a dangerous exchange.
The truth is that just 15 minutes of exercise a day will help you have more energy and be more productive. The truth is that hard work comes before the feeling of ambition. The question is, in a court of law, is there enough proof that you are working at your craft?
The danger of our lies is that they start to shape our perceived reality.
Like those poor fools you remember Simon Cowell crushing, we live by a story that is pathetically false. Everyone else can see through it. Or, in this case, “hear” through it.
The truth is that you can become nearly anything you devote yourself to. But it takes more work than you would expect and the courage to face the music. Sometimes literally.
Be mindful of the stories you tell yourself. Are you in touch with truth, or are you making excuses?
Three questions you must ask yourself:
  1. What talent or passion do you profess to have?
  2. In a court of law, could you produce evidence of hard work that has gone into that talent or passion?
  3. Have you ever shown that talent or passion to anyone? How did they react?
Slowly work your way up…starting right now!