Friday, June 28, 2013

Parenting Is Its Own Party

While swimming with my kids, Party Rock Anthem came over the sound system. My 11-year old, who has her own iPod going on 6 months now, asked if she could have this song. Reminding her of a previous conversation, I told her no. The band LMFAO sings the song, which is reason #1. 

She pressed and wanted to know why, if the song was okay. Having previewed the video as part of my culture watching (for youth ministry purposes), I knew the song wasn't exactly clean either. I told her it wasn't a good party.


I know the tune is catchy, but bad things are happening at that party. Having had other discussions about bad parties, I was again able to remind her of the kinds of things that can happen at parties. A light of understanding started to cross her face. 

About that time my wife, along with our 6-year old, swam nearby. She was singing along with the radio, 'Party rock is in the house tonight...'

It appears we need to have more group discussions. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rick Nier says Woo! June 27, 2013

It turns out this article I am linking to is written by Anonymous. I believe that Anonymous is normally a very good writer. Sure, there are times when Anonymous has nothing good to say, but this is not one of those times.

And, in case you're like me, and you'd like to meet Anonymous or thank him for his words, then we're missing the point. Anonymous has chosen to remain so, if even only for this article, which is something all of us should be striving for.

So go check it out. 


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Real Life

If James Choung ever reads this, I'm going to be honest. Real Life was in a stack of books for me to read. I had to choose between it and another book. This one had short chapters which, for me, meant I would find good stopping points.

I had no idea, however, what I was getting into. I had no idea that I would stumble upon a book that organized my own thoughts into a system that felt natural as well as effective.

James is a part of InterVaristy and so he takes what he calls the Real Life Continuum, a well thought outs system for understanding discipleship and evangelism. The beauty of this technique, if it can be called that, is that it takes the conversations we should be having and helps us to focus on helping people move along each stage of developing a deep and impacting relationship with God.

In order to relay this system, James weaves us a tale of a guy with a job who is both mentor and mentee. The story format makes it interesting, effectively showing how the conversational technique can feel.

After wrapping up the story, James pulls back the curtains and answers a few lingering questions. He does not mean for this to become a technique that becomes labeling and limiting. In fact, he says quite the opposite. Though there is a progression, he admits not everybody goes through in the same order and some will go back and forth through certain stages.

Overall, this is a book that should be explored by leaders in ministry as a strategy that removes the tension between focusing on evangelism or discipleship. In this case, we can have both.

I received this book for free from my friends at Likewise Books, a division of IVP. I told them how much I loved them, so they sent me a couple of books. They didn't even ask me to review it. But this is what friends do.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Church Has a Purpose, It's Not You

The following list is part of a larger article by Wayne Cordeiro and Francis Chan. It is over here at Christianity Today. They are writing about why people get so mad at pastors. It's a good read.

But I liked this list, because there is still a rebellious youth side of me that would like to put this on a flag and stake it somewhere in every church. Having this in a church wouldn't be so rebellious. Actually, it'd be a good reminder for everyone. The rebellious side would be thumbing my nose at everyone while saying yeahhhh.

That would be childish and immature of me, which is why I won't do that. Yet I will share the list, because it is a good reminder that Church is not about you or I. We don't serve God because of what we get. We serve God because He is worthy.

  • Church will not always make you feel comfortable.
  • Church will not be the answer to your every need.
  • You will sometimes not like what happens at church.
  • You might leave a service unhappy once in a while, particularly if you are seeing yourself in light of God's righteousness.
  • If you are a single person, going to church will not guarantee you a spouse.
  • Going to church will not guarantee that your children will not rebel.
  • Going to church is not the answer to all your financial problems.
  • You might not get along with everybody you meet at church.


Monday, June 24, 2013

You May Not Like What You See

Leadership Magazine sends me emails with stories for sermon illustrations. If you go to my church, you may hear this one again someday, but I couldn't resist making the connection between authenticity and significance for all my fan here.

Check it out.

A town in Northern Ireland spent a lot of time, effort, and money sprucing up its image for the arrival of some special guests. On June 17-18, 2013 the world's eight most powerful leaders gathered in the town of Enniskillen, Ireland for the G8 summit. In preparation for the special guests, which included President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the town put up fake storefronts on shuttered businesses.
Dan Keenan, a reporter for the Irish Times, reports that the image-conscious village leaders "filled the shop front window with a picture of what was the business before it went bankrupt or closed." In other words, grocery shops, butcher shops, pharmacies, etc. placed large photographs in the windows so that if you drove past and glanced at the window, it would look like a thriving business.
Keenan continues,
It looks as if the door is open and inside you can see a well-stocked shop. It's nothing of the sort. That door has been locked shut for well over a year because that particular business went bust this time last year, and that is an image to make it look as if everything is normal in the town and in the county, but unfortunately it's not. [In reality, the entire county] has suffered terribly as a result of the credit crisis and the resulting recession.
Interestingly, Keenan also claims that the ordinary citizens of Enniskillen are skeptical of these shallow attempts to make everything look rosy. They'd rather present the town in its most positive light without attempting to mask its current financial problems.

Andrea Crossan, "Northern Ireland Town Fakes Prosperity for G8 Summit," PRI's The World (May 2013); submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky

Does this sound like anyone you might know? When we are willing to give up authenticity for the sake of looking good in the eyes of other people, everyone loses. You may not like what you see when you look at me, but this is the package.

I wouldn't even say you have to take it or leave it. I'm not about to be too proud and loud about who I am. That's my point. I am striving to live my life the way I believe would make Jesus proud. The goal is for me to become less. It won't always be pretty, but the path to insignificance doesn't need to be.

But it does have to be true.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Why I Love Teens

You can click here for the full story, but here's the gist. There was a teenage guy that was in a boat, saw a whale shark swim by and thought, 'Yeah, I could ride a whale shark.' And then he did.

I saw this story and had several thoughts.

  1. I love teens. They don't even think before they do something.
  2. Was there a girl nearby? I hope he didn't waste this stunt on not impressing a girl.
  3. Did he know whale sharks are the gentle giants of the sea before he did this?
  4. Teens are so stupid. They don't even think before they do something.
  5. Did I really just read in this article about people worrying about the whale shark?
  6. How cute would the girl have to be for me to do something like this?
  7. After I jumped in (for the aforementioned cute girl) would she realize it was actually a tiger shark?
  8. Could I wrestle a tiger shark? After all, I have been working out 4-5 times a week.
From there, the thoughts just get more random. That's part of what I love about teenagers. I plan for our meetings each week, but I have absolutely no clue what is going to happen once a bunch of them get in a room together. 

No. Idea. At. All. 

And that's just one reason why I love teens.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

That Was In My Job Description?

I wrote earlier this week about repeating myself. Follow the link if you want to read that, because I'm not going to repeat all that. I repeat, I will not repeat myself.

Of course, if you wish to be encircled in a flaming black hole of words, you'll read it and discover that I was basically saying that repeating yourself is okay. The idea is that I can imagine Jesus told some of the same stories a few times, repeating Himself for emphasis. So perhaps it's okay if we do the same.

But that is the very thing that many people seem to rail against in Church today. I'm including myself in this, of course. We want fresh. We want new. We want different...unless, of course, that involves change. Don't even get me started on change.

I was at our denominational annual meeting just last week. It's a fun, 2-day event where you get to sit on uncomfortable chairs and listen to everyone else talk. I think everyone should go at least once. After sitting in those chairs all day, they invite you back to sit again while the new guys get ordained.

I thought about skipping it. I wanted to skip it. But then I recalled a fellow youth pastor was getting ordained, so I went. Like I've gone for years before. The agenda hasn't changed. A few songs. An inspirational message. And then the call to the ordinand and communion. (Spell check is telling me ordinand isn't a word, but my Bishop uses it every year, so I know it is. Take that spell check!)

The charge to the ordinand is always the same. I paid most close attention in 2004, when I was ordained. But last week, as my butt became very uncomfortable, I tried listening again. I tuned out when I heard the Bishop remind the pastors that ours was a call to humility and quietude.

Oops! I guess it is good for me to hear the same message a second time. Or perhaps even more. Maybe reminding myself every year of my charge is a good idea.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Plastic Donuts

I've read books on giving. I've heard sermons on giving before. I've considered asking for money here on this blog. (Operators are standing by.) I've seen articles and listened to opinions that cover lessons for both the giver and the receiver. I'm sure you have as well.

So why would I even bother trying to pass off another book and opinion to you? Simply put, because this book is different and gets at the heart of the Father.

It's a short book and a quick read that is aptly summed up by author Jeff Anderson all the way in chapter 5.

That's why this message will not unpack the tithes of Abraham, Jacob, Malachi, Melchizedek, or the Pharisees. Nor is Plastic Donuts a message about triggering blessings, dodging curses, sowing seeds, or not robbing God.
You also won't hear any ideas about how the tithe was for farmers, not fishermen; was applied to crops, not currency; was actually the last tenth, not the first; was expected to be given two to three times annually, not just once.
But you will hear more about this: acceptable gifts.

And that is exactly what Jeff Anderson does. He does not spend our time going round and round about particular scriptures and what they meant to the original audience. He does not write to make anyone feel guilty. In fact, by the end of this book, he leaves more about giving open to the reader than he does declaring anything set in stone.

He begins with his own story of his daughter sharing a plastic donut. He references the Genesis account of Cain and Abel. From there he chases after the heart of God. He shares from a changed perspective and honestly, he has me thinking. I am thinking both as a child of God who wants to give God acceptable gifts. I am also thinking as a pastor, knowing that money given can fund ministry.

Plastic Donuts was gifted to me by my good friends over at Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing. I think they give with the same heart that Jeff Anderson is talking about in this book. They ask for my thoughts and I pass them on. You should check this book out.

Monday, June 17, 2013

God First, Man Second: Am I Repeating Myself?

Do you ever wonder if Jesus repeated Himself all the time? Maybe the stories the disciples wrote down were the stories Jesus told the most. After all, these guys were teenagers. How much were they actually taking notes? How much were they paying attention?

When I was younger, I remember hearing pastors and speakers who did not appear to be using notes. I was amazed. Then I realized they fall into two main categories. The first are the speakers who have one sermon they preach while travelling for a year. If I had a single sermon to preach, I could probably memorize it as well.

The second category were those preachers who just rambled and said whatever came to mind. I could do that too, but that's doesn't seem quite as amazing.

There do seem to be times when Jesus begins to repeat Himself. I found just such a spot when reading John 15 the other day. I imagine Jesus, while preparing this message, saying to Himself, "I really want the guys to get this. Maybe if I say it over and over..."

John 15 is where Jesus identifies Himself as the vine and His followers as the branches. It's a pretty simple word picture. Even someone who is not a gardener can understand that the branch will not survive unless it is connected to the vine. I have not once picked up sticks in my yard and wondered why they weren't growing fruit. Not. Once.

But Jesus seems to emphasize the point.

  • I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 
  • Remain in me, and I will remain in you. 
  • Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches

Jesus wants us to stay connected. And if we don't?

  • For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 
  • For apart from me you can do nothing. 
  • Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers.
  • Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.
And if you do?
  • Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.   
  • But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 
  • You are my true disciples. 
  • This brings great glory to my Father.
Sooooo, Jesus, if I am to understand correctly, this is all about You. If I want to accomplish anything significant at all, it will be with You, right?

I think we might be getting somewhere.

Friday, June 14, 2013

God Distorted

Father's Day is almost here. It's a day I love, quite frankly, because my kids are forced to honor me. It's also a great opportunity for my wife to make a cheesecake. Why a cheesecake? Because I most likely just had ice cream cake for my birthday, which was last week. (In case you missed it and still want to get me something, I'm a size mini, as in iPad mini.)

But back to Dad's Day. I just finished reading God Distorted by John Bishop. The subtitle for this one is what grabbed me; How Your Earthly Father Affects Your Perception of God and Why It Matters.

I should probably begin where John begins. He began by sharing his story, which includes 4 different father figures, only one of which ever modeled anything worthwhile. My story is quite different. My dad, while not perfect (who is?), was always there, committed to providing for our family. He was a good example of many things a dad should be. And, like many others, I find myself wishing I had had more time him now that I am a dad myself.

What John does is shoot straight for the heart of the matter, quoting A.W. Tozer who said, 'What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.' I couldn't agree more. After all, the myriad of issues that people have with religion often come down to an image problem. And it's not always about us as Christians.

How many times have you heard people asking how God could do this or allow that? That's an image problem. I don't believe we need to defend God. That's kind of like defending a lion. He doesn't need our help. But if I could show someone how their perspective of God impacts every area of their life, then I want to be able to do that.

John Bishop takes the time to reference the many poor examples of fathers we have. He even takes time to point out that good dads still do not equal a good God. He then shows us how God is a perfect Heavenly Father and concludes by showing the reader how to experience healing. The study guide is especially helpful, as it is catered to the many types of hurts people have experienced.

I received this book for free from my good friends at Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing. They give me books and ask me to share my opinion. Quite frankly, this book should be included in every church library and most people's personal libraries as well.

For more information;

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Don't Confuse Insignificance

From time to time I fear that my constant use of the word insignificant will be confused with unimportant, when nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, it is a question of priorities. No, it doesn't mean the lesser priorities are sinful.

Let me explain with a conversation I have multiples times a week. The conversation happens with all of my children, but I'll use my son for this example.

(Pre-conversation scene - I have heard yelling coming from somewhere in the house, between children. Using my Jedi mind powers, I have discerned, from the other room, which child is guilty and handed down a verdict, long before any child comes into my view. I've also called down decided-upon verdict.

This does not stop the, from still coming to complain.)

Son: Daaaaaaaad!
Me: Soooooon! Before you even start, I heard everything, because I have the hearing of a dog, combined with a jungle cat.
Son: Then why does Mommy always have to repeat herself?
Me: You were saying....
Son: I was downstairs praying when my sister came up and....
Me: (cutting him off) I said I heard everything and I have already punished her.
Son: But Dad, I just wanna...
Me: What? Tell me what I already know? I said I heard everything.
Son: But she...
Me: What part of everything don't you seem to understand? I've taken care of it.

(This is somehow the part of the conversation where I end up lecturing the kid who didn't do something wrong - this time. So, trying to end this silliness)

Me: I tell you what. You can tell me what your sister did, if you want to be in trouble too.
Son: But....
Me: Do you want to be in trouble?
Son: No. But I can tell you something different, that's not telling on my sister?
Me: Sure. What do you want to talk about?
Son: There was this one time, when my sister...

It is at this point that he somehow recounts the injustice in less than 4 seconds flat. Unbelievable!?! I suppose this could be a post about injustice and the need of victims to know they've been heard. But what I have experienced are children who feel the need to share their sibling's misdeeds.

I think this is the difference between insignificant and unimportant. I, in trying to save my ears some unnecessary whining, try to preempt the tattling. But without telling their story, my children feel as if somehow their voice is left unheard, their value diminished.

But it's not. And neither is yours. I believe, when we elevate God to where He belongs, our standing also gets elevated. Like the bench players on a championship team, they also get a ring. For us, it's a crown. Don't ever fall for the lie that your search for insignificance means you are unimportant.

Monday, June 3, 2013

After These Messages, We'll Be Right Back

I've sat before a blank screen more than a few times over the past couple of weeks, trying to write ahead.

It didn't happen.

Then I realized it didn't need to. I could take a break from the internet without leaving my mark. I could trust that my reader would be fine without me for a week or so. You'll come back, won't you? I guess I'm about to find out.

I'm taking a short break to go experience more life and come and write about it. You'll have to find someone else's somewhat-quirky, certainly insignificant stories to amuse you until just before Father's Day. Not that I am predicting or anything, but I bet if you came back around June 13 or 14, you'd find something fresh here.

Looking Forward!