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Showing posts from 2015

Messy Grace

Wouldn't it be nice if, when someone merely mentioned the name of Jesus, people became Christians with no baggage, no past and no consequences from their past? What if, at the very mention of grace, everyone became nice and neat and could simply take their place next to us in our favorite pew? Not our seat, of course. But next to us in a pew that miraculously and suddenly had room for one more.

Unfortunately, that is not the way grace, or pews for that matter, works.

I recently finished Messy Grace, by Caleb Kaltenbach, a book I believe should be required reading for every Christian. Oh, I suppose the ideas have already been recorded somewhere in a book that is considered required reading for Christians, but somehow many of us have missed the application of truth that the Bible offers.

Does it make sense if I say that Messy Grace is groundbreaking while not actually offering anything new? I don't mean that in merely the sense of 'there is nothing new under the sun' as…

The Christmas Story is a Call to Action

This is something I shared with my youth group recently...because not even a Christmas party is an excuse to stop pursuing teens with the clarion call of Christ. 

I found a list of the "must-have" gifts for Christmas for the past 30 years. This is what http://www.statisticbrain.com/ had to share.

In 1983 everyone had to have a cabbage patch doll. In 1985 we just had to have an $18 Pound Puppy. In 1989 American households scrambled to get a new Game Boy, followed by the 1995 Beanie Baby craze, and the 1996 Tickle Me Elmo frenzy. In the ensuing years American consumers knocked themselves out to buy the following top yearly must-have Christmas gifts: a new iPod (2002), A Wii (2006), a Kindle (2010), the Angry Birds Board Game (2011), the Doc McStuffins doll (2013), and the Frozen Sing Along Elsa Doll (2015).
Not much over the past 30 years has changed. We’ve proven over and over again that we’ll buy lots of garbage in mass quantities. Except for the serious collector, most of u…

Christmas and Noise

Each Sunday our children collect change for missions. As we got closer to Christmas, the big bucket was emptied for year-end numbers. And this was how the great juxtaposition of Christmas and noise was about to be experienced. 
As our ladies played a special number on the piano and organ, our kids collected change. Except now, the change they collected was dropped into an empty bucket. Can you hear the change thumping and clanging against the empty bottom of a 5-gallon bucket? I could. 
The background to the noise was the playing of O Holy Night, a soft and melodic tune. Or perhaps the background to O Holy Night was the change being dropped in the bucket. It's kind of hard to say which was which now. 
But it was the familiar sounds of Christmas mixed with the familiar sounds of....noise. One might have wished us to plan differently and have the ladies play apart from the collecting of money. That would have been one way to go, I suppose. 
Yet I imagine the first Christmas was a s…

Love Does Not Envy

Among the silly and insignificant things I post here, I also share the chapel moments I have with a room full of preschoolers. I'm honestly not sure why I go in with a plan, since I never know what's going to happen once I open my mouth. Herding cats might be more predictable. 

I'm taking them through 1 Corinthians 13 this school year. Here was the latest...

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy.”
I've always marveled at the transition between being thankful for everything we have on Thanksgiving Day, to shopping for all the new stuff we want to be thankful for on Black Friday. So I asked the children the following questions.

How many of you have made a Christmas list for your mom and dad?How many of you are looking forward to seeing Santa?What if you don’t get everything on your list? Will you be mad at Santa? Or will you be thankful for what you do get? There is something that often happens around Christmas that is a problem for everyone; boys, girls, and ev…

The Real Christmas Story

If I write a non-Christmas article in December, will I be ignored by everyone who started listening to Christmas music in October? If I write a Christmas-themed thought, will I be ignored by all those sharing the spirit of Grinch and Scrooge?

Silly me, forgetting that most people ignore me all year long. Why would December be any different?
As anyone who writes any article, blog, book, etc. can tell you, there is an attempt, perhaps assumed and unspoken, by the author to reach the reader. Right where they are. If there can be some magical connection point between those who are not even in the same room, then the goal has been achieved.

This is why many simply choose to write whatever is on their heart. If I share my heart in an honest and open way, the thought process goes, then whoever miraculously happens to be touched was likely at a point of needing that word. So cast a wide enough net and you may just snag a few more readers along the way.

Others will aim their writing where they …

Love Is Kind

This year I am helping preschoolers memorize some verses in the Bible that talk about love. They are found in 1 Corinthians 13. It had been a month since the previous chapel time I led, so I wasn't expecting much when I asked them if they recalled what we talked about before. But one kid quickly called out, 'Love is patient.' I told that young boy he won the day.

Then I told them I was going to talk about the next aspect of love, kindness, by telling them a story.

Once there were these 5 guys that were friends. But one of those friends was paralyzed. Do you know what that means? It means he couldn’t move his arms or legs.

Let’s pretend we can’t move our arms and legs. Just as an aside, I'm going to figure out how I can include this story in every chapel. Those kids all sat frozen while I told the story. 

One day those friends heard that Jesus was in town. So the four friends that could move decided to pick up their friend, carry him on his bed all the way to Jesus. Wh…

A Snowflake Just Like You

So, the next time you see a snowfall and your first instinct isn't to pause and stand in awe f the Creator, you may want to check yourself. Listen, I get it. I was born and raised in Florida. Snow was what my grandparents talked about. Snow was something we saw in movies.

But now I have lived over half of my life in these places where the white tundra is just expected for half the year. You call it North. I've asked God for forgiveness for what I call it.

Recently some guy I've never heard of (I'll give him credit below*) took amazingly close up shot of individual snowflakes. What I see is evidence of a Creator. But not just a Creator. A Creator that doesn't seem to care what you and I give Him credit for. Take a look at these and consider that, for thousands of years, these flakes have been falling on the ground, mostly unnoticed for their stunning beauty and individual style. 



These unique flakes, all beautiful, fulfilled their purpose and virtually nobody notice…

In Search of Adolescence

You could call this a portion of a book review, or you could call this my attempt to bring something more scholarly to this space. Either way, it is likely best described as my acknowledgement that I am not the first, such as Sir Isaac Newton recognized when he said “if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

See, though I know it was not original with me, I began my youth ministry career by repeating that what I do is not about a religion, but about a relationship. At times I imagined it seeped into my brain from some of my youth ministry mentors. But I have been reading In Search of Adolescence: A New Look at an Old Idea by Crystal Kirgiss. Now I see the idea goes back much further.

In this book, Crystal battles the idea that adolescence is a modern day construct. Showing how previous generations dealt with the people we know as teenagers, she proves her point well. At one point she quotes John Greene and Solomon Stoddard, a couple of preachers from the ear…

Doing Your Daily Duties

In a discussion with college students I led recently, we stumbled across the title of what will need to be a future book I write. For now it will simply have to be this blog post.

Doing Your Daily Duties: How to Avoid Becoming Spiritually Constipated. I know, I know, you would totally buy this book. Just let me write it first.

Our discussion, when it wasn't appealing to my third grade sense of humor, touched on the matters we say we want to accomplish each and every day. Things like prayer and Bible study to be sure. But also an unrelenting focus on the things that matter to God.

We acknowledged that we want these things to matter to us, but often times Netflix and the desire for a nap crowd out the time we have. I think it goes almost without saying (though I'm typing it right now) that the matters of God carry more for us than anything else we find to do. And yet?

Had we a Savior tapping on our shoulder to remind us of what we say we value, it would be easy to let Earthly thi…

A Call to Worship, Or Called to Worship

When I became  youth pastor at my current church, I had a job description that probably looks very similar to many other youth ministry job descriptions. Maybe all job descriptions. There was a line towards the end of the list of my roles that said; other duties as assigned.

It's a bad thing to have that line in a youth ministry job description for two reasons. First, you shouldn't use the duty around youth pastors. After all, we hang around middle schoolers and this just begs us to chuckle at the use of words that can have double meanings. 
Secondly, and more importantly, those other duties (snicker) can begin to swallow your time whole.

I digress. 
I was leading in worship and shared some thoughts, but I thought I would use this space to expound.

Have you ever had one of those Sundays when you simply wanted to get into the worship time? Maybe most Sundays are a battle between how your reality looked the rest of the week and your desire to engage in worship. It's not that…

Love is Patient

From time to time I will be posting a short teaching moment I had with the young children who attend our church preschool. This one involved a purposely mistaken drawing of my home. I say purpose;ly mistaken so you don't think I live in some weird world.
So, I started coloring again. I was going to wait to show anyone, but I just couldn’t wait. I’m going to show you a picture of me at my house on a sunny day.

Doesn’t this look good? What do you think? Am I a natural artist?

These kids, who I've noticed struggle with staying in the lines, were quick to notice my mistakes. Of course, that was the point.

It looks like I got a lot of things mixed up in my drawing. Sometimes we get things all mixed up in life. Do you ever fight with your brother or sister? Have you ever told your mom or dad no? Have you ever refused to share? Ever been grumpy?

Did you know that sometimes even moms and dads get things mixed up? Even adults get angry, sometimes we fight and say things we should not. We…

Called Out in Church

Have you ever been called out in church? I have and I’ll never forget it.

I was sitting in the back row of church, safely away from my parents and, I thought, anyone who could see me not listening to the sermon. That particular Sunday, an older leader in our church was filling in while the pastor was away.

A teenager at the time, I was doing what I’m sure none of the teens in our church do. I was passing notes and making jokes with my friends, who were very clearly being a negative influence on me. (Insert tongue in cheek here.) That’s when it happened.

The substitute-preacher called out, “You boys may think this is funny, but death is a serious thing!”

Fortunately he did not call us out by name, although that did not end up keeping me out of trouble from my parents after church was over. Since I could not actually tell them what the sermon was about, I had no defense.

The only solace is that I’m sure I won’t be the last person to have been called out in church. Nor was I the first. T…

Loving God, Teaching Preschoolers

I told you I would be sharing how my preschool chapel times go throughout the year. I'm attempting to teach God's love, which is actually a bigger topic than we ever give it credit for. Here was my introduction to the topic.

I like to play games that involve a ball. One of the reasons is because balls do not have an end.

See this ruler? It has a beginning and an end.

A ball does not have an end. It just keeps going and going. That’s like God’s love for us. God’s love has no end. He has loved us ever since He made us. He will always love us, no matter what.

There is a second reason I like this ball. You can share it. A ball is more fun when you play games with it with other people. With a ball, you don’t keep it to yourself. You share it with others. God’s love is the same way. It’s better when we share it.

We’re going to try an experiment. I want to toss this ball around. If we want to show love, we will toss it to someone else. But in order to show love, we will toss it …

Teaching Little Children the Most Excellent Way

Every year I share in the chapel duties for our Church preschool. Being a type-A, I like to plan it out for the entire year. I will be given 12 opportunities (give or take) to grab and keep the attention of 60 preschoolers. Yes, I am willing to be crazy and loud and funny in order to accomplish this.

Sometimes it works. Other times my wife, who is the preschool director, just gives me the nod as my signal to pray and close and hope for better the next time. After all, sometimes leading a mini-Bible study with little ones is like herding cats, although I've never actually tried this.

To give you an idea, I have tried many extreme object lessons; juggling, dancing, playing guitar, telling silly stories, etc. Mid-stream I will have one of these young kids raise their hands. I mistakenly assume they are about to ask some good theological question based on my amazing teaching. More often I hear their new dog's name or some silly comment about bodily functions.

Sigh.

The challenge i…

Parenting Win?

Before you read this story, let me be clear on a couple of things which should be obvious for anyone who knows my family.


Sarcasm is a love language.Sympathy is not in abundant supply around here. A few nights ago, I was sharing some wishes with my children for my funeral. I told them I wanted a closed casket, but at the end I wanted the organist to start playing 'Pop Goes the Weasel'. Then I wanted them to look at the faces of everybody as they sat and watched the casket. (Yes, I saw this joke on Facebook.
My kids responded that it was as good as done. They even had an idea for a lever that could make the casket open at the appropriate time. 
Fast forward to the weekend, where I was dutifully mowing the lawn. Some bees, which must be straight out of the pits of hell, came out of the ground and stung me in both my ankles and my pinky finger. 
I left the mower behind, and with much anguish, called out to my wife, who quickly made a paste to take the sting out. (I assure you th…

The Kind of Church I Want to Be a Part Of

I wear a few different hats at my church. That may be understating things, but suffice it to say I get to know a lot of different people in a lot of different age groups.

One of the benefits is the relationships I build with multiple generations and the vantage point from which I can see where our church is at. On any given Sunday, I will have lots of different people that I would like to catch up with as several people that might seek out my attention.

Yesterday was one of those days. But I should mention that one of the areas I oversee is that of children. And children will get your attention....ummm...whenever they can.

I was leading in our worship service, which will involve leading the singing as well as calling ushers to collect the offering. This year in our church, we have children collecting change for missionaries.

So while the ushers are collecting money in an organized fashion, we have about 20 kids running around the sanctuary, shaking people down for their loose change. …

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pregnancy

I am currently in the middle of a teaching series with my youth group on Romans 8. Wow, does this chapter have a bunch to say. Here's a small taste of something I shared and the scripture that went along with it.

Pregnancy is a funny thing. A woman gets pregnant for the first time and she is normally excited. This is a married woman. An unmarried woman gets pregnant and she is cursing and panicking, which is why we save sex for marriage. I digress. A married woman is excited. She can’t wait to tell her friends and family.

Then something happens over 9 months. She goes through some changes.

In the first trimester she experiences something called morning sickness. She’s puking, she’s sick and it’s not even flu season.

In the second trimester, she is beginning to show a baby bump, which means certain clothes don’t fit, but her appetite is back. She has these cravings for certain foods. The husband happily obliges.

Then the third trimester shows up. Jabba, I mean, the wife, just wants …

Things I Won't Consider At 99

I am not yet middle-aged. At least, that's what I tell myself. If you double my life, I'll be 20 years from the century mark, which I fully plan on reaching. And while I'd like to think I'll have as much awesome then as I do now, there are probably things I won't be doing. They include, but are not limited to:
Exercising. If I make it to 100, I'll treat myself to some days without getting the heart rate up.Eating healthy. All cookies, all the time. You never know when it might be your last.Going to the bathroom just once in the middle of the night. Let's just be realistic here.Working. Except maybe as a Walmart greeter. It could happen.Having more babies. I'm not saying I couldn't. I'm just saying I wouldn't. But there was a guy I read about recently who was having babies at 100, and for him it was a big deal. Reading the story of Abraham and Sarah takes only a relatively few chapters in the book of Genesis. But it stems over 25 years of thei…

Things I've Said to My Children

I've said some things to my children which, upon review, sounded pretty stupid. And we've all heard the classic parent answers which require answers we wouldn't enjoy. For instance, 'Do I look stupid to you?' 
Seriously, who wants to hear the answer they'd get from a grumpy child?

So when I saw a book titled Things I've Said to My Children, I knew this was a must have. Nathan Ripperger has saved and illustrated some of the more odd things he's said to his children.
Anyone who isn't a parent won't get this book. They might have it in their possession, but it will be lost on them. But for that club that can only be joined by suffering sleepless nights and crazy trips to the grocery store, as Nathan said, where children lick the grocery carts, this will be a funny read. 
Since it's illustrated and filled with short quotes, it's a quick read. Half the fun for me was imagining what was going on in their house that led to several of these quot…

How We Prepare For Worship

I was reading Exodus recently and realized just how different things are for us nowadays than they were for Moses and the Israelites.

Let me start with the Israelites...

We see God commanding the people to consecrate their firstborn children. Here were their requirements:
Make bread without yeast.Get rid of all yeast. All of it.  It was like when your mom would say she didn't want to see any mess in your room. God wanted all things yeasty to be gone. But we're not done yet.

All firstborn males had to be redeemed. This was done by sacrificing the firstborn sheep and goats. If you had a donkey, you could switch it for a sheep. But if you didn't, God wanted you snapping the neck of your donkey. I have to wonder if that would cause the other donkeys to lose trust in you. Perhaps they would be a little nervous when they saw you come around again.

Nevertheless, this is how the Israelites prepared for worship.

A typical Sunday morning for my family looks nothing like this. The …

If I Were Jesus...

My mother-in-law was treated unkindly by someone claiming to be a professional in the medical field. This happened about a month ago, but no, I’m not still fuming over this. I feel bad that it happened, but that's not why I bring it up.
As my wife was sharing with our whole family about the injustice served to her mom, our kids became justifiably upset (I'm glad they care). They started telling us what they would have told the so-called professional had they been in that situation. I began to hear how my kids might treat telemarketers in the future. It wasn’t pretty.
And that's when I saw it. That moment parents enjoy...a teachable moment. 
I stopped their bravado and simply asked them how they thought Jesus would respond to injustice or being treated unfairly. How would Jesus respond to the healthcare worker?
Jacie, our oldest responded, as if Jesus, with, "Oh yeah, I'll just heal myself!" My son, always a bit too quick with his wit, responded, "If I were J…

No More Busy Seasons

Here's a little something something I wrote up for our church newsletter. I figured you might like it here as well.

Can we all agree to officially let go of certain phrases? I know everyone likely has their own peeve over a certain word or phrase. One of mine is “this is a busy season for us.”

First of all, I don’t know if you’re referring to season by weather, by sport, or by when all your reports are due. That’s right students; reports never go away, even after you graduate college. Get used to it.

I’m not here to judge our busyness. I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re all busy. For families with children, that’s just part of life, even when you limit each child to one extra-curricular activity per season. Yes, I said season.

So, if we’re all so busy, how do we do anything? Perhaps without realizing it, we make time for the things that are important to us. Some of those things give us natural reasons to make time for them. For instance, a job gives us money, so we can pay for pesky things…

Getting Rid of Stuff

Do you want to know the best way to be ready to return to work after a vacation? I've discovered it.

Consider this. You've worked for a while (perhaps a long while) to save up money to get away. Family vacations are nice and all, but going anywhere is going to cost you some cash. And for the sake of argument, let's assume you added some extra time off. You won't be at your destination all that time. You just added a few days at home, in order to get some stuff done.

There it is.

You just gave your wife unfettered access to your skills and labor around the house. That garden won't weed itself. The thorough cleaning and reorganization of a kitchen needs a partner, right?

For us, it was cleaning out the garage. Because when you clean out any other area of the house, the garage becomes the new catch-all. Let's just put this stuff we don't want to look at in a bin in the garage.

Cleaning it out later became cleaning it out now. When moving the vehicle and the bik…

Associate Pharisees?

Were there Associate Pharisees?

I like to think I have some experience with being an Associate Pastor. Even though I've only worked at 2 churches, I have worked with 8 different Senior Pastors.

Yes..., I know that's a lot.
Yes..., I have wondered if it's me.

But being an Associate means different things to different people. It means different things to the people working with the Associate and it means various things to each Associate. What I have discovered is that it primarily means being willing to follow the leader. Leadership comes from the top and to become a good complement, one must be willing to follow the vision being given from the top.

So one day I wondered if there were Associate Pharisees. We read about these religious leaders all the time. Surely there were some junior members. There had to be someone to work with the kids, right? Someone had to lead those overnight trips with camel racing and Dodge Scroll. (The trick to Dodge Scroll is to avoid being hit…

Treating Jesus Like We Treat Our Girlfriend

I want to tell you a little bit about my first girlfriend. (This was before I met Jen.) I was head over heels for this girl. Because I was so ‘in love’, I was willing to do anything to be able to date her and tell people that I was dating her. So she had some standards that she wanted me to reach for if we were going to be a couple.

I really wanted to date her, so I said, ‘Lay it on me, babe.’ (Those are the kinds of things I say to woo damsels...works every time.)

She wanted us to talk every day, at least on the phone.

She wanted us to go out on a date, at least once a week.

She had some rules for how I should act, both when we were together and when we weren’t. After all, she said, ‘I’ was now an ‘us’ and we should consider how people view us, even when we weren’t together.

I really wanted to date this girl. So I agreed to her standards. How did I do?

The first rule was that we talk every day, at least on the phone. Well, this was before cell phones, so this was kind of difficult. It mean…

Blank Space

I just know that some of you saw the title and are reading now, hoping for lyrics to a Taylor Swift song. My apologies.

Yes, T. Swifty does have a song titled Blank Space, where she writes about her ex-lovers and the apparent vacancy for the next ex-boyfriend. But I have a different picture of what a blank space can offer.

Blank space offers a space for grace.

I have conversations with people all the time where the unspoken request is for grace. Deadlines weren't met, relationships need to be restored, wrongs have been committed. While there is certainly an understanding of consequences in most people's minds, it occurs to me that the blank space we can offer provides a way out.

This way out is not something people immediately consider. After all, what's done is done and there's no going back, right? But I see a blank space that says otherwise. New deadlines can be established. Relationships don't need to remain broken. Wrongs can be made right.

The Church should al…

Do I Still Blog?

The question has occurred to me more often in the past month than it likely has to everyone else combined. Do I still blog?

As a type-A, I like to see order in things, especially my life. When order is not seen, I struggle.

So, do I still blog? I ask myself the question. For starters, if I don't blog anymore, then that checklist of things to write about can stop plaguing me.

If I don't blog, then I can fill that writing time with something else. Like a nap.
If I don't blog, then I can bother people with something else.

It occurred to me that perhaps writing was just a stage. I had some stuff on my mind and I needed to get it off my chest. Maybe that's all it was and, now that I got it off my chest, I can simply go for a bike ride.

If you go back on my blog (not that you should), you'd find the overarching story line to be about my insignificance. The fact that I recognized my insignificance was something I felt like should be pointed out.

Well, I am still insignifi…

Getting Myself Off of Injured Reserve

I'm not sure why I'm exercising.

That's what I said to myself for two weeks. To be honest, I've said it more often that that. But, in particular, I said it for two weeks. Here's why...

I had hurt my leg and was unable to run hard, which meant I was unable to play basketball, which I love to do. I love playing it. I love watching it. I enjoy talking about it.

I play some early morning basketball twice a week. The guys I play with are all better than me, which means I try my absolute best every time. In order to do that, I exercise the rest of the week to stay in good shape.

But now my ability to go play basketball was gone. So what was I exercising for? Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can talk all you want about staying in shape and health and blah, blah, blah.

The fact is the lure of the cookie is not going to stop and if I can't run, not much is going to counteract the results of my answering when the cookie calls.

I'm not sure why I'm working so hard.

That's…

The Day I Replaced a Spark PLug

I changed a spark plug on my lawn mower and got the lawn mower working again.

For people who know me, that statement will cause them to be amazed, in more ways than one. Some will know how my talents in all things mechanical are quite lacking and they will be impressed, Others will wonder how a grown man got to my age without ever having accomplished this before.

Let my naysayers talk all they want. I won't be deterred. The facts are that I have other talents. I can do other things. Some of those other skills are even needed by other people. The 6 year old inside of me wants to say, 'so there.'

It's not for lack of effort on my dad's part. He tried. He really did. He fixed everything we owned while I was growing up. He invited me out to learn and to help. It turned out the best way I could help him was by keeping the flashlight steady.

But now that he's gone and my stuff won't fix itself, I have to learn a few things. So I googled. Yes, I google imaged a sp…

Look Up!

My kids play soccer. We could have opted for an inside sport, but then there's no chance of watching your kids play in the rain while you freeze on the sidelines. Who wants that?

Is that mud in our van ever going to come out? Probably not, but at least we watched 3 scoreless games. Hooray soccer!

Have you ever seen a litter of kittens all go after the same ball of yarn? If so, you know what watching 7 and 8-year old girls looks like. As they get older, it looks pretty much the same, just with less cute.

One of the things we start talking to all the players about, early and often, is to keep their heads up. A skill they must learn is how to kick the ball without looking at the ball. They can get so focused on kicking the ball in front of them that they become oblivious to everything else around them. Look up!

But once they learn how to maintain control of the ball while keeping their heads up, the game changes. They can see where the opposition is coming from. They can see where their…

Dad: A Shopping Experience

Who do you call on when the wife and mother are sick and the family still needs to eat?

Normally I'd say my good friend Papa John. But we'd already called him. The illness lingered on and the children demanded to be fed more than once in a week's time. (Remind me to write about this demanding entitled generation, wanting to eat every single day.)

So anyway, back to the original question. Who do you call when the wife is sick and stuff still needs to be done? That's right! You call the dad!

So I decided to go grocery shopping. I could have made the list myself, but my wife thought I might not always make the best decisions. I'm not sure what she's talking about. Keebler is a quality product, am I right?

List in hand, I trudged alone into the aisled wilderness.

And I wandered.

And wandered...

Recognizing products that were often found in my kitchen, I threw them into my cart. Was there backtracking due to a poorly organized list? Maybe. But don't be so judgme…

80 Years Young

The church I am a part of, Winona Lake Free Methodist, turns 80 this year. We're having a big celebration on April 26. Learning more and more about this church has me thinking about legacy.

I don't remember every moment in my life. Some moments are quite foggy. But three moments stand out with clarity. If you're counting my kids, then you know where I'm going. And at the risk of embarrassing my teenager at just the very mention of baby pictures, I'll tell you that’s exactly what I’m thinking of.

Naked they all came from the womb. There was wiggling and noises and Jennifer and I were suddenly thrust into new roles: Parents! It was a great moment, to be repeated twice more, when I would hold a newborn baby that God had given to me.

In those moments, I remember having a lot of hopes for my children. I remember having dreams of what they would become. Looking back, I know there was no way I could have predicted what Jacie would become 13 years later. Nor did I see …

Father Dark

I want to be fair here. I know things are not always as simple as they seem.

But I want to be fair. Most things are not as complicated as we make them out to be.

I received a book from my friends at SpeakEasy blogging. They often have books that stretch me. To be honest, I disagree with much of their theology, and Father Dark by Steven L. Case was no different.

This novel centers around a dark angel. Only because I dislike spoilers will I not go into more details about how far off track I think this book goes.

If this were all that bothered me about this book, I could look past it. After all, fiction can be fun. But....

This book has profanity. Not just the one or two examples used by some authors to show they are relevant or cool, or whatever reason Christian authors choose to grab low hanging fruit.

This book has a lot of profanity. Much of it appears to have no purpose except to remind you the author knows profanity. For those who haven't heard me rant about profanity in books, …

Easter is Different

Here is what I find interesting. As Christians, we talk about Christmas in December, but that’s about it. To hear a lesson in July about the baby Jesus is like listening to Christmas music in January – nobody wants to hear about it anymore. It’s not that we don’t believe the story, but we basically read about it once a year.

But Easter is different. As Christians, we talk about the resurrection story of Jesus all year long. Why? Because Jesus dying for our sins, and rising again (showing He had power over death) is the whole reason we are who we are. Paul wrote that without Jesus rising from the dead, we have nothing and our religion is pointless.

Go ahead. Say those words out loud.

Pointless.

Nothing. 

Say those words out loud while considering what it is you really believe. I can't speak definitively for you, but I know how I feel about things I believe. I know that I certainly don't want anyone considering my beliefs to be worthless or a waste of time.

Think about those words…

This is Who We Are

I'm leading my college ministry group through a fantastic book right now. It's called Think, Act, Be Like Jesus by Randy Frazee. He connects what we think to how we act and the outcome is a lifelong virtue. Here's the latest section our group covered.

Who am I? Can you describe yourself in 5 words? Perhaps you've been asked that question before. If you're like me, your answers have varied, depending on whom you were with, how you were feeling about your life, or what you had for lunch that day.

Slightly different question: which description of whom we are in Christ means the most to you? (a child, a temple, a new creation, a member of the body of Christ, a citizen in Heaven, etc.)

How does this description change how you approach each day?

I believe how we see ourselves impacts everything else; how we live our lives, how we treat one another. If we live fully in God’s grace, we’ll be the most willing to pass that grace around. If we try to accomplish things on our ow…

This is What You Just Put In Your Mouth?

This is the book my wife will never read. She would prefer to remain blissfully unaware. This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? is a book about what's really inside everyday products. As I read it, it doesn't sound like Patrick Di Justo has an agenda or a vendetta for anyone.

He just wanted to know. A curious mind.

But the moment I told my wife that A-1 steak sauce was one of the products listed, she said emphatically, 'Don't ruin A-1 for me.' So we'll keep her out of this. But each chapter has a list of the ingredients and what they do, offer or cause.

Then there's the back story on each investigative search. This was the part of each chapter I most looked forward to, because this was where the fun was. When companies embraced what they were, or tried to hide what they used. Ahh, you have to love investigative journalism. Sometime the better stry isn't what you learned, but how you learned it.

In the end, I don't know that it will change much …

More Than Just The Talk

I can't tell you how many times I have been in front of my youth group and said, 'Yes, I'm talking about sex!' It's not that I always plan to talk about sex. But I'm not one to shy away from the topic either.

And every time (really) they look at me as if I've just said something naughty. Oh, wait...they do think I've said something naughty. And it's probably because the Church, in general, has often treated sex as a taboo topic.

We, the Church in general, could choose to go on like this, stuttering and stammering any time the topic is brought up. Or we could fulfill the subtitle of Jonathan McKee's new book; More Than Just The Talk; Becoming Your Kid's Go-To Person About Sex.

Soooo, parents and youth workers, say it with me....seeeeexxxxxx.

Now that we've said it, let's talk about McKee's new book. He lays down a solid foundation, explaining very explicitly that sex was God's idea and sex was God's gift. (Can I get an Am…

What Are You Capable Of?

I fancy myself to be just like Batman...without the money, the cave, the vendetta, the car and the cool belt. Other than that, we're pretty much the same guy. Does it help my case that I have a boy wonder? It's my son, but I'd take him over a dude in green tights any day.

I've also imagined myself to be similar to Superman...you know, but without the super strength, speed, or that thing he can do with his eyes. Oh, and I'm also not from another planet. But he was a reporter and I like to write, though that hasn't been proven much by my blog. At least, not compared to what I used to write.

The first time I write this post, it sounded like an apology. But that's not really the message I want to convey. Yes, I wish I were posting more. I also wish I had super strength or a cool utility belt, but those things aren't happening right now either. Maybe some day.

The truth is I have been keeping busy. I'm not sitting back, sipping lemonade. I've never ca…

Clash of Plans

In my youth ministry, we're discussing the last week of Jesus. We started last night by discussing Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. Unlike other times when Jesus came into the holy city, this time He was announcing His kingdom. He proclaimed Himself King. And, of course, he did this with much pomp and circumstance by riding in on a....baby donkey?

Um....yeah.

As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
(By the way, I had my group take parts and act out this scene. Few things are funnier than seeing one teen on the back of another as they play the parts of Jesus and the donkey. I'd like to see a senior pastor try this in Big Church.)

Jesus was unexpected when He came to Earth. He …

Divine Applause

I knew I liked his style of writing. I just didn't recall that I had read anything from him before. Oh, but I had.

The book in question is Divine Applause by Jeff Anderson. The previous book was Plastic Donuts, which you can see my review on here.

I don't know how you read books, but I normally do so with a pencil nearby. I like to underline sections that grab my attention. But since I'm not going to spend the time flipping through a book to look for pencil marks, I also fold over a corner of the page. As you can see by the image below, I underlined quite a bit, as I thoroughly enjoyed this book.


To say I enjoyed might need some clarification. It challenged me and caused me to stir about the choices I make. So, for as much as anyone enjoys being challenged, I would recommend Divine Applause.

Jeff Anderson has taken Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and reflected on what turns out to be pretty straightforward talk from Jesus. In that sermon, Jesus told us to pray, give and fa…