Monday, March 30, 2015

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 own, we’ll be quicker to expect others to work as hard as we do.

“In view of God’s mercy…” As we consider this concept, we are left with an obvious response of total surrender to God’s will. He should so capture our hearts for today and forever that we are compelled to give up our lives for Him – from love, not duty; for worship, not works.” Pg122

Out of an understanding of who we are in Christ, our response should come naturally.

The virtue that comes from understanding who we are and giving it all to God is hope. We hope that everything God has promised will come true. We hope that Heaven lives up to the billing. We hope that it will all be worth it. Because, quite frankly, we’re just as smart and talented as others who appear to succeed in this life. So if this life were all we were living for, we’d like to show them.

But we know it’s not. We have a greater hope. We believe there is more than what we see right now. When we say ‘hope’, it’s not a last-ditch effort at something because we were incapable of anything else. We say ‘hope’, it is resting on a firm foundation, a ground that has been tested and proved, long before we came on the scene. We say ‘hope’ with purpose.

That's who we are.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

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 of what I eat, or don't eat. I'm just a curious mind.

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I received this book from my good friends at Blogging for Books for this review. You can pick up a copy of it here

Friday, March 20, 2015

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 Amen?!?) He emphasizes this to help change our perspective. Yes, sex has been a very misused gift. But when we're teaching our kids, we should be teaching them God's perspective.

After laying this foundation, McKee goes on to talk about toothbrushes, grandmas, and some of the latest stats and findings. He speaks explicitly and plainly, making the book feel very much like a conversation.

Is it sometimes awkward? Well, yeah, but as Jonathan notes, sex is a very personal and intimate act, so it will feel awkward at times.

Is it straightforward? You bet. He talks parts and desires and leaves no stone uncovered.

Is it Biblical truth? Unashamedly so. There is also a teen book, Sex Matters, to get all these needed conversations moving. It's even coming just in time for all those youth pastors who plan spring teaching themes around purity and dating.

So, if you're going to talk about sex, I recommend this book as a very useful tool. You can pick it up here -

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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 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 cared much for lemonade, plus I can't get my kids to bring it to me. I've been doing some of the same things that I used to write about, but more often than not, the words I want to convey remain elusive.

I don't know why it is. I just know that it is.

I also considered making a commitment to post more, but I also do not want to do that. If the words are not real and they do not feel right, I'd rather keep them to myself to simmer. I am still writing. Many posts are incomplete.

So why do I put this out there. Because I don't feel incomplete. I rest content in God's love for me and His mission on my life. And I just kind of figured someone else would need to hear that too.

You might not be accomplishing all you want to accomplish right now. But God loves you anyway.

Monday, March 9, 2015

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 donkey?


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 was unexpected in the way He lived. The religious leaders expected a Messiah who would be clean cut like they were. The disciples expected someone who would lead a revolution. It probably shouldn't be very surprising to us that Jesus would do something like this. At the very least, we can say Jesus was consistent.

I think the question we all need to ponder is; why do we expect God to be predictable? Why do we think God will do what we expect?

Think about it. God says His ways are different than ours. He tells us His thoughts are better than our thoughts. Everything He preached is about as counter-culture as one can possibly be. Why would we expect a God, who never did anything that even remotely resembles a strategy we would come up with, to accomplish His mission in a way we expect?

Maybe instead of asking God to do things the way we do them, we should be asking God to be patient with us and let us go along for the ride. After all, if I have a plan and God has a plan, instead of expecting a clash of plans, we should set our aside. Otherwise we will find ourselves telling God that we don't think His plan is all that good.

Good luck with that plan.

Friday, March 6, 2015

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.

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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 fast and watch what happens in return. Jeff tells us these are the not-so-secret ingredients to getting God's attention and seeing how He responds to us.

Far from being a seek-after-God-and-receive-untold-riches kind of story, Jeff centers in on the sometimes mundane manner in which God responds to His children. He explains this is because we are individuals and God desires a relationship with us that reflects that individuality. But make no mistake, God is watching us.

"But the reality that God is watching speaks of His care. His watchful ways are intended to inspire, not frighten us. This is one of the key mind shifts necessary to hearing god's applause. It all has to do with how your picture God's face." ~Divine Applause, page 15.

I'd include some more direct quotes, but when I choose not to read by my Kindle, where I can highlight and then copy/paste quotes, it means a lot more typing for me. And when I think you should simply get the book yourself, it would also be counter-productive.

I received this book for free from my good friends over at Blogging for Books. They give me books and ask for my thoughts, which you now have.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Think, Act, Be

I know my writing and posting has been haphazard (at best) in 2015. I'm not promising any changes. I'll post here and there and you can let me know your thoughts. Here's a little study I used with my college group recently that I thought you might like. We're going through a Randy Frazee book that I would highly recommend. 

In the book Randy Frazee takes subjects Christians should be thinking about, discusses the corresponding right action that should go with those right thoughts, then talks about the virtue we should all be living based on those thoughts and actions.

Name one movie you think everyone should see and everyone should love.
Name one song you think everyone should hate.

If you're with any group larger than 1, I'm guessing you will have difficulty agreeing on the list.

Christians argue about a lot of things. What are the absolute basic things you think we should all agree on?

Think – Salvation

One might think that salvation should be on the list of things every Christians agrees on. Let’s look at some scriptures and see where the disagreement comes from.

Mark 10:17-22 – Do Good Works
John 3:1-7, 9, 16 - Believe
Acts 2:14, 21, 37-38 – Repent and Be Baptized
Romans 10:1-4, 9-10 – Believe and Profess
Ephesians 2:8-9 – Come to Faith by Grace

So, do Paul contradict Jesus? What do you think was at the heart of Jesus’ conversation with the rich man?

Randy Frazee writes that Jesus was attempting to get the rich man to admit his powerlessness to fulfill the Law. I tend to agree that many of us need to be slapped awake to the idea that salvation is something we cannot (ever, not a chance, not in a million years) earn by our good works.

Act – Bible Study

This action follows the thinking of salvation simply because we have a need to study scripture in order to know and be able to communicate the Gospel to the world.

When Jesus was tempted by satan, Jesus only used scripture as a defense. How often have you, or someone you know, used the words feelings or I think when trying to prove a point?

Frazee asks what difference would be made in our lives if, for one week, we took the Bible everywhere we normally took our phones. What if we read the Bible for one week at every moment we would normally spend calling, texting, browsing or playing Candy Crush on our phones? What would be different about that week?

Be – Peace

Is peace the absence of trouble or the presence of something? If it’s a presence, of what?

Peace comes with salvation. God has died in our place! Assurance of peace comes with Bible study. Quite frankly, we should be able to read the stories of people who are way more screwed up than we are and have peace that, if we have accepted God’s terms, then we are okay. And if we are as screwed up as some of the people from the Bible, then we should also have peace, knowing that they were able to be reconciled with God. If they can, so can we.

Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble. ~Psalm 119:165

Monday, March 2, 2015

Conviction Trumps Conversation

This is a portion of something I shared with my teens a couple of weeks ago.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? ~Galatians 1:10

Let me tell you what I see going on. There are a lot of conversations that end with people responding “Oh, that’s cool.”

  • I know you like sports, but I think grown men being paid millions to throw or catch a ball is stupid. “Oh, that’s cool.”
  • I know what most people think, but I think Nickelback had some good music. “Oh, that’s cool.”
  • I am a grown man and I like watching My Little Ponies. “Oh, that’s cool.”
  • I was offended by something a pastor said to me, so I don’t go to church anymore. “Oh, that’s cool.”
  • I think we should all worship goats. “Oh, that’s cool.”
Okay, I could keep going. You could tell me things you've heard and we could do this all day. And in our societal attempt to not offend anyone, we might keep responding with “Oh, that’s cool.” But some things aren't cool. There are people out there who want us to be okay with abortion, pornography and a whole lot of other things. Go ahead and insert your favorite Bible verse here. 

There are things that should clearly fit in the category of non-negotiable for Christians but are somehow finding themselves in another column. That column would consist of things that we're now told our parents and grandparents were too naive, judgmental, uneducated, unenlightened (pick one) to understand. 

There are people who want us to accept that we will live like we want to live and they will live like they want to live and everybody should just be okay with that. There are no longer any absolutes that we should concern ourselves over. Simply live and let live, as long as your style of living does not interfere with my style of living. And certainly as long as your style does not induce any guilty feelings in my world.

We're simply supposed to be cool about it. But there are some things we shouldn't be 'cool' with, and we should be willing to say so.