Monday, April 28, 2008

Random Fact Tag

OK, so my friend and coworker (more like co-player!) Jim White passed this on to me. I'm supposed to share seven random facts about me, and then ask the five of you who read this blog to do the same on YOUR blogs! Well...

1. I play a pretty mean game of volleyball.
2. My African name is Mainza (pronounced 'mine-za') Some friends gave me this because it means "rainy season," and that's when my family arrived in Zambia.
3. When I'm in high places, I can't breathe and my legs give out.
4. My alternate personality (at home) is actually pretty introverted!
5. Dream job? (Besides youth ministry...) writing movie reviews!
6. My third grade teacher was Mrs. Perkins. (How's THAT for randomness?!)
7. I bought my "college car," a '79 Toyota Corolla, for $1.

8. This one's for free: I had Thai food for the first time at lunch today. The waitress actually asked me how spicy I wanted the food from 1-10. I chose a 6, but should've said like 4! Three hours later I ran two miles. Running and Thai food don't mix.

OK, how about Shane, Tracy, Carrie, and Jeremy do this? Man, only four friends, and one of them is my wife?! I'm kidding! You're just the only ones with blogs I can think of right now!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Took a handful of youth and parents to watch "Expelled" tonight. It's a frightening, though-provoking documentary by the serious-faced Ben Stein. In it, he interviews six or eight scientists who have been "expelled" (fired from their jobs, denied tenure, or scrutinized) for suggesting that Darwin's theories have holes in them. Some of them even dared to suggest that science might support evidence for a higher being creating mankind (this theory is called Intelligent Design.)
Stein then interviews five or six of the leading people in Neo-Darwinism or evolutionary theory. All of them mock anyone who believes in a "God" and say that it's just stupid.

A few things stood out for me:

1) One proponent of evolution says that the idea of Intelligent Design or Creationism is boring. BORING?! I'm not sure which "god" this guy knows, but the One I know is definitely NOT boring! Anyone who creates mountains to be climbed, rivers to be crossed, and teenagers is definitely NOT BORING!

2) Another Evolutionist said, "My hope would be that first of all, people would start to regard religion as another weekend social activity...just another event on their calendar. Eventually, we hope religion will crumble, people will be free, and we can begin to share the enlightenment of science." Well...scary, but the first sentence is already coming true in some places.

3) All of these "scientists" say they don't know how life began! I just find it funny that they mock our faith, when they have faith, too! (Because they have no data to back up their theories!) Maybe it's time that BOTH sides 'fess up to the fact that we have NO answers!

4) Interesting theories that I had not heard: "life began on the back of crystals" and "a superior race came to earth and 'planted' human life." Ben Stein says it well, "And you think MY beliefs are weird and far-fetched?!"

5) Perhaps Stein went too far in connecting Darwin's theories with the Holocaust. In essence, he was hinting that "survival of the fittest" philosophy led to the Nazi ideal (of "superhumans") and the extermination of millions of Jews. While this seems to be true, I also realize that there have been atrocities committed in the name of Christ. This shows that any philosophy can be misrepresented by people and taken out of context. As a Christian, I would argue that just because the Crusades happened, it doesn't mean Christ's philosophy was bad. Therefore, I must extend the same reasoning to our Darwin-followers (assuming they don't approve of the murder of innocents/disabled folks.)

6) I hope Christians will watch their attitudes after this film. Somehow, I don't think Jesus would be happy if we called up all these evolutionists and said, "YOU'RE AN IDIOT, AND I HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL!" No. These men are God's creation as well (even if they don't know it yet!) and God loves them just as much as everyone else. Just because they don't believe in Him doesn't mean His love goes away. Therefore, my love for them should remain also. God bless you, Richard Dawkins and colleagues. God bless you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Passing Down Your Faith Part 2

The argument between child and parent rages on: "I don't wanna go...!"
There was something in my last post that I forgot to mention as an important ingredient of passing on your faith to your kids:


Here's what I mean...
You can go to worship services every week faithfully, but are you the first ones out the door? Does your "worship" end there? Have YOU (as parents) tried to make connections at church?
Not only that, but are you SERVING somewhere? Have you taken an ACTIVE ROLE within the church?
When parents become passionate about something, it increases the chances of their kids becoming passionate about it, too. And one of the signs of passion (not just in church) is when people are proactive and purposeful about their passion. They don't take a "sit-back-and-see-what-happens" attitude. They YEARN for ways to help out!
I'm not talking about being obnoxious, or always being in front of people. I have some parents in my youth ministry who I can DEPEND ON to be there and do things as simple as set up chairs and tables, or make coffee and tea for our fundraiser lunches. By their quiet (but dependable) service, they are shouting to their kids, "THIS IS IMPORTANT!"
I LOVE IT when teens aren't in the High School class because they are helping their mom teach the 3 year olds! I LOVE IT when parents pull their kids out of worship so they can do puppets for Junior Church! They are working TOGETHER and they are sharing their passion with their kids.
If you want to increase the chances of your kids staying faithful, get involved in a ministry at your church! Tell your kids about your passion. Let them see it at work as you serve, even if it's behind the scenes! And allow your kids to test the ministry waters as well, to see where they might serve and get passionate about putting their faith to work.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Parenting Trend

I am disturbed by a trend among parents to "let their children figure things out for themselves." This parenting style is seen when kids are given a lot of freedom, allowed to break rules with little to no consequences, and have no consistency.
While I agree there are some things that children must figure out for themselves, something in my heart breaks when parents take this approach in regards to their kid's faith.

There are some fundamental flaws that lead to this approach:

1. "My child doesn't really care what I believe." Studies have shown again and again that PARENTS are the NUMBER ONE spiritual influence on their kids. So guess what? If parents have a negative attitude or an apathetic one towards faith and church, the kids will probably inherit it. Even if the child doesn't follow their parents' faith, they will at least respect it.

2. "My child complains when we talk about going to church." Yes, and don't they also complain about going to school, family reunions, or back-to-school shopping? Since when does "I don't want to" register as a legitimate reason NOT to do something? You wouldn't pull your kid out of school for that excuse, would you? If parents cave in to this reasoning, they are teaching their children that church is a consumer product instead of a FAMILY of diverse people (meaning they don't always look or act like me!) who are desperately dependent on GOD!

3. "My child has no friends at church." I hear this one quite often. Most of the time this is uttered by people who are not good friends themselves. They want everyone to care all about them and don't want to take time to extend friendship care to anyone else. I'm not saying that church folks are always the best friends, because sometimes they are not! But church is not supposed to be the place where your best friends are (meaning, people with exaclty your same interests!) but the place where your FAMILY is (meaning, the people you would die for, even thought they are bizarre!) Besides, if church is about being with friends, you can do that in a gang, at a bar, by joining a cult, etc. What I'm saying is that it's also about defining truth.

Where in the Bible does it say "let thine children find their own way in life?"
What I find are sayings like these:
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates..."
(Deuteronomy 11:18-20)

"Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." (Psalm 34:11)

"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:14-15)

Please don't misunderstand me. I know that you cannot force children to accept faith. At some point, faith must be owned by the child.
But, if there's anything worth standing up for, if there's anything worth fighting over, if there's anything worth being passionate about...I would say it is worth it if it has to do with your child's soul, and leading them into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Philippians and An Extra Thought

What is the book of Philippians about?

At first read, it kinda looks like Paul was arrogant...especially when he talks about how he suffers for Christ. "I am in chains for Christ," he seems to boast.

As we were preparing to teach this class to the teens, I remembered a lesson taught by Randy Harris, one of my favorite preachers.
"It seems to me that this whole letter was written because two ole (church) sisters were fighting! And you think it's hard to memorize the books of the Bible NOW! What if they kept every letter that was ever written because a couple of church folks were fighting?!"
Don't believe it? Look at chapter 4:2-3!

With that in mind, read Philippians again and tell me what you see.

Here's what I see: If we read this understanding that he's trying to help two people who are fighting, the whole letter makes LOTS of sense!

1. He tells them he is in chains for Christ. (Philip. 1:12-18) NOW this passage makes sense! Basically, Paul says, "You guys are fighting and I'M IN JAIL!!" Of course, Paul writes it a lot more nicely than I would have. "You guys knock it off! Am I in jail for nothing? Remember that I'm in jail for Christ, while you FIGHT IN CHURCH!" When it's put that way, church fights just lose their power don't they? When you think there are people whose LIVES are in danger every time they worship God, it makes us appreciate the freedom we have.
2. He tells them to check their attitude. (Philip. 2:1-11) "You all are fighting?" Paul shakes his head and writes his next thought, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus..." OUCH!! That line ought to at least stall a fight for a little while!! I notice that Jesus humbled himself NOT JUST ONCE, but several times. Follow the reasoning: Jesus = GOD. He went from being GOD to being HUMAN. He went from being HUMAN to being a SERVANT OF HUMANS. He went from SERVANT OF HUMANS to CRIMINAL'S DEATH ON A CROSS. And Paul wants me to have THAT KIND OF HUMILITY IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIGHT?
3. He tells them to rejoice. (Philip. 4:4-9) How can you fight when you're rejoicing? When you're truly rejoicing, having a great day, it's REALLY HARD to stay mad at someone!

I've tried to help people get along many times, but this seems to be the BEST ADVICE EVER! Instead of trying to solve the problem, instead of trying to prove who's right and who's wrong, instead of choosing a side, instead of ignoring the problem hoping it will go away, instead of taking it to the elders...take this great advice from Paul.
Have you ever had a thought enter your head and wondered where it came from? Can God still give messages to you that are supposed to be shared with others?
Edward Fudge was a speaker at the Tulsa Workshop that really made me think. He asked these questions.

Well, a friend of mine recently asked for input on his worship planning. Of course, I started off by giving him my personal thoughts on how to make it better.
As my fingers raced across the board, this thought came to mind: "Just keep in touch with God, and you'll find your rhythm in planning the worship."
My fingers came to an abrupt halt.
Should I put that down?
Where did that thought come from?
"Nah," I decided, "it sounds too weird. Too judgmental. Too...I dunno."
Anyways, I hope my friend reads this blog and sees this message. And I hope it gives him great encouragement.

Did this message come from God? I dunno. But I DO believe that God can use my words to encourage other people. But that doesn't mean I quit listening!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

In a Pit With a Lion...

Just finished reading a book recommendation, "In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day." I know...catchy title!!!

Mark Batterson outlines the life of Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, taken from 2 Samuel 23:20-21. Benaiah is not given much "screen time" in the Old Testament, but is commended as a major hero.

Benaiah was a brave man who launched himself into impossible odds and daunting situations. One, of course, was when he FOLLOWED a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed it.

The book discusses taking risks for God and seeing opportunity in all situations.

Here are some portions/points that I particularly liked:

  • "Our biggest problems can be traced back to an inadequate understanding of who God is. Our problems seem really big because our God seems really small."

  • "The more we grow, the bigger God should get. And the bigger God gets, the smaller our lions will become."

  • "Half of spiritual growth is learning what we don't know. The other half is UNLEARNING what we DO know."

  • "When you put yourself into defenseless positions, it sets the stage for God to show up."

  • "We should stop asking God to get us out of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what He wants us to get out of those difficult circumstances."

  • Prayer is less about changing our circumstances and more about changing our perspective."

  • Worship is forgetting about what's wrong with you and remembering what's right with God."

  • "All of us want every day to be a good day. But if every day were a good day, there would be no "good" days, because there wouldn't be any bad days to compare the good days to. It's the bad days that help us appreciate the good days."

  • "I'm not convinced that following Christ reduces circumstantial uncertainty. I think it reduces spiritual uncertainty."

  • "Isn't it ironic that some people who have so much do so little and others who have so little do so much? Lion chasers don't let what they can't do keep them from doing what they can."

  • "Self-consciousness isn't just a curse. It's part of The Curse."

I'm not sure I agree with everything the author puts forth. I'm not sure that God has our lives "mapped out" in front of us every step of the way. Does He put us in the right place at the right time, every time?

I think God KNOWS what choices we will make and rejoices when we choose to follow Him. Of course He throws some tests our way, but I don't think that every minute has been scripted by God.

There is a little bit of the "health and wealth" gospel preached in this book, but the author does a pretty good job of saying that things won't always be easy for believers. But he seems to be saying that it will always pay off at some point.

All in all, though, a very encouraging book! Read it and consider it. I would love to discuss it with someone else!