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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dinner Prayer

Three years into this parenting thing, and it's a blast. There's a lot of chaos, but in a weird sort of way, Charity and I both enjoy just a hint of that in our lives. Sometimes, the most insane time of the day is at dinner. Zeke needs to be fed, Rachel needs to be coached through her meal (crazy kid just doesn't eat without being prodded), and Kari needs to either be held, or fall asleep just as we sit down for the meal. All this while you try to feed yourself too. Meal time just isn't the relaxing, "How was your day?" event that it used to be.

Wednesday nights are usually even more crazy. I'm sitting down to eat, but my mind is on youth group that night. I know I have to leave shortly, and Rachel is a "Cubbie" now, so Charity has to run her off to a church accross town. We herd the children to their respective seats, Kari is "playing" out in the livingroom, so we need to use this brief moment to feed the troops.

Everyone is seated and ready to pray...

Me: Dear Jesus...

Rachel: No, me!

Me: (looking up) What?

Rachel: I wanna pray.

Me and Charity: Ok, go ahead. (Charity and I bow are heads even though we know the kids aren't. It's probably a very dangerous thing for us to both take our eyes off of the kids, but for tradition and to try to teach the kids to do it, we give it a shot.)

Rachel: Dear Jesus, thank you for this beautiful day...(pretty much every prayer from Rach begins this way...not that that's bad.) Thank you for this beautiful dinner...Thank you that we could play outside...

Zeke: Ament! (not sure where the "t" at the end of Amen has come from, but he's clearly had enough and is ready to eat.)

Rachel: Thank you for beautiful Mommy

Zeke: Ament!

Rachel: Thank you for beautiful Daddy (It's ok to laugh at that one. That's certainly a new adjective to describe me.)

Zeke: Ament!

Rachel: Thank you for beautiful Zekers.

Zeke: Ament! (At this point I'm starting to wonder whether Zeke is actually becoming charismatic.)

Rachel: Thank you for beautiful Kari.

Zeke: Ament!

Rachel: And, uh....um....

Me and Charity: Amen.

Zeke: Ament!

No one warned me about moments like these as a dad. It was sweet to hear my daughter pray. It was hilarious to have Zeke interupting. Charity and I also were amused that Rachel was dragging the prayer out as long as she could (Rachel also has a "prayer voice"...not a prayer tongue...just a special voice she prays in which is very cute.)

Not to ruin the moment, but times like this also have deeper moments to them. It made me think about how child-like my prayers must sound to an omniscient God. It made me thankful that the Spirit is imploring for me, on my behalf. It made me realize the best thing I could do sometimes is probably just lift my eyes to God and shout, "Ament!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Purpose Driven Meth?

For all you PDL fans, I'll be nice. I won't tell you what I think but I will encourage you to check out this article. Don't be lazy either, make sure you check out the link within the article.

Obviously, I'm not saying that Rick Warren encouraged her to give the guy meth. But I am saying that all those people who used this hostage story to support that "Purpose Driven Life" has life transforming messages to it, may not want to use this situation to support their argument anymore.

If you are offended by my opinion, or can pick up that I'm not as thrilled about the book as Christian pop culture is...please talk to me. I'd love to share why.

I don't think it's the devil. I just think there are a lot of better things we could direct people toward reading.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

SFL--Week 3


Goodasgoldfinches 105.25
Bee Stings 102.18

One can look at the "Yellowbirdies" and "REAL finch" and see a connection. The connection, however, is not in the bloodlines. The connection is found in Pittsburgh. Said coach Danny Wright, after the game, "Last week, CJ beat us only because she had the Pittsburgh defense. Todd, in the same way, capitalized on Pittsburgh shutting down the Patriots (Brady and Branch) offense. They won't be able to continue on this run." In the end, the Bee Stings took a moral victory, knowing that even while his best quaterback and wide receiver faced the best defense in the NFL, Todd still was barely able to eek out a victory.

the REAL finch 135.69
Attack of the Llamas 108.98

Deuce McAllister put in a noble contribution (13.70) for the Llamas, but it couldn't stack up to LaDanian Tomlinson's career game (39.12). Many wondered if CJ's team would play well, having barely squeeked out a victory last week, but they were able to ride the L-train to another victory.

Terrells Sharpies 92.96
Deaf Pears 91.67

Corey Dillon, still ecstatic to be released from football purgatory (Cincinnatti) ran like a madman (21 points) outdistancing Pears MVP Priest Holmes (8.05). Said Pears coach, Zach Fisher, "I kept trying to get Priest to absolve Corey, but Corey misunderstood and kept running from us. If I would have known he was going to run all the way to Goshen and back, I would have made plans to go with him and visit friends."

Fighting Amish 93.38
Great Danes 45.63

League officials are looking into whether the Amish are allowed to order the stadium lights shut off due to religious conviction. Great Danes head coach Dane Ganger explained the situation. "First they called us early in the week saying that the game shouldn't start till 9pm since one of their horses got West Nile Virus and the trip to our stadium would take longer. Then they order the stadium lights be turned off due to their religious views. In their black uniforms we couldn't see anyone. It made it impossible to tackle." Obviously, the darkened field made the passing game difficult, as Isaac Bruce (.75) outshined Pierless Price (0.00) points.

In the Junior League...

Jones Cyclones 100.61
Bradshaws Bloggers 112.59

Coach Andrew had his team the most prepared for play of all season. Drew Brees played well, scoring 19.77 points. However, out of nowhere, Daunte Culpepper remembered how to play (24.6) bringing his season total up to .34 points. Jones had set an entire defense predicated on letting Daunte throw the ball as much as possible. Unfortunately, this week, that strategy backfired.

The Great Dawgs 91.70
Fabulous Underpants 104.71

Some say the victory was due to LT outperforming Deuce McAllister, but Ty saw it a different way. Said Ty, "I overheard one Dawg player telling another how they got their name. When they realized it was an allusion to the Cleveland Browns one of the players stated, 'Dude, the only way we're going to be competitive is if we move to Baltimore and change our name.' At that, half the team left the stadium. It was easy for Tomlinson then."

AJ Wildcats 112.29
Graceful Gorillas 91.72

Monty's team continues to struggle to get out of the gate. Many were concerned that after winning the championship, the Gorillas just wouldn't have the same hunger. His Carolina defense (2 points) looked flat as the Tampa Bay defense of Chris' looked crisp (13 points).

Derek's Derelicts 78.35
Galloping Greyhounds 159.23

Before you panic, let me encourage you that the season is not over. Gregg could still have a party in his back yard, where half his team could easily drown in Lake Rigsby. Or if his players hear that he collects Longaberger baskets, they may lose respect for him and begin to play poorly. Either way, thanks Jeff Wilkens for only scoring 3 points and allowing Derek to beat you at one position (Jason Elam, 6 points).

At the end of three weeks, the breakdown is:

3-0 aka "Living off of Pittsburgh"
Goodasgoldfinches; the REAL finch; Galloping Greyhounds

2-1 aka "Two more wins than Green Bay may see this year"
Bradshaws Bloggers; Fabulous Underpants; AJ Wildcats; Derek's Derelicts

1-2 aka "Just giving you all a headstart"
The Great Dawgs; Bee Stings; Attack of the Llamas; Terrell's Sharpies; Fighting Amish; Great Danes; Deaf Pears

0-3 aka "Why we call it the b-league"
Graceful Gorillas; Jones Cyclones

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hawkeyes v Buckeyes

Thought I'd let you know you know my Top Ten thoughts after watching the game. (Of course, by "watching" I mean that the game was on in the basement while I assembled some shelving and cleaned.)

10. The kicking game is in good hands (should I say feet) with Houston. I think we all dreaded Nugent's departure, but Houston has done great.
9. Kirk Ferentz has often been referred to as one of the best coaches in college football. His name has even been thrown around for NFL vacancies. I have to admit, I didn't see anything amazing from him on Saturday.
8. Tony Gonzalez is the second best receiving Tony Gonzalez I've ever seen. Still though, he's a good receiver, and quite under rated.
7. Mike Tirico knows his Big Ten football. Ordinarily, I find the national coverage to be wanting...but even though he lives in Michigan, his coverage was quite fair, and intelligent.
6. Pittman looked good. This should be fun for a couple of years.
5. Is this defense better than the championship defense? Is it heretical for me to ask that question?
4. The Big Ten may not see four linebackers drafted in the first round of the draft...but it won't be Bobby Carpenter or AJ Hawk's fault.
3. It's fun watching Drew Tate get frustrated. I feel guilty for enjoying it, but it's fun.
2. Troy Smith's interaction with a booster is the reason we won't sniff the championship. Had he not missed the last bowl game, and the first game of this season, he would have been sharp and ready for Texas...like he was ready for Iowa.
1. That we can discuss making a run at the championship is probably largely due to Troy Smith. And herein lies the tension. I really like Justin Zwick (and think he's getting a bit of a raw deal), but there is something special about that run/pass threat. This isn't Steve Bellisari or Stanley Jackson we are talking about. But this guy can actually throw the ball too.

In a way, I feel bad for him. A mistake he made as a very young man may be a major factor in his team not winning the championship. But his play is probably also the only reason the team could be considered a contender for the championship.

(Also, it isn't good that Ted Ginn Junior is not mentioned on this list. GET HIM THE BALL MORE! If not for the sake of victories, for the sake of entertainment.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What About Professor Smarty Pants

I got a message from one of our graduates, asking about a situation in her classroom at college. I decided to post my response, in case any of our other graduates are reading, and are in a similar situation. Plus, I wanted to take another opportunity to tell them we love them and miss them. We're praying for you too!

It seems Rita was sitting in a class where a professor made some pretty remarkable claims. She described the situation this way: "He said that there was an African king in the country of Newbia, Africa that wrote what we would consider the ten commandments 10,000 years before Moses did. He also told the class that Moses was well aware of this when he presented the ten commandments as his own. My professor said that there are facts proving this statement."

Her question was basically, "What do I do with this?" Should she confront him? Should she just ignore him? If she does confront him, what evidence should she use? Could she use Scripture, or would that only be mocked and diminished in class? These are the kinds of questions you face in the college classroom (and even high school). Guess what, these are the type of things neighbors and loved ones will spout off sometimes too (for they are sitting in the same classes as you).

In Regard to the Ten Commandments

"What we would consider to be the ten commandments." What does that mean? Did the king nail 8 out of 10? Did he get them all right? Hammarabi's code has long been said to have much connection to the law in Scripture, but that doesn't mean they are identical. Who's deciding that we should consider his text to be the original Ten Commandments?

As you know, I have serious doubts this planet is 10,000 years old, let alone that an organized king was in Egypt writing out formal laws. I'm going to take a quantum leap, however, and assume the professor here has the world aged at 1-2 billion years or so. Our time lines don't match up, making the discussion have an even more controversial starting place.

How does he know what Moses knew or thought? Does he have a Delorian in his garage and he and Michael J Fox travel back in time to pick the brains of Old Testament saints? I have never heard of any respectable document being credited to an Old Testament saint that is not in the Bible. I can tell you from a Scriptural standpoint, the man can not support the view that Moses received the Law from an African king. On the contrary, Moses is very clear (and other Scriptures as well...check out what Paul says in Romans) that he received the Ten Commandments directly from God. Any document he would want to quote would have to be acknowledged as suspect in most scholarly circles. If he denies that, he's not being honest with you, or himself.

So How Do I Give This Prof the Smackdown?

You don't.

That classroom is his property. You are on his turf, paying your money to hear his thoughts. Your views probably don't matter much to him, but you better know what he believes if you want to pass his class. Therefore, I highly recommend avoiding a confrontation in a classroom setting. I've seen too many situations where the person gets embarrassed (by a very intelligent, defensive professor) or should be embarrassed (by their pagan attitude) as they try to defend the faith. Now, if you have a professor who truly loves open dialogue and craves student feedback and opinion (very very rare), by all means, start the discussion.

"So let the pedagogue spew his heresy and let the other students fall under his spell? No, I'm not saying you do that. But again, I'd be careful in my approach. Remember the motto, "Questions are your friend." Ask lots and lots of questions.

After class, or during a break, ask some classmates if they'd ever heard what he shared. Make statements about how this is new and foreign to you. State things around other students like, "Huh, I wonder how he knows Moses knew of the African king." Show genuine curiosity of the documentation the professor claims (because if he's forced to tell you what documents, you could research it yourself). Introduce your doctrines cleverly by asking things like, "Well I know the Ten Commandments say we should have no gods before God Jehovah. I wonder how that commandment worked for an African king who would worship more than one god (sun, moon, etc.)? If that one was left out of the African document, I wonder where Moses got the idea for monotheism from?" This is a great way to open dialogue between you and other students. You'll find out where they stand, so you know how to reach them. You'll indirectly place in their minds that the professor isn't teaching irrefutable fact. And, you may find some backup if you decide to move to phase two (even from non-believers).

During class, questions can be a great tool. Your attitude must be right, however. Check yourself to make sure you're not asking the question with a "know-it-all" or condescending attitude. Try not to ask leading questions that make the answer you believe overtly visible. (However, if they ask what you believe, don't be afraid to share it. Even work Jesus into the conversation.) However, don't be afraid to raise your hand and ask for more information. Any teacher worth their weight knows more about the topic than what they share to the class (Think elementary school teacher. To be good at teaching addition, they better be able to complete some more complicated math equations.) So ask for references. Ask where he got his information. Ask if there are any other possible solutions. Don't be afraid to ask him to cite his sources, he shouldn't be afraid to give them.

Be in the Word. You have to be constantly in the Word to spot these things and the human error that is leading to that teaching. If you get into a conversation with a student, or even with the professor about this African king/Moses thing, you can always respond this way. (First I would ask lots of questions to establish this is not a factual issue he is teaching, but rather speculation.) I would say to the professor or my fellow students, "Even if this were true and possible, which I'm not sure you can validate it is, did you realize the Bible would easily allow for this?" Turn them to Romans 2:12-16. God says that he has placed his law on the hearts of man. I would ask the professor if it was possible that Jehovah God, the one who gave the Law directly to Moses is also the one who places the law on the hearts of all men and that this king in Africa simply wrote out the convictions of his heart, placed their by God."

In the end, you've handled it right, Rita. When you spot something, don't panic (which I know you didn't), go to the Word and others for help with the Biblical perspective (which you've done) and let your heart break for those in the class that don't know better (which is why I believe you wrote, to know what you should do.) Remember that the classroom is your professor's turf, and he is highly educated and smart...it's not a good place for a debate. But you have an opportunity to respond lovingly to those around you, and ask the right questions that get others thinking.

Eventually, you won't be the only one asking questions, and to your delight someone will be "asking you to give the answer for the hope that lies within you. Just make sure you do it with gentleness and respect" (I Peter 3:15).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

SFL--Week 2

Black Conference

Great Danes 105.42
Deaf Pears 60.67

Dane decided to attack with an aerial assault. Santana Moss (20.95) outshined Joey Porter (4.40) and helped pull the Danes to a big lead. After the game, Coach Ganger was seen shouting to Zach, "Go ask your dad who the real big dog is, eh!" Thankfully, the situation was diffused by a kind young woman from Goshen, Indiana. She explained to Dane, "You have to take it easy on Zach. His Packers are terrible, so he has to pick a new team to root for." Word on the street is that Zach will wait until about week 12 to decide who his new favorite team will be.

Terrell's Sharpies 85.57
Goodasgoldfinches 108.2

Finch rolls out to a 2-0 start for the first time in his fantasy football career. Again, this battle was fought in the air...each owner pitting southern gunslingers against one another. In the end, Favre (27.70) outclassed Jake "Of the Homme" (2.78) and propelled the yellowbirds to their second win. We all should be excited for Todd, because it looks like his team is the only way the Packers are getting a sniff of the playoffs.

Fighting Amish 77.92
Attack of the Llamas 82.2

Without a doubt the MVMVP (most valuable most valuable player) award for this week has to go to Donovan McNabb. Without McNabb (37.44), Jordan would have only scored 44.76 points. Of course, without Drew Brees (-1.5) this week, Kory would have had more points.

the REAL finch 127.55
Bee Stings 80.72

In what may go down as one of the most shocking defeats in Fantasy Football history, the Bee Stings took a hit to fall to 1-1. In his press conference after the game, Coach Wright explained how this shocker happened. "I don't think anyone would try to claim we were outcoached. I think even CJ knows better than that. Bottom line is, defense wins championships. Cami did not beat us today. PITTSBURGH (15 points) did. I kept trying to tell my Lions defense (-1 point) all day to play like Steelers. But there's only one team that can do that." Danny then announced that the Lions were cut from his team.

Red Conference (also known as the "b league")

Galloping Greyhounds 94.60
Graceful Gorillas 88.23

The Greyhounds defense (Minnesota, -3) did all they had to to stave off the Gorilla attack. Though Monty's 9 points from the Patriots defense was strong, he got torched by Kerry Collins and Carson Palmer. After the game, Gregg explained what he told his defense before taking the field. "I told the defense they could lose 9 points and I would still be comfortable. I think my team showed genuine grit to only give up three points on defense instead. These guys are warriors."

EDITORIAL COMMENT: uh, gregg scored 94.6 points with his defense getting -3 points. are you folks in the red conference dead meat or what? seriously, someone drive down to cincinnati and break the legs of some of his players, or rip him off in a trade before the bee stings have to face him in the super bowl!

AJ Wildcats 78.82
Jones Cyclones 60.63

Joining the long list of players that outclassed his brother this weekend, Eli Manning (12.5) buried Drew Brees (-1.5) in head-to-head competition. It appears that Chris was able to disturb the play calling of the Cyclones through confusion over team names. Many of the Cyclones assumed that AJ had to do with their owner, and therefore quit tackling other players. Coach Jones was quoted after the game as saying, "I think that was a dirty trick by Chris...or should I call him AJ? Chris better never see me in an alley or I'll bust out a "chocolate-monkey-titanium-uber-kick" on him. He won't know what hit him."

Derek's Derelicts 98.23
Captain Underpants 58.16

Ty became the only Finch of the household this weekend to suffer defeat. Somehow, Byron Leftwich's 2.31 points couldn't seem to keep him on pace with Donavon McNabb's 37.44 points. [This is where I would type some weird comment about Captain Underpants but I just can't seem to get motivated to do so knowing that Ty will change the name of his team to something like, "My, This Is A Run On Sentence" instead of giving it a real name.]

Great Dawgs 81.86
Bradshaws Bloggers 95.54

No one is excited to stand eye to eye to Peyton Manning. However, Matt Hasselbeck (20.87) became the second opposing quarterback in two weeks to outscore Manning (3.04). Said Hasselbeck after the game, "I can see why all the Browns comparisons are made. These guys were so easy to throw on. You'd have to be the Packers to lose to these guys!"

Season Review:

2-0 (AKA. "It Can Only Go Downhill From Here.")
Derelicts, Greyhounds, REAL finch, Goodasgoldfinches

1-1 (AKA. "The Most Balanced Teams.")
Bloggers, Dawgs, Underpants, Wildcats, Bee Stings, Llamas, Danes, Pears

0-2 (AKA "Wanted: Free Agents.")
Cyclones, Gorillas, Amish, Sharpies

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Offensive Advertising

This isn't about Carl's Junior, Desperate Housewives, or Victoria's Secret. In fact, I'm willing to bet that the author of this campaign has Christian origins. Yet, I was as repulsed by this marketing technique as any other.

Jason and I were heading to lunch on Thursday afternoon. As we approached downtown, we spotted two large panel trucks. There was something painted on all four sides of the cargo section and we both strained to see what it was...

I wish we hadn't.

One van had the picture of a 10 week-old "fetus" while the other had an 11 week-old "fetus." "CHOICE?" was emblazoned above each picture. For the first time in my life, I was ashamed to be "Pro-Life."

I am pro-life. I refused to refer to any of our children as a "fetus" while in the womb. To me, terms like that just de-humanize the baby. I believe abortion is murder. I believe when we say "pro-choice" that is an accurate designation...you are choosing the comfort of matured woman's life over the existence of a baby. I believe Roe v Wade was one of the darkest days for our country. I always thought I'd be willing to do whatever was legal to help prevent a person from considering an abortion. I realize I was wrong. Though legal (I assume), I just can't endorse this campaign for the following reasons:

1. What about children? I would hate to think what would happen if a five year old child walked out of a store right when the van drove by. What do you tell your kid? How do you explain what they just saw?
2. What about a woman who had an abortion? There was zero compassion found on that van. Most research shows that a mother who has aborted a child is already struggling with emotion. How does this van come along side her?
3. You can't gain an audience. Seriously, when people are repulsed, they don't stick around to see your point. I have no idea what pro-life agency was behind this advertising. I didn't want to know. That would have required my looking at the van more closely.
4. It de-humanized the baby. Would anyone ever place a postmortem picture of a 30 year old victim of a drunk driver? No (maybe I underestimate humanity). We have a respect for the dead. We understand that this is a human life and is sacred. We would not use the corpse for a marketing campaign. However, when he/she is an unborn child, somehow it's different? I don't think so. By placing these pictures on a van, we send the message that these babies were not fully human. Because they didn't breathe air, their lives were not as sacred as ours? This campaign sent the opposite message as desired.

I don't doubt that the intentions were pure. These people were passionate about saving lives. I just wonder whether their method may have worked contrary to their motive. I know it makes me reconsider not just my message, but my method too.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Our town is caught up in quite the little debate. I must admit, I have not deeply examined the issues before us, but these are my initial thoughts. (If you have a differing opinion, feel free to share it in comments. But please understand, I"m not stating any of this as fact...just my first thoughts.)

Those opposing the school have nothing better to do with their time. At least, that's my first thought. But then I wonder if the only reason I think so is because I know (and like) two of the members of the School Board, while I don't know anyone who is vocally opposing the school building. Am I more sympathic to the School Board just because of two people I know? (Of course, someone opposing a new school building wrote into the paper today and said that the school board makes Sadam Hussein look like a choirboy. That didn't help sway my opinion.)

What should you do when you don't agree with elected officials? So we elected a school board (or at least, most of the members). They decided we need a new school building and begin moving forward. Maybe I wasn't around during school board campains, but didn't that issue come up when people were running? Doesn't that mean people elected were probably asked whether they supported a new school? So when elected officials make a decision you don't like, should we step in to stop it...or just not vote them in again? It just seems to me that a democratic republic takes a hit if I think I should interrupt the process every time I don't like the results. If we don't want a new building, can't we still block it by not giving the school board any extra money through levies?

Is the city really torn apart over this? According to local media, this issue has our town torn right in half. Letters to the editor are filled with correspondence from people outraged at the school and local government. I've watched other people I know and respect have their motives and actions questioned on unrelated issues. Despite a good track record, and strong character, other public officials have faced extreme cynicism. We live in a wonderful city. Unfortunately, wonderful cities with little controversy doesn't sell. Therefore, it seems that governement, and it's officials, are regularly considered guilty until proven innocent. Is most of the city willing to trust the city council, the mayor and the school board...but that makes for boring news.

Do I have any business talking about this? You may be upset with my last three questions because you disagree. You may be upset because you have reservations about a pastor sharing his opinion on political issues. I share your concern.

I've never understood this whole politics/pastoring thing. Am I allowed to put a sticker on my car for a representative? If someone in my church runs for office, am I allowed to put their sign in my yard? If our town is in the middle of a debate, do I just ignore it? It seems that the nature of the gospel puts a pastor in controversy well enough on its own. Do I really need to add to controversy by getting involved in politics? Let me know what you think.

I'm seriously wondering. (If I should keep silent on issues, it's much better to find out through a blog that no one reads, than through some other outlet.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hey, Where are You Going?

It's no secret that the church is not retaining teenagers after high school. All kinds of statistics verify this fact; that as teens hit the college campus, they're leaving the church. Somehow, we overlooked this fact until it became about a decade long trend. Why is this happening?

Greg Stier will tell you it is because students have not been raised to be missional. A teenager is taught (directly and indirectly) that Christianity is just something for them to soak up, not to send out. I agree with Greg that any time we evangelize, our personal walk is strengthened as well. A person takes a deeper level of ownership, as well as comprehension, when they try to convince someone else of their faith. However, I do not believe this alone can be the reason. Unfortunately, our churches are full of disobedient believers who are not sharing their faith. They aren't leaving, so why can we say that's the issue for teens.

First of all, let me say that I don't believe their is just one issue. I believe we have to acknowledge a host of factors, some which reside in the actions of the church, some which reside in the heart of the individual. No efforts a church makes can control the intercession on behalf of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, I John tells us that some walk away because they never really were part of us. There are some things we can do to control this problem (ie. make sure we are accurately presenting the gospel, avoiding the false hope of "one time decisions" with zero repentance or trust in Christ), but it is an unavoidable phenomenon. Sadly, their will be wolves in sheeps' clothing. Yet, there will also be genuine believers who may struggle in their walk because the church didn't disciple the person as well as it could.

Back to youth ministry then. I have another theory about why teens are leaving. Again, it's not all inclusive. But I think it's a larger factor than some will acknowledge:

OUR YOUTH MINISTRIES TYPICALLY LOOK NOTHING LIKE THE REST OF THE CHURCH. We go out of our way to keep things fun. We build up our ministry constantly with big events. Our meetings are filled with entertaining elements, seeking to keep them glued to what is happening. Our teaching is centered around "hot topics" that teenagers deal with, trying desperately to show that Christianity can be relevant to their world.

Then they graduate. The church is filled with diverse peoples who have their own families, activities and hobbies. There just aren't as many "fun events" as people have enough going on in their lives. The graduate gets whiplash, as worship was geared toward them for years, and now they are instructed to celebrate diversity and "put up with" the music they may not like. Maybe the pastor is teaching a series on marriage, and the college freshman can't see any relevance for his life. As they've graduated and left high school behind, it also just seems natural to leave the church behind as well. They just don't seem to fit anymore.

Does this mean we cease to hold events? Of course not. But can we offer events without it becoming all about the events? Do we cease relevant worship? Obviously, that would be a mistake. Do we never teach topically? No (though I think it is a temptation to do it far more often than is necessary). But can we offer student ministries that feel less like a program or a machine, and more like a fluid body.

Can we show students that though some of the methods may change (Can you imagine playing buck-buck as a Sunday morning icebreaker in the service) who we are does not? Rather than the pillars of our ministry being cool activities, exciting meetings, hot button topics, could we make evident that our core is being a Biblical, missional, obedient worshipper?

If we could do that, would it keep some of them from walking away?

SFL--Week 1

If you don't care about fantasy football, don't bother with this post. If you like fantasy football or are in our league and would like to talk some smack...here's your chance (just click the world "comments" at the end, and leave your thoughts!). Here's what happened in week one of the Shake Football League

Black Conference

Bee Stings 86.44
Attack of the Llamas 72.66

Knowing he would be outcoached, Jordan Fisher had to hope his players would perform to their maximum level. Coach Wright toyed with the Llamas, keeping the score close till the last night. Ordinarily, you would think a team left in the hands of Donovan McNabb (8.14 points) will do fine. But Wright had the Falcon (13 points) defense flying around the ball Monday night, ensuring the victory, but keeping the score close enough to not fully show his hand.

Deaf Pears 72.41
Fighting Amish 70.84

A last minute plea from mercy from Kory's sister didn't seem to convince Zach to let up on the Amish. But should they face one another again, Kory now knows he may get better results if he has Katie call, instead of Leah. The Pears march to victory, led by Jason Elam's whopping 1 point (which outscored the sure-footed Vinatieri who had -4 points).

the Real Finch 84.26
Terrell's Sharpies 74.39

Getting her shots thrown back in her face, by her youth pastor, during pickup basketball at youth group this summer taught CJ that defense matters. She remembered that principle as she faced the Sharpies...her Pittsburgh defense (16 points) outshining the much bally-hooed Carolina Defense (5 points).

Goodasgoldfinches 91.62
Great Danes 83.64

Keeping that bizarre Finch tradition alive (the one where they try to make an entire sentence out of their team name), Todd had his team ready to play. Every owner is nervous when the are matched up against Peyton Manning (21.78), but Todd matched every punch with Kerry Collins (24.20).

Red Conference

Fabulous Muscles 92.58
Bradshaws Bloggers 77.58

Ty came out and flexed his muscle in week one, led by Aaron Brooks 6.64 points. How is a quarterback who scores less than 7 points considered leading his team to victory? When the QB he matched up against (Culpepper) scored -1.54. Bradshaw, however, obviously has the best talent in the conference, and simply needs to work out some chemistry issues. After the game, Jason stated, "We just wanted to make sure we didn't come out in week one and peak too early. I think we kept from having that happen tonight."

Dereks Derelicts 83.87
Graceful Gorillas 71.59

Derek was so confident that his team would perform well, that he took off for Missouri with his new bride. Many owners questioned whether leaving Keyshawn Johnson in charge of the team during his absence was a wise move. But Johnson responded (16.25) outperforming Monty's Marvin Harrison (10.65). After the game, Keyshawn had some very confident things to say that were peppered with all kinds of expletives, some even invented, that prevent us from posting his comments.

The Great Dawgs 115.22
AJ's Wildcats 51.98

Chris was obviously overlooking this week, thinking ahead in the schedule. Said Chris, "I kept hearing during the draft that Dick was a huge Browns fan. I just assumed that meant he didn't know football. I admit, I thought I could coast this week. It won't happen again." You're right, Chris, Dick doesn't know football. But he knows fantasy football. He knew that if he wants to win, he needs to steer clear of any Browns players and ride the coattails of the Steeler Defense (16 points, to Denver's 3 points).

Galloping Greyhounds 100.02
Jones Cyclones 76.28

In week one, Gregg's Greyhounds have probably already won more games than his alma mater will (Dixie HS). Riding Corey Dillon's second half performance (21.65 points) the Hounds pulled away from the Cyclones' Dominick Davis (5.98 points). Of course, starting next week, Davis will continue to suffer ridiculous injuries that will have him in and out of the lineup.

Hope this update helps all of you guys know what's happening in each of the conferences. Let the smack talk begin!!!!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I Don't Deserve This

Today has been a crazy day.

I had a long meeting with a brother in the Lord. I don't know that it had any value for him, but it was wonderful just to be able to share my heart and not be condemned. He's a godly man. To this man: I know you read this blog (eventually), and just want to tell you how much I appreciated today. I did most of the talking, so I hope you don't feel like the meeting was pointless. Your listening ear, and pointed "perspective" was just what the doctor ordered. Thank you. I love you, brother.

Our meeting went longer than I expected and so I was in catchup mode for our first real night of SHAKE this school year. (It was also the first night in a long time that Charity wasn't here with me, since she was at home with the kids.) I have to tell you, some thoughts went through my head tonight (I know, don't act so shocked):

1. There are few things on this planet that sound as beautiful as teenagers offering themselves to God in worship. The student worship team was warming up as I was preparing. It was a practice, so they would stop, review, correct and repeat some things. Yet, it was a tremendous blessing to me. I tried to tell them how much I appreciate them, and found myself tearing up. (WARNING: having two daughters turns you into an absolute sap!)
2. We have a great group of students. Can I just be honest (sure I can, it's my blog!) As a youth pastor, I often feel terribly inadequate. I don't feel like I have the best people skills. I'm not a real "buddy buddy" guy. But I LOVE these students. I don't think they know that, or if they do, they don't realize how much. I looked around the room tonight and just soaked in the people here. The students and the youth staff each. They deserve a better youth pastor than the one they have.
3. I miss our graduates. Not to take anything away from the current group, obviously. But this was our first real meeting without the 2005 graduates, and I missed them. To make matters worse, a couple of them posted nice comments on my blog tonight and just make it worse. Natty, Rachel, Lucas, Sarah, Rita, Chris, Tony, Cary, and Finch...I miss you. I'm praying for you. Let us know any way we can help.

Now I must complete my blog and head to bed. Knowing that my beautiful family is probably asleep (including the week old infant who is practically sleeping through the night!!!!!). A family I couldn't have dreamed up, yet they are a reality...and one I don't deserve.

How could I ever think I would have a right to grumble at God for what He has given me? He owes me nothing. In myself, I deserve hell. Hasn't He already given too much that He has given me eternal life? Now He just chooses to pour blessing on, even into this pathetic life I live (pathetic because of the way I live it, not because of what He has given).

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Spiritual Journey at Kroger

After we brought Karis home from the hospital, I was sent out to pick up some prescriptions and a few minor groceries we needed. Somewhere along the line, someone had shared with Charity that a little wine each night helps increase a mother's milk supply (where do women get this kind of information?). Since none of our babies have excelled with weight gain at the beginning, Charity decided to give it a shot. A few observations from me as I purchased a bottle of Sangria:

1. I had no clue what I was doing. I've never had alcohol. I'm certainly not a "wine guy." I avoided it for years, probably for the wrong reasons, but also because their is some history of alcoholism in my family. I struggle with moderation in many things in my life, and don't see the wisdom of potentially adding one more thing to that list. I also don't drink alcohol simply because I don't want to. It smells funny to me. I've never understood the concept of an "acquired taste." (I don't like cigarettes or coffee either). If I put something to my mouth and didn't like the taste or the effect the first time, why would I keep doing it till I finally enjoyed it? Because of all this, I had no idea what to look for. What color is Sangria? Heck, what IS Sangria? What should it cost? Are their good and bad brands? How big a bottle should I buy? I stammered around the aisle for far too long asking myself all these questions. Of course, I only felt more stupid that my daughter Rachel is in the cart loudly (that's the only volume she has) asking me, "Dad what are you doing?" I felt like a total moron.

2. I didn't get carded. I'm only 29 and I go to make my first alcohol purchase of my life, and no one even wants to see my I.D. Depressing. I told myself it must be because I had a three year old with me, but reality says it's probably the gray hair that's showing up more and more. I'm now an "old man" to the teenage cash register girl.

3. I really kept wondering who would see me. I knew I was doing nothing wrong, yet I didn't want to bump into anyone I knew. I've been thinking about this element for quite some time and I see three different types of personalities I could have bumped into.

a) CONCERNED CONSERVATIVE--This is a person who's world would have collapsed had they seen the bottle in my cart. "Could a pastor really be buying alcohol?" Basically, they've decided they shouldn't drink (hey, I'm in their boat there), and have also decided that due to their convictions, no one else should drink either. It gets spiritualized by making comments about "worrying about what students in our youth group would think" or "you may really cause a weaker brother to stumble." Arguements are made far more in relationship to the condition of our American culture, rather than the Word of God. They'll state that an elder should be above reproach, specifically in the area of alcohol (to which they are right, Timothy says that too!) but they will wonder if buying one bottle will make people question whether I am truly above reproach. They have made up their mind, set their own standards (that go beyond what Scripture says, though I think they mean well...to honor God) and then want to impose those standards on everyone else. There's a part of you that fears bumping into this person, as a pastor, because you know they could make your life very difficult.

b) FREEDOM FIGHTER--This is the person who would make too big a deal out of the purchase as well. But, instead of condemning the purchase, they see this as a wonderful victory. They would, in a way, feel like I've finally arrived in spiritual growth, evidenced by the freedom I have to purchase alcohol. However, this person would probably be bummed when I would explain that I don't plan on touching the stuff (seriously, why drink something that smells like wet feet?). They'd further be bummed to find out that if this "medical experiment" does not work, this is probably the last bottle I will buy. This person has found a freedom in a Christian liberty, but sometimes can tend to look down on those who don't feel the same freedom. Freedom is beautiful and the person is so excited to have found it. Sometimes, however, their excitement causes them to be blind to the fact that others may not share their opinion. The freedom can be carried too far, at times, even ignoring other principles that come into play. (ie. While Scripture does say there is nothing wrong with alcohol, just with getting drunk, it's still wrong to allow a teenager to "experience this freedom" since federal law prohibits their consumption of alcohol. You break a governmental law, which Scripture says we are to submit to, for the sake of achieving some other freedom?) I didn't want to see this person either. Feeling like making them happy was probably going to involve me sacrificing some form of commitment for me...or at the very least, this thing would be made into a bigger deal than it is.

c) ACCOMMODATING AMBIGUOUS--This person sees what's in the cart. Maybe they mention it, maybe I do. But when the discussion comes up, they neither condemn nor congratulate me. Rather, they shrug and explain that it's just one of those things that we'll never know about. Discussion, or worse yet, disagreement, scares them away from engaging in a conversation. Rather than digging into the Scriptures, going before the Lord in prayer, and entering conversations with others who are reading and praying...they just decide to ignore it all together. You'll never know where they stand (whether inside they are upset or pleased with you) and you never really get a chance to adequately explain what you believe (they are far more comfortable to move on from the conversation to other things). Honestly, this is the person I'd probably least like to run into. With the "conservative," I know however far they'd want to take this issue, they don't have a Biblical leg to stand on, therefore I believe my church would support me (and maybe the Lord would use this to start a very productive discussion in our Body). The "freedom fighter" will probably leave discouraged by me, but I don't really care. I figure that over time, they will hopefully see that I delight in the freedom from sin God has given (though I do not always practice it) but longed to be a slave to righteousness. Hopefully, in time, they can see the motive in my heart for my actions (but if not, isn't God alone really the only One who can?). This ambiguous person, however, would drive me nuts. Sure, there are things we can not know for certain, but does that mean we quit in the chase? I would want to explain to the person they have a responsibility to study the Word and come to conclusions. It's one thing to search God's Word and come away with the conclusion that the Bible is not direct on an issue. Just the study alone will benefit your walk, and more importantly, reveal the heart of God to you. It's a whole different thing to view the Bible as a "Magic 8-ball." Give it a shake and ask the question, "Does the Bible say it's ok for 21st century Americans to drink recreationally?" Then when the person doesn't get the immediate "yes" or "no" from their study, they give up...choosing not to look any farther. That scares me.

I left Kroger thankful that I didn't bump into any of these three people. (Actually didn't bump into anyone I knew). But it also reminded me to continually humbly submit my life before Christ. Without His grace, I can easily become any of these three.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Is Now the Time to Critique?

This morning we turn on the TV to find out the weather for our area, and the first thing I see is Katie Kuric's mug. She's interviewing some guy and she's visibly upset. As I keep watching, I realize she's interviewing the director of FEMA and she's nailing him about what they've done wrong, what they should have done, and what they could have done better.

Something about it sat uneasy with me. Now, I'm typically a critical person...to a fault. But something just rubbed me the wrong way. (Hey, it may just be that my hyper-critical mode wants to even criticize those who appear critical). Granted, we didn't see any TV all day yesterday (still adjusting to our new life!) but it just seemed a bit too soon and too harsh.

After her interview with the FEMA director (who was just as aggervated with her) it turned to another analyst. He made the statement that with 9/11 many people disagreed with the government but put that element on the back burner for a while because unity was what our country needed. We don't need unity now?

Believe me, I'm all for evalutating. The greatest tragedy of all is if we learn nothing from this and just set ourselves up for the same disaster again. But is NOW the proper time?

First of all, I realize that I don't know what to do. If I was in charge of FEMA (or any other government agency) things would be a lot worse. I don't know what could be done or should have been done differently. I don't know what they knew ahead of time and even the feasibility of some of the "quick fixes" the media talks about. I don't think Louisiana is run by the cast of "Waterboy" so I have to believe there are some people there who know what they are doing. It's so easy to point at all the problems now, but could they really be fairly known before this tragedy? (Should architechs have really been expected to consider what would happen if a plane flew into their building prior to 9/11?)

Second, is this going to help relief efforts? If people begin to think the relief effort or even this tragedy are the result of poor planning or human error, are people going to lose interest in helping out? Will we be quickly hearing people say, "I'm sick of hearing about that hurricane and those people down there!" instead of hearing about how their hearts break and they want to help. If this turns into a political thing, are anti-Bush people only going to see this as another blunder of his instead of how we can respond to natural disaster?

Third, it takes the conversation away from spiritual issues to political issues. When someone asks, "Why did God allow people to die in the hurricane?" I can give one answer. With the shift of attention, people can then answer, "God didn't allow it, our government is just inept." True or not, that's not an answer that will lead anyone to salvation.

I think there is a time to respond to the job done by others. I certainly believe some people should be called to the carpet for the job they've done. All our jobs should function that way. I'm just not sure it's wise to do it in the midst of tragedy. I'm not sure FEMA's energies are best used apologizing and justifying their actions right now, and not on saving lives. I don't think I have all the information to make an assessment of a person's job. And I frankly don't care what my neighbor thinks about George Bush. While my neighbor is sensitive to the issue, I want to know what he thinks of his own life, and how it relates to Jesus Christ.

I just don't see how pointing fingers right now accomplishes any of that.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Gospel and Katrina

I was going to share this at men's prayer breakfast this Saturday. But a) they decided to go a different direction from the typical teaching that takes place usually, and b) Jason is filling in for me so our family can gain one more day of trying to adapt to Karis.

Romans 1:16 is often memorized: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

But do you know what the next part says? See if you can tell from these options...no peeking (obviously, look the passage up yourself after taking a guess, but don't cheat ahead of time)...

1. ...for in it the GRACE of God is revealed from faith to faith;
2. ...for in it the MERCY of God is revealed from faith to faith;
3. ...for in it the LOVE of God is revealed from faith to faith;

Did you figure out which it is? Maybe you're struggling to figure out the difference between these words. Take you time, review them again. Which do you think it is?

If you've memorized Romans 1 (really is a great chapter to memorize...actually, what chapter in Scripture isn't) you know the answer was not listed. Paul says he is not ashamed of the gospel, for that message reveals the power of God in the salvation of believers. How is God's power revealed? Because the gospel message reveals His righteousness.

Wow, is that ever a focus when we present the gospel? Typically, we are inclined to plead with someone to accept Christ because God loves them so much (He does) or because He has offered a great free gift (He has) or because He is so willing to forgive (through Christ, He is). How often do we explain to a person that they should turn from their sin and trust Christ because God is a righteous God? It works two ways:

Because He is a righteous God, sin can not be overlooked. He must have the punishment exacted for my sin. That punishment is death; seperation from God for eternity. But Scripture tells us that those sins were placed upon Jesus at His crucifixion. God doesn't "just" forget my sin or overlook it. He declares me innocent because the penalty has already been paid. (Collosians 2:8-15)

Second, God pours His righteousness in us. If my sin were merely paid for, I become morally neutral. My sins are paid for, but even my good works I do are selfish and vain. However, God offers the righteousness of Jesus Christ to me. At His death on the cross, He not only offers to take my sin away, His righteous life is offered to my account. Read Romans 4 slowly and let it soak in. Notice how many times Paul says "credited."

If we present a gospel that doesn't mention sin, righteousness, the payment needed for sin, the lack of benefit of my own "good works," we're ignoring the very attribute of God that the gospel is to expose. Not until I see the righteousness of God, and my offense to His righteousness, will I ever really understand His love, grace or mercy.

How does this relate to Katrina? Well, when we only want to talk about God's love with others, we struggle to explain tragedy. Some just ignore it and shrink away. Others futher diminish the glory of God by denying His sovereignty; claiming He didn't see it coming or had no control. What's the real answer?

My sin has caused tragedies like 9/11, the tsunami and Katrina. A God of righteousness must pour out His wrath for my offense of His law. Only in His mercy am I not immediately destroyed.

There are two things to understand about this, however:

By saying Katrina is caused by God in response to the sins of this world, I am not speaking on a socio-political level. Though some will decry that it's because we have abortions, same-sex marriages or have taken prayer out of school...that's not the real issue. The time I didn't speak up when I was given the wrong change at the store was just as much an offense to God's law. It's not just the "biggies."

The people in the New Orleans area are not more guilty than the rest of us. We've all sinned and stand just as guilty, and just as worthy of His wrath as anyone else (Luke 13:1-8). In fact, the purpose of that tragedy is ultimately the glory of God (John 9). The question is, will we see His wrath and repent of our own sin?

Maybe you're struggling with this. Perhaps it seems difficult and foreign to hear things talked about this way. Let me know what you think. But before you comment, make sure you read on in Romans 1.

...For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who supress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). His wrath is revealed. Righteousness is the cause.