I think we overly spiritualize our lives by calling everything God's will. Many times if we simply don't want to do something we will say something like "that's not God's will for my life." Many people have justified sin by calling it God's will. I've had a few people inform me that God directed them to divorce their spouse. I've also seen several guys in bible college inform young ladies that God told them it was His will that the two of them be married (when God had not yet informed the young lady of this fact.)
This is what I know based on observation and life experience. God can strongly impress on people what his will for their life is. My experience is that it is usually in the broad strokes and rarely in the details. For instance, there is only one thing in my life that I can say difinitively was God's will for me. That was God calling me to preach. I felt so strongly about that decision that it was almost as if I had no choice in the decision at all. I have never felt that strongly about anything else. How I've used that calling to preach, has not always been as clear. I've made some good career moves and a few bad ones, but I've always felt I was in His will if I was preaching.
I know some people will disagree with me, but I would even say the same thing about my decision to marry Jamie. Jamie is the girl for me and I love her very much, but I think it boiled down more to a decision based on emotion, chemistry, and compatability, than one based on whether it was God's will or not.
I believe people would be much wiser to not be so quick to label their choices as God's will. We all are presented with a series of decisions in life. Decisions about relationships, careers, purchases, and a million other things. Christians have such a strong desire to please God, that we want all our decisions to be "God's will". I think God just wants us to live our lives for him and make the best decisions we can based on guidance from the Bible and our circumstances. Sometimes we'll make the wisest decision and sometimes not so much, but it doesn't necessarily have to mean we are out of God's will. If it's not sin and it doesn't go against the one or two things you know are God's will for your life (i.e. - preaching or being a great husband and dad or reaching the lost or giving to the poor or whatever), then it's probably OK.
What are your thoughts on God's will?
Anyway, when I googled This Train, a wikipedia entry came up about them and it said that Mark Robertson had gone on to co-found a band called The Legendary Shack Shakers. I did not know this and they have already put out 3 CDs. After doing a little research on the Shack Shakers I quickly found out that they had some incredible reviews and a pretty strong underground following. So I downloaded their latest album, Pandelerium.
9. Chug maple syrup until you blow chunks.
8. Cram as many dudes as you can find into a buggy.
7. Buttermilk kegger.
6. Burn past the square dance on a seriously rad Clydesdale.
5. Sleep until 6 a.m.
4. Churn butter in the nude.
3. Consort with the witches off of the cover of a discarded "Which Witch?" game.
2. Squeeze cats to make the "wicky-wicky" sound like rap DJs.
1. Burn Thomas Edison in effigy.
I was moved to tears when it came time for the actual birth. It really made me thankful for Christ's sacrifice. Isaiah and Mollie sat across the aisle with some other church kids. When the credits started rolling and everyone got up to leave, Isaiah ran up to me laughing and said, "We saw Jesus's booty!"
I guess everyone takes away something different.
We moved to Wichita my senior year of high school. That's where I graduated and where I would come home to in college. Even though I only spent a couple of years there, I really loved it there. I made friends quickly in high school, loved the river and downtown area, and enjoyed being closer to that side of my family. I've always thought I'd like to move back there some day and start a church, but God has always had other things in store.
I didn't expect to be as emotional this week as I was. The whole thing made me feel very nostalgic. My Grandma Teague always went all out at Christmas - lots of decorations, food, and presents. When we drove up to the house, my mom and Aunt Char had it all beautifully decorated. I wasn't expecting that, but I was so glad they did it. In fact, it was the most decorated house on the street. From the outside, you'd never know there was mourning going on. My Grandpa Teague died a few years ago while we were living in San Francisco. We couldn't afford the plane tickets so I had to miss his funeral. I had never really dealt with his loss, so for me this week was sort of like a double funeral. I miss them both and wish I would have made it more of priority to keep in touch with them. I need to do that with the grandparents I still have living.
Anyway, thanks everyone for your thoughts and prayers!
This is kind of a theme in Matthew. Not only does Jesus make a big deal about compassion, he makes a big deal about forgiveness. In Matthew 6 when Jesus gives us "The Lord's Prayer", he says, "and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." In other words, "God, forgive me in the same way I forgive other people." Jesus knows he's said something confusing or shocking, so this is the only line of the prayer he explains after the prayer. He says, "You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. (MSG)" Matthew emphasizes this further by recounting Jesus parable of the unjust steward in Matthew 18. Jesus tells the story of a king who forgave the debt of a servant, only to throw the servant into prison and reinstate the debt when he found out that the servant had not himself been forgiving. Jesus follows up this parable by saying, "And that's exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy. (MSG)" Jesus basically says your salvation can be taken away if you're unwilling to forgive someone.
To me, the teaching about compassion and the teaching about forgiveness teach us that saying the sinner's prayer does not mean God is "legally bound" to give you an eternal reward. We must follow that decision up with a Christ-like life. If compassion and forgiveness (which go hand-in-hand) are such a big deal to Jesus that he would threaten our eternity, I think it's a HUGE deal.
I realize this flies in the face of the biggest majority of evangelicals in this country who are Calvinist in their theology, and it goes against the trend of the last 30 years to preach that Jesus is all "love, love, love" and anybody who prays "the prayer" is going to heaven (no matter what their level of commitment), and some will say it borders on works salvation or whatever. But I believe there is more to faith than a singular prayer or decision. Our faith and our love for Christ demands that we give up our lives for Him and do everything possible to live like Him. Now your "everything possible" may look different than my "everything possible". We can't be judges of that. But we are all so guilty of selling what Dietrich Bonnhoeffer referred to as "cheap grace", or salvation with out life-change. This has to stop.
The sheep will be declared "blessed" and be given the Kingdom. Jesus says the reason for this is because they fed Him, clothed Him, sheltered Him, visited Him, etc... The sheep ask how that's possible and Jesus says whenever you've done it to someone who was ignored or overlooked, you did it to me.
On the flip side, the goats get damnation because they never assisted anyone in need, and therefore ignored and overlooked Jesus.
Here's the thing I was thinking today. Jesus has this opportunity to explain Judgement Day and who will go to heaven or hell. And he makes the deciding factor compassion for the "least of these." He didn't say that the sheep were those who went to the alter and placed their faith in Him and said the sinners prayer after someone exlplained the four spiritual laws to them. He makes the deciding factor whether or not we live a life of compassion.
I'm not suggesting we change our theology on salvation, but it is interesting! I wonder if our view of grace is too narrow?
I can't wait when the church doesn't align itself so closely with the Republican Party. There is a huge tendency to read Scripture into issues where Scripture is silent. We should have a higher regard for the Bible than to whore it out to our personal political agendas. The truth is that when measured against the Bible, both parties have issues that the Bible would support and reject. This song by Derek Webb sums it up best for me.
A King and a Kingdom
by Derek Webb
who's your brother, who's your sister
you just walked passed him i think you missed her
as we're all migrating to the place where our father lives
'cause we married in to a family of immigrants
my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it's to a king & a kingdom
there are two great lies that i’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him
but nothing unifies like a common enemy
and we’ve got one, sure as hell
but he may be living in your house
he may be raising up your kids
he may be sleeping with your wife
oh no, he may not look like you think
Christian vs. Christ-follower 1
Christian vs. Christ-follower 2
Christian vs. Christ-follower 3
Christian vs. Christ-follower 4
By the way, my small group rocks! We meet at this ultra-cool coffee house called Churchill's. Great food, great beverages, great discussion!
O burning stars in darkest night
Filling the void with silent praise
On ancient truths you cast your light
Revealing One Whose name we raise
O rolling surf and golden sand
Your song still echoes in my ears
Your waves were calmed by the same man
I pray tonight will calm my fears
Majestic trees with arms raised high
You point me to His throne again
On one like you my Savior died
To pay the price for all my sin
My spirit longs to feel Your hand
Your Word tells me I’m not alone
One day I’ll leave this foreign land
And praise Your name in my true home
Hallelujah, hallelujah, o hallelujah
It’s the reason you created me
Hallelujah, hallelujah, o hallelujah
It’s the reason you created me
I've read all the books. Attended all different styles of church (and a few different denominations). Lived east coast to west coast and several spots in between. I don't have it all figured out but these are some things that I personally feel sure about:
- A church that isn't authentic is a waste of everyone's time and money. If you don't feel you can truly be yourself at your church - then leave. But first try being yourself, and see if you get kicked out (it might be in your head).
- True fellowship can only happen in small groups. These small groups can take many different forms: Sunday School classes, home groups, coffee shop groups, accountability groups, etc... But if you don't have good small groups at your church, you don't really have a church - you have an overglorified worship gathering.
- Churches NEED to be seeker-sensitive, but not seeker-driven. We need to make sure that seekers feel welcome and that the message is clear to them. However, many churches wasted loads of time and money in the 80s and 90s trying to sneak up on people with the gospel. If the gospel you're preaching and presenting doesn't offend a seeker, you're preaching a false gospel. I've been saved for almost 30 years and it still offends me!
- Churches are failing miserably at discipleship. Membership classes and Sunday School are not enough. We need to spend more time in serious mentoring relationships. These, too, can take many different forms. But just like Jesus, we need to approach new believers and say "Follow me." And here's a question for you: Did Jesus start discipling the 12 before or after they became believers?
- Worship, no matter what the style of music, needs to be taught. It's more than music; it's a life.
- A church should be an asset to it's community. If your church is not an instrument of positive change (spiritual, physical, relational, economic) in your city or neighborhood, how can you start becoming such an instrument?
This is just a starting list. What are some of your characteristics of this mythical "perfect church"?
I changed to WIDE OPEN because that's how I try to live my life. I don't want to be one of those pastors who live secret lives because they're scared to show the world or their church their true self. WIDE OPEN was the theme of the 2004 Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention. That's where I got all the cool graphics. They're available for download on the YS website.
The other cool thing is that I added labels to all my posts. This allows the reader to search for a specific post by topic. For instance, if you can't remember what I said was the best movie of the summer, you can look at the list of labels on the right-hand side and click on "movies". This will bring up a list of all my posts about movies.
Sorry for the inconsistent blogging lately. I'll try to get back into the swing of things.
Derek Webb: Mockingbird - This CD is awesome. You can read more about it in my post below.
Gnarls Barkley: St. Elsewhere - GB is a fun band to listen to. They have mixed modern sounds with old-school R&B and the result is incredible. Their first single "Crazy" is a great song. If you want to see a great version of it, go to YouTube and do a search. You'll find their MTV AwardShow performance where the entire band is dressed up in Star Wars costumes. Very cool!
Chris Tomlin: See the Morning - This CD is growing on me the more I listen to it. It has alot of really great praise songs. I really enjoy his version of Amazing Grace.
I just got his latest CD titled Mockingbird today. It's great. One particular song really spoke to me. It's called New Law and it's about how we tend to be scared of the freedom that God gives us when we become Christ-followers and we tend to trade that freedom in for a "new law". Here's the lyrics:
don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music
don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law
i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me
i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law
don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice
don’t teach me about loving my enemies
don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law
what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
Dexter (Showtime) - This is a Showtime original series about a cop who is a forensics expert by day, and a serial killer by night. The twist is that he only kills bad guys. If you don't get Showtime, you can view the episodes on Showtime's website at http://www.sho.com/site/dexter/home.do (and they've edited any nudity or f-bombs so it's actually a better place to view it). Dexter is obviously pretty dark but nonetheless a very cool show.
Heroes (NBC) - This is a cool new show about a group of people around the world who have superpowers. They don't know each other, but they're slowly starting to find out they are connected somehow. This show has conspiracies, cool bad guys, a slowly unfolding mystery, and more. You can also watch this one online at http://www.nbc.com/.
By the way, this new trend of networks posting their episodes online to be viewed the day after they air, is by far the greatest thing networks have done in a long time. If you missed a show, or you'd like to check out a show that only comes on during church or work or whatever - don't fear. Just watch it online! Sweet!
So now you can watch these shows along with LOST, The Sopranos, Dog the Bounty Hunter, 3 CSI Shows, 3 Law & Order Shows, SportsCenter, Boston Legal, ER, Medium, House, American Chopper, oh, and Dr. Phil, Oprah, SuperNanny, Trading Spaces, and whatever other crap your wife makes you watch.
There was one great line in it. Kathy Bates plays a physical therapist of FDR's. In this scene he's going through a low time and kind of having a pity party. She finally loses her patience and responds to him by saying, "Franklin, I'm not going to play this game with you. I can't help you out of the pit you're in if I jump in it with you."
That statement made me realize that I probably spend too much time sympathizing with people's problems, and not nearly enough time encouraging people or giving them hope. Why is it when a friend is down, we feel this need to wallow with them. There's nothing wrong with a little sympathy once in a while, but what people need is hope. Jesus modeled this. I haven't yet found the verse that says, "Verily, verily, I know how you feel." But how many sermons have we heard on "Jesus can help because he knows what you're going through." I can think of plenty of times when Jesus offered hope, encouragement, and "good news", but I can't think of very many where he used sympathy to draw people out of their problems. Anyway, something to think about.
Here are some questions to ponder (or even respond to):
- Is it possible to discipline your kids appropriately and have them not grow up hating you?
- Why doesn't God kill all those "GOD HATES FAGS & SOLDIERS & YOU" people from that church in Kansas?
- How can my A's win 3 straight against the Twins, but not one yet against the Tigers?
- When was the last time anyone saw a truly joyful Christian? Why are homosexuals way happier than us?
- Why isn't anyone starting a revolt against the US Govt for what is nothing less than financial rape through our taxes?
- When will Christians stop believing W is a good thing for this country because he claims to be a Christian? Everybody out there (even if you love him) knows in their gut that he is less than honest. I'm not saying anybody else would be more honest, but stop making him out like he's the best thing since Martin Luther. Other than tax cuts (primarily for the wealthy) and war, name one other promise he's kept. How are all of your "faith-based initiatives" doing? W is the best liar I have ever seen, because people believe him. When Clinton said, "I didn't inhale" or "I did not have sex with that woman" or "We will cure AIDS by the year 2000", we all went, "Yeah, right, whatever." He was a horrible liar. But the crazy thing is we think W is a better Pres because he's a better liar. Anywhoo...
- Is anyone else extremely disappointed in the 21st Century? Where the crap is my flying car?! And why am I still walking on sidewalks? Aren't they supposed to be moving for us?
- When they talk about Steve Irwin's death, why do they always refer to the stingray as a "gentle creature"? Hellooo...it's got "sting" in its name!
- Why is Rich Mullins dead and Paris Hilton still walking and breathing?
- How much longer till October's over?
The A's swept the Twins in American League Division Series! Now it's on to face either the Tigers or the Yankees in the AL Championship Series. This is the first time the A's have won a post-season series since 1990. I personally watched them blow it two years in a row when we lived in the Bay Area. If only I could have been there in person tonight. I have to admit I got a little misty-eyed. LET'S GO OAKLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2. The Sopranos (even though I realize it's a very foul show, I have this need to feed my inner gangster)
3. Dog the Bounty Hunter (only because I too long for the day when I can put boot some guy's back before I tell him about Jesus)
4. Everything else...
The new season starts Wednesday and I can't wait. If you've never watched this show, buy or rent the DVDs and get busy. It's incredible. I said it last year and I'll say it again. Hurley is one of the best characters on TV and if they ever kill him off, I'll probably never watch the show again. Long live Hurley!
The 4 key principles are:
* Play - Have fun and create energy at home or at the office.
* Make their day - How can you engage fellow employees, customers and make each other's day?
* Be Present - How can you make sure you are fully available and aware during conversations with people? It is about creating a greater sense of intimacy between individuals.
* Choose Your Attitude - Each day you choose how you are going to act or which "side of the bed" you wake up on. The choice is yours and, the way you act, affects others.
Anyway Joe read it and is all excited about it so I think I'm gonna reread it again soon since it's been about 2 years since I first read it. Everybody should get it - it's worth it ($13.57 on Amazon) and very challenging.
Before I go any farther, let me say (in case you don't know), I pretty much hate playing games. Whenever people are together and someone says, "Hey, let's play a game!" and everybody else says "Yeah, let's play!", I pretty much want to shoot myself in the head (actually I want to shoot all of them in the head so they'll shut up and I can watch TV). But the Derbys have introduced us to two great games that hail from Germany (evidently the Germans love games). The first was a card game called Bohnanza where you trade beans. Sounds silly, but I really enjoyed it. The second was Settlers of Catan and it blew me away! I want to play it all the time. I finally ordered my own tonight off of Amazon.
Settlers of Catan allows 3-4 people to play and there is an expansion you can buy that will allow up to 6 to play. There are also add-ons such as Seafarers of Catan and Cities and Knights of Catan that make the game more complicated and interesting. Anyway, everyone needs to check it out. It's a great game!
Recently I read an excerpt from a book by Eugene Peterson that I was considering purchasing. He was commenting on the office of pastor in modern America. He stated that until the last 30 years or so the primary responsibilities of a pastor included 1) studying and devoting oneself to spiritual disciplines and 2) serving as a spiritual guide to the congregant so they might also achieve a greater spiritual maturity. He then stated that the modern pastor is more of a program director and marketing exec than pastor. I think he's right. I'm so tired of planning programs, and events, and advertising, and banquets, and other crap. Who am I personally helping to become closer to Christ? Who am I meeting with and encouraging and challenging and such? How much time am I spending in spiritual disciplines so that I am personally equipped to lead people closer to Christ-likeness? I have bought into the megachurch dream and sacrificed the important things. Not that the megachurch thing is all bad - it definitely has caused us to shift our focus to evangelism. But everybody I know is scratching their head just like me and asking "How do I do discipleship?" Something's got to change.
I bought my first MP3 player recently and it was finally delivered today. I went with the Creative Zen Sleek Photo instead of an iPod. I am very happy with it. It was about half the price of the equivalent iPod and has alot more bells and whistles (FM Radio, syncs with MS Outlook's calendar, voice recorder, etc...). I'm lovin' it!!!
I really love movies. I like artsy films. I like good action films. I like scary movies (especially zombies). I like comedy, drama, pretty much everything. But my favorite kind of movies are the campy sci-fi/horror B-movies from the 50s and 60s! SOAP feels a little like that, but without the shoestring budget. Bottom-line: if you like to have fun when you see a movie, then go see this movie. But if you tend to take yourself and your movies way too seriously and believe movies need to be "logical" to be good, then stay home and enjoy PBS or the History Channel.
Rest in peace fair woodland creatures. Your supreme sacrifice may well have paved the way to a teen entering the mission field. (Please observe a moment of silence - followed by a 21-hoot salute.)
I also got to eat at one of my favorite restaurants - Portillo's. They make the best hot dogs ever. Everyone needs to try a Portillo Dog someday. Mom brought the kids into Chicago to join us on Saturday. We had fun with them, too. We all went to the Field Museum, which is probably one the better museums in the world. The kids really enjoyed all the Egyptian, American Indian, and dinosaur exhibits. Here's some more pics: Isaiah with Sue (the world's most complete t-rex skeleton), Jamie looking very cosmopolitan downtown, and Mollie about to be devoured by a mean looking dino.
- One book that changed your life: The Ragamuffin Gospel - Brennan Manning. This book helped me see (and feel) the size of God's grace like nothing else.
- One book you've read more than once: Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling. I've read them all 2 or 3 times. They give me great joy and pleasure.
- One book you'd want on a desert island: The Message - Eugene Peterson. This paraphrase is my day to day inspiration.
- One book that made you laugh: Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller. It's rare for a Christian to be that honest about his life and spiritual walk.
- One book that made you cry: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis. Actualy all the Narnia books. I cry every time Aslan shows up on the page.
- One book you wish had been written: Lighten Up! - Jesus Christ.
- One book you wish had never been written: The King James Version Bible. No other book has produced more confusion, bad sermons, and jerks in modern Christendom.
- One book you're currently reading: Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places - Eugene Peterson. Good devotional theology.
- One book you've been meaning to read: To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee. Love the movie.
WHAT IT DEFINITELY IS
I have to admit that I absolutely hate the word "nigger" (unless used by Chris Rock). Jamie and I work pretty hard to make sure our kids do not grow up around racial slurs or ignorant talk when it comes to race. Moving into small-town life last year has made this more challenging, but we do our best. However, I guess I had never thought of that word as the dirtiest word. It's definitely ugly and very-potentially hurtful, but it had never made my inner list of "dirtiest" words. But I have to say it makes sense to me. I have a harder time saying that word outloud than just about any other word in the English language.
Anyway, let me know what your thoughts are on this (make sure to include your name so we can all tell who the real racists are - teehee). I'm also interested in starting a kind of online discussion via my blog regarding the topic of profanity. What words are profane in 21st Century America? Is there even such a thing as profanity anymore? When the Bible talks about unwholesome talk is it speaking of "cuss" words? Etc... I'll post more about this in the near future, but if you have any thoughts feel free to share!
I would say that my own rejuvenile tendencies include hanging on to old comic books, a minor obsession with baseball, the occasional game of whiffleball, and a small collection/affinity for SuperMarionation (i.e. - old episodes of The Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, etc...).
Feel free to confess some of your rejuvenile tendencies. Leave your shame behind. We are free in Christ and only the little children shall enter the Kingdom, so get it off your chest!
But I had a lot of fun with my buddies Travis and Andy. It's always good to hang with them.
Mollie had her tonsils and adnoids out yesterday. She's doing OK.
Anyway, all that to say I was thinking last night about how the church is always referred to as "she" or "the bride" in the Bible. I don't think this is an accident and we would all probably do well to remember that our churches (which also means us) are in most ways "female".
In the same way that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with my wife, I feel very much the same way about the church. I love her. She pisses me off quicker than anyone else. She is pleasing to me. Sometimes she nags me till I want to shoot myself in the head. She gives me companionship that I don't get anywhere else. She won't leave me alone. She appeals to all my senses. She's hard to please. She provides for me. She leaves me feeling empty sometimes. I am stronger when I'm with her. She's always interrupting the game. She encourages me. She's way too sensitive. She loves me and would do anything for me. I can never bring myself to leave her, and have finally decided to stop trying. She's beautiful. She's way too concerned with her appearance, but she looks her best when she's stripped down the way God made her (see Song of Solomon).