due to a need for content and the recent inspiration/reminder by my sister-in-law and her "good lists," here's a "good list" for you, quick six version:
-witmygracesays (the twitter account my brother started where he posts things my niece, grace, says)
-blue bell's "milk chocolate" ice cream (tastes like a wendy's frosty)
-chick-fil-a's honey roasted bbq sauce (SO good. also, looking forward to the chick-fil-a spicy chicken sandwich due next month.)
-volleyball nights are imminent
-david platt's radical (well the first chapter, at least... that's as far as i've read)
-got to go to radio music theatre the other night AND sat on the front row! (i laugh hard every time i go)
first, the incomparable keith green. he speaks some great words, too, when he's not singing. ("you know what the greatest healing is? it's the healing of the sin-sick soul.") LOVE IT!
and one of my all time faves for nostalgia's sake:
i recently heard some staggering sbc stat on the declining number of student baptisms over the last several years. i'd be lying if i tried to quote it. trust me, it's staggering. baptisms are down across the board, but students (ages 12-17) are WAY down. of course, much is being discussed as to "why?"
not coincidentally, i'm sure, is the fact that about 40% of sbc churches have plateaued in membership while roughly 30% are increasing and the remaining 30% are decreasing. that's a lot of stagnation and decrease.
i have a few theories on this. please consider the following my very humble opinions and perceptions from my limited experience. i hope they make sense.
i've daringly broached the subject before of parents worshiping their kids and may come close to that territory again here. i am not a parent, so i tread lightly.
i think there have been trends in familial life and trends in churches that have compounded the woes of evangelical student ministry but i can't point to which is the chicken and which is the egg.
parents and students now, more than ever it seems, are so focused on academia, extracurriculars, resumé building and "giving their kids what they never had" that the church and, more importantly, the Church are being neglected.
if soccer or band conflict with Bible study, guess what's getting nixed. now, hear me... i don't think merely attending Bible study is of greater value than soccer or band. BUT i think negligent attitudes towards spiritual matters can quickly be inferred if Christian parents aren't diligent to battle them. parents are right to stress the importance of grades, scholarships, etc. but Christian parents should somehow also show/teach their kids that spiritual matters are far more important. i believe, on the whole, this is not happening. more and more parents are relying on the church to be the main disciplers of their kids, but kids whose parents don't really value discipleship are not likely to see value in discipleship.
a similarly dangerous attitude that i think has evolved in student ministry over the years is the idea that student ministry simply equals good, clean fun. on this front, parents AND churches are to blame. this is where i won't venture to guess which is the chicken and which is the egg. over the last 50-60 years, youth groups have become a place where students can have fun, be accepted and stay out of trouble. parents like this. students, generally, like this. but this is not all there is to being the Church. this is moralistic day care.
i'd be interested to see the stat of how many "sweet" youth buildings were built over the last 50 years... how many pool tables, coffee bars and video game stations were installed? (and i serve at a church with a great youth building, so "hello kettle. it's me, the pot. you're black.") line that stat up next to the declining number of baptisms. where has our focus been?
it's been on entertaining. it's been on wowing. it's been on competing with culture and it's been on attracting. many parents and churches like that and still think that's what a good student ministry is supposed to do. i've seen some fruit from that era, no doubt. but most of the students that were reached from that type of ministry stayed connected to church and ministry because someone invested into them on a deeper, more personal level. (and, of course, the holy spirit caused the growth.)
the oft used adage is, "what you win them with is what you win them to." until parents and churches get on the same page about what student ministry should really be, i don't think we'll see much change in plateaued and declining student ministries. (again, i'm hoping and praying for change in my own ministry, not just pointing fingers.)
this is why students don't know what real life in Christ is and parents are confused when their "good" kids get in to trouble or completely walk away from church. teaching Biblical values to the lost is only producing well behaved (and often resentful) unbelievers. which i understand is unavoidable as nearly EVERY crowd has unregenerate people in it. BUT if we skip the cross altogether and jump to discipleship, we've erred, not the crowd. you want kids to have manners, firm handshakes and impressive credentials, send them to boy/girl scouts. you want to teach them that apart from Christ, they are nothing, preach the cross to them in your homes AND in your youth buildings. i realize that many students don't have believing parents to set that example. but that's another reason we can't "afford" to have Christian parents who don't value the cross acting as surrogates for these students.
as i've said before, we need to stop trying to reach/look past the cross for greater fulfillment. and we certainly don't need to stop short of it (as is often the case). we need to cling to it, kneel at it and proclaim it.
i hope to be a parent some day, even though the thought of it scares the mess out of me. so, parents, please don't take offense. i can't pretend to know what that role is like. i hope i haven't spoken out of place. i'm just offering my observations and theories... in an adamant manner ; )
(as a current student minister (and former youth), though, i think i can speak somewhat credibly concerning what i've seen in student ministry over the past 20 years!)
i listened to some keith green on the way home from work today and thought about posting some to share with "everyone." then i saw that my bro posted a keith green video on facebook and knew i had to up the dosage ... especially because his is real video and the ones below are audio and still images.
these are a few of my absolute faves.
and a sunday school medley sing-along to round it out:
i wanna give a shout out to the year 1985. it was, pop culturally, a really transformative year for me. not the actual year, per se, but what came forth from it. such as...
ronald reagan is sworn in for his second term
we are the world
i love the description on this particular youtube upload: "its by michael jackson and a couple of people. and its super touching :]"
the dairy queen blizzard
the tv show growing pains
a ton of great movies, including a few of my absolute all-time faves:
spies like us
back to the future
some killer cartoons:
and one of the biggest, eternally insignificant, influences of my entire life: the nintendo entertainment system
1985... my hat's off to you. (readers, if you're not standing and applauding by now, i worry about you and am sad for you.)
honorable mentions: microsoft windows 1.0 is released (figured that might draw some jeers), teen wolf, disney's gummi bears, jem
# 1 - pretending certain scriptures only apply to non-believers
i don't regularly read stuff christians like so this topic may have been covered there and i wouldn't know it. plus that blog is on like # 7,897,583 ... so chances may be good.
i was thinking about this a week or so ago when listening to some Christians talk about the sin(s) of others. i am DEFINITELY guilty of this very often, but it's easier to notice in other people. i started thinking about Romans 3:23. i think we, as believers, tend to apply that verse to non-believers only. just because we're saved, doesn't mean WE still don't sin and fall short. we've been reconciled by Christ, but WE still fall short. i know, as believers, we want bad non-Christians to become good Christians, like us. but we often start to ignore our sin in the process.
it's the age old problem of thinking we're better than the lost because we're saved. newsflash, believers: there's a difference between ignorant (uneducated, don't know any better) and stupid (know better and sin anyway).
i don't know if this is making sense. it made sense to me before i sat down to type it out!
yesterday, i taught on revelation 3:15-20. this passage also contains a verse we like to apply to non-Christians, only.
`Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.'
we like to use this verse as an invitation to the lost, but this message in revelation is to the church. Christ's dinner invite is to believers! i don't think there's undo judgment being passed off with this verse like we're prone to with the romans passage. but i think we're missing out on the greatest "guess who's coming to dinner?" ever!
as john piper put it:
It is addressed to lukewarm Christians who think they have need of nothing more of Christ. It is addressed to churchgoers who do not enjoy the riches of Christ or the garments of Christ or the medicine of Christ because they keep the door shut to the inner room of their lives. All the dealings they have with Christ are businesslike lukewarm dealings with a salesman on the porch.
But Christ did not die to redeem a bride who would keep him on the porch while she watched television in the den. His will for the church is that we open the door, all the doors of our life. He wants to join you in the dining room, spread a meal out for you, and eat with you and talk with you. The opposite of lukewarmness is the fervor you experience when you enjoy a candlelit dinner with Jesus Christ in the innermost room of your heart. And when Jesus Christ, the source of all God's creation, is dining with you in your heart, then you have all the gold, all the garments, and all the medicine in the world.
i know there are probably myriad other verses that Christians like to apply only to non-Christians, but these two popped up over the last couple of weeks.
feel free to list/explain more in the comments!
you've successfully delivered the most boring home run derby in history. don't blame it on the lack of steroids, either. MAYBE injuries. but still, that lame ball tracker thing, blech. i think the final is yet to be completed, but i don't have much hope for it, obviously.
the highlight for me was josh hamilton saying the best thing about last year's derby in new york (where he torched 28 homers IN THE FIRST ROUND) was sharing Jesus Christ with a bunch of people. nice.
ok, so tiffany's latest postings have inspired me to try and update more than once a week. man, time flies.
i have a confession to make. it probably won't surprise many of you, but i have a very low tolerance for ambient noise in group settings intended for silence. sounds like a given, but i THINK i'm a lil different on this one.
really, the only two places i find this nerve being grated on are church and movie theaters. and if you know me, those are pretty prominent places in my life. oh, and class (sometimes i forget that i'm a student again). it's not just loud outbursts or crying babies, either. all it takes is someone whispering too much on my row, tapping their foot, clicking their pen, etc. it drives me nuts. i remember one time the a/c vent was rattling ever so faintly ... couldn't block it out. another time my good friend's nose was whistling when he breathed ... couldn't focus, he moved to the end of the row. i hate it. i wish i could block it out. i don't know how pastors (including my own) don't skip a beat when a baby starts crying mid-sermon. i don't handle it well. when students tap their pens or talk/giggle during my sermons, i often ignore it as long as i can and eventually stop and tell/ask them to cut it out. in my mind, they're being more distracting then me stopping the sermon would be. i'm sure i'm wrong, but that's how i roll.
part of the annoyance is often a perceived disrespect for the speaker and people around the noise, but a lot of the time it's just my obsessive mind!
don't get me wrong. i know i'm not the only one distracted by these things, but i know EVERYONE doesn't notice/worry about them like i do. numerous times i've pointed things out that people weren't bothered by UNTIL i made them aware (my bad). i wonder if much of this aural sensitivity comes from living alone for so long. there are no other noises in my habitat other than me! no chatter, no pencil tappers, no giggling, no heavy breathers, and definitely no crying babies. my neighbors' yapping dogs and the all day pool partyers are bad enough.
i see parents who have adapted to the circus of racket that often surrounds them, able to block out all kinds of things and i envy them. oh, how i envy them.
what i'm getting at, basically, is that i've discovered i'm an 80 year old man.
so, keep it down!
anyone else care to share their tolerance level of surrounding noise?
my brother's book is coming out in july!
you can pre-order it here.
also, jared will be at the lifeway store in the woodlands on july 11th for a book signing... my brother, the celebrity.
i hope that story about me ALLEGEDLY chasing him with a kitchen knife when we were younger isn't in there ... or he at least changed my name to laramie or something.
i've been wanting to share this with the interweb for many moons, but have just now been able to due to technical and legal obstacles. it's a video we put together for an exodus series i preached last semester.
hope you dig it as much as i do.
The Plagues (Prince of Egypt/Johnny Cash) from HWY 249 on Vimeo.
forgive me, blogosphere, for i have slacked. it's been 17 days since my last post.
so, i got to spend the better part of today with my mom and her four sisters. the highlight for me was when we watched the gaither gospel hour on daystar. (the lowlight was the lifetime movie, midnight bayou or murderous swamp mansion or whatever it was called. i didn't catch much of that one!)
anyway, i LOVE gospel music, i LOVE the gaither homecomings, and i LOVE that my family knows the songs and grew up singing them. i think my mom's family was even called the singing damrons or something. that's legit! (mom, if it's not true, don't tell me... at least not on here!) one of my favorite all time family memories was sitting around in a campground chapel with my mom's side of the family singing old hymns and gospel songs while my aunts traded out playing the piano. i have a big family, so it was like a gaither homecoming all its own.
i'm not sure all of my cousins share my enthusiasm, but i'd hate for that gospel tradition to be lost on future generations of my family in the same way it's fading out of christian culture at large. there's just something special about getting together as family (physical or spiritual) and singing great hymns and gospel music. i think it's different than the corporate worship we're used to now... but maybe i'm too sentimental about it. and i know it's a genre of music that isn't much appreciated these days, so it's tough for people not accustomed to appreciate it. maybe i was just born in the wrong generation!
anywho, if you want to share in my joy/see what the fuss is about/taste and see/or remind yourself why you never listen to gospel music, feast on these excerpts from the special we watched today:
God's Building a Church:
He's a Personal Savior
matt tipton is on itunes!
matt was a student at our church growing up who joined our high school worship band after a radical conversion. i've had the privilege of seeing matt grow in Christ as a high schooler, college student, husband, and now father and i've been spoiled to work with him in ministry, call him friend, and stand at his side in his wedding. he now serves as pastor of music/production at the journey in the north seattle area. it's always been amazing to see matt discover and create songs that i truly believe the Lord has blessed him with.
the worship "industry" needs more matt tiptons. guys with humble hearts and the gifts to usher others into the throne room for the purposes of exalting Christ and edifying the Church.
this link should send your itunes browser to the page for his album, today. buy it!
confession: i've never seen rattle and hum. pretty sure i need to.
pwn means own, right? maybe i should avoid gamer-speak.
anyway... many people believe you're either a freebirds person or a chipotle person. i am a freebirds person. here is why:
the "economical" evidence: i like to trick out my burrito with sour cream and guacamole (naturally). i do not like beans or rice on my burrito (may be in the minority there). at freebirds, when i do not partake of rice or beans, the sour cream and guacamole are subbed free of charge. i also sub queso for shredded cheese at no extra cost. this convenient and customer friendly system saves me the $1.75 extra that chipotle charges for guacamole. (even if it wasn't subbed it's only $.75 at freebirds)
the "options" evidence: at chipotle they offer a few ways to get your food (burrito, tacos, bowl (i think)). at freebirds they offer 4 or so different sizes of burrito in 4 different flavors of tortilla! they also offer tacos, quesadillas, bowls, nachos and salads. again, i like to trick out the burrito a little, so let's look at other options. chipotle offers a handful of salsas and lettuce. freebirds offers those, too. they also offer cilantro, onions (red or white), jalapenos, and roasted garlic... FOR FREE. after it's all built i like to squeeze fresh lime juice onto it. not an option at chipotle. they only offer lemons, and i think they're for your drinks. lame.
the "ambiance" evidence: chipotle looks like a starbucks for burrito lovers. the cold, yuppie flavor permeates the place. i'm just not feeling the wood and metal look with the chic aztec warrior on the wall. brushed metal, track lighting, yada yada yada. freebirds can come off a little pretentious with their "coolness", but i much prefer their laid-back, "who cares, i'm in college", blue collar aura to the ikea-latte-soccer mom haven that is chipotle.
the "customer service" evidence: the folks at freebirds are always pretty chill and personable. yes, they're all tatted and pierced (that might not be your thing), but they're good people. the staff (at our closest chipotle) are not quite as adept at speaking the english language as they could be, which leads to some communication issues. i understand that's a reality at many establishments, so i can handle it (just wanted to add it to my compare/contrast)... BUT the staff at our chipotle on sunday weren't even listening to me. i was pursuing the free rice 'n beans for guac substitution (which chipotle awarded me ONCE) and told the first lady "no rice or beans, i'm gonna sub them out." she said "ok" ... then asked "rice?" finally i get to the end of the assembly line and the last of the three builders asks "cheese?" ... "no" i say, AS SHE IS ALREADY PUTTING THE CHEESE ON MY BURRITO. k, guess i will then. then the whole substitution debacle played out... the manager finally informed me after two other people couldn't make the call. at freebirds, one person builds your burrito from start to finish and they ALL know the subbing policies.
if none of those things factor into your burrito eating, feel free to choose chipotle... i guess.
i never gave up on snl. of course, i started watching live eps in the late 80s after the anthony michael-hall, terry sweeny years. not sure i would have lasted through those.
my appreciation really intensified after reading Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests and Gasping for Airtime: Two Years In the Trenches of Saturday Night Live. it's crazy what goes into making each show... even the bad ones!
i'll admit. the show has had some really unfunny patches and REALLY UNFUNNY CAST MEMBERS, but each season has had a few cast members who are just funny to watch... even in unfunny skits.
most recently, thanks to tina fey's palin sketches, the masses are tuning in again. while the show is not the best it's ever been, i'm still watching AND still laughing thanks in large part to kristen wiig. everyone knows she's the goldmine on the show and it can get annoying seeing her featured so prominently in so many sketches. give her a break. she's done so many characters that they're starting to overlap. please, snl, use her sparingly. i could have done without gilly this past week... but not without her kathy lee gifford impersonation! check it out below.
WARNING: PG-13 (i wanted to rate it so no one gets offended. i've been more sensitive after our student ministry took heat for showing remember the titans on the way to camp several years ago.) also, i tried to use hulu's clip editing feature to get rid of the pelvic thrusting at the end, but i'm not sure it's working every time or at all. so when doogie shows up, you can stop after he "krunks it" and save yourself the blushing.
while the chases, hartmans, ferrells, murrays, murphys, feys and poehlers are gone, the current cast (in addition to wiig) has some really solid performers (hader, sudekis, thompson) who shouldn't be ignored and the new chicks (elliot and watkins) seem promising, too.
granted, the show ain't what it could be and i fast forward through 99.9% of the musical guests. but i'm committed to this relationship. a 34-year-old show should be allowed some misses. snl at it's worst was still better than mad tv, imo.
we have too many books... in the world. too many being published ... WAY too many being written. don't get me wrong. i'm not looking for burnings or even bannings, necessarily.
heck, my brother writes and i want everyone to buy and read his book when it comes out. but a quick trip to any bookstore will prove that people have too much to say and many aren't really saying anything.
on a recent trip to the Lifeway store in the woodlands (where i want everyone to shop, cuz my dad works there) i perused several books while looking for potential resources to use in our student ministry. the books on dating/relationships/purity are the ones that really got me. they spend chapter after chapter suggesting different practices that can be put into place, explaining certain dangers, mindsets, temptations, etc. the better ones give scripture to support their perspectives and to explain biblical standards. but they all fall short of being the definitive guide to dating/relationships/purity. they all, in the end, say something like this "these are all good practices and safeguards to consider, but, ultimately, you'll have to discern for yourself on some things where to draw the line."
that's it? your huge book with all these tips, hints, and guidelines concludes by telling me to figure it out on my own under the conviction of the Holy Spirit? novel concept!
i realize this may be a crazy pov. i'm just ranting. this isn't a well thought out attack on all things written, so just go with it. (it seemed legit when i got on my soapbox that day in Lifeway.)
i know that books are good. reading is good. learning is good.
maybe the problem was created by readers, rather than authors. we want formulas and easy to follow steps to cure our diet problems, answer our dating questions, and solve our church growth issues. it's probably oversimplified and myopic to suggest the Bible for all of these dilemmas. or is it?
my problem isn't with books explaining certain diets, exercise regimens, or even suggesting habits for believers to implement and pursue. my problem is with authors and readers who suggest any book (other than the Bible) is the end-all-be-all answer or standard for any given problem.
oh really? THIS book gets it right? that's why so many were written before it and so many will be written after it? oh, ok. i see. this method is more complete. more thorough. more current. less this, more that ...
flavor of the month. Savior of the minute. band aids on gunshot wounds.
What has been is what will be,and what has been done is what will be done,and there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9
our search for the newest, shiniest, best, fastest, safest, etc. in all the wrong places has led "writers" to offer us page after page after page after page of suggestion, theory, and endless references to those who have gone before us, pondered and written. maybe it's just to further dialogue. maybe it's just to illuminate good things. maybe i should shut up, now! i like to write. i like to suggest things. i like to theorize.
i just think we have too many books.
disclaimer: i sometimes feel like chris farley doing the chris farley show when it comes to writing about a theological or religious topic. ("remember that one time... that was awesome.") there are so many brilliant people out there writing, preaching, and living much more profound truths than i feel like i can bring to the table. and with nothing new under the sun, i humbly submit my two cents:
i'm no expert. i'm no veteran. but i have seen a lot of students come through my church's student ministry. as i seek to minister to these students, i am often burdened with the "state of the union" at different times. today while praying for the high school students, i was stricken with this thought, "we are not ok."
i know in general that "sin" is the leading cause of faithlessness in the world, but i also know that sin dresses up in different costumes and pitches different gimmicks to different peoples at different times in different cultures.
as i stand before 110-125 high school students each week staring numbly back at me as the Gospel (no matter how ineptly) is proclaimed, i try to discern the cause of their apathy. i think a leading factor for our demographic of students is an overwhelming sense that they are ok. they have the clothes they want = they are ok. they are fed = they are ok. they earn good grades and feel successful = they are ok. they make bad grades and don't care = they are ok. they are wont to their comfortable lives = they are ok. and i know i'm not innocent of these accusations. so i'll continue with "we" ...
beloved, we are NOT ok. we are fat, lazy, conceited, arrogant, selfish, rude, inconsiderate, and stricken with a false sense of entitlement. the age old feeling that we are ok blinds us to our need for a savior. if we are ok, we don't need a Messiah. if we are ok ... we are good enough ... we lack not.
but, i repeat, we are not ok. we are not good enough. when not being ok becomes ok, the cross is minimized to just ok. i try to remind myself and the believers that i teach that we never stop needing Jesus. salvation does not remove our need for Jesus. i've written this before, and i'll say it again: we are in constant desperation for Christ ... even after trusting in Him for salvation.
if we lose sight of that, we believe we're ok. and if we're ok, we don't need Jesus. we can make it on our own. all i see in Scripture is that we cannot make it on our own. that we can do nothing without Christ. that no one is righteous. that any good thing coming from us is from Him.
why is that so hard to remember? what creeps into our minds and hearts and convinces us that we are good? that we are ok?
i would proffer the following:
(i hesitate to type this because as a wise friend has noted, once you type something, "it's out there." and i could get roasted because of inexperience but what the heck, my two readers are polite enough!)
i don't know how to parent a child so i can't judge, but i have to believe it's hard for a child that is raised thinking they deserve the world, gets everything they could possibly want, and lacks nothing to recognize that something is missing. i wonder how to raise a child in an encouraging environment and provide for their needs and still help them understand that they're not ok apart from Christ.
i think teaching and explaining Spiritual things from day one points to that end, but the world and, specifically, many of the students we are reaching were not taught those things from day one. we're battling a generation of participation trophy-my super sweet 16-i want a golden goose right now-be the best you-self entitlement junkies and it's hard. it's frustrating.
oprah has us believing in a lower case answer. politicians have us trusting in a lower case hope. we suck on our self sufficiency like a long outgrown pacifier and believe, no matter how bad the world gets, that we're ok. and our "ok-ness" is strangling our passion for Christ. it's discouraging and distracting the faithful few. it's blemishing our witness to a lost and dying world. it is not ok.
if you made it this far, i'd like to say that i hope this rant made sense to you. i feel like i may have detoured through a few soapboxes. i don't know that i've written anything to encourage you, for which i apologize. i only hope i've written honestly and truthfully from my heart. and if you're with me, help me spread the word: we're not ok.
three things i'm thankful for today:
-will muschamp is set to take over the head coaching job at texas when mack "america's grandpa" brown steps down.
-the tiger eye sushi roll that james and i split at my le for lunch. as homer j. simpson would say, "the food wasn't undelicous." sooooooo good.
-the fall temperatures we've been enjoying lately.
anyone else? what's good in your life?
wow. over a week since my last post. i do apologize.
today's rant is not a new thought for me. the following subject has been a source of banter/trivial arguing for me on multiple occasions. but i'm in a mini blogging drought and needed to get some content up!
today's moot argument: gatorade rain is for metrosexuals*.
if you want flavored water (on my list of the worst inventions ever, btw), drink flavored water. if you want crystal light, drink crystal light. quit trying to butch up your preferences by buying a gatorade product. "rain"? seriously?! it's light, crisp, and refreshing in a way that doesn't coat your throat with manly phlegmy goodness. there's no room for that in the gatorade world. dr. robert cade, that old hillbilly scientist guy ("we called our stuff gator-aid."), i hope, had nothing to do with it. he may even have rolled over in his grave... but since righted himself while rolling over again for G2 (rain redux?).
gatorade is supposed to be thick. it's supposed to make you spit and clear your throat. no real man wants to replace their electrolytes the easy way. gatorade rain is for people who think lemon-lime gatorade is yellow (i.e. chicks and chickish dudes).
i've created an equation to illustrate my point here.
i have to assume that peyton manning and other athletes were contractually obligated to promote this dreck. if not, he should change his middle name to "not a real".
i mean what's next? hotwings 'n high tea? knit shotgun cozies? there were two genders in the garden people... and there are two genders today. some lines weren't meant to be blurred! thank you. carry on.
*note: i do not consider myself mr. macho manly man, either. i've never been hunting, i don't understand "mudding", and i have product in my hair. BUT this is my blog and my ridiculous opinion!