Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I need a new computer and I hate Internet Explorer.

I was just fishing up posting something new when all of sudden Internet Explorer encountered a problem and shut down. Aghhhhhhhhhhhh! I'm so mad.

To insure that this never happens again (it wasn't the first time) I am going to start creating posts in a different program and then just paste them here. That would help.

On top of that, my computer slows down tremendously when my Anti-Virus protection is on. It's also getting pretty full. My drives aren't that big to begin with and each time there's an update or whatever, it eats up more precious space.

Can anyone relate?

When I have the patience and time to come back, I'll try again. It was a post about compassion. Don't you think I should be in a patient and understanding mood when I write about that?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'm Fosco Gamgee-Took from Bywater

Some of you may know my love for roleplaying games. I've loved them since I picked up my first Dungeons & Dragons boxed set when I was either 10 or 11. I loved the 20-sided dice and the character building. I loved imagining hunting down dragons and slaying them for their treasure. I loved all the rules and pictures . I don't think those things will ever leave me.

When I was a teenager, my love for Christ was tested against my love for those things. God was trying to get my attention and develop me for ministry. He wanted me to learn the Bible and think about giving and sacrifice. He wanted me to know there could never be anything as important as Him.

But, I was spending lots of cash on Dungeons & Dragons, Conan The Barbarian, and the Star Frontiers roleplaying games. Lots of cash and time. I suppose kids today have the same issues, except with video games. At least mine were books that taught me something [grin].

So, one night the Holy Spirit convicted my heart and told me to leave church and go home and get my games. I brought them all back to the altar and ripped them up. It was an incredibly emotional and rewarding sacrifice. From that day forward and throughout my high school years, I grew rapidly in my understanding of the Scriptures and my devotion to Christ.

My interest and love for those kinds of games didn't change, but my love for God increased. Eventually the Lord allowed me to purchase a roleplaying game again, for entertainment and casual reading.

Today, I love playing The Star Wars Roleplaying Game with my students and we are about to begin a new journey through Middle-earth using The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game. Not only do we have great fun, it is also a nice way to bond and talk about our own "character" qualities. I'll post about some of those things another time!

Which finally brings me to the title of my post.

I went over to the house of one of my students to create a character for our upcoming adventure. While he was deciding to play a Sindar Elf Warrior and choosing his special abilities, his sister was on the Internet looking up hobbit names here. It's a cool little site where you can type your name in and it uses a simple algorithm to find a hobbit name for you. Mine happens to be Fosco Gamgee-Took. My elven name is Lenwë Telrúnya.

Try typing in your name and see what you get! I've already tried several of your names and got some pretty funny stuff. Whatever you get, come back here and post it. A million points to the person who finds the most unusual name (unusual is a relative term here).

Also, tell me about an emotional experience you've had with God - that was life changing.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Picture Zoom Game II

OBJECT OF THE GAME: Be the first blogger to correctly guess what picture this piece is from.

RULES: You may only guess twice/day. One clue will be given per day, starting with the second day. The winner will be declared to be the most brilliant (or resourceful) among you. Everyone will bow at your feet in awe of your intelligence. If no one has guessed the correct answer by December 8, 2006, then I, JimmyBob, having stumped you all, will be declared the winner and therefore the most brilliant. Good luck.

Congratulations to Dorsey!!! He is the winner again!!! The Master.

The Superman Symbol

The Picture Zoom Game

OBJECT OF THE GAME: Be the first blogger to correctly guess what picture this piece is from.

RULES: You may only guess twice. The winner will be declared to be the most brilliant among you. Everyone will be very impressed and see you in a new light.

And the Winner is...Dorsey!!!

"The 3 Wise Men"

"Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.'" - Matthew 2:1, 2

I am amazed at how determined these Gentiles were in finding Christ to worship him. From eastern lands (probably Arabia) these astrologers or "Magicians" follow a star that seemed to hover over Jerusalem. Somehow, they make a connection that the unusual star signified the birth of someone extraordinary born in the land of Judea.

Many men of eastern religions worshipped the stars. But here the star that could have been misused is put to the right use, to lead men to Christ.

I remember my first spiritual search sitting on top of a snow bank outside my house at Loring Air Force Base, Maine. It was early evening and the stars were bright and scattered across the sky. I looked up into the heavens and prayed this prayer...

"Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, wish I may, wish I might, wish upon this star tonight."

After whispering those words I thought about the possibility of God and why people were here. I suddenly felt small in the universe, but I knew there must be more to life than just existence.

It was shortly afterward that Christians began coming into our life. First, an evangelism encounter on the street, then an invitation to a friend's church, finally my sister starting daycare at Caribou Assembly of God.

I could go on with the story and give you the details of my conversion, but I'll save that for another time. But, I did want to recognize that it was through the stars that God first began getting through to me. I'm glad I took the time to look up and wonder.

What about you? How were you lead to Christ?

Or maybe you're not there yet and you need a star to show the way. Look up and wonder.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Attitude of Certainty

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last post with some great ideas on blogging. You are all fantastic!

The other evening I was surfing the net and I wanted to check on the status of a movie that was being produced by Ralph Winter called Thr3e. It is based on a book by one of my favorite authors - Ted Dekker.

So, I went to TedDekker.com and one of the first things that came up was a link to his blog. I was interested because of the title of his most recent post "Jesus is a girl."

The post was about a character in his book House named Susan, who is a type of Christ. More specifically, his post was in response to how some Christians were offended that he would use a girl for the illustration.

But, what really got my attention were his introductory remarks. They seemed to hit a bell with some things the Lord has been teaching me lately.

Are there things you're not sure about? I mean spiritual things. Do you ever question how you've come to believe certain things?

I have always been the kind of person (even before I was saved) that thought I should have everything figured out. I'm not the kind of guy who is comfortable with uncertainty. In all honesty, I think the danger in that is I can easily make up answers for things I have no idea about. My brain just kicks into "common sense" mode and I make educated guesses. But, that does not mean I'm always right.

So, why do I need to have every answer nailed?

Here's what Ted Dekker wrote:

"It’s increasingly amazing to me that so many people who call themselves “Christians”, so often betray their conformity to a religion rather than to a faith, and remain mostly blind to the fact that the Rabbi named Jesus himself railed against those so faithful to a religion rather than to a faith in his day. The Pharisees lived squarely in the BOX of legalism yet many today are trapped in that same grave Jesus referred to. As humans we have a tendency to want an explanation for everything, one that our own frail reasoning can comfortably grasp, and we support that tendency by demonizing anything that is not clear. The teachers that Jesus scolded had everything down to the clipping of their fingernails in perfect order.

But our ability to understand God is not meant to be so succinct -- after all, we are human and he is God and who in their right mind can understand the mind of God? His ways are beyond us, as the word emphatically states. He pursues us with love more than with reason."

Click here for the full post.

God has been teaching me over the course of this past year to be comfortable with not having an answer for everything - even about Him. It's an attitude adjustment really. The attitude of certainty will keep you from entering into authentic relationships. And it really does make you look ignorant rather than the "confident, persuasive, and authoritative" person you're ego is driving you to be.

I still am learning and I always want to be. I feel good about this even though I know it will be hard to retrain my thinking enough to translate it to action. But, that's another thing about blogging that I can give thanks for. Doing this helps quite a bit.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Turning Over A New Leaf

Hey everyone, it's me...BusyBob. I've decided to change things up a bit, again. Lately I have been doing so many things my attention is all over the place. I've enjoyed it, but I miss writing and conversing here. Oh, I've done a little here and there with MySpace and other posting to other people's blogs, but I haven't given JimmyBob's Place much attention.

So, I'm turning over a new leaf. I'm gonna start posting more often. Any advice?

When I sit down I usually have an idea of what I'm going to write. Then, I try and find a picture to go with it. But, sometimes it's awhile before any new ideas come to me. So, I post nothing. But, I've decided that I'm gonna treat this like brainstorming. So, if weird stuff starts appearing, just know that it's only my brain spilling out random thoughts. I find brainstorming to be a useful tool. Among all the dumb thoughts emerges a great one, once-in-awhile.

So, bring on the advice. How do you get out of slumps?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Be thankful I posted something new.

Sorry, once again, to all my faithful readers and loyal friends. I have fallen into the world of busyness and have allowed it to suck all of my time away. My priorities have shifted and blogging has taken a back seat. I have to admit, that's not all a bad thing. There were times when I was spending way too much effort doing this.

Since this is Thanksgiving time, I want to thank God for all of you and the incredible joy I receive from being connected with you. In many ways blogging is like an extended small group for me. I benefit from your encouragements and amazing insights and somehow, through it all, I feel like we've had fellowship with one another, like we were actually together. That's how I feel.

What are you thankful for? I know it's a typical question to ask during this holiday, but it is still relevant and important.

Got to go, I'm starting to doze off. But, I really want to hear about the wonderful things that God has done.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Make me like a soldier.

"In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man who feared the God of Israel, as did his entire household. He gave generously to charity and was a man who regularly prayed to God." - Acts 10:1, 2

It has been on my heart lately to pray even more for our fighting men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems that a week doesn't go by without hearing about more soldiers getting shot and killed. The war has been difficult and complicated, especially for those families who have lost someone. I can imagine that for some all the voices that oppose the war have only made it more difficult to come to grips with the "why's" and the "anger."

Many of our soldiers are like Cornelius - devout, God-fearing men. In the picture above they are obviously praying for a wounded or sick friend. Perhaps some of them began a relationship with God after they joined the military. Facing the kinds of situations they face, having God in your life is a lifesaver.

Anyway, we're sitting at home and gearing up for Thanksgiving and Christmas, enjoying our civilian lives. They are very brave to go and fight. Let's pray for their safety and sanity. God be with them. Help them to pray and rely on God. Help them to be givers, beyond the fight.

And help us too - to understand sacrifice in our lives. Let us be like that Roman army officer, finding strength in regular prayer and giving to charity.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

An Amazing Day

Tuesday was an amazing day. I would have blogged about it, but I was exhausted.

Have you ever had one of those days?

I started the day off meeting a couple of youth pastor friends of mine to shoot a Pre-Show video for a 3,000 student Youth Convention coming up next weekend. This was no ordinary shoot. I arranged for us to do it at Quantum Helicopters, owned by our High School Sunday School teacher and youth group security team member.

We told him our script... We needed to get to Youth Convention fast for the Pre-Show. I would arrive in the helicopter, pick up my sidekick, and fly across the valley to Phoenix First Assembly of God, where the convention was being held. During the trip we would fly over landmarks that the kids would recognize such as Castles and Coasters, the Metro Center Mall, and of course Sky Harbor airport and the downtown. When we arrived we would jump out, I would fall, and then my friend would help me walk until I regained my composure. Then, we would sprint for the doors. (When we show the video live we are going to run out onto the stage as if we are actually arriving).

So, he took us up in an R44 Raven II and we got the shots we needed and more. He was so gracious and accommodating that he even removed the doors on one side of the chopper - my side! It was so much fun. The only times I was truly scared was when I forgot that we were going 120 mph and I stuck my hand out to point to something interesting. The wind nearly took it off. After the 4th time making that mistake I finally learned my lesson. And then there was that shot he set up of Phoenix First Assembly. He tilted the aircraft and we flew sideways straight toward the building. I was holding the camera and I felt that if we tilted any further I would fall right out.

We finished after about 2 hours and then thanked him emphatically. He did all that for FREE!

After that I spent my day setting up and preparing for our annual "Light In The Night" celebration at our church. The event went from 6-8pm and ended with a great Trunk-or-Treat time. That's where all the kids go through the parking lot and people hand them candy out of their trunks. Gosh, they got a ton of candy!

We had 4 huge inflatables including a Finding Nemo bounce house, a 4 person Jousting arena, a 15 foot Rainbow Slide, and a long Obstacle Course. We also had many other games and activities for kids to do with prizes and candy at every station. There was a Cake Walk, a Costume Contest, a free photo shoot, and free food!!! That's right, we gave away hot dogs, popcorn, and bottled water. It went very smooth and everyone had a great time. I would say there was at least 300-400 people there. That's pretty good for us I have to say.

I was so tired by the end of clean up that my feet were aching and my leg muscles tightening. Thank God for all the wonderful people who stayed to serve and help. I won't soon forget what they did and how they went above and beyond. The whole day will be etched into my memory as one of the greatest work days on planet earth.

What day has been etched into your memory forever?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Boring Announcements

Hey everyone. Haven't much to say tonight. It's been a week since I've posted. Been busy again with life. Lot's of things have happened that I'd just bore you with, so I'll spare you...

Naaa... I'll bore you with an idea I implemented in youth group. I went to a Youth Leader's Conference last weekend and we were discussing how to creatively and effectively do announcements. Everyone seems to have the same issues as the next guy with students not really paying attention and flyers being left on the floor to be trashed. So, this guy throws out this thing he's done with video and shows us an example.

You take a clip from a movie that has lots of dialogue and interesting characters. You rip it and then bring it into a program that can edit video and sound. Then, you cut out voices and replace them with your own recorded one's telling about your events and activities in a funny or creative way. The results are hilarious and kids definitely pay attention while your announcement is being embedded into their brain.

I decided to put it to the test myself and so I used AoA DVD Ripper to get a clip from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It's the scene when the White Witch shows up in her sled with the dwarf and meets Edmund. I imported it into Adobe Premier and separated the video from the sound so that I could export the sound clip into a program called Goldwave. In Goldwave I took the sound clip and pressed a button that reduced all vocals. It worked like a charm. The program only left one actual word but cut out the rest leaving me with the original sound effects and music score. I saved it as an mp3 and continued.

Then, I watched the clip over and over again, scripting every word so that I could come up with a new script that was similar in word formation and length, but talked about my announcement, which was about Youth Convention.

After I finalized the script, I recorded each line on my C01U - USB Studio Condenser Microphone in Goldwave separately and saved them as mp3's. Then, I imported them into Adobe Premier and matched the recordings with the visual dialogue of the characters. When I finished editing, I applied some fades and additional slides before and after the clip along with music.

I showed the announcement in Youth Group and the students laughed and were paying attention. It must have gotten through because I collected almost every single registration yesterday... on the due date. Amazing.

Have you done anything creative lately?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

My Hardcore Softball Friend

This story has been sitting in my Palm Pilot for a long time now.

Back in the spring I was playing softball for our church team and I met a new guy that had recently started coming to our Sunday services. Believe me, he was new to Christianity. His old life was pretty shady. We were thrilled to have him on our "team." Okay, truth is I was scared of him just a little. The dude is pretty big, tattooed, and missing some teeth.

After our games one night, we met at his truck and started talking music. I found out he was a big hip hop fan, so I introduced him to Toby Mac's "Diverse City." He pumped up the music in his truck. Pretty sweet sound system.

Then, he asked me if I am offended at cuss words. He wanted me to hear some songs by a rap artist he used to work for here in Phoenix.

Now, some would testify that my friend saw Jesus in me and felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit so he was compelled to ask me first. I say, maybe he was being polite and genuinely didn't want to offend me. Could it be?

Which brings me to my question: "Why are Christians always offended?"

I asked this question to a group of teenagers and one girl spoke up and said, "Because Pat Robertson tells them to be!" Wow.

Being offensive is obviously a stumbling block to relationship. But isn't taking offense a stumbling block too?

I looked at my hardcore softball friend and said, "It's okay. Let me hear your songs." So, he played the music and when the parts came up with cussing, he nervously laughed and talked over the swearing. I just smiled with him and said, "Hey now." We were both on the same team.

We have a great relationship to this day. I just enjoyed his beaming smile in a conversation this morning.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Meet Olga

There are a few things that I'm scared of...this would be one of them. Be careful out there. Sometimes when I'm ready to post a disagreement with a blogger, I wonder if this is what they look like.

So, what are you scared of?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Feeling Good in Mexico

It's Sunday night and I'm finally sitting at my computer writing an update. I hope you are all doing well. There are so many things that have been happening in my life, as I'm sure there has been in yours too. So, tonight I'll tell you about one of them.

This past weekend I took a trip down into Mexico about 4 hours south of the Arizona border. Altogether, it was a 7 hour van ride. I was with our District Youth Director, a missionary to Mexico, a couple of pastors, and 5 other youth pastors like me. Our purpose was to meet 3 Mexican national pastors and discuss plans to have ministry teams of teenagers come down and help their churches on a basis of several times a year.

We had our meeting in a rectangular, unfinished, cinderblock building with a metal roof. Pigeons were nesting on the center steel support beam straight over our heads. We all pulled up a block and used it as a chair. Not bad.

Using the missionary and one of our pastors as translators, we managed a conversation between us about vision. We made it very clear that we wanted them to lead us and use us...that this was completely about strengthening their churches. They received us well and responded with very kind and loving remarks. They also expressed their desire to work with us, unified, and with "no wall" between us. The most important thing we could leave them would be a spiritual blessing.

My heart was touched.

At the close of the meeting, when the sun had gone down, we hugged and shook hands. One of the pastors spoke to me and said, "You are welcome here. Mexico is your home."

That made me feel good.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sorry, I've been busy lately.

I have been occupied with other things over this past week and I haven't had much time left for JimmyBob's Place. Part of it is that I started a MySpace account, a Xanga account, a Yahoo Groups account, and another Youth Pastor's Forum. The other parts of it are that Survivor started up again on TV, for my birthday I got "Rockstar Table Tennis" for my video game system, and I have been really tired. One night I even fell asleep at this computer.

Anyway, tonight I was thinking about a Scripture that I shared in a sermon I preached this past Sunday. It is found in 1 John 2 and it is verses 15-17. They say. . .

"Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever."

I never thought about the fact that this world is fading away. Like most people, I stop at the parts about eyes, flesh, and pride.

These verses tell us that there are two forces at work against each other. There is "this evil world" and there is "the will of God."

There are two offers that we must consider. We can choose to crave the things of this world or we can crave the will of God.

There are only two outcomes (we can assume according to these verses in particular and verified through others) of our choosing one craving over the other. If we choose to crave the things that the world has to offer, we will eventually suffer eternal death. If we crave the will of God and do it, we will live forever.

Now the part that stuck out at me was that this world and it's cravings are already fading away. They are soon going to be dissolved and vanish. God is already working His will and the end of the world (as we know it) is soon to come. It makes sense that if we crave doing the Father's will that we can go on living forever, because God's will is eternal. It also makes sense that if we choose to satisfy the cravings of this world that we will eventually perish along with those things that are even now fading away.

God allows us to identify ourselves with either one. It is up to us. I can't see any other way to interpret these verses. They make sense to me. More than anything else, they speak hope into me. That my God is moving and working things out. That I should stay in love with Him and trust Him over all other influences in this life. Even if I mess up bad, I should repent and draw close to Jesus, who loves me more than I can imagine, because it is my alignment with His side that leads to eternal life.

What do you think?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Youth Ministry Report

I wanted to tell you several things that are happening in our youth group lately. I thank God for the growth and depth I'm seeing.

  1. Last Friday night we held a See You At The Pole Rally and All-Night Lock-In. Thirteen different youth groups showed up. We had a total of 305 people! That was incredible. We were only expecting 140-150.
  2. We are beginning a Youth Choir. So far I have 11 students signed up. They will begin the first Wednesday of October and start practicing 3-5 Christmas songs by Steve Taylor. Their first full performance will be at a Christmas Block Party our church is co-sponsoring in the neighborhood. If everything works out well, they will also get prepared to sing in the Arizona Assemblies of God Fine Arts Festival in the spring.

  3. Some of our youth have wanted to sponsor a child through Compassion but haven't had the $32/month to carry the load alone. So, I picked up a packet of a little 6 year old girl from Mexico named Maylin. I presented her to the youth group last Wednesday night and I had over 20 kids raise their hands saying they would like to sponsor her. I am going to receive a Compassion offering the first Wednesday of each month to cover the cost. They will need to write her letters too. And hopefully, when we're in Mexico City next summer, we'll be able to travel a short way to see her.

  4. About a month ago I began to sense that God was leading us into a deeper prayer focus. I asked any of our young men if they would like to become a prayer partner with me. Basically, that meant that they would meet me 10 minutes before each youth group service and pray for me and everything that would happen that night. They would also need to correspond with me over email concerning prayer needs, etc. Five guys responded and it has been a good experience so far. I love it when they pray over me. It is empowering and comforting. Praying for them is a joy that anyone who has worked in youth ministry can understand.

There are so many other things that I could mention, like Student Leadership Development, Teen Bible Quiz, our worship team, and the fact that our Senior High Sunday School class is busting at the seams with 33-36 students every week. Sunday School! It is taught by the parents of a couple of our students. They are such wonderful and giving people.

Please pray for students accross America everywhere who will be around their flagpoles at school praying during See You At The Pole. Like everything, after it's been established and organized, it can lose it's purpose and power. Pray that SYATP will be used by those who have a burning in their hearts already for Christ and want to see their world changed. But, also, for the kids who join in, pray that they will catch the Spirit. Pray that it isn't all a routine or tradition.


The Impossible

I believe that God is looking for a generation that will dream of great things and dare to set about achieving them for His glory. He is searching the earth for those with extraordinary faith, people of sincere prayer and actions of love. He desires that someone will look at their circumstances (impossible dilemnas) and they will declare that with God "All things are possible."

Here is quote I heard recently:

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they have been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It is an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It is a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."

That quote came from Slam Magazine in an advertisement for Adidas sneakers! Wow!

This is just a sneaker ad people! It is used to movitate athletes to physically excel and wear Adidas when they go for it.

How about applying those thoughts to our spiritual walk? Power to change the world?

When God promises to go before us, when He promises to fight for us, when He promises to carry us through, what else do we need to know? When God gives us the dream and tells us to take it, why do we still see impossibility?

Oh God, have patience with us and help us to be different. Can it be that we are plagued by doubt and fear? Do we really believe in God?

When we have the guts, we will see the glory of the Lord. Just ask the snail in these pictures.

So there. Nothing's impossible...

Monday, September 04, 2006

JimmyBob's Place 2

Until all Blogger in Beta gliches are fixed...

GO TO JimmyBob's Place 2 and post there.

Thanks friends!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Leave No Man Behind

Sgt. John Chapman had been driven once from the battlefield, but he went right back. Shortly before dawn on Monday, March 4, 2002, the Chinook helicopter carrying Chapman and a small reconnaissance team came under heavy fire as it tried to land high in the Afghan mountains. Riddled with bullets, the chopper limped to a safe landing zone. Chapman and his team jumped into a second chopper and returned to base—but only to regroup. Soon they were flying back into danger—to recover the body of a Navy SEAL, Petty Officer Neil Roberts, who had fallen from the chopper in the first landing attempt. Chapman’s squadron officer told his family what happened next:

THE TEAM, a half dozen of America’s toughest Special Operators, jumped out of the plane into a hail of bullets. Chapman laid down covering fire as his buddies tried to set up a defensive position behind some rocks. As he blasted away at the enemy, he was shot several times in the chest. He died fighting so his comrades would live. Before the day was done, five more of his comrades would perish: Sgt. Bradley Crose, Pfc. Matthew Commons, Spc. Marc Anderson (all Army Rangers), Sgt. Philip Svitak (a flight engineer) and Airman Jason Cunningham, a “pararescue” jumper.

"Leave no man behind" is the code of our fighting men and women. It is an ideal that brings security and comfort to those who fight in a cohesive unit. Soldiers feel protected knowing that their commrades will come to their rescue if needed. They will even enter the "hail of bullets" with great bravery and honor to recover a dead body. All because they're a team and they stick together.

What if the church had the same code of honor? What if Christians committed themselves to the team, instead of just their own interests and safety? What if they understood the necessesity of rescuing the wounded and recovering the dead? What if they decided to never leave a fallen commrade to the enemy (Satan)?

The book of Jude shows us a picture of this idea.

Vv. 17-19 say, "17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you, 18 that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to enjoy themselves in every evil way imaginable. 19 Now they are here, and they are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They live by natural instinct because they do not have God's Spirit living in them. "

Jude reveals to us the The Nature of the Battle we are in. It is a spiritual battle to divide us and distract us. This is why Jesus prayed that we may be one. Our unit is weak when we are fractured. So, it is extremely important to recognize how we're being attacked and for what reasons. The next time you see divisions and selfishness, recognize it as an attack from the enemy.

Vv. 20-21 say, "20 But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit. 21 Live in such a way that God's love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you."

In these verses we see The Focus Of The Soldier. It is to continue growing, to continue praying, and to be led by the Holy Spirit. Notice the great contrast between a scoffer and a good soldier. The scoffer lives by instinct, the soldier lives by the Spirit. To focus on growth and prayer is essential if we want to do the will of God. We cannot simply do what our flesh desires. Instead, we receive and demonstrate the love of God to others.

Finally, vv. 22-23 say, "22 Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins."

Jude wants us to realize The Great Rescue Mission that Christ has given us. During the battles of our life, we will see many who begin to lose faith. We will witness those who are messing around with evil, and still those who have fallen and are in the flames of judgment. Our posture needs to be mercy and concern for them, not the usual judgmental attitude that plagues many churches. Remember, Jesus would leave the 99 to go after the one!

The next time we are tempted to criticize, remember that God wants us to show mercy.

We will not be divided or distracted.

We will be spiritually disciplined.

We will not leave any man behind, but commit ourselves to their rescue.

Add-on Fun

Hello to everyone who views this blog. You may have noticed that I have added some things to my website. Like the Weather Channel, a poll, and at the bottom, a Scripture search tool from Crosswalk.com. These things reflect some of my interests and I hope you take advantage of them too. Especially answer the poll question. I will use your answers for games I play with my youth group.

Anyway, I am going to try and post more often. I really enjoy this and I love talking with people from all over the world. People are amazing. Of all the miraculous things God did in creation, the most miraculous can be found in Genesis 1:27.

So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them.

So, when I look at people of different color, culture, age, education, and status, I see the face of God. We cannot get a full picture of God until we appreciate someone new.

Keep "adding-on" people in your life. Through them, you will see the image of God.

Monday, August 28, 2006

God Loves Bugs

OK. This is just for fun. But, as I was preaching yesterday morning, God placed a thought into my head. After He created everything He said it was good (or excellent). Even the bugs!

The other night we had a Student Leadership Development meeting at our house and it was around 10:30pm and time to end. One of the girls was getting picked up by her mom and was going out the door. When she took a step out, a humongous flying beetle immediately swarmed around her head in the entranceway. She started screaming!

In her panic she wasn't sure to go all the way out or come back in and she left the door open. I knew Mrs. JimmyBob was going to get nervous, so I shouted, "Shut the door before that thing gets in..." Too late. It flew in and started a twisting flight around our kitchen, making some unnerving clicking and chattering sounds.

I immediately went into crazed ninja mode and grabbed the fly swatter. My voice changed and something took over me. Suddenly, I realized what God meant when he told Adam to have dominion and mastery over the Creatures. I swung several times until I nailed him and knocked him to the ground. It took a couple more swings until he quit making noise.

That thing was ugly. How could God say it was excellent?

I think of a friend who once stopped me from squishing a spider. He had an appreciation for all of God's creation. He gently guided it outdoors. I thought, "He's nuts. That thing is just going to come back in here eventually." He would just do the same again if it did.

Now, I think of these pictures I received from a fellow worker of mine...

This is from a brown recluse spider bite. That little dude at the top of this post. Nasty stuff, huh?

When God finished making that spider, He said it was excellent. There's going to be alot of talk about this stuff in Heaven. But, until then, we're just gonna have to learn to appreciate creation a little better.

I wonder if the spider bite wasn't venomous until after the Flood?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Falling in love with Him.

"Once upon a time a woman was married to a perfectionist husband. No matter what his wife did for him, it was never enough. At the beginning of each day, he would make out his list of chores for her to do, and at the end of each day, he would scrutinize it to make sure she had done all that she was supposed to do. The best compliment she ever received was a disinterested grunt if she finished everything. She grew to hate her husband. When he died unexpectedly, she was embarrassed to admit to herself that she was relieved."

Is this the way we see God? Do we see Him as a God that gets delight in creating and enforcing rules on his creation? Do we think that the heart of what pleases him is our obedience to his set of rules?

If so, then maybe we only view God as a strict husband who scrutinizes us. "If you love me, obey my commandments."

I've been rethinking. I've placed the stress in that verse in the wrong spot too many times. It would be better as, "If you love me, obey my commmandments." The reason for this, is that it puts things in the order of importance. Love comes first, then obedience.

"Within a year of her husband’s death, she met a warm and loving man who was everything her former husband was not. They fell deeply in love with each other and were married. Every day they spent together seemed better than the day before.

One afternoon, as she was cleaning out boxes in the attic, a crumpled piece of paper caught her eye. It was one of the old chore lists that her first husband used to make out for her. In spite of her chagrin, she couldn’t help reading it again. To her shock and amazement she discovered that, without even thinking about it, she was now doing for her new husband all the things she used to hate to do for her old husband. Her new husband never once suggested that she do any of these things. But she was doing them anyway—because she loved him."

I believe the heart of what pleases God is when we fall in love with him and want nothing more than to be with Him. It is out of our great love for God that we “obey” him. He doesn’t condemn our failures or withhold his affections. He is patient, accepting, warm, kind...safe. And we end up doing so much more because of who He is.

God is working in me to never paint Him as a cold and demanding husband. He does not want our obedience without our love, obligated and hollow. Our God is a passionate God. He does not settle for what he can get, but he goes after all of us. He is like a love stricken youth pursuing that special person.

His love for you is white hot. He’s crazy about you. He wants you to be able to say that every day gets sweeter when you’re with Him.

This song is dedicated to all the old timers out there that remember singing it...

I keep falling in love with Him,
over and over and,
over and over again.
I keep falling in love with Him,
over and over and,
over and over again.
It gets sweeter and sweeter
as the days go by,
Oh, the love,
between my Lord and I.
I keep falling in love with Him,
over and over and,
over and over again.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jesus didn't have a Messiah complex.

"In the accounts of Jesus' life, often the larger the crowds get, the more demanding and difficult his teachings get. In John 6 he gives a teaching that is so hard to swallow, everybody but a few leave him. He is constantly trying to find out who really wants it. And so he keeps pushing and prodding and questioning and putting it out there until some leave and the diehards stay. We never find him chasing after someone, trying to convince them that he really wasn't that serious, that it was just figure of speech. He didn't really mean sell your possessions and give to the poor. If anybody didn't have a Messiah complex, it was Jesus.

This is what we are all dying for - something that demands we step up and become better, more focused people. Something that calls out the greatness that we hope is somewhere inside of us." - Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis.

UPDATE: I have to admit, Rob Bell has me rattled more than any author I can think of recently. His book is so full of substance to chew on. Sometimes I find myself cringing at his statements, especially when it comes to doctrine, and other times I hear the bell of truth ringing louder and more pleasantly than usual.

I chose this particular quote because it encourages me to step up. When I read this (present tense) it resonates with my emotions. I am substantially challenged to live an exceptional life. I do want to be challenged. I do hope that I have it in me...to be a diehard.

What about you? Do you really want it?

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An aching heart.

My life is pretty busy right now. I'm getting ready to begin a new young adult ministry for 18-29 year olds. Most of the people I already have a relationship with because they graduated out of our youth ministry. But, I am looking forward to gathering with others too. We have needed to do this for so long. My heart is really aching for them.

Sometimes I can feel the frustrations of 17 year-olds who can't wait to get out of church. They tell their parents they can't wait until they turn 18. They want so bad to get out. Get out of boredom. Get out of oppression. Mostly out from under the wings of mom and dad, but also away from a traditional set of leaders.

I have seen these kids praying their guts out with their friends. I have seen them raising their hands in worship and expressing their love for God with sincerity and passion. In crowds. They love to be together when things are all about Jesus.

Somehow, things have changed. Most of the time its a boyfriend or girlfriend or job. It tears me up because I care about them. I pray for them, make plans for them, and put all my energy into teaching them. I even gather resources for their parents. Everything in me wants them to do good. I believe they can, but I wonder if they will keep pursuing Christ.

I have heard some things that make me sad. I can only imagine what parents are feeling.

They are in the hands of God. I know He loves them, because He has burdened me with their needs and given me an excitement in my chest to gather them together. I realize that I must act upon that love.

I must thank the Holy Spirit for helping me see ahead. For although I am taking on these additional responsibilities that He has placed on me, He has also given me direction and led me to resources. The next couple of months are being laid out. Not only that, but I have been able to plan out the next 3 months of messages and themes for youth ministry.

Now, may you also act upon the love God has placed in you for someone else. May your heart be burdened for them, that you are compelled to lift their name before the Lord, that your schedule would be personally affected because of them. May you sense the Spirit's leading and provision and be thankful.

God bless you all.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

God's Mercy

"How thankful I am to Christ Jesus our Lord for considering me trustworthy and appointing me to serve him, even though I used to scoff at the name of Christ. I hunted down his people, harming them in every way I could. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how kind and gracious the Lord was! He filled me completely with faith and the love of Christ Jesus.

This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - and I was the worst of them all. But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. Glory and honor to God forever and ever. He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen."
- 1 Timothy 1:12-17

God's mercy is amazing. He purposely looked for someone who was ignorant and unbelieving and had mercy on them in order to show the world his patience with the worst sinners. And who was this terrible person? It was Saul, the pharisee. The one who believed in God, but did not believe in Christ.

Just this past week I received an email from a friend that contained pictures (supposedly) of an Iranian man holding an eight year old boy's arm down, as a car runs over and crushes it. The email explained that the boy had stolen from the marketplace and this was the punishment he would receive. I was horrified and angry. I have an eight year old daughter and I can't imagine that happening to her. If that's the way those Iranian people think and act, someone should go rescue those kids and obliterate the rest. Honestly, I would have no problem with that.

But, today, as I read this passage, I wonder what God's perspective is. Let's assume that the story and pictures are true. Were those people punishing the child with such extreme measures because they believed God would want them to? To teach the child stealing is wrong and God would rather have the child with a crushed arm than to lose his soul? If crushing his arm would cause him never to steal again, is that such a bad thing?

Before you start freaking out, know that I'm cringing asking these questions. Keep following me...

From God's perspective, he sees people who are ignorant and unbelieving. They are very religious, but they reject Christ. It is in their hearts to do "good" for God, but in their pursuit to do good, they do evil instead, harming people in every way they can.

Now, I wonder if somewhere in Iran God has chosen the worst sinner and shown mercy on him. If he has, it has not become a mainstream story yet. But, after reading these verses, I am more inspired to pray for that possibility.

Here's my last thought on this for now. Is it possible that God is more likely to show mercy to those who are ignorant and unbelieving than He is to those in the fold who persecute the children of God? If that is the case, then I would stay clear of anything that would harm another Christian or tear him down.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Giving Up On Church, But Not On God

This summer I picked up a few books of interest and began reading. One of them was Jaded by A.J. Kiesling. I have wanted to post about this for a long time, but I haven't gotten around to it until now. It's a very easy read at 125 pages and I found it to be enlightening about why believers are leaving churches and how they still desire to be part of the Church.

This is from her Introduction called Divine Discontent:

"During my research I stumbled onto a phrase that captures the heartbeat of this message: divine discontent. Revolutions, whether social or spiritual, are always preceded by a collective restlessness, a heart-cry for something more. Could it be that God is stirring a divine discontent within the heart of his people, preparing them for much more than the staid, program-centered state of Western Christianity?"

A couple pages later she writes: "Everywhere I turn I run into fellow believers so jaded on institutional church life they rarely bother to darken the doors of those hallowed spaces anymore. Or they begin a search for a place that fits - a place that offers more than just programs. A place that encourages those deep, sometimes dark, questions that accompany any meaningful spiritual quest. A place that won't cast believers aside when they encouter their own dark night of the soul. For some, that place may be a house church, a Bible study, a coffeehouse meeting, or something as a simple as breakfast with another believer once a week.

Spiritual fatigue wears many different faces, and we may find ourselves in this slough of the soul as a result of a number of catalysts:

  • a world-weariness that replaces the first spark of belief over time
  • scars inflicted by fellow believers or pastors
  • a life crisis that casts God in a bad light
  • the existence of pain and suffering in a supposedly God-ordered world
  • a growing awareness that what's preached from the pulpit doesn't always work in reality
  • a despair that we'll never break out of churchianity into abundant life"

Here, she covers so much to think about. I have many things I could say, but I would like to hear from others first...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fighting Sin and Demons

I'm finally back. It seems I have been on vacation all month. This last trip we took was really great. Five days in California with Junior High students I didn't have to chaperone because there were 4 other adults to do that. Kathy and I were just along for the ride. I even read a complete novel out loud in the van during the trip. I read House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. It was the second time this year. The kids loved it. Heck, I even enjoyed it more the second time than I did the first.

I don't know, I've been thinking. My head swims a little when I surf from blog to blog and read so much doubt and question concerning things like prayer, Truth, grace and God. I know it's good to question and search and I welcome that. But, somehow I get so darn analytical that it seems a bit silly. The more I listen to doubts and commentaries, the further away from reality I get, like I'm tripping out.

House reminded me again that there are such things as evil spirits. People often allow their demons (sins) to keep them from the light. In fact, demons and our sins will work to bring death in us if we fail to stand up to them in Christ's authority.

I think that we fail to recognize these forces of darkness on a regular basis. Maybe we don't want to be thought of as a cookoo? But, the Scripture clearly teaches that they exist. "Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms." - Ephesians 6:11-12

So, speculating whether God is at work in us or our prayers seems kind of naive. If there are authorities fighting against us, then surely God is fighting back with us. In fact, that whole Ephesians passage admonishes believers to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, Paul asks for people to pray for him to receive the right words from God, and to have boldness. Surely God could do these things without prayer. But, prayer is the method of God's choosing.

I think that all of the problems we face today are due to a lack of prayer, not the reverse. Men and women don't pray enough. They don't fight against the enemy. They stand and take the fiery darts. What they don't realize is that their sins and the Devil are killing them. They blame their troubles instead on flesh and blood.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I went to New Jersey and got a "Syndrome."

I told a good friend of mine that I would post this incredible pic. This is what happens when you spend time in the Apple store. Some of you may remember Dorsey's post about the store and how it affected his magnificent forehead. When my wife first saw this she laughed so hard she started to cry. I doubt you'll have the same reaction. Her love for me is very unique.

So, do you think I should crop it and use it as my new icon?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Is there a Right Way?

I have been reading so much lately. One thought that I keep coming to is this idea of truth. C.S. Lewis says that when you have a math problem, there is an absolutely true answer. Anyone who arrives at the right answer is telling the truth. Those nearer to the right answer are nearer to the truth.

Ravi Zacharias explains that truth in itself is an exclusive term. In fact, Jesus made the most known exclusive statement ever, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).

When I read the Bible, I feel that I am gaining wisdom that leads me to truth. Of course I must be careful to properly study and pray to arrive at good interpretations, etc., but I do believe that we can arrive at principles and theology that is true.

Here's the thing. It just seems arrogant for anyone to claim they have the absolute truth on anything. It makes them look self-righteous and self-serving. But, here's the question: Is anyone really open to everything?

Is is true that most people who call for openness are really saying, "You must be open to everything that I am open to, and anything that I disagree with, you must disagree with too?"

That's why I use the Bible as a measuring tool. It allows me to see that truth is beyond me. I do not create it. I needn't be loyal to any man's philosophy, including my own.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Quit Praying To Congress

I had a good day today. Things began this morning when I got to the church. I checked my email and found an e-card from one of my students who had been struggling with anorexia and cutting herself. This past Wednesday I spoke about self-esteem and God showed her how much He loved her. She said she was changed. I felt so good reading that card of appreciation and I thanked God too.

All afternoon I had a chance to study the Bible and write down thoughts. I recommend it highly. You'll feel so much more in tune with the Holy Spirit.

Then, I had the privilege and opportunity to speak to a mixed congregation of young and old people tonight in our service. At the conclusion of my message I had all the young people come forward and stand and pray for each other. I asked the remaining congregation to come behind them and lay hands on them and pray for them. 1 Timothy 4 tells us that young Timothy received the spiritual gift of teaching when the elders of the church laid their hands on him and prophesied.

Then, the Holy Spirit led me to ask the parents of each of the teens to join them and that they should look at each other and lay hands on one another. I led them in prayers of forgiveness toward each other. Tears were flowing down their faces. God was doing a miracle in their lives and making them grow closer. One girl said, "That was so hard. I never saw my dad cry before."

After service, we were invited over to a friend's house for some food and conversation. It was during this talk with a man I respect and admire, that I was truly challenged in my thoughts concerning prayer.

We were discussing evangelicals and politics and we both were voicing our dissatisfaction with the way the church has been given a bad name by some of the big names. Somewhere along the way he throws out this statement:

"I wish Christians would quit praying to congress."

I had to think about it until the light came on. What he meant was that Christians, mainly evangelicals, have mistakenly made gods out of congressman. They get contributions (offerings), lobby for appointments with the congressman, praise them and take them to dinner, and try to get them to meet their requests. Sounds like prayer to me.

He believes that those Christians will never get their way until they pray to God to change hearts. They should quit praying to congress. God doesn't like that.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Road to Apostasy

Star Wars is something I have loved ever since I was a little boy. A New Hope hit theaters in 1977, only 4 months before my 5th birthday. Luke Skywalker was my hero. Even though he was devastated by the revelation that Darth Vader was his father, nothing could stop him from trying to redeem him. "There is good in him" Luke believed.

Recently, I read an article online called
Apostle to Apostate: Revenge of the Sith, As Cautionary Tale. The author draws clues from Revenge of the Sith as to how young churched Christians become apostates.

Here is my take on what the author gleaned from the fall of Anakin Skywalker. These points almost serve as steps down the slippery slope. Hang with me, however, there may be a twist.

1. When young people are kept at arms length and not given recognition for their contributions as believers, they fail to make connections, and begin to feel misunderstood or worse...unwanted.

2. When young people begin to recognize hypocrisy among church leaders and adults, they become disillusioned and begin to question everything they've been taught.

3. When young people express themselves emotionally and receive only indifference and insensitivity, they will find other communities that will understand them better.

4. Finally, when young people see leaders and adults asserting Truth only when it's convenient, they will do the same. As a result, this leads to clashes between them and a loss of direction. They will easily gravitate toward those who's beliefs are passionately consistent and "reasonable."

Of course, the root cause of every fall is pride and arrogance, but certainly how the members of the church conduct themselves can make a difference for the good or the bad of a young person.

Have you seen this happen?

Here's the twist. If you have seen Episode I: The Phantom Menace, then you know of the character Qui-Gon Jinn, played by Liam Neeson. He was the Jedi Master that trained Obi-Wan. He was considered the rogue Jedi, the one who didn't always submit to the Jedi Council's rigid rules and ways. He found a way to keep his Faith, but not the religion.

And it was Qui-Gon who believed in Anakin. Certainly things would have turned out differently for Anakin if Qui-Gon had not been killed by Darth Maul.

Here I find myself most closely relating to Obi-Wan. I am part of the Jedi Council (paid staff member at church). I am not a free spirit like Qui-Gon, but I work within the system to preserve the Jedi Way (Biblical Values). I have Padawan learners (teenagers) that I believe in, but I often see them treated as described above.

I do not want to lose my kids to those "other" communities. What can I do?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Power of Love & Understanding

I just saw this movie tonight and I had to post about it. What a great illustration of true love. It knows no boundaries and it is quick to forgive.

WARNING! Spoiler coming. What I like particularly is how the King, after hearing the true story of their love, decides to let Tristan & Isolde escape together, even though Isolde was his wife and had been caught with Tristan. Because of his act of mercy and grace, Tristan's heart is moved to stay and fight alongside the King.

Has anyone's kindness to you (when you didn't deserve it) ever softened your heart and made you love them even more in return? It seems to me that there is far too little of this in our "real" world. I hope I can be like that King, full of compassion, wisdom, and understanding.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Stupid church or stupid church people?

This past Sunday morning I was listening to my pastor preach a sermon and he gave an illustration about an annual business meeting. It was a meeting he attended shortly after becoming a Christian and he was all excited about the opportunity to be a part of God's business.

Well, the meeting turned out to be one of those knock-down, drag-outs, with members and leaders yelling at each other. Our pastor was very confused and dissappointed. He looked to an older friend for explanation.

"Don't worry" came the reasoning. "The church is fine. Just some of the people are stupid."

This got me thinking. Since I joined the blogging community, I have been challenged by friends who have mostly left "the church" institution. I hear many comments about the dumb attitudes and policies that church leaders promote, but not nearly enough about why the church, by itself, as an institution, is stupid.

So, that is my question. What makes the church a stupid institution?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Prayer Works Again

I just want to give God thanks for the following two recent miracles.

My father-in-law had pneumonia, whooping cough, and valley fever (a Phoenix area sickness that can lead to death in extreme cases) all at the same time. He went to the doctor for a scan of his lungs and they found the tell-tale spots of the fever. Because these spots can be cancerous, they scheduled him for a biopsy. When he went in for the biopsy, they wanted to get a second scan to pinpoint the exact locations and to see if things had changed.

Well, a few friends and our family laid our hands on dad and prayed that God would remove the spots and heal him completely. We also prayed that God would give dad peace. He was very worried about having surgery.

The scan was complete. The doctor examined it and found NO spots! He said he couldn't explain it - they were completely gone. Dad told the doctor it was because of prayer and the doctor just smiled.

A student in my youth group was with his school on a paintball outing. He was playing capture the flag. When he grabbed the flag he rolled his ankle. At the hospital, an x-ray revealed that he had broken it. The doctor put a cast on his leg from his ankle all the way up his thigh.

He was told that he would be in a wheelchair for the next six weeks and absolutely could not put any pressure on his ankle or leg. He was warned that if he did this, the bones would not set right and they would have to re-break it in order to try again.

A bunch of people prayed for his healing, including myself.

A couple of days after the break, he went into the hospital for a follow-up x-ray to determine if they had set it correctly. When the doctor looked at the picture, he said he could not believe it. He could not tell there had even been a break!

At the doctor's recommend, he is still in the wheelchair and cast, but the student says he feels great. Praise God!

"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results." - James 5:16, NLT

So what do you think is responsible for healing? Is it the faith of the person praying? Or does that matter at all? Does God just decide to heal outside of prayer's influence?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Chaddy Brown loved the devil.

I really miss my Grampa. He passed away on July 9th, 2002 of leukemia at the age of 80.

I will never forget the smell of his pipe or his distinguished, "downeast" (Maine) accent. "Wanna play caahhds?" I won't forget his love for animals or people of any kind. In fact, I will never forget one time when he came to visit us kids in the cellar (basement) of his house in Kennebunkport, Maine. We lived down there because my dad had discharged from the Air Force and we had no place to go. Grampa let us build a rough apartment in it.

As he was sitting on the couch he was talking to us and decided to give us a lesson on love. He said, "I love everybody, even the devil because he keeps the earth warm." As a second grader, I didn't understand the devil part, but I certainly learned from Grampa that it was important to accept and love everyone and everything that was living.

To my knowledge, my Grampa, Chaddy Brown, did not know Jesus Christ when he died. Well, my father spoke with him about God, but there wasn't a repeat of any "sinner's prayer" or anything like that. Before I get to my thoughts on that, I want to ask a question.

How much do our personal stories affect our theology?

Here is what my Uncle Larry wrote about my Grampa's life:

Chaddy Brown was quite a boy.

He was independent, old fashioned, curious, generous, shy, witty, and humorous. He got a kick out of people and people got a kick out of him. He enjoyed a challenge. He challenged life and was challenged by it. He was never dissuaded. He enjoyed beating the odds.

He was a talented athlete in his youth, excelling in golf and bowling, but once he met these challenges he left them behind to move on to others. His analytical mind enjoyed the logic of contract bridge and he played with a methodical passion. Chaddy was well known in local bridge circles and was a sought after partner in regional tournaments where he slowly accumulated points, a fraction at a time, until he was recognized by the American Contract Bridge League as a life master. After reaching this pinnacle he seldom if ever played again. He preferred to play cribbage with his family and grandchildren, often cheating to let them win. He teased Sheila by saying her victories didn't count- it was just practice when Grampa lost.

He challenged the English language throughout his life. He was sparing in his usage of various parts of speech. I have never heard him use the verb "to be" for instance. I remember that Chad hoped to win the lottery by buying a "Magnavox" ticket every Saturday. He decried the use of "phonographic" pictures on the internet.

He spent his life in Kennebunkport except for his service during WWII. Those years found him aboard ammunition ships in convoys crossing the Atlantic and into Murmansk Russia where the survival rates were as low as one in three. Chad Brown faced death at an early age and rarely spoke of it.

To meet Chaddy Brown was to like him and to remember him. His work at the Post Office and at Smith's Market gained him a large circle of friends and acquaintances from all walks of life. From bankers to bums, he found something to appreciate in most people he met. It was not the external attributes of a person that mattered to Chad, but their inner qualities that he appreciated and that's what endeared him to so many.

My wife Barbara once wrote a college paper expressing how family storytelling can instill values in future generations. Of course she wrote about her Dad. I quote it now.

"Many of these stories include a mentally handicapped man that my family took various places when I was young. He always wore an official sheriff's badge and my father loved to try to get into fairs or the racetrack for free. These stories present a fun-loving, but very compassionate side of my father. I share these stories so my daughter will understand her grandfather and know I value compassion above other attributes. To ensure that she does not miss the point, I have told her what happened the time I grumbled about how often this man tagged along. The edge to my father's voice was unmistakable as he squelched my complaint with a single sentence: "Emmy has to have a life too."

I came to know him as a somewhat private man who had a life long love of animals. He was a friend of every dog he ever met and a few ponies as well.

When I think of Chad Brown, the words of the poet come to mind:

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it has ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question "Whither?"

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love for a season?

- Robert Frost about Chad Brown

In trying to come up with a short summary of his life his children write:

"We found there was much about our Dad we didn't know. We decided that Dad was successful at living life on his own terms. He was glad to help family, friends, or strangers. He saw the positive in everyone that he met. We all share different memories of him, which is probably a function of the range of our ages but it might be from the fact that he loved us as the individuals he saw us to be. We will all miss him in ways that we will never be able to express."

He enjoyed many of the people and things that others didn't see or took for granted. He found humor and pleasure everywhere and with most everyone. Chad was a kind and generous man. He embraced life. When faced the inevitability of his final illness, he first ignored and then embraced death. He courted it and encouraged it unafraid. He bowed and accepted the end with strength and grace.

I miss him so much. What a great man, with great qualities. He was kinder than many Christians I know. Damn me if I judge his final destination based on the doctrine of the tidy "sinner's prayer." Only God knows. My father is at peace with it.

So, how do your personal stories affect your theology? Dig deep and be honest.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Is Ridicule The Answer?

As I was studying for the message I delivered in youth group tonight, I came across a very interesting article on the famous French philosopher Voltaire by Robert G. Ingersoll. My message was about how the Bible has survived over time, persecution and criticism. I wanted to share with the teens how their faith can also endure, like the Bible has. As they get older their faith can be consistent, it can endure persecution, and most importantly - it can stand up under criticism. Their actions can match their beliefs and like the entire New Testament, they can exist with very few variants. Unusual comparison, I know.

Voltaire challenged the Bible on every front (science, archeology, prophecy, promises, etc.). After he began to gain notoriety for his anti-religious views he was inspired and predicted that within 100 years of his death the Bible and Christianity would vanish from the earth and into history. Interestingly, within 50 years of his death the Geneva Bible Society used his printing press and house to print stacks of Bibles.

The more I read the article by Ingersoll, the more I began drawing a comparison between Voltaire and my current blogging friends. He had many of the same issues with the established church of his time as my friends do with the current church. And he used the same method they use to point out the inconsistencies and hypocrisy - ridicule.

Which brings me to my point. Is ridicule the answer to a church gone astray?

Here's what Robert G. Ingersoll feels about it:

"But in what way can the absurdity of the "real presence" be answered, except by banter, by raillery, by ridicule, by persiflage? How are you going to convince a man who believes that when he swallows the sacred wafer he has eaten the entire Trinity, and that a priest drinking a drop of wine has devoured the Infinite? How are you to reason with a man who believes that if any of the sacred wafers are left over they should be put in a secure place, so that mice should not eat God?

What effect will logic have upon a religious gentleman who firmly believes that a God of infinite compassion sent two bears to tear thirty or forty children in pieces for laughing at a bald-headed prophet?

How are such people to be answered? How can they be brought to a sense of their absurdity?

They must feel in their flesh the arrows of ridicule.

So Voltaire has been called a mocker.

What did he mock? He mocked kings that were unjust; kings who cared nothing for the sufferings of their subjects. He mocked the titled fools of his day. He mocked the corruption of courts; the meanness, the tyranny and the brutality of judges. He mocked the absurd and cruel laws, the barbarous customs. He mocked popes and cardinals and bishops and priests, and all the hypocrites on the earth. He mocked historians who filled their books with lies, and philosophers who defended superstition. He mocked the haters of liberty, the persecutors of their fellow-men. He mocked the arrogance, the cruelty, the impudence, and the unspeakable baseness of his time.

He has been blamed because he used the weapon of ridicule.

Hypocrisy has always hated laughter, and always will. Absurdity detests humor, and stupidity despises wit.

Voltaire was the master of ridicule. He ridiculed the absurd, the impossible. He ridiculed the mythologies and the miracles, the stupid lives and lies of the saints. He found pretence and mendacity crowned by credulity. He found the ignorant many controlled by the cunning and cruel few. He found the historian, saturated with superstition, filling his volumes with the details of the impossible, and he found the scientists satisfied with "they say."

Perhaps ridicule does have an affect on mankind, but is it a good method for those within the Church to use on their own?

What scares me is that Voltaire threw it all away. Because of the corrupt, superstitious church of his time, he resigned to believing only in the God of Nature. But, after witnessing the loss of many believers in an earthquake, he decided there could not be a loving God who would allow such suffering of his own children. Who knows how he really ended up, but one thing's for sure, he hated the church and the Bible.

Even though we may hate the status quo, would it not be better to use loving correction on our own rather than ridicule?

Isn't it human nature to dismiss every idea of those we ridicule?

I've heard it on blog strings already "If they believe that God is really like that...then I don't want anything to do with Christ or their religion." Eventually there is nowhere left to go but to the worship of humanity and self. To their folly, men dare to protest in God's face thinking that their morality is superior.

Just something to chew on. I don't want to end up like Voltaire.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why the Sex Books?

Kathy and I are hosting a True Love Waits Banquet this Friday night at our church. We are really looking forward to spending time with the teens and their families. So, I have been doing a lot of reading on the subject of sex and purity.

The approach we’re taking isn’t “Just Say No To Sex” before marriage and then have them all sign purity pledges. Instead, I am going to speak on purity for the whole family. Purity isn’t just about sex, it’s about trusting God to help us keep our minds like a child.

How can we expect our junior high boys to not look at porn on the internet if dad is doing it all the time? Why is that important? God will forgive dad for his problem, but it isn’t just his problem. He is leading a child down the same destructive path.

So, I am challenging the parents to look their kids in the eyes and say they will do their best to run their house and lives with purity. Mom and dad will fail at times, but the family needs to know that everyone is trying and trusting Christ.

It’s time to stop making excuses.