Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Dear Friends...I just want to let all of my followers know that I am moving the blog. The new format offers some features that are not available here and will make it easier for people to navigate the list of posts and find relevant content. Here is the new blog address. All of the old posts have been imported. You will notice the addition of categories as opposed to only having post tags. Thank you for your loyalty to this blog.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Okay, I'll be up front about this. I don't always like to be the guy who turns everything he sees into a spiritual metaphor. Or the guy to get the one-up on my buddies by "Jesus Juking" them (turning a mundane statement into a surface level religious dig). Maybe the snap, crackle, pop of my Rice Krispies reminds me of the voice of God? Maybe passing out candy in a parade reminds me of how I should treat those who have needs? And yes, I'll even be the guy who loves sports and has run the Christian sports metaphors into the ground. Life has a lot to teach us and sometimes the wide world of sports is great for allowing us to learn from the decisions of others. And that has happened again...and as a Christian and a blogger, I am inclined to share these insights with you!
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Last week was our annual Christmas Parade of Lights in downtown
Since the new rules were instated, the only way for the candy to be dispersed is for people walking alongside the parade float to pass the candy out by hand. So guess what my role has been during the parade the last two years? Yep. And let me tell you, sometimes the parade moves faster than a brisk walk. There are times when I literally had to quit passing out candy so I could run and catch up with the float (if I didn't stay with the float, I wouldn't have a ride back to the church!). So passing out candy allows me to be one of the few persons who has direct contact with the parade audience.
I noticed something this year, though. There were basically two schools of thought on receiving candy. Some kids were very thankful and appreciative and would respond with a "thank you" or "Merry Christmas" and were often prompted by their parents who responded in like fashion. Then there were others who seemed like they were almost trained to go after whatever free things were available. They were not content with one candy cane, and had no qualms about asking for more. My little sack of candy had to last the majority of the parade, so I could only give one piece to each kid, but parents were jumping in insisting that I give to them as well. And of course, there was no "thank you" to be heard.
This forced an age-old issue to the surface of my mind. It applies for those of us in church work and in service-oriented ministries. And that is this: should we try to make distinctions between needy people and greedy people? When I was in a former church in a small
In Luke 17, Jesus comes across ten men with leprosy. These were social outcasts who really had no existence because they had been ostracized by society. They were forbidden from being in contact with the general population because they suffered from a very severe and very contagious disease. Upon being near other "clean" people, they would be forced to yell out, "Unclean, unclean!" to warn people of their presence. And this time they met Jesus. They cried out for him to "have pity on (them)". Jesus replies that they should go and show themselves to the priest. This was a necessary procedure for them to be re-admitted into the general population. And as they went, they were cleansed. But wouldn't you know that after being healed, only one person came back to thank Jesus. And to this one, Jesus says "Your faith has made you well." But the others were well for crying out to Jesus, weren’t they? Most scholars believe Jesus is speaking of spiritual healing. His faith had saved him.
So did Jesus not know the hearts of the other nine? He asks some seemingly rhetorical questions to the grateful one saying, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? (the grateful leper was a Samaritan)" I don't think much gets past Jesus. I'm pretty sure he knew the hearts of the other nine. Yet he healed them anyway. But the faith of the one, as demonstrated in his gratitude, gave him so much more than a normal earthly existence. It gave him eternal life.
So maybe there is something to Jesus' model. For those of us with limited resources in service ministries, we might be able to learn something from this. Maybe God wants us to minister to all who have need. And maybe only one in ten (to use the numbers from this story) will truly have gratitude and or faith that will lead to their salvation. I think where we get it wrong is we expect everyone we help to have that gratitude...that "saving faith", if you will. But Jesus knew better than that. And I think we are kidding ourselves to think that every person we help through our church or service organization is going to receive help with a grateful heart. Should we guard ourselves against those who do not legitimately need help and are just be working the system? God has called us to be good stewards of our resources and we should be wise and discreet in how we go about helping people. But either way, we should try to meet the needs that are there and leave the results to God. We may never know the eternal results of our service on this side of heaven. But that's where faith comes in, isn't it?
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Yesterday was Holy Communion at my church. Being the closest thing our church has to an associate pastor, I assist our pastor during the service by passing out bread. And while I can say that this is a time of prayer and reverence, my mind does wander off sometimes to things like the difficulty of getting car and tractor grease off your hands the day before the Communion service. But I digress.
Monday, November 29, 2010
A few weeks ago, I blogged about what I call Twitter snobs. These are people who aren't really famous, but are using Twitter to create a brand for themselves. If you follow one of these people you will get a mention or a DM that essentially says "Thank you for following. Here is how following me benefits you." I wasn't saying everyone with thousands of followers is that way, I was just saying some Twitter users are more interested in monologue than dialogue. But today, I discovered another type of Twitter snob. I got a tweet from someone I follow that said:
- Facebook is a familiar, user-friendly interface that allows people who usually know each other in real life to connect in ways that are usually confined to geography and time. Twitter, in my opinion, is more suited to interactions between people who have never met in person or maybe strictly know each other on a professional level. Have you ever seen someone who has their Twitter account connected to Facebook? When their posts show up on Facebook, nobody comments on them because many times they don't know how to decipher the code lingo or they don't know they are supposed to click the miniature URL.
- Facebook is an online version of real world interaction. People who know each other can correspond about their shared experiences or ones they wish they had shared. Twitter is the online version of a business/professional conference. People share experiences to people they don't really know very well and everything is done with a premise that certain people are following me because I am either in a certain line of work, into a certain hobby, I have a certain religious view, or something else about me that makes me unique.
- Facebook is about stating what's on your mind whereas Twitter is more about being clever. Very few people on Facebook thrive on being profound (or even care about it). However, on Twitter, everyone is either a guru or a re-tweeter of a guru.
- More people use Facebook. Last month, nearly 25% of all internet hits were on Facebook. This is not to say that it's automatically better, but it is to say that it is where people are. Few people would agree that PCs are superior to Macs, but until more people start buying Macs instead of PCs they can get for less than $200, they will always have their place in the market. And while many PC users might learn to love the sleek, smooth, touch-screeny transition to all things with fruit pictures on them, many social media users could care less about the 140 character mini-thoughts filled with too many abbreviations, @user names, and tiny links. They just want to know what their friends are up to and how life is in certain places they can't be right now. And honestly, I don't think Twitter is not the best social media for that. My 80-year old father-in-law is one of my friends on Facebook. Sometimes I post links and he doesn't even realize it is a link to be clicked. But he's on there and we interact. He would never figure out Twitter, but because he somewhat understands Facebook, I think that makes it really appealing.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I have about ten days left on my cellular contract. The display on my Motorola W510 (a dinosaur of a flip phone) is all but gone. If you leave the phone open it works okay, but if you close it, it will either hang up on the call when you open it, or the display will not work when you open it and you have to power off and back on. The funny thing is my wife's identical phone started doing the same thing a couple of weeks before mine did. Anyway, despite incentives from our smaller market wireless provider, we are going to ride it out. My cousins recently gave me an iPhone 3GS and we've recently freed up some money in our budget to go with smart phones. So that is our plan. But as I am getting excited about the endless connectivity of a smart phone, I also have a few reservations. So, here are the things that I don't want to happen with my smart phone.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
This is a post I wrote for a conglomerate blog called "The J-listers" where I write every Tuesday about a different mutually-agreed upon topic.
This is Thanksgiving week, so we have decided to write about the things for which we are thankful. This year, I’ve been doing some extra study on the history of Thanksgiving that has given me a renewed appreciation for the hardships of America’s earliest pioneers. After spending several months cramped on a relatively small vessel, the survivors arrived in the New World with their lives. Having consumed most of their supplies on the ship, they did have some wheat which they intended to plant, but found it did not grow well in the rocky New England soil. So had it not been for the relationship with friendly Native Americans, one of whom happened to speak English (another blessing from above), they literally would have died. There were a number of obstacles that they faced and much of it was met with the sweat of their brows, but after a year, ultimately, God truly had met their needs.
This year, I’m thankful for much the same things as the Pilgrims-life, health, family, sustenance. Sure, sustenance has changed over the last 400 years, but does still mean that God has given us the means to provide for ourselves. So while I’m not necessarily thankful for a successful corn crop, I am thankful for my job and the paycheck I receive from my church that allows me to provide for my family. And family has taken on a new meaning this year, at least in a way.
Almost three years ago, I married my wife, and became the step-dad to a wonderful 6-year old girl. On November 15, after a 6-month ordeal of court processing and legal fees, the District Judge granted me her adoption. So while not much has changed around our house (she is 9 now), this is the first holiday season where I am officially a child’s father. Every time I went to the courthouse, or the Sheriff’s office, or the newspaper, to complete another step in the process, I was reminded of my own adoption-not by my earthly parents, but by my heavenly Father. You see, the way I read the Bible, it tells me that while I was lost in my own sin, God demonstrated his own love for me that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. So while I am thankful for the adoption of my daughter, I’m also thankful for my adoption into God’s kingdom.
So this week, when my extended family gathers around the table, my daughter will be in the presence of real aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. While it doesn’t change the nature of the relationship, this is no small thing. Likewise, we are the children of God-not pseudo children, or step-children, but children. He has placed the family ringon our finger, put his best robe on us, and killed the fatted calf in celebration because we have come home! This thanksgiving, be mindful of the things God has given you, but do not forget his greatest gift…adoption!
Monday, November 22, 2010
First of all, I want to thank all of you who are followers of this blog and those of you who occasionally hop in off of Twitter. But this post will be one of a different sort. About three weeks ago, I was asked to be a part of a new blog project. The basic premise of the new project is six total strangers, all followers of Christ, and all who follow each other on Twitter, who each take a crack at a weekly topic. Our first topic was our story of how we came to put our faith in Christ (or however each person articulates that particular idea). The second week was just after the recent election, so we took on voting and politics. Week Three is Thanksgiving week, so all of our posts will be related to that.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I got the idea for this post from Tim Schmoyer's "63 Youth Ministry Issues I Hope You Cover". This weekend, we are doing an event that is probably the most unique event that I've done since I've been in youth ministry over ten years.
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