Monday, December 18, 2006
In today’s world, it is certainly getting quite difficult to lead a life that is truly focused on God at it’s center. It seems (more often than not) that we are increasingly looking at God as, well, God at the margins; God as an option; God on the weekends. We lead our lives keeping God in our back pocket “just in case”, or we go all out for God when we are within the walls of the church...but when we are at school, work, brushing our teeth, trying to figure out whether or not you should go to that party, etc., God is nowhere to be found in our lives. That’s because He is not God at center and circumference; God first and last; God, God, God. So, how do we make God the center of our very being? There really is no formula, but a conscious decision still needs to be made. It is very hard, though. We are told our whole lives (by friends, family, TV, movies, etc.) that “it’s silly to make decisions, especially the mundane ones, based on ‘what does God want?’” Is it dumb to try and look through God’s eyes when deciding where to live? What kind of car to drive? Whether or not to give this-or-that amount of money to the church? Whether or not you should be hanging out with those friends? Who to marry? What toothpaste to use? Well, God wants nothing less.
This Christmas season I am asking God to make Himself very real to me. Since I work at a church, it is often "assumed" that I am "connected" to God at all times; I only with that were true. Usually during the Advent season, I am at my worst connection with the Lord due to distraction, busyness, shuffling family schedules, etc. Well, I am grateful that God has been bashing though those walls this year, 2006. Just like Petersen's words to us, God needs to be at the forefront of our every being. And what a better way to celebrate His presence then to really celebrat Jesus, His ultimatepresence among us. God with skin on... "God with us".
Friday, December 15, 2006
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I have often struggled with this issue when trying to discern what is best for our youth ministry, and I have found that there is a fine line between too much fun and too much "deep stuff". At the church I currently serve, for example, we have three main components: Sunday morning, which is generally our largest gathering, and while ther is some discussion, it is mainly a teaching-arena, using out-of-the-box teaching methods at times, sometimes with worship singing, occasional random goofy contests, and short discussion/prayer groups. Sunday night is unapologetically the "fun time". At times we have toyed with the "short devotional" on Sunday nights (usually given by a teen to encourage them to "spread their wings" a bit), but currently we do not do this. Also to note is that the teens have often thanked me for having a "fun" time, since apparently before I got here in 2004 Sunday nights were basically "Sunday School Part 2". Finally on Wednesday we have a time of unstructured fellowship after school and then small discussion/Bible study groups after dinner. So, you can see we try to balance things out. But even so...
...I can't help but wonder where the "fun line" lies. Some of the articles in the JoSM are unapologetic in their quest for fun within youth ministry, and in life. They generally affirm the role of providing a safe place to gather and have a good time (as opposed to many of the alternatives), and that fun can have some benefits in bringing togetherness cross-generationally within the church, as well as the "fun as a way to 'hook' teens in to getting to church at all"-philosophy. All good things to consider. And to a point, I would agree with them. I have in the past defended our Sunday evening "fun" time, saying, "These kids need this. They are too stressed. There are other outlets here for deeper spiritual growth, and I actually think that group fellowship is an aspect of spiritual growth as well." So in many ways, I don't apologize for seeking to provide a place for fun.
But the articles questioning the goal of "fun" also got to me. They brought up issues such as, "Being a Christian is not about having fun..", "We need to seek joy, not fun...", and how if the focus ends up being about fun, then often true spiritual growth is hindered. These points resonated with me. There have been times where I wonder, "Do all these kids care about whether something is fun or not?" I'm sure all youth ministers would agree that they have had many kids who will walk right out the door if the "plans" for given event don't seem fun. At a former church I often had teens (it was mostly the boys for some reason) walk up after dinner, ask about the evening activities, and go call mom to pick them up. They wouldn't even give it a chance! At my current church it is not as much a problem (it has happened, though), but I have still seen teens openly decry something that is a wonderful thing (like a mission trip, study group, or church services) as not being valid for their soul because it wasn't fun. And this bothers me. It seems like our American culture has made fun it's goal, and if fun cannot be found, there is no point to a given action or activity...
I see parallels to one's faith life in general. How often do we go to a worship service and either like-or- don't like it based on whether it was fun? Oh sure, we talk about the style of music, what the pastors wear, or if the sermon "grabbed you", but isn't it ultimatley about whehter it was "fun" for you to be there? Or what about following some (most?) of Jesus' commands? Missions? Sure, mission trips can be fun (and usually, at least the ones I've attended, are fun), but we need to know that fun is NOT the goal of a mission trip! I have had to remind folks of that often, as teens in the ministries I've served have often vocally supported missions based on whether the previous trip was fun or not, instead of simply saying, "I am a Christian. I follow Jesus' lead. He said to serve the 'least of these'. I thus must obey. He has given so much to me, so I will give a week of my life to help others." Sadly, too few seem to have this attitude. What about witnessing? Too hard. Not very fun. Bible study or prayer? Boring.
So, the question we must (myself absolutely included; I am by NO MEANS immune to the "quest for fun" bug) ask ourselves is, "Is fun the point?" Ultimatley I resonated most with Ken Moser's article ("So You're the Fun Guy, Huh?"). He made a statement along the lines of this: Fun can be a byproduct, not THE product. I agree. Some of the things about the life of a Christian may result in fun, but that is not the point of things. Sometimes (and for some folks, most of the time...just ask Christians in many other countries) following Jesus results in "no fun" for a season. But we need to go beyond that, to the goal of "joy" instead. Joy from salvation of both ourselves and others; joy from knowing that God has a plan for us; joy from seeing others being blessed because of our obedience; joy from simply being grateful for God's provision! The list can go on forever. We just have to make a decision: if my life is not "fun", does that mean that things in my life do not have worth? I believe the answer is a resounding no! A mission trip might end up being harder than you thought. A boyfriend or girlfriend you thought "loved" you might suddenly break up with you. You might get ridiculed for making decisions based solely on your faith. Spending time that is just "you and God" might make you miss a TV show. And in some cases, even saying you believe in Jesus at all might take your life. But we need to have great faith and hope that despite the non-fun involved at times, God is glorified, others are blessed, and that we keep on the path (that God promises in Philippians 1:6) of becoming more like Jesus (aka "sanctification"). These are reasons enough for great joy!
So, let's make a pact to seek to have joy instead of simply seeking fun in our life of faith.
Monday, December 11, 2006
I was also completely fine with not taking QB Vince Young, despite the obvious Houston connection and his amazing performances in college. I just had too many questions, and my confidence in David Carr's ability was strong.
Well, after yesterday's performances by both players, consider me officially bitter at former Texans GM Charlie Casserly.
Davis is gone for the year. And while Carr has had a nice "rebound" year after a huge setback in 2005, his performances are beginning to slack...
I realize that Bush has had flashes of brilliance all year, but what I watched him do to the Cowboys last night (did you see that move he made at the end of the long TD reception? I literally jumped out of my chair and said to Missy, "Oh man did you see that?") made me an official Reggie Bush fan, and wish the Texans had him...
Vince Young has also shown brilliance at times, and has really led his Titans on a nice run of late (6-4 in his last 10 games). What impresses me is that he has led what essentially is a below-average team to a near .500 record (6-7). If he pulls off leading this team to 8-8 or even 9-7, the league should be VERY afraid for what he can do. It is early still, but he may just be the "Michael Vick" that everyone has hoped Michael Vick would be... What Young did to the Texans yesterday (especially that amazing run to beat them in OT) made me dream... What if he had done that as a Texan, playing in his hometown, propelling a below average team with heart to what would possibly become the young Texans' best season in their history?
These are questions we are left to simply wonder "what if?" about. I love my Texans (more than I ever did the Oilers...), but I am even starting to ask, "OK, boys...it is time to make some noise..." I also still consider myself a David Carr supporter, but he needs to start proving he is talented regardless of "how bad his offensive line is"...
Thursday, December 7, 2006
You can surrender without a prayer,
But never really pray... pray without surrender— “Resist”, by the band Rush
Ok, so right now you are either thinking:
A) He did NOT just quote the band “Rush”?
B) Rush! Sweet! I need to go listen to that old mix tape with “Tom Sawyer” on it!
C) Who the heck is Rush? Is that some band my dad used to like in high school when he drove a Trans Am?
Whatever your answer, you must admit that the above lyric is quite profound and true with a capital “T”. Do we really understand what it means to surrender? I think we often consider our attempts to acknowledge God, to pray occasionally for stuff, and to attend church (among other things) as “surrendering to Him”, but in truth, I doubt any of that comes close. When an army surrenders, they give up. They place themselves in the hands of their opponent. They essentially say, “Here we are, we are now under your control. Whether you claim us or kill us, it is up to you.” This is how we must be to the Lord of All. We must give up ourselves and say, “I surrender my desires, my plans, my hopes to You. Do with me as You will.”
This is such a mysterious concept. Too often when I pray, I wonder, "So, am I praying like I believe that this will change God's mind?" Or, do I affirm that I believe that God is sovereign and in control of all things, sees past, present, and future as one, and then wonder, "So...if God is sovereign ("in charge"), then what is the point of conversing and listening to Him?" When I get confused, I have to look to Jesus. One of my favorite examples of "when in doubt, pray like this", is John 17. The whole chapter. Go ahead, read it... So selfless...so loving...so "God-praising"...so caring...so grateful...so much surrender.
Our challenge is to look at prayer as surrender. Surrendering our fears, will, and even our selfish desires to the Creator of All Things. Because like Geddy, Neil, and Alex have told us in the lyrics above to "Resist", prayer doesn't matter without surrender. There is no formula, so if you are a, "spend an hour in silence every morning-type", a "pray for every need that is on your heart-type", or even a "pray on the fly-type", just make sure the main focus is a total surrender to the Lord.
...and thus begins my official entry into the blogosphere...
The word "haphazard" has always appealed to me for some reason. For one reason, those who know me can attest thatI absolutely have a "random" streak running through me. You just never know where I am going to "go" with something. Another reason is that I wish for a common theme in this blog to be that, well, things can go anywhere...God, music, fun, family, random musings, sports, none of the above, who knows. There may even be seasons where a common theme is found. I just want to make a statement that it could be anything...
That's not to say that I don't affirm "order". My belief is that there is a God who has created with Order. Whether you are one who is a strict Creationist (I'm speaking of the biblical Genesis account here), and Evolutionist, or an "Intelligent Design-ist" (somewhere in-between), I believe it is impossible to not notice the order, plan, and love that is God's creation.
Haphazard, then, does not apply to God. For me, it is more a personality trait, and even a bit of a "philosophy". Life is a mystery. We can glimpse bits and pieces of God's plan for us, sometimes more clear than others, but most of the time we are just on a journey, and anything can happen. This is exciting! We need to be better at celebrating the "who knows?" of where God may lead...myself included.
So, my hope and prayer for this blog is that it will celebrate the haphazard...all the while bringing glory to the One with a Plan...