Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Who We Are Instead, v. 3.0

v 1.0:

v 2.0:

First, read Galatians 3:

So we are asking ourselves what type of person God wants us to be if we are to be broken from the worlds’ mold. Well, one way following Jesus is different from any other “way” is that it truly isn’t about following a set of rules to be “good enough” for God. You look at most other faiths (and I want to say “all” but not 100% positive, so “most” will do) and it is all about being good enough…worthy…getting points. So, are any of us able to truly be worthy? Well, I know I’m not...

Look at V. 2-4:;&version=65;

Ask yourselves some of the questions Paul just posed…and I bet that even if you “know” it isn’t about gritting your teeth and getting “God points”, some of you still live there.
Now look at v 11-14:;&version=65;. When we try to rule-keep, we fail. So what’s the point? To make us rely on Christ…and that concept it foreign to some. Everything tells us we have to follow rules to “make it”, and thus it is easy to say to ourselves, “If it ain’t about rules…what stops me from just running around being a sin machine?”

GK Chesterton says: …the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” Is there a Law? Yes. Does God give us commands? Yes. But Chesterton acknowledges they aren't there to "get us to heaven", but instead to allow us freedom to do the Good God desired for his world...

The Law is there…and should not be ignored…but when I realize that Jesus dissolved my “curse”, and if I truly believe I was cursed (that’s the hardest thing, we all seem to think we are “good”), then I realize I am free…free to live for God by paying attention to the Law, but breathing a sigh of relief because I know I can’t do it myself…so I just ask God to keep on changing me and making me more like Jesus bit-by-bit…

V 21-22 basically shows us the purpose of Law:;&version=65;

Finally, the chapter ends with a statement that is truly different from the norm…read v 25-29:;&version=65;

Faith, belief in something “out there” that truly gives a rip about you, is what it is about. If you believe you are cursed by trying (and failing) to abide perfectly by rules, you get discouraged. You may even say, “what’s the point? I’m gonna sin anyway”. I would argue that attitude say you don’t get it yet…yeah, I know I will always struggle, but when I do, I know God is with me and even if I stumble, I quickly remember Jesus’ forgiveness and move on. It helps…if I live out of thankfulness for Jesus taking the curse for me, it changes how I view God, myself, others…Finally, Paul talks about how the walls are blown down as far as the divisions we put between each other. Gender, race, etc…none of them matter when it comes to Jesus’ love for us. And so it should be with each other. And THAT is something we should be instead of the typical near-hatred I see sometimes…

Things to Ponder:
· What are some things in your life that don’t go well if you don’t follow the rules to them? (sports, classrooms, relationships, etc.)
· Are any of you perfectionists in some area of life (if not every area?) How do you feel when you mess up?
· How do you react to messing up in your faith?
· Does the statement of how you may not “get it” if you just non-chalantly move on after sin without repentance, realization of God’s presence, love, etc., make you feel? Agree? Think, “uh-oh…”?
· Do you really feel like you have a “fresh start” when you come to faith? What changes about you, your attitudes, etc.?
· Finally, what do you think about the last statement Paul makes, about us all being equal as far as our common relationship to Christ? Do you really view others who are younger, or different race, or financial status, etc., as equal? What would happen if we did?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Who We Are Instead, v. 2.0

v 1.0 can be found here:

First, read Galatians 2:

Paul continues Galatians by sharing a story that shows us an example of folks too bound by old traditions (esp. the pesky “circumcision issue”). At the end of this, another pseudo “qualifications”-passage, Paul tells us one thing they all agreed on (and something for us to just remember): Don’t forget the poor…

There seem to be two overarching themes in Galatians 2 (esp. v. 11-21…;&version=65;). First, it seems to be a warning of mixing an “elitist, high-and-mighty” attitude with that of being two-faced about your faith (the Peter example). Peter, showing how even folks who “get it more than most” will still struggle with faith consistency, is basically called out for not being more constant in how he lives his faith. It’s not even a sin issue so much (well, at it's deepest root it is I suppose...), but more of a “playing to the crowd” as far as attitudes, etc. I bet we all do this to some extent. You know, being “churchy” at certain places, saying all the right lingo, but at school, work, with friends, its’ a different story… I hear the phrase, “Don’t say that! You’re at church!” ALL THE TIME, to which I usually reply with some thought about how you should talk the same both inside AND outside these walls (and how you must decide which “talk” needs to go bye-bye…). Peter was more guilty of being a flip-flopper with attitudes and traditions…but Paul still calls him (and us) to be consistent as an example to others.

The second theme is a reminder that since we aren’t perfect, we really need to give up on gritting our teeth to “be perfect” with our own strength. It will never work, and yet our own strength ALWAYS ends up becoming our god. I bet you’ve either been there or know folks like that. The attitudinal danger is that if you live this way, you can start expecting others to be as moral as you (legalism) or else they “can’t be real Christians”. DANGER! Our reliance on Jesus ALONE should never be an excuse to just keep on making wrong choices, but we need to view other believers as folks in the same boat we are in (not-yet perfect, will make mistakes, shouldn’t be expected to always have our same convictions, etc.). When we feel weak, we don’t just grit our teeth as much as we a) ask the Lord to give us strength (and remember he does!) and b) rely on the support of our faith community to rally around us.

Is that you? Are you a “law” man or woman, or are you God’s man or woman?

Questions to Ponder:

1. What was Paul saying about Peter? How is that a warning about our own attitudes?

2. What are some ways we (meaning, folks in our “scene” as well as ourselves) seem to be inconsistent with how we present ourselves?

3. What is the purpose of seeking consistency with the knowledge that we are not to rely on our own strength (like, “presenting” ourselves with consistency, but not making it about “us”?)

4. What are ways you have relied on God alone to give strength/facilitate heart-and-attitude change in your life?

5. Are you a “law” man or woman? How does one instead be “God’s” man or woman?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Who We Are Instead, v. 1.0

I will be posting some "amended for blogging" versions of the study I've been preparing and teaching so far this year for our youth sunday school...I will make efforts to keep it fitting for everyone, but occasionally a "Parker County-specific" item may make it through...

"Trouble Is", by Jars of Clay
My wings don't sail me to the sky
On my own these wings won't fly
Jesus told me so
Still I'm not so sure that I know

Can't find no rest for my soul
Can't find no rest on my own
Jesus told me so
Still I'm not so sure that I know

Man, the trouble is
We don't know who we are instead

I'll keep runnin' the other way
My heart ain't built to stay
My heart ain't built to stay
And the world just ain't that way

My heart ain't built to stay
My heart ain't built to stay
Jesus told me so

This song might be one of my favorite “good lyrics” songs. Pretty simple, yet so much truth about how we tend to view faith. It is a song talking about one with some good “church answers”. You know the type: looks good, sounds good, meets the criteria, but in reality have no clue what it really means to be owned by Jesus. “On my own these wings won’t fly…Jesus told me so…not so sure that I know…”
And I think, just like the song says, the trouble or problem is that we don’t know who we are instead. But instead of what? Well, it can go a variety of ways. One way is just stock church answers, but for whatever reason, your heart is cold, indifferent, etc. Another is when we just want to be seen like everyone else, and not “treated” differently due to your faith. But if those (or other) examples aren’t “it”, then what instead?
All over scripture we can find examples, but we will be spending time in Galatians. Galatia was one of the first churches, and unlike some other early church sites (like Rome or Corinth), things seemed pretty “calm”, or normal. Not much weirdness or trouble compared to others, and there was a pseudo-existing “God culture” already there. Sound like your town? As one living in various big cities (and visiting many more), I can tell you this sounds like where I currently live…basically a simple place (comparatively), lots of “God” around (at least in name, culture, etc.), but underneath the surface, a lot of apathy, lots of “meh” toward truly being loyal to Christ above all (and all that may imply), and lots of folks who seem to go through the motions because they just don’t know anything else. The Book of Galatians was similar, and thus it will be our main source (along with lyrics, movies, quotes, etc.) as we try and discover who we as individuals and as a community of faith are supposed to be…instead…

Go read Galatians 1:

At first it is a typical “Paul greeting”: saying hi, his credentials, reminding us about the awesomeness of salvation and God, etc. And then…
WHAM! He gets on them about losing the “message”, or even following a wrong one. Then he spends some time talking about how he got to where he is now faith/calling-wise. Notice the part about his Jewish history…lots of following “tradition” above all else, for example. This is where I want us to spend some time pondering for yourself: exploring areas of “Parker County Culture” (or wherever you live) that might be taking us from who we are to be instead…

Questions to Ponder:

1. Think back to the song. What are some things about living our faith that, “Jesus told me so, still I’m not so sure that I know”?

2. What are some things about the communities we live in (either school, or our town, or even your (gasp!) church) that seem to be the true “gods” that folks seem to “fight for” instead of just being and sharing Jesus with each other?

3. What about our nation as a whole? Any other things you see on the news, read, etc.?

4. Any other thoughts?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Appreciating Different Gifts

I think one of the ways a community of faith can be torn apart (or at least severely hampered) is when someone feels a bit too smug about their spiritual gifts. There are various "lists" of giftings in scripture (the above passage is just a good comprehensive "big picture" look at the issue), and even some tests that are available to help you discern your possible gifts. There are even some gifts, like "hospitality" or "creative communication", which may be difficult to see in scriptural lists but those smarter than I have decided belong in the discussion.

Where I struggle is the occasional person I run into that seems to feel their gift is more "godly" or whatever... An example is the person with a "prayer" gift (we should all pray, but some folks just seem to do it so naturally...) that just can't understand why other folks don't just drop everything and spend hours a day in solitude with the Lord. Or those "prophetic"-types, who seem to often have a real gift for hearing God's voice, yet they can either become a bit arrogant or even condescending to others when the reciepient of their message doesn't just drop everything and follow a new path ("Oh well, ignore God if you want..."), or they struggle with discernment, and before you know it, ALL "feelings" become some message from God (Boy, I have some funny stories from folks like this I've known...).

Problem is, I can be just as bad. One of my gifts is "mercy", and as a result, it is natural for me (i.e. requires little-to-no effort) to feel compassion for the underdogs of life, or when not-fun things are happening to someone. But, I catch myself being just as bad as my prayer/prophetic-types example. When I hear other Christians with little sympathy for someone (even if that someone "deserves" scorn due to repeated offenses, or lack of trust, etc.), I still catch myself thinking, and sometimes saying, things like, "But Jesus calls us to have mercy!" and can start to JUDGE their hearts. "If they were REALLY serious about Jesus, they would have more mercy!"

Gee, sounds like, "If they were real Christians, they would pray more," or, "If they really trusted God, they would trust my prophetic word from Him," or, "If they truly had a heart for non-believers, they would be actively evangelizing on street corners, in class, at work, everywhere at all times." The list can go to ANY GIFT.

I think we need to do a better job truly appreciating each others' gifts, but with a new dose of humility towards ours. Truly living that whole "body" thing... One of the amazing, proof-of-deity aspects of Jesus was how he so easily traversed all the polar opposites in gifts, personality, temperment, etc. Firm but gentle. Forgiving yet "calling you on the carpet." Strong but would get concerned. The rest of us struggle with that. We are "either-or" on most issues it seems, at least if left unchallenged. We need to realize and seek the balance in giftings needed to truly be God's people. We are EACH called/commanded to seek justice, mercy, listen to God, trust, pray, witness, be welcoming, help, teach, and give of ourselves to others, but we all are more "wired" in an individual area. We just need to a) respect others when their gift may be in a different area, b) look for ways that gift-sets can comliment each other, and maybe most difficult, c) realize we still need to aspire to seek ways to impliment all gifts into our own life of faith, even if we don't like to (like witnessing...sure, some are more gifted, but many of do NONE of it because "others are better at it"...).

For what it's worth...

Jill Update

My sister is doing much better! Thanks for the outpouring of prayers and stuff. Still in the hospital...but definitely on the mend...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pray for My Sister Please

Hey folks. I just got word that my sister (and new momma) Jill Patton got rushed to the ER in College Station last night with severe hemorhaging. Lost lots of blood and had 3 hours of emergency surgery. The main concern is now infection. Apparently the cause was her "Class 4" episiotomy stitches coming out and nicking an artery. Jill is groggy and resting, but a bit freaked out.

So, please pray for Jill, Glen, and Davis Patton...thanks...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Uncle Ben and Auntie M

Jackson has a first cousin!

Davis Everette Patton was born Jan. 16 to my sis (Jill) and Glen Patton.

He is a cutie, and a) Jax is already possessive ("my baby!") and Missy is getting some baby fever ("I don't wanna leave...I missy little babies...").

Oh boy...

Monday, January 14, 2008

a clarification

So that last posting (Markie/Lil Markie) is producing some confusion...

First, it isn't the guy who posted ( It is actually some other guy going by "Markie". Mark Oestriecher ( just mentioned how his parents used to call him "Markie" and that the singing guy was using Markie as a nickname...

Second, I'm sorry if my comments were a bit harsh or judgemental. Now, I know some just read that and said, "Come on, Ben! That guy is awful! Don't worry about it...", but others might still fit along the, "That wasn't nice..." line (like, "Yeah, that was bad, but still Ben, he (and others like him) are trying to make a difference for God.")

So, there you go. Maybe I should be more sensitive...but I still think it is darn goofy...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

another crazy link

Play the clip...and either laugh, cringe, or both....

Seriously, and I know that I probably shouldn't say this about ANYONE just trying to share Jesus, but... Really? That? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Ok, if that showed up in a church I was at, I would likely sit politely but vomit a bit in my mouth... I am saddened by stuff like that. I know he's trying, but dang.

I bet the folks who brought him in without checking him out, either on a website, or a clip sent in a promo pack, or even just more research before just saying "sure" when the old lady in the church says, "you have to get this guy to come sing. I saw him at a revival once and I bet the youth would LOVE him," are praying for a do-over. (Sadly, I have been referenced folks like that in similar situations...thankfully I am a skeptic with things like that and ALWAYS do my homework...).

Oh well. Sorry to Mark/Lil Markie if I'm being too mean...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy New Year (finally) and a book recommendation

Happy 2008!

Had a good time in Kerrville, good holiday in general. Overall I am feeling good about getting back in the swing of things, with a few things (like "Sunday School block") I am struggling with a bit...

I also have a bit of "blog-block" too...several ideas, some subjects I've been pondering about, but whenever I seem to have time to blog, my mind gets unfocused. I'll work on that...

I will leave you with a book recommendation: "To Own a Dragon", by Donald Miller ( Its' premise is on "growing up without a father" (something I can't relate to...have a great dad), but I decided to read it anyways to see if it could be worth offering to some folks I know, etc. BOY IS IT! Even with a good "dad model" in my life, I still found so much wisdom and influence in this book. Miller and I, save for his lack of father growing up, seem to have similar personalities (and thus, struggles/default attitudes), so I still found much to personally reflect on. Bottom line: if you or someone you know has always struggled with viewing God as a true Father, or if you yourself struggle with what "being a man" is really about, or even if you are a woman wanting to know what kind of guy you need to "look for", this book has worth.

I know too many guys who struggle mightily in their faith, attitudes toward women, leadership, decision making, and themselves due to the lack of a dad in their upbringing. Donald also shares his experiences with a "mentor" (John MacMurray...who gets a co-authorship mention as a result), which in addition to some other sources (like, my wife's request) I am considering for myself. Yet, and this is important, Miller makes sure to remind all that mentors, "dad-figures", etc., are NOT replacements for a lack-of-dad. God is the only one capable of that, but we have to understand that desire of his to be our true Daddy. And (and as a youth pastor, I have had this unrealistic expectation put on me before from families lacking "Dads"), Miller makes sure we all know that we can't expect "true fathering" from others. Guys like me, in "male leader" roles, can be examples, offer time, love, and wisdom, but to expect us to be "replacement dads" is unfair...

Anyhow, a great read for anyone.