Wednesday, April 30, 2008

drums...drums in the deep...

(I just like how Gandalf reads that line in "The Fellowship of the Ring", when they are in Moria...)

I play drums. (Duh, you say...just look at your profile picture!) I'm not a particularly good drummer (I am my own worst critic), but it's something I enjoy. I mean, I suppose I can hold my own on many songs (and can-in often "simplified" versions, mind you, imitate certain styles and drummers when needed), but I'm definitely not some guru like my friend Aaron. If held down and forced to give "personal influences" (aka, drummers that are my "default style" when I'm not overtly trying to imitate someone, or when I just add some personal flair to a song), I would say Alex Van halen...I just notice his style, intensity, fills, etc., sounding a bit like what I tend to do...

The funny thing is how I catch myself truly "losing myself" in a worshipful (of God, not me...hopefully...) sense as I drum. I certainly think worshipping God is WAY BEYOND just songs/music (Romans 12:1-2 is a "life-verse" of mine that I prayerfully seek:, but I do enjoy a good worshipful moment in song. Yet, I've never been a singer, guitarist, kazooist, etc. But with drumming, I just seem to lose myself. It is a funny feeling...almost second nature...very cool but hard to describe...

I started drumming at age 15 (essentially figuring out the basics of drumming on Aaron's new "Thunder" set from Sears...before he even did ha!), but did not actually own a personal drum kit until I was...28? 2002 I think it was... I essentially did not drum AT ALL between 1993 and 2002...but my wonderful wife Missy surprised me for my 28th birthday by rounding up some cash from family members and purchasing a used Tama Superstar set. A black one :-). It wasn't new, and had some "pieced together"-ness to it, but I love it. It has character. Aaron even did some research beforehand and learned that my type of set was one of the premier sets of arena bands in the 70s and I figured it was a good one. Over the years I've added stuff (like a splash, double-bass pedal, and I now would like to acquire an additional crash cymbal...someday...), and I've had to add some duct-tape in places (I'm calling it "FrankenDrums", kinda like Eddie Van halen's pieced-together guitar he built and used exclusively back in the day), but like I said, I still love 'em.

Lately, I've had the privilege of teaching two teens the very basics of drumming (coordination, basic beats/rhythms, fills, transitions, tempo, etc.)and it's been a joy to see their confidence and creativity grow. Ultimately, even though I DO have a ball playing drums for our youth band, ParadigmShift, I would love to transition out of the primary drum throne and hand much of it over to one of these two (or other teen drummers). But for now, I get to be the old guy who rocks out with the kiddoes.

Someday, though, I would LOVE to be in a garage or cover band with some other folks refusing to stop the rock despite advancing age :-). In fact, I was drumming on the dash of Missy's car recently to a Metallica song ("Wherever I May Roam", if you must know) as Missy drove down the highway...and I saw a smile on her face. "You want me to be in a band, don't you?", I asked. "Uh-huh" she said.

So if anyone in the Parker County/W. Tarrant areas wants to jam to bad 80s arena rock, let me know! Muwahahaha....

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

i am a christian mutt...(UPDATED)

I get something in the mail every couple months called The Journal of Student Ministries, In a recent issue, the editor, Will Penner, shared something about himself in his editorial section that I totally resonated with. Will called himself a "mutt" when it comes to his Christian tradition/denominational make-up. I am the same way...

I have been a part of (or at least "around") several different areas of Christian tradition. I grew up going to a Methodist church (until I graduated high school), but didn't know why. In fact, while I became a Christian at age 16, it was not at our home church; it was at a non-denominational weekly youth gathering (of course, I went because of a girl...and lookie! I met Jesus! haha...proof that God can even use bad motives...). In my college/grad school years (1993-2001), I bounced around for a couple months before spending large chunks of time at two seperate non-denominational churches (but both loosely associated with Dallas Theological in ways they were almost like a part of the "DTSian Denomination"). The first one was where I felt led to be (re)baptized (I know, I know..."re-baptized"? A long story...) and was under the tutelage of a great college pastor (who now is a lead pastor at a church to run into him now and then!), and later I ended up at a different church as a youth ministry intern. During my time at church "A", i worked a summer at what could be best described as an "inter-denominational (many represented) sprots camp", but that was pretty evangelical in thrust. While at church "B", I attended a Baptist Seminary. Then, after graduation, I have served at two different churches, both Methodist.

Why talk about this? Well, it's just an interesting thing to me I suppose. There are times I'm grateful for my "mutt-ness", and there are times I get frustrated. So, here are my unscientific pros and cons to being a Christian Mutt:

***Well, it does allow me to "speak the lingo" of lots of different traditions, and as a result, I can flow within them fairly well. I can not be completely lost talking to my Baptist friends, for example...

***Along those lines, I can also participate in discussions involving the theological diversity and nuances between traditions to a degree. Just nice to have in my back pocket I suppose.

***I can appreciate (because I've been a part of them myself) lots of the great things each tradition brings to the table. Baptists are passionate about evangelism, DTSians are passionate about theology, Methodists are passionate about service and justice...all are great things in themselves, and I try to "mix" them alot in my own life as opposed to just being stuck in one tradition because "I don't know any better..."

***I can often "defend" each tradition, as those who know-no-other-way can be quite narrow minded... As a result (like my above pro), I often defend the Baptists, the non-denoms, and the Methodists when confusion/frustration is reigning surpreme, because there are great things we can learn from each other and appreciate.

***Because I am a mutt, often I feel "left out" when I do find a tradition I'd like to be a part of...because I'm not a "lifer". I'm not "reformed" enough for many non-denoms, or I'm not "wesleyan" enough for many Methodists. This has reared it's head a few times...

***People want to take sides. It's just our human nature. I struggle to side "one way" all the time though. I've been given this wierd, sometimes annoying, trait of being able to "see and appreciate multiple sides" on certain issues (certainly not all issues...). But people don't like that. They tend to want you in...or out. Now, they may be polite about it...but one time, for example, before I was called to my current position, I was a finalist for a position at a church I really wanted to serve at. Now, I affirm God's calling me to this current place, so I'm not complaining or wondering "what if?", but I think in the end, I just wasn't "enough" of something they wanted. You see, I had to read and respond to each point on something like a 50-part "statement of faith" this church had. (It may not have been 50...but it was alot). I resonated with many of the (at least what I consider) essentials, but some "other" stuff was in there I was a bit more iffy on...or, even if in agreement in principle, didn't think it was stuff to be "defined" by. As a result, I may not have fit their mold, or their side. But it gets me in trouble serving in a Methodist church as well. Occasionally I'll discover a doctrine I don't agree with (and just keep quiet about), or I will choose to take our teens to a non-or-inter denominational camp/event/conference instead of the "Methodist one" because, well, I think they are often of better quality. But I have been pressured at times as a result to do the Methodist thing simply because, well, I serve at a Methodist church. But my "mutt-ness" makes that tough at times...because I want what's best...

I at times do wish things were just "easier" and that I did have a loyalty to one "brand" of Christianity...because it gets confusing at times. As you just read in my two above "cons", I just don't fit. I am grateful for those folks in each tradition who have treated me with respect and grace (and there have been many!), and I trust that god knows what he is doing by calling me to traverse this often winding certainly make things interesting and adventuresome!

I just looked back at the last few of my, it makes me look really like I'm searching for things to rant about, be negative, etc. I actually feel alright. I guess the nature of all this a)open-ness and honesty and p) just things I ponder alot, and wonder if I'm alone in the ponderings...

So, blessings to all you reading this random mess of stuff that comes out of me. I pray it makes you think and ponder...

Monday, April 28, 2008

I am a person of opposites...

Sometimes, in moments of introspection and conviction, do you ever notice how often our personalities can be "both extremes" in certain areas? For various reasons I've been thinking of the areas "people" see...and then how utterly opposite I can be at times. So, in the spirit of humility, confession, and even catharsis, here are some areas that I am "known for", but am often the opposite:

***Laid Back. These folks have never seen me right before a big event I have been prepping for... Want to just chill out during "pre-mission trip week"? Be very careful... at best, I may just be "absent" worst, downright hurried and rude.

***Patient. I do tend to be able to wait in lines, give folks second and third and eightieth chances, but boy, can I lose my patience with my son. And I'm not talking like, "Man, he's just been pushing my buttons all day, so I've had enough." Nope, I 'm talking about not even giving him a chance, losing my cool when he's really not doing anythong wrong (and I just want to be left alone). Happens more often than I'd care to admit...

***Nice. In fact, I often hear "too nice." But I can be a jerk. Just ask Missy, say, in the middle of the night when asked a question (or when I'm trying to watch somthing and I want to be unbothered...), or that parent I was just trying to make "fun banter" with last week...and I ended up bashing his choice of tennis shoe...STUPID STUPID STUPID!!! :-)

***Content. This may go some with "laid back". I am seen as one who complains little, who seems fine and dandy all the time with whatever. But I can complain with the best. Whether it is frustrations with ministry stuff or certain folks or the town I live (or even-GASP!-my family), I can grumble with the best. Sure, I may have a habit of seeking and following God's will, but always joyfully? That's an area of maturing I could surely use...

I'm not trying to beat myself up here. Quite the contrary. I'm actually chuckling a bit as I write! My guess is that some of you have the same feelings about yourself...knowing you aren't as cut-and-dry as some folks think you are. But I don't get too discouraged. Why? Philippians 1:6
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
If I truly believe I am a new creation due to Jesus's death and resurrection, then I am a work-in-progress. And while that shouldn't give me license to continue fostering not-great attitudes, it does give me know that the Creator of All Things cares enough about me to continue molding me, shaping me, and yes, pruning me to be more like Jesus himself...a process called sanctification...

Saturday, April 26, 2008


So, anyone of you struggle with faith? Are you bitter a lot on “life”, God? Do you feel weak, like you can’t beat sin? Does “faith stuff” just confuse you so much, you basically give up on trying to grow in it? Do you doubt this stuff is even real? Do you feel unworthy of God’s love because you know “the truth” about what’s going on inside you, and it usually isn’t “nice godly stuff?”

Today I just want to touch on these things we ALL deal with on occasion (no matter how close to God we are…). I know one area I struggle in is comparing myself to others. I don’t pray as much as she does, or I don’t teach as well as him, or why does that person seem to magically want to read the bible all day and it’s like a fight to me sometimes, or how come…you get the point. Of course, it also goes into me feeling cruddy. Why can’t I get over that certain bad attitude? Why do I still think bad, ugly thoughts? How come some folks seem to love their neighbors so well, when I can barely tolerate mine? Why do I lose my patience with Jax so easily, when he is such a good boy? Gee, I really stink at life, don’t I?

I’m sure you have similar (at least in tone if not content) lists. Why do we get this way? Well, for sure, some of our “awareness of sin” is due to the holy spirit saying, “um…yeah, that’s no good”. But what causes anger, doubt, apathy, confusion, etc. toward God?

Here is a quote, that while not scripture, is a good one: “The devil has had (thousands) of years of practice; he knows all the weak spots.”

Well, this isn’t a scientific list, but thinking of myself (and what I see in others), here are my “theories” in no real order as to why we get angry, bitter, doubtful, lazy, confused, etc.:
1. We don’t give “The Enemy” (aka Satan, the devil and his minions) enough credit
2. We never believed in the first place
3. We do believe but are too lazy/distracted/_______ to make the effort to seek God, to proactively follow Jesus, etc. (aka, if growth doesn’t happen by “osmosis”, we want no part of it)
4. We feel “owed” by God, and if life gets hard, things don’t go our way (aka prayers answered “our way”, etc.), we get upset
5. The “roots” have never been allowed to take hold

So, what do we need to believe, remember, pray for, seek, etc.?

1. We need to give respect to our enemy, but remember that the devil is not the “anti-god” (aka, not God’s equal, just bad instead of good); 1 Peter 5:8; Matt. 16:23; Ephesians 6:12; Romans 16:20
2. We need to take the time to explore the core/foundation of our personal relationship with God
3. Deuteronomy 32:4: 4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he
4. Romans 8:2: 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Finally, we just need to remember we are not alone, we are all going through this together… and that we have a King that conquers all (so we need to rely on Jesus…believe in his defeat of sin…and claim it for ourselves daily…or even “minute-ly”): Romans 7:14-25: 14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Stuff To Ponder:
• How do you tend to beat yourself up? Do you still put yourself down over past mistakes?
• What does scripture say about being in bondage to our weak spots?
• Do you feel too full of sin to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus?
• What does it mean to say God is “just”, like in Deut. 32:4?
• Name as many attributes, qualities of God as you can…which ones do you wrestle with believing?
• Do you ever get angry with God? How? Why?
• What does “saved” mean to you? Saved from what? Saved into what?

Friday, April 25, 2008

random things noticed at General Conference 2008

General Conference, for those not in the know, is the big, worldwide Methodist church meeting that happens every four years to (essentially from what I could tell) make folks in the denomination either feel really good about the future or really angry :-). I agreed to help a good friend a few years back at this conference, so yesterday (and will again next Thursday) I was his "shadow", which meant I did a few odd jobs, etc. So, here are some of the interesting things I soaked in as I wandered halls, answered questions, etc.:

*** I don't think I saw another volunteer under the age of 45. Well, not entirely true...but there may have been 5 out of a few hundred volunteers that would qualify...what does that mean??? Interesting possibilities...

***What I will call "non-feminine" women outnumbered those qualifying as "feminine" something like two-to-one. That is not necessarily a commentary on one's possible sexuality, but why is it that many women in ministry positions within the Methodist Church (at least in America) just seem to do all they can to minimize their femininity???

***Apparently the thing to do (according to my mom) is go to the Cokesbury Bookstore displays in the exhibit hall and loudly argue among the bookshelves about various issues at hand. Seriously, my mom said she had to almost yell over folks at times as she was trying to explain her products she sells to folks as others were about to go all WWE on each other nearby...

***I guess the official way to make your specific "passionate points of support" known to all without saying a word is to wear specially designed scarf/mini-vest-thingys around. Certain colors or designs abounded...

***Along those lines, I also noticed groups of folks probably just trying to be "cute" wearing matching funny hats, etc., most likely because they all came from the same church, or state, etc. I seriously saw a group walking around wearing what could be best described as "owl hats". No lie. I almost started laughing (AT them), which would have TOTALLY violated my "hospitality guidelines" as a volunteer...

***REAL Africans (as in, from Liberia, Nigeria, etc.) wear REALLY cool stuff. The traditional garb was awesome. One lady (I'm not kidding) looked exactly like the Queen of Zamunda from "Coming to America". Very cool, and added to the true global flavor. I do think the majority of folks here are American, but I was impressed by the still-large amounts of Africans, Asians, Latin Americans (I even saw my buddy Gary speaking Spanish to a Peruvian...and he was obviously of indigenous stock...very cool), Europeans, etc....

***I didn't realize folks in the Methodist Church still wore "priest collars", but apparently many do. Gary told me some were "bishops", and in some countries pastors still wear them. One difference is apparently the memo got around to all wear light-purple shirts with your "priest collars"... I'm sure there is a reason.

***The actual voting sessions (where official decisions are voted on, things like changing the "The" in article V, page 67, line 9er to "An" in the Book of Discipline, or even more controversial stuff that I'll leave alone for now...) are DULL, D-U-L-L (well, maybe controversial votes wouldn't be so dull, but I would probably be saddened by all the dis-unity...even on issues I have a side on...). I snuck in one once as I was waiting to report on my walkie-talkie that, "The cookies are being eaten" (no joke)...and I wanted to poke my eyes out. Bless folks who are passionate about all that...I'm just not.

That's all I can think of right now. If I think of more, I'll update...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

is everything about to change?

I was having a good conversation yesterday when that fun topic of "rising gas prices" came up. Folks started commenting/complaining (I did a bit as well...$70 to fill up my Explorer yesterday???!!!), and I chimed in. I basically said something like han Solo (and Obi Wan...and Anakin...and like 57 other Star Wars characters...): "I have a baaaad feeling about this..." Well, not sure if bad is what I said, but more along the lines of, "I think everything's about to change, or else we (as in "Americans being able to keep on living like they do") are in big trouble."

I mean, think about it. We have had it "good" for so long...eating what we want, buying what we want, driving what we want (and how much we want). But it is all starting to balloon. Everything is connected. Oil goes up so gas goes up so everything else goes up since all machinery/transportation, etc., is reliant on it... So I heard Sam's/Costco (big wholesale "clubs") are starting to place limits on items (like rice) since they are catching restaraunts hoarding things due to a fear in rising future costs. What's next? Is the middle class truly about to be squeezed out (aka me) as no one but the wealthy will be able to afford anything? I do wonder... I do love our country and its' freedoms, but one freedom I have long worried would "bite back" one day is the ability to make as much money as one can legally (and often using loopholes). Is it a bad freedom in itself? No, but as we all know too well, most humans aren't able to moderate themselves... So, the rich get richer, and often at the expense of others with little remorse because "it's my right." Well, I suppose so. But I just hope all these issues do cause us to take stock in what is truly important for us. Simplifying things, being content with less/smaller. Seriously, we could really "downsize" and still be one of the most affluent-living peoples of the earth. It may not be so bad...forcing us to not drive everywhere, actually foster relationships with others, "unplug" a bit...the list could get big.

But I fear we will all "stand our ground" and still demand to have that giant pickup truck (that we have no business owning...since most aren't farmers, ranchers, etc.), demand to get that giant flatscreen, or demand to go eat at only the best restaraunts 4 nights a week. And so to keep up with the Joneses, folks will go even deeper in debt, attitudes will suffer, and folks around the world will show disdain at our "Whining" we know what it means to truly have it bad...

I know, I'm sounding like a fear monger. I guess "fear" isn't the right word. I just want God to teach us what we need to do...and pray a lot of us have the cajones to actually ponder what he may be saying. I don't know what this all means...but nevertheless (despite my above post...more a pondering than anything), I am grateful for the life I've been blessed with!

PS: I also realize it seems like I am bitter at "rich folks". I'm not, and I have little room to talk: for much of my late teen-through college upbringing, my parents did VERY well (like, I have no idea how well, I imagine) and I certainly benefitted. Went to a good college. Got a brand new car for "early graduation" Went on sweet family vacations. Some stuff happened to certainly lessen their fortune, but they still do quite well. I love my family, and I think they are a shining example of selflessness, giving, and living for the Lord. Perfect? Are any of us (they'd admit they aren't perfect)? But compared to many who have "made it" at one time or another, they are good folks to emulate in attitude and deed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Church Words: Faith

Faith…such a strange concept. Hebrews 11:1-2 talks about it: 1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for.

Faith just seems so foreign to us. We want to touch. We want to see concretely. We want the mathematical proof. But faith doesn’t work that way. It’s so ironic, that one of my favorite cinema examples of faith…is from an atheist (Carl Sagan). In “Contact”, Ellie (played by Jodie Foster) discovers an alien civilization and gets to explore the universe through plans shared with her from the aliens. She has an amazing experience, yet no “proof” is available. She knows she was gone for hours, traveling millions of light-years…but the video from earth shows her just being “gone” 8 seconds…with no video…just static. It is especially ironic, because she proclaims the entire movie about how she dismisses the concept of faith…and yet, at a hearing to discuss her experience, she has to admit that those around her must take her story “on faith.” We have to just trust her experience…”by faith”. The naysayers are mocking her…but there is evidence of her experience out there…”There were over 12 hrs of static…”

Is that like our faith at times? We know what we believe, maybe we have experienced something supernatural…but others can’t relate. Or sometimes even we so easily forget what we know… But there are glimpses of “something” out there, something other-worldly…just like that tape…

Look at these two explanations of faith: First, Matthew 17:18-20: 18Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
19Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"
20He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."[a]

Next, check out Philippians 4:13: 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Faith is hard to come by at times, believe me, I know all too well. Sometimes it seems natural, but sometimes…I have to almost “re-convince” myself of my beliefs. But I have had some experiences where the ONLY thing explaining what “just happened” was a faith-thing…and I realize no one else can truly accept it unless they have faith as well. But sometimes, it’s all too hard, or confusing, or boring, etc. But we need to often ask ourselves, “Why is it I believe?” I know some of you will say, “no idea, Ben!”, and hopefully that bothers you and makes you seek God. I know some say, “Well, I can’t articulate it…but I do believe and I do see little glimpses of God’s truth here-and-there.” That’s good! And some can even give detailed, long, passionate stories of God’s evidence in their life…of how they KNOW Jesus saved them from the pit…

So, do you have faith in the unseen? A CERTAINTY? Is your faith growing from something that may be small at first (or even now)? Do you truly believe that you persevere through anything due to your faith in God?

Things to Ponder

* What is the most miraculous, supernatural thing you’ve ever seen or experienced?
• Has God ever asked you to do something that seemed impossible? What happened?
• What does, “Faith of a mustard seed” mean?
• Is following God sometimes like being blindfolded?
• When has God answered your faith in some special way? Did your faith grow as a result?
• What “impossible” things does God want you to do?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

From the, "Dang, I wish I had come up with this"-file...

I give you

I have only cracked the surface and this stuff is brilliant (and SO TRUE).

My goodness the laughing I have done at my desk...and the deep pondering (it's not all funny...)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

we finally found him...

Well, the 5 years (or so) search for one of my best "growing up" friends has ended...we finally found Andy Payne!!!

I last saw Andy at Scott Austin's Wedding over 5 years ago... At first, our lack-of-contact wasn't too alarming, as we were already seeing the reality of less contact with old friends as a result of adulthood, marriage, moving around, etc. (and because, well, Andy, bless him, never was a very "proactive" person in contacting others), but before long, the questions started lingering..."has anyone talked to Andy?" became, "Does anyone even know where he is anymore?" Old email addresses proved extinct. Phone calls unfruitful. There were rumors of him still residing in Austin (his last known locale), but no one could find him. The only evidence we found of his existence for many years was a web search done my Aaron Travis showing a year-old (in 2005 or so) picture of Andy at a technology conference.

Well, a couple weeks ago, Aaron sends me a link...which appeared to be a blog by Andy. I got excited, and even commented on it (hoping he'd read and respond), but then realized the site had not been touched for nearly a year. So I did a Facebook search...nothing. Added "Texas A&M" to the search...only produced one hit, and he was much too young. Finally, added "Symantec" to the search (his employer according to blog site). One hit...and the picture looked like it could be "Andy, age 33". So, I sent a "cold message" seeing if it was him... No replies for some time...until...


It is him. Andy Payne has not yet been assimilated by the matrix (haha, if you know Andy, a computer genius, you would get that). I got some new contact info and hope to re-connect our friendship. Several of us are rejoicing (Myself, Scott, Aaron, and others once we spread the news).

And now I look forward to renewed discussions on things like:
*** Supergroups
*** "Blaxploitation" films (we had a time where we would rent and watch 70s classics like "Shaft", "Coffee", "Superfly", and "Dolemite")
*** The beautiful sayings of his father, Pat Payne (really...that guy had some gold come out of his mouth when we would hang out...)
*** And much more...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Church Words: Pride

Recently I wrote about “humility”…some good discussions were had on that tough word. We saw how one of the antonyms was “pride”. Now, we aren’t talking about being proud of your kid doing something cool necessarily (although “bad pride” can creep into that, too), but more accurately this: thinking too highly of yourself, especially in relationship to God. Let’s look deeper at this issue…first, however, there's a scene from “Karate Kid" I'd love to visit. You know that part where Daniel-son finally flips out on Miyagi's "training"? And Mr. Miyagi basically exposes Daniel-son's folly? Daniel-son has been seeking martial arts training from Mr. Miyagi. Problem is, his motives are all wrong. He wants revenge against bullies. Wants to go kick their booties. Mr. Miyagi, however, wants to teach him ways to respect himself and use karate only as a defense tool. He also uses some indirect methods to teach…frustrating Daniel-son as he thinks it’s all a waste of time. Mr. Miyagi, thus, exposes this prideful attitude…

Why is pride such a big deal? Romans 12:3-5 shares some wisdom…I’m using “The Message” translation today: 3I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
4-6In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.

“…pridefully and enviously comparing ourselves…” This is but one area where pride is a big problem. We compare ourselves with others way too easily, often deciding we are “Better” than others in some way. God tells us this is not his way. But that leads into the ultimate deal about pride: it’s almost like we are playing “god”. Think about it. How often do you read or hear something about God, or a command, etc., and you go, “Yeah, whatever,” or, “Not for me”. Or maybe you do realize the purpose of these things, but decide you are stronger than you truly are…and thus don’t protect yourself against certain temptations. Watch out: before you know it, your pride will be your downfall…

Luke 6:46-49 (NIV): 46"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV): 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Are you crying out “Lord, Lord!” and yet still being too prideful to pay attention? Are you leaning on your own understanding because you think too highly of yourself?

Things to Ponder...• Why was Daniel-son so upset with Mr. Miyagi?
• How do you think Daniel-son felt at the end of the session? What changed his attitude?
• Why is it so important to learn the fundamentals of something before attempting it?
• What are some characteristics that made Mr. Miyagi a good teacher? What made Jesus a great teacher?
• Do you personally trust God with your life even if you may not understand (or like) everything he asks? When has this frustrated you? When did lessening your pride and trusting God have benefits?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Prater is Creative

One of my senior youth, Ryan Prater, made this video with a friend (Ryan is the "non-pee-er" and you'll understand...and my apologies if you are bothered by "peeing audio"...don't worry, you don't see anything...)

Very creative...boy's got some talent...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Church Words: humility

the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.
[Origin: 1275–1325; ME humilite < L humilitās. See HUMBLE, -TY2 ]

—Synonyms lowliness, meekness, submissiveness.
—Antonyms pride. Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

• Humility is a tough concept to strive for. I mean, who wants to seek “meekness” as a goal? But, since our faith is often so “upside down” (to quote musician Derek Webb), it is exactly what God tells us to strive for. Matthew 5:5.
• If you search “humble” in the NIV, you get 71 hits… “humility” gets you 15 more. I know that some things may be “lost in translation”, but it is pretty clear that humility is a theme in scripture, but one we tend to not value. Why? Because we seek power. Notice the “antonym” to humility in that definition above? PRIDE.
• Some scriptures to read and ponder: Proverbs 3:34; Matt. 18:3-5; Eph. 4:2; James 4:6, 10
• Two tough example of Jesus’ call to humble attitudes are found in Matt. 5. First, Matt. 5:38-40. You know, “turn the other cheek”. Problem is, our “gut instinct” is to get revenge. I see it all the time, even in this group. You know, “he/she did/said it to me first!”. We feel entitled. I think there is a difference in defending oneself…and revenge. But even this seems to indicate we should seek to “kill with kindness.” Think about it: if you just totally slammed someone, and in stead of fighting back, they did/said something nice, how would you respond? Second, look at Matt. 5:43-45. “Love your enemies…pray for those who persecute you…” Ouch. “Gee God, can I get out of that one?”
• Bottom line is that we just don’t do well with this…being humble is almost just seen as a “nice trait” if that adjective is used to describe you…but it almost seems equated with “pushover” or “weak”. So, what is up God’s sleeve in wanting us to be humble?

Things to Ponder:
• If you were a great, skilled general or leader, how would you act toward “underlings”?
• What are reasons to not be humble?
• Do any of you have a personal example of a time you didn’t fight back…and it actually made the situation better for you?
• Why do you think Jesus wants us to be humble…turning the other cheek…loving enemies?
• How would things be different if we loved and prayed for our enemies…really? Instead of hating them, wanting/getting revenge, etc.?