Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Do You Hear? // Matthew 13:18-23

18"Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

Stuff that stood out:

*** I'm going to do this one a bit different than normal. First, instead of posting the entire reading when I had this section (it really started in verse 1), I just did the "what does it mean" section. Second, instead of listing a bunch of separate phrases, I just feel like pondering the whole thing. Who knows where this will lead...

*** I've always been drawn to this parable for some reason. I just think the imagery is so challenging and so true for those who are presented with God's Truth and offer of salvation. I often try to figure out which one is "me"...truth is, I think at one time or another, I've been each of them. I also, though, think these examples are true for folks as a whole. Some hear the Gospel and basically go, "Yeah, whatever..." Some have big, emotional, mountain-top experiences, but in reality it was all "in the moment", or maybe they did it because their friends seemed all wrapped up in God, or maybe they entered into a relationship under the wrong pretense, like, "Jesus will fix EVERYTHING and make your life better!" True? Well, yes...but not like most of us think...sadly so many "accept Christ" it seems so that nothing bad will ever happen to them...or they will get "stuff"...etc. These folks bail (aka, not sure their conversion was "real") when things get tough, don't go their way, or they get challenged to deal with some sin they aren't willing to... I think I relate most with the "fell among thorns" part, albeit I relate at times too well. Why? Well, the "thorny" ones are the ones that really do have a relationship with God, truly have reached a point of real surrender to Christ and want to give everything to him...but too often, because of worry, or distraction, or others' expectations, don't Want to (if you read my blog much, you know what I mean by want vs. Want). We thorny types are too easily brought down to a level of fear, doubt, lack-of-confidence, etc., that hinders us allowing God to speak to (and though) us. My prayer (and thankfully, I have seen glimpses of this in my life, and at times, whole "seasons" where I am here...woohoo God!) is that myself and others will increasingly be like the seed on good soil. The ones who are willing to trust and risk for Christ. The ones who are confident and bold. The ones who make sacrifices to "their wants" in the name of showing others Jesus, and in the name of better seeing the Lord themselves.

So, which one are you?

Questions for me to ponder today:

Which "soil" am I right now? Has this changed?

What "soil" do I need to be? What things may need to happen to get me there?

Do I want to be "good soil", or do I Want to be good soil? Am I willing to do what it takes?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hakuna Matata on Steroids // Matthew 6:19-34

Treasures in Heaven
19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Do Not Worry
25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?
28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Footnotes:Matthew 6:27 Or single cubit to his height

Stuff that stood out:

*** 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.: I usually have approached this first section (v. 19-24) as simply a challenge to not be so focused on the material, on "stuff". And that is certainly something I need to remember. But is there something bigger, something connected to the next part (dealing more with "worry")? Absolutely. As I read this morning, I started pondering how the material things in life, whether tangible or more abstract, cause me to have worry. Because the more you "have", the more you have to take care of, right? And what about the temptation to keep up with the Joneses, or be "relevant"? Can that cause me unwanted (or un-needed) worry? You betcha. My allegiances thus get split between God and...my stuff that I have to worry about. Oh sure, I need to be grateful for what I've been blessed with and treat it with respect and as a good steward...but it's when I start spending more time with these temporal things (and thus taking time away from the eternal) that it can get out-of-whack. I need to seek often to have these areas exposed to me...and ask God for re-focus.

*** 25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life...; 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?: Worry is such a strong and potentially paralyzing emotion. I tend to think of myself who doesn't worry, but I know I do. Now, I may not let it consume me like it does some, but I would be lying if I said I never worry. I worry about how I am raising Jax. I worry if I am a good enough husband. I worry if I am doing enough for the kids in the youth group. I worry about money. I worry that one day I will "jump the shark" and say or do some unfiltered, irresponsible thing and alienate a friend or employer. I worry about whether people trust me or not. I worry about my health. I worry about my family's future in general.

So yeah, I worry.

But what tends to keep me from being consumed and neutered by it? See below...

*** 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.: This is where its' at. Seeking the Lord FIRST, and in ALL THINGS, at ALL TIMES. It is tough to do, as you have to Want it with a capital "W". This concept I use of "want" vs. "Want" can apply to so many things, but when it applies to our relationship with Christ, it can change everything. When I say I want something (lower-case "w"), oh sure, I may like the idea or concept of, say, seeking Him first and his righteousness, but I may only really do it in times of convenience, or only in times when I am at the end of my rope, or when it feels good, etc. But I won't move mountains in life to truly do it. To me, Wanting something (upper-cased "W") involves doing whatever it takes to achieve it. So, Wanting to seek Christ first, seek his perfect ways, etc., involved choices. Sacrifices. Probably looking foolish to some folks. And also in that? Not being a slave to worry! I mean, think about it: What so often keeps people claiming the name "Christian" stuck in just wanting to be true disciples as opposed to Wanting to be disciples? WORRY. Worrying about offending others around them. Worrying about possibly losing a job as a result. Worrying about losing the favor of a coach. Worrying about having to give up some fun sin. Worrying about being truly different in light of following Jesus. Worrying about losing some "freedom" in the quest for Freedom. Worrying that you may have to break off a relationship to truly follow Jesus (a non-married one, of course...).

So I think ultimately worry can play into how much we Want to surrender to Christ vs. if we just want to... And too often, we simply just don't Want to...

Questions for me today:

Where is my treasure? How do I see my true "heart" reflecting my treasure, priorities, wants, etc.?

Where am I letting worry consume me and hinder my walk with Christ?

Do I really Want to seek God in all things...or do I just want to? What would it look like in my life to switch to Wanting instead of just wanting?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What Do I Know? // James 4:13-17

Boasting About Tomorrow
13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

Stuff that stood out:

*** Well, actually this whole section stuck out... In fact, my daily reading contained the first 6 verses of chapter 5 as well, but they just didn't seem to "fit" together today...maybe another time...

*** I will split my musings into two parts. The first is verses 13-15. I see so much of this in life. I make grand plans and don't a) ponder other paths and/or b) give room for God to "do his thing". It seems like James is telling us two things: First, that we often are waaaaay too flippant about our decisions, our plans, and our schemes. I mean, I may get broadsided by a truck while running tomorrow! I have no clue what may happen even in the next five minutes... Oh sure, I should just live my life as best I can, preferably as an act of worship and gratitude for Christ's undeserved love of my soul... Second, verse 15 tells us that in many ways it's all about our attitude as we approach life, decisions, etc. "If it's the Lord's will..." Notice the difference in focus there? It means we can still make decisions, but acknowledges (and is OK with...) that ultimately God is sovereign and in control, and thus he will do whatever he wills in our future for his glory alone. I may have hopes, goals, and dreams for what lies ahead for my family (trust me: I do), and sure, I need to be diligent in seeking wise possibilities, action plans, and decisions. BUT, I must do it all with a focused attitude and heart that says, "If what I kinda want to happen is in your will, ROCK ON, but if not? That's still the best way, YOUR way!"

*** The second musing is focused on verse 17: Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. I think I've mentioned this before, but when I am confused about God's will, I unfortunately tend to mean the "big, long-term decisions and direction for my life", instead of, "Hey God, what do I need to be a part of TODAY? What are the attitudes and actions that are also your will?" Verse 17 speaks to that for me. There are things I can do every day that are ALWAYS God's will. Treating others with respect. Making Christ first in my life. Loving my wife through thick and thin. Giving my best for Jesus. Listening to others. Repentance. Seeking to let the Word saturate my heart (and that means some tough decisions about behavior, attitude, etc.). And the one mentioned in this verse is so key: Knowing what is right, and still choosing to ignore it...

Questions for me today:

What dreams/goals/hopes, etc., in my life do I need to truly give over to the Lord (aka, so I would be "cool" with a different path of his choosing)?

What are some areas of my daily life that I can seek to be more in tune with who God wants me to be?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In a Rare (as of lately) Blogging Lull

It was funny, after a flurry of posts the first week of March (something like 6 in 5 days!), I thought that March might end up being the first time I got close to a "post-a-day" average...

...well, then this week I didn't post at all! Plenty of reasons: Busy working on mission trip sign-ups/planning, some health stuff I needed to deal with, etc. Nothing huge, and I actually did have my daily readings, um, daily. I was planning on visiting some of those readings this morning as a blog but Jax woke up (and I can't give the scriptures "justice" when we're watching Imagination Movers together haha).

So I hope to get back to some posts next week, even when I'm in the Houston area for a little Spring Break visit!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Re-Booted // 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2

The Ministry of Reconciliation
11Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 6
1As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. 2For he says,
"In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."[b] I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 5:21 Or be a sin offering
2 Corinthians 6:2 Isaiah 49:8

Stuff that stood out:

*** 16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!: What does this mean? What about times when I don't "feel" any different than the guy that existed before Christ became my Lord? These are questions every Christian needs to ponder often. Why? Well, this scripture tells/reminds us that if we have truly been claimed by Christ, then we will be different people on the inside. Oh sure, there are times when I just want to do my thing, don't "feel" like doing the difficult things that are part of being a disciple of Jesus, but I can look back and see the overall change of heart and attitude...to me, this is one of the evidences of my "re-boot" back in 1990...it just takes time (like, truthfully, ones' entire lifespan!). Things are so different now... But, the hard answer we may get to asking if we are truly new creations is when we realize that nothing on the inside has changed. Oh sure, for a new believer much may be the same save a new hope in ones' life due to their realization of salvation, but I know so many that when asked if they are any different now on a heart level then when they "said a salvation prayer", sadly they cannot find any real change...that should keep us awake at night...

*** 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.: Who re-boots us, reconciles us? GOD. No one else, nothing else. He has done what is necessary to bring us back into the fold despite the countless strikes against us due to sin. Shouldn't that realization be enough to result in the "new" talked about in v. 17? It should... Also, it should compel us to seek reconciliation with others around us, and quickly...because just like it's close cousin forgiveness, since God has offered us reconciliation, we need to be reconcilers as well out of gratitude...

*** 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.: What is an ambassador? When I think of that title, I think of people selected by a higher authority to represent their "true home" in a foreign land. This not only involves the sharing of the things of "home" with the folks in this foreign land, but also being a student of their culture as well, learning how to appreciate and "speak their language" (not just literally...). So, how am I an ambassador for Christ? I know many consider America a "Christian land", but sadly, I do not think it is, at least not anymore. Maybe where you live there is not a hostility to the true message of Jesus (even if the folks around you "take it for granted" and haven't truly wrestled with what it all means...), but I can assure you there are whole sections of this country that are quite hostile to Christianity for various valid and in-valid reasons...but the hostility exists nonetheless. So, as one reconciled to God, a rebooted person, I need to represent Jesus to "foreigners" in my own land. I need to learn the "language". I need to see what the customs are. Do I need to use this as an excuse to do things that may not be beneficial to my faith or Christ's message? No...but I do need to take a long look at how (and more importantly, if) I represent my Lord to those around me. Am I welcoming, or do I put up walls? Am I joyful and hopeful at ALL times (even in the midst of great strife), or do I easily become bitter? Do I try to learn about the culture around me, or do I avoid it altogether? Good questions for an ambassador to ponder...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ranking the U2 Albums (in honor of their new release)

I've been toying with this idea for some time, as U2 are my favorite band. I finally came up with a system (DORK WARNING! DORK WARNING!) that I liked and decided to rank the albums via "song ranking averages"; aka, 1 is "who were the ad wizards who thought this song was a good idea?" to 10, which is "simply one of my favorite songs ever, across the board". I ranked each song and averaged, and each album thus has a score.

A few disclaimers before I post:
*** This is MY ranking...there are some songs by U2 that are deemed "10" by many out there that just don't capture me as much...and I'm sure the reverse is true as well...

*** I have so far chosen to not rank the new album, "No Line on the Horizon"...although I may leave some small commentary at the end based on my initial opinions...

*** I am only including true studio albums save "Rattle and Hum", which had enough studio material (vs. "live") to be ranked. As a result, though, I only ranked studio songs for "RaH".

*** What is interesting about this list is how the album I usually consider as my favorite did not get #1 on this list...or 2 or 3 for that matter...this is probably due to the fact that it has such a wide range of rankings...but some of my absolute favorite songs are on that album (I'll leave it to your imagination for now), but it has just enough "meh"-songs to drop it down a bit...

*** My criteria for "highlight songs" on each album was a ranking of 8 or better. Essentially, these are the songs that most "move me"...


# 11: Pop (1997), 4.58 avg: Highlight song: "Wake Up Dead Man"

# 10: Zooropa (1993), 4.7 avg: Highlight song: "The First Time"

# 9: October (1981), 5.18 avg: Highlight song: "Gloria"

# 8: Boy (1980), 5.82 avg: : Highlight songs: "I Will Follow", "Out of Control"

# 7: Rattle and Hum (1988), 6.11 avg: Highlight songs: "Heartland", "When Love Comes to Town", "All I Want is You"

# 6: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004), 7.18 avg: Highlight songs: "Vertigo", "City of Blinding Lights"

# 5: Achtung Baby (1991), 7.25 avg: Highlight songs: "Until the End of the World", "Zoo Station", "Mysterious Ways", "The Fly"

# 4: The Unforgettable Fire (1984), 7.3 avg: Highlight songs: "Pride", "Bad", "A Sort of Homecoming", "The Unforgettable Fire", "Wire"

# 3: War (1983), 7.4 avg: Highlight songs: "New Years' Day", "Like a Song", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "Two Hearts Beat as One", "40"

# 2: All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000), 7.64 avg/7 median:Highlight songs: "Beautiful Day", "Grace", "Walk On", "Elevation", "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of"

# 1: The Joshua Tree (1987), 7.64 avg/8 median: Highlight songs: "Where the Streets Have No Name", "With or Without You", "In God's Country", "Bullet the Blue Sky", "Red Hill Mining Town", "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

So there you go. The last 6 are quite close, with 1 and 2 being so close I needed a tiebreaker (the median). Where does "No Line on the Horizon" rank? Well, it's entirely too early to make a true ranking (only heard most songs on it once), but at first glance, I'd say in the "Rattle and Hum"-range ("6ish"). But, one interesting thing is while I have generally enjoyed the songs at some level, I'm not finding ANY "8 or aboves" so far on it...even my least favorite U2 albums have at least one song that I think is worthy of mention as a classic U2 song...not sure yet if "NLotH" will deliver that... I may update this list later when I feel I have a better grasp of things!

All About Attitude: // Philippians 2:1-11

Imitating Christ's Humility
1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Footnotes:Philippians 2:6 Or in the form of
Philippians 2:7 Or the form

Stuff that stood out:

*** 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.: Paul, you know you are talking about us silly humans here, right? You know, the ones that would rather have "their own way" on everything, always want to be "right", will talk behind someone's back like it's no biggie? Oh...you still want us to be unified? Ok...I guess we need to be praying like crazy!

In all seriousness, this challenge is so important to the expansion of Christ's message. We can say the "right things" all day long...but if all we do is quarrel and live in selfishness, well, we aren't going to get far, are we? I think one of the most important (and at times, difficult...) attitudes all followers of Jesus MUST seek is great humility. I may not always agree with someone...but is it my job to nit-pick, to tell them what I would do, and to freely go tell others how I think something should be done (when the "something" may have nothing to do with the ministry I've been called to, nothing to do with my gifts, etc.)? I think not...sadly, though, I have too often been "that guy"... I think most of us are guilty of this bad attitude. I have been praying so much lately that God would a) expose my heart to me when I start "going there" and b) that I wouldn't go there in the first place... While perfection hasn't been achieved, I have seen areas in my life improving in this... I don't want you to think I am some "raging gossip/slanderer/etc.", but I also know I am not immune to being just like some of the folks I can so easily complain about...

*** ...in humility consider others better than yourselves.; verse 3: There's that word again, humility. I think Paul's challenge to "consider others better than yourselves" is at the heart of humility. I may have wants, dreams, desires, thoughts, etc., but "me" should not be first. I think the best place (and sometimes the toughest place) to start practicing humility is in my own family. I need to lay down "me" for Missy and Jax, just because. Well, not "just because", but more specifically, because I am to model Christ's love for his Bride, the Church, to them...and, well, we all know what he went through on her/our behalf... The struggle for me is that sometimes I get caught in a bad-attitude of thinking, "Hey, I've been sacrificing alot lately! When is it my turn?!" Not what my attitude and priority should be...

*** 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus...: And if all that above wasn't tough enough...there's this, haha! Really, though, this is what we should all pray for and earnestly seek: the attitude and heart of Christ in ALL THINGS. Not easy...and it doesn't mean we "get points" and get always tangibly "blessed" in return...but that isn't the point. Is doing the Lord's work truly a priority? Then we need the attitude of Jesus all over us...

Questions for me today:

Are there any relationships I need to seek reconciliation and forgiveness in, so that God's purpose can be more plainly achieved?

Where can I be more humble, especially those areas where I feel entitled to lack humility?

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Big Spiritual Week for Jax

I thought I'd share a bit about two cool things that happened last week. First was Ash Wednesday at our church. I had heard rumors that Jax had told our senior pastor that, "He didn't want his ashes" when Jax was asked if he was going to get ashes at the service. So, as a result, we figured he "wasn't ready" and sent him to the nursery.

Well, after the service I went to pick him up. Jax saw my ashes (in a cross on my forehead) and got upset... "I want ashes, too!" I told him I had heard he didn't want any, and he said he did now. So, we went to see if the pastor was still in the sanctuary, which thankfully he was (along with two others). I motioned him over and told Jax to ask if he would put ashes on him, and Jax did just that. Glenn (our pastor) gladly went to get the "ash bowl" and kneeled down to Jax and placed a sign of the cross on his forehead. Jax then went, "Hey, that didn't hurt!" Haha...I think he was scared it would! But the really cool thing was that yesterday (Sunday) at church, he was sad that his ashes had washed off. "I want them on all the time!" Missy and I couldn't help but smile... A guy behind us, upon hearing Jax, suggested he get a forehead tattoo, haha...

Yesterday also was very cool to me as Jax decided to participate in the beautiful sacrament of communion for the first time at church. We had explained it to him before (well, in the best way we figured a 4 1/2 year-old would understand), and he decided it was time. He quietly kneeled at the altar between Missy and I and took communion...I almost started full-on crying (I did tear up some...) after he took the bread (body of Christ)...he said "Thank you" to our associate pastor, who administered it to him...

I certainly don't believe Jax was "born saved" (I do know many smart folks who think that God has mercy on young children until they acheive some sort-of "age of accountability" when they can comprehend The Cross, sin, etc... I'm just not sure what I think about it biblically right now), or even pretend to fully understand what his relationship to God is right now at such an early age...but I pray that through experiences like this, through how Missy and I live, speak, and worship Christ, etc., that our sweet little boy will one day realize that Jesus work on the cross makes true reconciliation to God possible for him...

Ask and Ye Shall Recieve...

Several months ago, I had one of those "give up and just ask for it" moments with God. It involved my own personal passion and desire to seek Him through the scriptures. I have had various "flirtations" I suppose you could say to really studying the Bible, and I've been in various Bible studies over the years, but if I'm honest, most attempts were more because it was something I "should" do as a Christian. And at my most "meh" moments, the reading of scripture by my own eyes became something I did more for the benefit of others (aka, preparation for a lesson or message...), and while I did pay attention in those times...it still was just "scripture study because I have to". No bueno...

Well, I got fed up with my lack-of "want to" when it came to personal study of God's Word. I got fed up being a follower of Jesus who still couldn't list "reading the Bible" honestly as many of my peers could when asked about one of their most cherished activities. It wasn't as much a jealousy thing as an honest "wish" that I had such a passion for the Bible. I mean, I can read almanacs all day, look at atlases, and COMPLETELY devour the info at a disturbing rate (just ask my friends who try to play me at Trivial Pursuit haha :-) ), why can't I seem to "want to" do that with the Holy Scriptures that are supposed to guide my entire being?????? Well, I finally gave that frustration up to God, and a funny (but should NEVER have been surprising) thing happened...

...I actually started WANTING to read the Bible. To really study and engage with it, not just to "check off that I read my Bible today". And you know what else? It has affected me! I'm not perfect AT ALL because of it...but there are so many ways that my eyes have been opened...to the darkness of my heart at times...to how I am to love my wife like Jesus loves his bride, the Church...to how EVERYTHING I DO is to be an act of worship to the Most High God (singing, this blog, playing with Jax, how I minister to my wife, patience in lines, what I say about others...you name it...), etc. Just so much stuff. Oh sure, I knew so many of those "concepts" before through sermons, conversations, or other times of Bible study...but for some reason, it's just sticking more. Motivating me more. And also, when I don't have my "time" in the morning...I miss it. Terribly. I can assure you THAT emotion never existed before. It was more like, "Oh well, I didn't read my Bible today...I'll just pick up later," and usually, I never did...

Of course, this love and motivation to devour scripture has resulted in an, "I took the red pill" (think The Matrix) kind of thing happening to me. My heart aches more for those that don't know Jesus. A boldness is coming out of me more-and-more. Sometimes it doesn't get the reaction in others I'm hoping for...but I soldier on seeking a merciful heart in all of it (because if I'm not careful, I can become "That Christian" who is just wanting folks to know God like I do, DANG IT! ...but gets bitter and frustrated when they don't...instead of just loving them and continuing to live my faith as an example...).

So thanks God for finally breaking through my walls and planting a desire for your Word!!!!!! Forgive me for just giving it little bits and pieces of my attention over the years...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Planet Wisdom 2009 ("PW")

Hey folks. Well, 2009's edition of Planet Wisdom has come and gone...and it was awesome as usual. I will say, this year was different for me on many levels, but certainly not in bad ways.

*** First off, I confess I went in (well, by Friday I'd say I was generally "better") with not the best attitude... I had many kids "drop" at the last minute, and while they were for various reasons (and a couple were VERY legit), I guess it just broke/breaks my heart that kids these days are pulled in so many directions. I know, "Well, that's life!" someone told me last week when I brought it up, and I know that I may very well eat my frustrations on this when Jax becomes a teen (but I pray Missy and I seek to encourage a balance in him where Jesus is first...but he can still experience things, be able to participate in activities he's gifted in, etc. I just hope his faith doesn't suffer...). But still, It just breaks my heart that kids so often have to choose growing their faith vs. so many other things... I'm not saying this so much because it make me feel validated when they all come...but I hear stories of kids in tears because someone in charge of their extracurricular activity basically gives them an "us or them" choice... But, I have to keep faith in the sovereignty of God, that those who joined us this weekend were EXACTLY who were supposed to be there...

*** The Skit Guys were hilarious again! Really, these guys should do a tour, just them, just for laughs with some "good spiritual ponderings" mixed in. I'd pay to go see that...

*** While PW still seemed like PW, it was nice to see them branch out some as far as "how" they did the whole thing. Mixed up the timing some, added more interactive stuff with kids, lots of cool new multi-media stuff that I think helped with the theme ("Unlikely Heroes"). And while I'll honor the need for surprise...what I heard about next year sounds REALLY cool...

*** Dutton led worship this year, and they were the best band PW has had in my opinion. Great music, personality, and most of all an obvious sense of seeking to lead everyone to the Throne of God in worship singing. Check them out...

*** It was cool to feel like I was among friends in ministry. I have always enjoyed fellowship with fellow youth ministry-types, and try to get to know as many as I can, but for whatever reason this year I just seemed to know so many folks. Many times I'd hear "Ben!" and have to go say hey to folks. People sneaking up in the youth ministry meetings and smacking me in the back, etc. Fun stuff. While I can be quite introverted, I do love being with people... Even met someone who recognized me from the PW promo video I was on...THAT was weird, won't lie... Ah, celebrity :-) I also got to network a bit about Real World Parents, and it looks like I'm doing a RWP seminar at Southcliff Baptist Church in late-April...I'll post exact dates later...Excited!

*** Marvin Dawson and his cousin Lisa Burns drove up from Houston and College Station just to go to PW with us. I didn't know Lisa (she's cool!), but Marvin was a 7th grader my last year at Chapelwood in Houston...and now he's a big ol' "soon-to-be Aggie". It was such a joy to see the young man of God he's become...rewards in youth ministry are often down-the-road...and having him around was one of those times!

*** Finally, and truly most important, was the way God worked through Mark Matlock and the whole PW team this year. There is an altar call time at the end for people to surrender to Jesus (for the first time or to re-commit), and usually for whatever reason, our kids don't sense the call to do that. That's fine, as I want those times to be REAL...so I don't get discouraged. This year one of my kids (Sage) went down to re-commit, and he opened up about some emotional stuff that he's been dealing with (I knew about them...but he always was "fine"). It was an honor to spend time praying with and encouraging him that God loves him and cares DEEPLY about him, even in hard times... This was (for that and other reasons) truly the most "emotional" PW I've been at. I think I cried at least 3 times. The Matlock's Compassion video about their trip to India (even though I've seen it THREE TIMES). The altar call time I just wrote about. Going "downstairs" (we sat in the upper-deck this year) to pray with Wes and Miles during worship... And maybe even another random time I can't remember. Anyway, God moved. He went above and beyond my expectations, which should NEVER surprise me!