I'm bad at giving grace to myself.


Hello friends,

Some quick off the cuff thoughts for you today, with almost no real thought involved.

I've been having a hard time lately (read: the last 27 years) with being organized and dealing with the administrative sides of my job. On every single spiritual gifts assessment I've ever taken, administration has occupied the basement. Not that I want that to be an excuse or anything. I struggle with it a lot, because when you struggle with organization, simple things that shouldn't be a big deal quickly become a big deal. It's like pushing a twisted slinky down the stairs, watching it catch fire, and wondering how it could ever have gotten that bad.

Today in particular I dealt with some administrative short comings, and going to lunch I felt just very down on myself. "I need to be better than this" I would lament. "These things shouldn't be such a big deal" I would reason with myself. But luckily, I had lunch with a good friend who reminded me (rather unintentionally) that if we plan on taking Christ's gift of grace seriously, then we need to start by giving it to ourselves.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

For as long as I've been in ministry, I have struggled to truly believe the concept of God's grace being enough for me while I have tried to convince other people that it was enough for them. I don't know why it's so hard to bring that grace inside, to let Christ get into my heart and do his magic. But I know for certain that it needs to start happening more and more. To tell myself at each mistep (because lets face it, there are always going to be misteps) that His grace is enough for me, and even more so, that His power is made perfect in my weaknesses. In other words, when I'm at less than my best, God steps in and takes control in a way that I never could have.

So this afternoon, I'm going to be reading through some scripture in the hopes of giving myself some more grace. My encouragement to you is to do the very same!



Navigating the Networks Part One: Technology


Hello gang!

On November 3rd, I'll be presenting a class for parents on how to navigate the social networks. I think it's going to be a pretty awesome conversation for us, but I thought I'd hop on the blog and think through some things so that I can get your input on things as well. And of course, if you're not doing anything, swing by the church at 6:30 on November 3rd!

Genesis 11.

3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." 8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel c]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[c] —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Now, according to the infinitely wiser than I Rob Bell tells us that this story is actually about technology, not about language. Until this point, people were using round stones to stack and create things. You may have noticed, but it is infinitely easier to stack a squared brick than it is to stack a rounded stone. Therefore, in all actuality, a brick at this point in the story is a technological advancement.

When you think about a brick, you probably don't think about all the inherent evil packed into it do you? In fact at this point in our society, bricks are a part of our daily existence, though we rarely pay attention to them. In fact, I bet none of us would consider bricks a technological advancement. They don't even have computer chips.

And yet in this story, the way they were used created an issue for people. They used the technology in such a way that it brought glory to themselves, rather than to God. So while the brick doesn't contain any evil in and of itself, the way it was used was sinful.

So as we start to frame up some thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a whole host of other social network sites, are they inherently evil? Are they solidly in the bad category? Or are they completely devoid of evil, and just really excellent devices for us to take advantage of? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!



Some Blogs You Should Be Reading


Hey gang,

I've been trying to write this sermon for the better part of the week, and it's just having a hard time working it's way out of my brain. So in an attempt to distract myself from the deafening silence and the glaring white screen, I thought I'd share a couple of blogs that are totally worth your time these days.

Adam Strawcutter

Adam is a really good friend from back in my days at IUP. He's a worship leader and a really deep thinker, and while he's not a Mac guy yet, I bet he will be soon. Also, he linked to the good olde J-Blog, so it's only fair that I link back. Don't be fooled: Even though he writes primarily from a worship leader's standpoint, there are tons of nuggets for those of us who aren't on stage every week.

Mark Oestreicher

Marko has been one of the most influential youth leaders in my journey already, and leaving YS hasn't stopped him from doing that. In fact, Marko usually blogs about what I was thinking about blogging about before I got lazy and forgot to blog about it. So if you want to see what the J-Blog would be like with less apathy and more experience, check it out. Lately I really recommend the pieces of scripture he's re-worked for youth pastors. Good stuff in there!

Jon Acuff

Ed and I laugh daily at this blog. You really need to check him out if you have any kind of sense of humor about your faith.

Those are just three of the many blogs I check in with daily. What kind of stuff are you reading?



Hidden Messages: The Insane Clown Posse is Christian?


Hello friends!

I've been away from the blog for some time now. It's not been laziness actually, I've just had a really hard time finding something that needed to be said. I felt like I had already touched upon everything that I was thinking about touching upon, and that seemed silly to just repeat myself over and over again. So I've been sitting, watching Google news every day, hoping that something would come along and spark my interest and provide me with something to say.

Ahh....That did it. (Warning: Harsh Language)

That's right folks. In the midst of their violent and offensive lyrics, our good friends the Insane Clown Posse has been a Christian band the whole time. Apparently according to them, if you dig deep enough into certain songs, you can find God. If you dig deep enough into other songs, you can find out how hilarious sexual violence is...

Let's break this down from the top, because I think there are some pretty legitimate ramifications both for those of us who work in the Church and those of us who are just trying to follow Christ as best as they can.

First of all, it's not for me to say who is a Christian or not. While it sounds on the surface as though these guys are most definitely not behaving in a way that glorifies Christ, the only thing I can't see is what's going on in their heart, and truth be told that's the only thing that matters. As much as I want to call their motive into question, the truth is I really can't.

That said, any of us who have been at this for any length of time would say that these guys are not allowing the fruits of their faith to see the light of day. Or at least if they are, we all kind of wish they would bury those fruits somewhere to never been seen again. Beyond just cursing (which, truth be told, I'm ok with Christians dropping the occasional cuss word. What else are you going to say when you stub your toe or get popped with a paintball pellet in a tender area?) they sing about subject matter that is thoroughly inappropriate, and even seem to think that it's funny (see the article). Again, I can't judge the workings of a person's heart, but Jesus did say a couple of things about letting our light shine that to me just doesn't seem to add up here.

Now, the reason the ICP gives for singing about what they do is quite interesting, particularly for those of us who are youth leaders. Their claim is that they do these things to attract kids to their music, and through that eventually (and for them it's been a long LONG time) lead them to Christ. Now most of us would characterize this as just downright insane (pun intended), but ask yourself a couple of questions: what kind of marketing have you done to promote your youth group? What kinds of video games do you make available to make kids comfortable being around your youth room? Have you ever preached an edgy sermon just to be edgy? And probably most importantly to ponder, are these things a slippery slope that could lead us to an ugly place we never intended to go?

I'm curious on your thoughts. Does the ICP's announcement that they were all along Christian have any impact on your life or ministry? Or is it just another news story? Comment below!