Sidewalk story

Our faith can be like a sidewalk path. Have you ever been on a bike path or a long hiking trail. Whether it is with pavement or not I think you might find the analogy in this post.

Bike paths and trails can go for miles in length. Even if we know how long the trail is suppose to be, it can seem like a long, never-ending journey. Sometimes life seems like a never-ending journey too but just as trails only go so far, such life also eventually ends.
When I go for runs or bike rides, the hardest parts of the ride is the steep up-hill slopes. Fortunately (just as the old saying goes “everything that goes up must come down”) holds true and I find a lot of relief and fun in my exercise journeys when I find it still holds true.
Life has its ups and its downs too. There will highlights and beautiful times in our life, but do not forget about the downs. God uses those times too!
Finally another interesting similarity is in the width. Bike paths and hiking trails are sometimes a foot wide (maybe two feet) or less. Width can be illustrated as our stance on life…how we handle it. If we are handling life too critically and fall off of the path to the right into the weeds and thorns or not caring enough and falling off of the path to the left. Being too liberal and too nice for your own good or being too hard on yourself or too conservative. How we handle life is almost as or more important than making it to the end.
All of us desire comfort and love and stability in all aspects of our life. We need to be social and close to God. Imagine the direct middle of a bike path, it is a comfortable place to be as there is room on both sides of you to be free yet you are loved and you are stable and safe.
God’s love for us, his life for us is somewhere in there. He doesn’t want us to be larking around the edges and about to fall off. He wants to guide us to His glory and His will. His good, perfect, and pleasing will. The one that is the straight and narrow way. Sidewalks are kind of narrow (compared to its surroundings usually).

Anyways I hope I have left you with some thoughts to think about, some imagination to be added to this post and bounce some more ideas around.

personal music

Music is an amazing thing that God has given us. We all love it. It is something we use to express ourselves, to comfort us, to relax to, party with, and so many other occasions we have music playing in the background (while we are exercising, studying, reading, watching tv…)
We are bombarded by music, by choice.

One of my professors at OU said that “music improves the quality of our life.” I agree…to an extent. It can also destroy us if we are not careful.

We all live noisy lifestyles. And we live in a society of constant noise. If we do not take some time away from the busy, loud world then we are going to drain out of energy. We are slowly killing ourselves.

Are we losing the ability think clearly and properly? Are we drowning out important relationships with people and with God? Think in your life…has there been a time when something important happened but you missed it cause your Ipod was plugged in you ear, grabbing away your attention? Or has someone important in your life tried to tell you something but you could not hear what they were saying because of all the noise?

Instead of having typical, normal everyday interactions with normal everyday people, everyone has headphones one. They are more narcissistic. They are more alone in this world. All they have is their music and themselves. They lose important relationships, communication skills, and the ability to act/react normally.

I am suggesting that first we need to have a time every day with no noise, no screens – just you, God and a Bible. Second I am suggesting that we make time for important relationships in our lives. And third, I am challenging that we use every opportunity God gives us in our lives to listen to the Holy Spirit and glorify God. You never know what kinds of circumstances God will give you if you are willing to obey….they may though require that you turn off your Ipod. (Just a thought!)

irenic, respect

Today I am looking at C Michael Patton’s Parchment and Pen blog again.
And the topic of on of his recent posts: irenic. (Really the post is about more than the word: irenic. But I am focusing on the word irenic and not throughly looking at Michael’s post, because I am intrigued by it.)

Irenic- “adj.

Promoting peace; conciliatory.

[Greek eirēnikos, from eirēnē, peace.]”

Michael says “This does not involve compromise, but a willingness to engage issues fairly.” He goes on to talk about how we should conduct ourselves online (and off line) when dealing with theological beliefs and issues. Basically how to be assertive and respectful at the same time.

Here is an excerpt from Michael’s blog post:
“Here are some of the characteristics to being irenic in theological conversation and controversy:

  • You accurately represent all theological positions, even when you strongly oppose them.
  • Your tone of engagement comes from a humble respectful attitude.
  • Your primary goal is not to win an argument, but to contribute to understanding.
  • Your defense of your position recognizes that strengths of the opposing side.
  • You are gentle.

Here are two important Scripture references concerning how we are to engage in theological discussion irenically:

2 Timothy 2:24 “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” “

This is great advise. I agree with what he is saying. I think a lot of it is derived from personal experience, dealing with theology and controversial topics on a regular basis.

Synonyms for Irenic are :

Mollifying – To calm in temper or feeling; soothe, lessen the temper, soothe.

Appeasing – To bring peace, quiet, or calm to; soothe. Satisfy, pacify.

Pacifying – To ease the anger or agitation of. End war, bring peace.

Peace-making – settling disputes.

Assuaging – To make (something burdensome or painful) less intense or severe. To satisfy, calm.

Conciliatory – Tending to conciliate; pacific; mollifying; propitiating

Placatory – To allay the anger of, especially by making concessions; appease. Ease the anger.

Soothing – To calm or placate, ease, relieve, bring comfort.

Gentle – considerate or kindly in disposition; amiable and tender. Not harsh or severe.

Not hostile

Not aggressive

Not pro-active

I think Michael is saying we should be fair and balanced. Show all angles of an argument even if we do not agree, contribute to the understanding, and not being aggressive about our arguments. He is not suggesting that we are too be so gentle and Placate that our arguments are not there at all. We should be assertive enough to make stand our ground on an issue, but we need to do it gently and be fair.

CORE Training #1

Recently I took my youth group adult and student leaders to Core Training, put on by Youth Specialties. Every year Youth Specialties does an awesome job. I have been there for the past four years. The training was great! We all learned a lot. The title of the day’s training was “Generation Change.” And this was the first time Core Training invited both student and adult leaders together. It was really cool having student leaders there.

I want to do a few posts on the topics that we learned in the Training. Today’s post is about compartmentalization.

Many times in life, we compartmentalize areas of our life. We have our life organized into parts or categories. Imagine a large square cut into equally sized, smaller squares. Each of the small squares represent a different category or section of our life. Many people try to balance each part of life. Compartmentalization is a way of the world.

Instead of following the world, furiously trying to balance all parts of our life, we should have have an eternal perspective. The Christian way is to put God first in all of life. Giving ALL areas to God. NOT holding back areas from God. And NOT having any double standards. Or living double lives.

When we have compartments in our life, we tend to live double lives. One area of life, maybe, we choose not to let God have. We let one of these compartments (or more) be filled with sin, evil, struggles of ugly passions. God does not want us to live that way. We need to remain pure and give God all of our life.

Living a double life is just wrong and sinful. I have convictions about this a lot, but it was a great refreshing topic at CORE. And that is only tip of the iceberg. I highly recommend CORE training. I recently posted about an inconsistency in my own life relating to this topic.

An open letter to parents with youth

NOTE: This is not an actual letter I ever plan to send to my youth group parents, nor do I currently experience all of these problems in my youth ministry in the first place. It is a fictitious letter based on common issues many youth workers would love to address but often don’t have the guts nor freedom to express.

Dear parent,

It seems like more and more of your kids are coming to church without you. I know you see this as a pretty good deal for your student since you get some quiet time at home and most of the events we do are paid-for, but you should know that there is no greater influence in your child’s life than you. Whether they tell you or not, your kid actually wants you involved in their life, even here at church. Come visit us sometime with your student and see how your relationship can grow together!

And then there’s some of you who actually forbid your teenager from attending youth Bible studies. You should know that the church is one of the last places on earth where basic morality and values are still taught, since schools are now forbidden to do so. We teach your teenager to obey you and respect you because that’s what the Lord expects from them. We also help your teenager address matters like relationships, making good choices, and setting priorities. With all the negativity and lies the media is using to bombard teenagers, we remain a light to help steer your student toward a growing relationship with the Lord.

Parents, please guide your child to be faithful in church attendance. Teenagers aren’t allowed to choose whether or not they want to go to school. Neither should you assume that they are mature enough to decide for themselves about church. Please, do not enable them to form the idea that church involvement should be based on the level of entertainment it provides. Teach your student not develop a consumerism mindset of, “What can the church do for me?” but instead approach church with the biblical mindset of, “How can I serve the body?”

What I don’t understand is how you’ll never ground your student from school, yet grounding him/her from church is acceptable, as if academic education is more important than spiritual training. You keep your student at home to watch TV, play on the Internet and listen to the radio when they actually need a good dose of spiritual encouragement. Maybe you should ground them to church instead of away from it.

We love going on trips and pulling off events for your student, but please ensure that he/she honors their commitment. The church invests many resources into these activities and when your child drops out at the last minute, it wastes money that was sacrificially provided by others.

The most important thing you can do is communicate with your student’s youth leaders. If you’re struggling with your child in a specific way, we’d love to pray for you! If you’re trying to teach him/her something at home, we’d love to help reinforce that at church. What you have to share with us can be critically important to how we interact and teach the student at church. Plus, the youth leaders may see and hear things that you should know about, too. Team up with us!

Whether you’re supportive of the youth ministry or not, please do not gossip about it or spread your negativity unless you’re speaking directly to me about it. Especially do not share your “critical evaluation” of the ministry or about individuals in it when you’re at home. You’ll only raise your children to be cynical and negative toward the church. They will grow up viewing church with the perspectives you model, so please be a gracious in your speech and attitude.

I’m actually not against criticism at all. In fact, I embrace your loving and respectful feedback since you can often see important issues I may never notice. However, please come straight to me with your concerns. Going to anyone else first is what the Bible calls gossip. When you come to me with a problem, also come prepared to offer a solution and the willingness to be a part of resolving the issue.

Thank you for your support! I pray for you regularly and hope we can continue to partner together in seeing your students’ lives transformed into a reflection of Christ.

– Your Youth Pastor

Top Twenty Theological Pick-up Lines NOT to use

An interesting, note-worthy post from Michael Patton and His Parchment and Pen Blog at
Reclaiming the Mind Ministries.

Usually I find this blog to be very incitefull theologically and a great resource. Recently Michael posted an odd post. It is interesting, and some of the “pick-up lines” are just REALLY terrible and NOT worth your time, but here are a few that did make me chuckle:

18. “Paul said that it was better to marry than to burn. Therefore, I am under God’s mandate to marry you.”

17. “Here, let me take care of those tithes.”

14. “Your name must be grace, because you are irresistible.”

6.“God may be the bread of life, but you are the butter.”