Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New iphone

Steve Jobs announced the release of the new iphone yesterday. Much faster internet connection, GPS system, ability to upload new programs and best of all only $199 for the 8 gig! I am definitely going to buy it when my current Sprint (your the devil!) contract is up. I know all of those who bought the iphone when it first came out are probably going to complain even more but hey, I guess good things do come to those who wait.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


I had a panic attack in the middle of the night a few days ago. I really scared my roommate when it happened. Wow, I scared myself too! So I used to have panic attacks in the middle of the night maybe once a year starting with puberty. The last time it had happened though was while in college, maybe six years ago. I really had thought I was done with them. At least that was my hope. I really do not know what to think of this latest occurrence though. The following night I was afraid to fall asleep fearing it could happen again. I tried to explain what was going on to my roommate and later to my girlfriend but it seemed impossible to accurately describe. I was thinking it must be something of how it feels to lose ones mind. I woke up with a start. Although I was aware of who I was and where I was, I also felt detached from myself. I felt out of control even though I had control. My thoughts were incredibly irrational, like I was pretty sure I was going to die momentarily. I had jumped out of bed, had trouble breathing, heart was pounding, woke my roommate up and told him to just talk to me, and was pacing throughout the room. All of this probably went on for fifteen to twenty minutes. Most of this finally, slowly lifted as a fog gradually burns off with the sun. But I had a continued sense of dread and panic at the back of my mind and the bottom of my stomach. I slept past noon, not having done that since college, with aches and pains all over my body. I have no idea what caused this and I hope I never experience it again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reconsidering Nine Inch Nails; Again

I went to a Nine Inch Nails concert when I was in junior high. I even bought a tee shirt! Yeah, I was a huge fan when I was young. At the ripe old age of fourteen I particularly connected with the song Closer with its most memorable line, “I want to f--- you like an animal.” I am not sure what it was, perhaps it was my teenage angst, or just the idea of having sex as a fourteen-year-old boy was…well always on my mind! But like many things I grew out of that phase. I didn’t exactly rebel against that kind of music, just moved on to different things.

Then I became pretty serious about my faith while in college. Unlike many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ I did not have a secular CD breaking party. But I must say that my music sensibilities were refined with my new focus on Jesus and those sensibilities were appalled by such lines as “I want to f--- you like an animal.” How could I have ever been into such music? I was disgusted with myself for having gone to a Nine Inch Nails concert. And how did I ever convince my parents to drop me off and pick me up?

Well, fast-forward again to just two weeks ago. Whenever I heard that song Closer come on the radio I usually changed it but for some reason this time I did not. Suddenly I started listening to that song and I saw it and Trent Reznor (the artist) in a whole new light. That night, just an hour before, I had high school youth group and I was leading a small group of guys in discussion. The topic of sex came up and all of them thought it was ridiculous to not have had sex at their age (15-17). Sex was what made them real men, it is natural, and it must be done as much as possible. Having that conversation, along with listening to the song Closer something clicked.

Look at these lyrics from the song, and better yet listen to the song while reading the lyrics. Reznor says,

I want to f--- you like an animal
My whole existence is flawed
You get me closer to god
You can have my isolation, you can have the hate that it brings
You can have my absence of faith, you can have my everything
Help me tear down my reason, help me its' your sex I can smell
Help me you make me perfect, help me become somebody else

Suddenly I saw this song as the thoughts of a man crying out for help. It is a song about a man searching for something more then himself. A man admitting he is broken. And the only place our society believes a man can be “healed” is between a woman’s legs. That is Reznor’s answer. This is his (and many others) religion. Healing and perfection can only be attainted while between the sheets.

The problem is that this healing is only superficial. And you get addicted to it. You feel perfect for a few moments but then you are pulled back to reality. You become willing to do anything to get that moment of perfection back, anything. This is what my youth group guys don’t get and what I wish I could have them hear. Reznor writes in the song our beliefs about sex. In the church we have a different belief but I am glad I listened to this song again because it helped me see what my guys are going through and how they think. It is always interesting to me where one can find the Lord speaking, especially in places that God is not supposed to be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Pledge My Allegiance To…

Last year, still feeling relatively new at my church, I experienced our service for Memorial Day. I have to admit, I thought it was pretty messed up. I didn’t say anything, but seriously singing God Bless America and the Star Spangled Banner, saying the Pledge of Allegiance in church? Think about that, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” Really? Isn’t Christian’s pledging their allegiance to a flag a little out of sink with the mission of the church? What ever happened to the whole ‘God is King’, or ‘Jesus is Lord’ thing? I for one felt like something was wrong with that service.

At the same time because of those critiques I had of the service and the church, I started feeling a little anti-American. I love my country. I feel truly blessed to be an American citizen. More importantly I want to be known as someone who supports our troops. Those who have sacrificed and those who currently are sacrificing their bodies, minds and even lives for me to experience the blessing of living in the United States. So to have a problem with patriotism in church made me feel a little conflicted.

Well, of course this year I find myself preparing to be the preacher in a week and a half; yes the day before Memorial Day! When I realized this had happened I tried to get out of it, but my pastor would have none of it. I told the pastor we couldn’t do any patriotic songs if I am going to preach, which he said he disagreed with but would support what I had asked. But now I am struggling. When I preach I can’t ignore the significance of Memorial Day, I can’t miss the opportunity to support those who have died for our country. But I also can’t ignore that Jesus tells us to love our enemies! I can’t ignore those who have died for our faith! I can’t ignore the fact that God is tugging at my heart to preach about peace, love, mercy, justice, devotion to God’s Kingdom and most importantly pledging our allegiance to Him alone!

I could slam the Bible down and tell the congregation that war is evil and God calls us to stand up against evil. I could point at the congregation and accusing them of loving their country more then they love Jesus. But as soon as I do that no one will be able to hear the message God has for them. They will stop listening. But I cannot pander to what people want to hear either. I have to do my best to preach the message God has for everyone to hear. That is a fine line that I must walk and it would be far easier to just not show up! But I am going to do my best to walk that line. I pray God gives me the right words to speak; and I pray he opens the ears and hearts of the congregation for them to receive the message God has for them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I Am An Obama Fan and Thought This Was Hilarious!

Devoted to Life But Surrounded By Death

I just started a new job working fulltime as a minister at a church. Okay, assistant to the minister but whatever! Part of my job is to help revitalize the church and help it grow, so naturally I have been thinking about a lot about how we do church.

Here is what I can say I firmly believe at the moment.

1. The church has one task and that is to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Within that one task is really two jobs the church must consider: The first of those jobs is to disciple. Everything the church does must meet the criteria that it is teaching and forming those that are there to be more like Jesus. And I mean everything we do! We need to ask ourselves, does the sermon help those who listen to be more like Jesus? No? Then change it or get rid of it all together. Does the music played and the songs song in church help those participating to become more like Jesus? No? Then we need to change the music, the songs or do something completely different. How about the programs we put together? Children’s ministries, youth ministries, adult ministries, men’s and women’s ministries, Bible studies, etc... are they helping people become more like Jesus? As the church we must answer these questions honestly and then do something about it!

The second job that the task making disciples of all nations entails is to reach out to all people who do not follow Jesus and share the good news with them. Church must be reaching out and must be inclusive of all peoples, cultures, and races. I have heard the argument that as long as the worldwide church is reaching out to all people then we are doing our job. But I see a problem when a church like my own is located in a very ethnically and culturally diverse area and yet the church does not reflect the reality of the community. This reality about our job as a church has some profound implications on what we are doing as well. It means in all our programs, all our activities, everything that we do we need to consider others before we consider ourselves. I will be honest, that is hard to do. I personally enjoy contemporary worship music in church. It helps me connect to and worship my God more fully then any other type of worship. But if I am to be part of a church that only does contemporary worship because that is what I like then I am only thinking about myself. Church, including worship must not be all about me! It has to be all about you! So the question I wish to ask my pastor and my congregation is why do we not do things that are for our children? Our Grandchildren? Our neighbors? All of these people are not coming to church. Instead of making church all about ourselves, we need to make it all about them.

2. The other thing I know right now about how we do church is this truth: If we keep doing what we have been doing, then we will keep getting what we have been getting. When churches and the leaders of churches say they wish to grow and they wish to fulfill their mission as a church better then they have been, then that means they have to embrace change. A vast majority of churches in the United States have been stagnant, declining, or have completely died in recent memory. Until a church is ready to embrace change, is ready to question everything that has been done in the past, is ready to call into question all traditions, then they will continue to stay stagnant, decline and die. That is the reality. We have to do things differently or we have to be satisfied with what we have been getting.

I have been working at my job for just over a month now and I have experienced joys and frustrations. I have felt movement and I have smacked my head into walls. I have been told, “Yes we can” and “No we wont”. I expect I will continue to get more of all of the above as I move forward in my new job but I am not ready to say that this place is beyond hope. Out of death comes life and I for one am devoted to life.