Tuesday, December 23, 2003

We are headed to Houston tomorrow. Won't be blogging for a few, unless I can sneak away to a Starbucks. Man, I love Starbucks and high speed internet! Merry Christmas!


The following is a letter I've writen to my mother in law. She is a wonderful lady and is battleing cancer as I write this. I hate cancer. It is the most ruthless reminder that this world is not our home and we are just a passing through. If you can gain encouragment or inspiration from the letter, consider it my gift.

Christmas ‘03


Merry Christmas! They say that Christmas is not about the gifts but I beg to differ. I want to draw your attention to a few gifts that I am especially grateful for this Christmas.

I am glad God gave you to me as a mother-in-law. The saying goes that “the definition of “mixed emotions” is seeing your mother in law drive your Cadillac over the cliff.” I have never felt that way about you. My feelings for you have nothing to do with a law but with love. You have been kind to me and I have always appreciated it. You are a gift.

I am very thankful for the gift of Kim. Kim has your great traits and any bad traits she does have are a result of Ralph, her siblings, living in a trailer or just bad luck. But she doesn’t have any bad traits in my book. I can’t praise you enough for raising such a wonderful daughter. She is a pure joy to go through life with and I have you and God to thank.

I am full of gratitude for the successful surgery you underwent and for the treatment you are in the middle of now. Every day with you in our lives is a priceless gift from God and I thank Him for your health daily.

Most of all, I am appreciative for the gift of Jesus. I praise God that you are too. This Christmas is a bit tougher on all of us, especially on you, due to your battle with cancer. I want you to know that we are praying for you every day. You and I both know that the gift of health is one that can be taken away. But the gift of Jesus is eternal and cannot be taken away.

Christmas is about gifts. More importantly, it is about the gift.

Merry Christmas Cathy!

Love your favorite (just kidding Keith) son in law,


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Wanna a great rendition of O-Come all ye Faithful? Click here:



Tis the season to seek the savior.

I ran across this article. Wow. Did this guy record some of my prayers and tap into my thoughts? Read and repent.

God & Google
Do you ever treat God like a search engine?
by Tracy Carbaugh

Have you googled today? If so, yours was one of the 150 million searches on the world's biggest search engine. Did you find what you were looking for? Google will always give you something. Sometimes the results are, "like, totally wacked." Sometimes they're "way tight." (I googled "modern slang.")

Do you ever approach God as if he were a giant search engine? You tell him what you want and expect instant results. What if God doesn't give you what you're really looking for? That's OK. There are lots of other "search engines" out there: parents, friends, the mall.

But God isn't the big search engine in the sky. And if he has something in mind for you, he won't substitute it for something that's second best—even if it's something you really want or think you need. Here are some things to remember about God:

God knows your deepest desires—and motives—before you ask: "O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. … You perceive my thoughts from afar. … Before a word is on my tongue you know it com-pletely" (Psalm 139:1-4).

Even though God already knows your thoughts, don't skip prayer: "How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him" (Matthew 7:11).

Didn't get what you asked for? Maybe it's not good for you: "Every good and perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17).

Your ultimate search should always be for God himself: "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always" (Psalm 105:4).

God isn't like Google. He won't give you something substandard just to satisfy your immediate desires. So keep asking, and seeking, and knocking—and know that he wants to give you the very best he has to offer.

Think about it:

What am I searching for?

Why should I pray?

How do I know God answers prayer?

What are three things I should pray about today?

This devotion was adapted from a writing that appears in the summer edition of Soul Journey, a daily devotional guide published by our friends at RBC Ministries. Go online each day for a new devotion from this faith-stretching guide: www.soul-journey.org. Or subscribe to the magazine version of Soul Journey at www.getsj.com

Friday, December 12, 2003

I heard a redneck disc jockey crack the following joke over the radio this morning at the gym. Forgive me if it offends you. I found it funny.

"Have you heard of that show, Queer eye for the straight guy? Man what kinda show is that? Who watches this crap? Boy, don't even think about putting me on that show. You'd have to change the name to "Black eye for the queer guy!"

You got to love Abilene.

Just ran across this one on the web. Great analogy. Worth the read.

Prayer of JaPEZ
by Steve Case

I'm not now, nor have I ever been an urban youth minister. I've spent my career in youth ministry working with basically happy, upper middle class, white kids. I've worked in suburban churches with mostly good budgets in mostly good neighborhoods. I don't think I have the right to offer comment (humorous or otherwise) on the state of urban ministry today.

So let's take this time to discuss one of the most underrated youth ministry tools of our time.

PEZ dispensers.

PEZ dispensers can bring us closer to God. Think about it for a moment. The simple design of a PEZ dispenser hasn't been improved upon since its invention nearly 50 years ago. A simple plastic toy with a plastic head that, when tilted back, gives you one small piece of sugar candy. Let's start with the obvious reference of Luke 11:9:

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Now let's look deeper. In a world where robot dogs are being given away in fast food kid meals and teens are flipping out over the latest mega-bit graphic video game, the PEZ dispenser shows that simplicity in life is the greatest reward. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said, "Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

PEZ dispensers have also achieved their own private level of coolness. To own one is to stand out and say, "Hey, I'm not one of the crowd." "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2) Then you'll be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

What happens when you pull a PEZ dispenser out of your book bag or your pocket during a youth meeting or on a long drive? A dozen hands come out asking for just one tablet. PEZ dispensers open up lines of communication between strangers on a bus and break down barriers in a board meeting. The simple act of sharing a PEZ candy can lead to sharing stories of childhood and eventually of faith.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions were his own, but they shared everything they had." (Acts 4:32)

PEZ dispensers come in thousands of different styles. Each character on a PEZ allows us to express our own individuality to the world. Show the world you're a Charlie Brown, a Batman, or a Kermit the Frog. We're all different flavors and characters, but we're all still part of the body of Christ.

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." (1 Cor. 12:12-13)

I want to see Biblical PEZ dispensers. Great heroes of the Bible depicted in PEZ plastic. The Moses PEZ dispenser would have only two tablets. The John the Baptist PEZ would have a removable head. The Jesus PEZ dispenser would somehow never run out. Imagine a Nativity display comprised entirely of PEZ characters. The Adam and Eve dispensers would…well, never mind.

For those of you thinking, "He's getting a freebie," the answer is no. I'm not getting anything from the PEZ Company. (Although if they're reading this article and felt so obliged they could express their gratitude by sending it in care of this journal.)

We have a simply designed tool, uncomplicated and accessible. It allows us to express our individuality while at the same time opening the doors that remind us we're all connected.

Could there be a more perfect tool for youth ministry, urban or otherwise?

I don't think so.

Listen to these words:

"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead - since he was about a hundred years old - and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised."

How cool was that? Did you check that?

Against all hope . . . he trusted God's power to keep his promise.

He faced the facts . . . without weakening his faith.

He knew that the though his body and her womb were dead . . . but God wasn't.

I am praying today for a faith like Abraham. How about you?

Monday, December 08, 2003

Got this from my friends at Youth Specialties. Definitely worth the read.

When people decide to look for Jesus, what's the best way to find him? Is faith primarily a matter of the head or the heart? No one has all the answers, but if you listen closely to the biblical Christmas stories this year, you'll find some good clues.

How did the Magi (wise men) find Jesus? They used their gray matter. They studied. They pondered. They discussed. They combined their knowledge and logic. And even though all they had to go on was a general direction, they acted.

The shepherds, on the other hand, weren't rocket scientists. They were simple guys working the night shift. They had gray matter, too, but it was caked on their sandals after tromping around in sheep by-products that smelled like--well, let's just say the stuff didn't smell like frankincense. But when a bevy of heavenly strangers showed up and told them the good news about Jesus, they acted.

Meanwhile, there were two senior citizens at the temple who were also included in the celebration of Jesus' birth. Simeon was "a righteous man and very devout" who had been promised by God that he wouldn't die until he had seen "the Lord's Messiah." Anna was an 84-year-old widow who "never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer." You don't see these two standing around the manger in the Christmas story in Luke 2, because Jesus went to them. When Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus to the temple to thank God with a sacrifice, Simeon and Anna both got to see him and rejoice.

If finding Jesus required smarts, the shepherds would still be sitting in the dark. If it took a choir of angels handing out personal invitations, the Magi would have stayed home. If it took lots of money, the right friends, a good reputation, or a prestigious job, then Mary and Joseph wouldn't have qualified in the first place.

These Christmas stories suggest that God uses many methods to call people to himself through his Son, and we ALL are invited. Whether we're trying to find out more about Jesus through spiritual, intellectual, or emotional pursuits, the key is not how much we know, but rather how we ACT on what we know.

The only person in all of these stories who didn't find Jesus was the one with the most resources at his disposal. King Herod was told exactly where to look for Jesus. But instead of going himself, he asked the Magi to check it out for him. Some people still lose out on the world's most wonderful discovery when they leave the searching up to parents, friends, or someone else.

The Bible promises that those who seek will find. And if you're seeking Jesus, what you find will change not only your life, but your eternity as well. So in the next few weeks, use your head AND your heart as you look for the real meaning of Christmas. Better yet, take a hint from Anna and Simeon. When you devote yourself to a righteous and devout life, you can't miss him.

Growing up in California, summer was my season. There are lots of reasons but the biggest is because it is really our only season. Things never really die so that wiped out fall and spring and try telling someone in any where else in the nation (other than Arizona) about "California Winters" and you will get laughed at mercilessly.

Things change.

Fall is my new favorite season. It is probably due to a combination of factors including the splendid fact that we are undergoing one of the most beautiful falls I have ever experienced here in Abilene. It could have something to due with baseball playoffs and football season, but I doubt it. There are the brisk walks, the falling leaves, and wearing really comfortable sweatshirts that are a bonus as well. But that is not why I am falling for fall.

Fall is about change. So is Spring but in a different way. Fall is the cause of change. Spring is the result of change. Fall is tougher, less pretty, and often unpleasant. Spring announces, "here comes Summer!" Fall windfully whispers, "get ready, Winter is on its way."

Change is good. I'm playing in it these days the way a kid rakes a big pile of leaves and jumps in them. I see more than just seasons changing these days too. I see the force of change. The Father over all nature. He is saying to me, things changes. Change is inevitable. Button up. Let go of every leaf. Let the wind of my Spirit and the brisk breath of Christ breath into you change.


Ok, here are the last three parts to my sermon thougths on "The Root of the Fruit"

3. It is Significant

The Bible talks a lot about fruit. In the Old Testament Israel was referred to as a vine in Psalam 80, Isaiah 5 and Jeremiah 2.

In Matthew 3, before Jesus even speaks a word we find John the Baptist saying, “produce fruit!” and later in Matthew 7:20 we find Jesus telling his disciples that it is by their fruit that people will recognize them and that they are to recognize others.

Romans 6 talks about reaping, Ephesians 5 tells us that the darkness is a fruitless state to live in. Philippians 1:11 calls us to be filled with the fruit of righteousness but the classic passage in the Bible on Fruit is found in Galatians 5 starting in verse 22. If you have your Bibles go ahead and turn to Galatians 5:22. Let’s read it again.

4. It is Seen

The fourth fact about fruit is that it is seen. If we see a tree – we don’t know what kind of tree it is until we see the fruit. Fruit is an outside thing that can be seen. Notice I didn’t say it had to be heard. You don’t walk up to a tree and have it go “hey check me out – I’m an apple tree, I’m an apple tree aren’t I cool? No an apple tree just sits there being cool making apples.

5. It is Squeezed

Now some of you are saying, well I’ve seen trees that looked like lemon trees but they were really oranges, or orange trees that looked like grapefruit. Do you know how you can tell? Squeeze it. That is number 5 on your outline under the facts of fruit. Fruit is squeezed.
You say what does that have to do with anything? Of course fruit is squeezed. Well life has a way of squeezing us to doesn’t it?

One way of telling what kind of fruit you posses is by seeing what comes out when life starts squeezing on you. Anyone can respond gentlely to a request or to a dilima when life is smooth sailing. It takes the spirit’s filling to help you to respond gentley when the storms of life crash against you.

Let take a look at some followers of Jesus as they are getting squeezed.
We will pick up the story in upper room. Jesus has just finished washing the disciples feet and the disciples are feeling pain.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Saw the movie Master & Commander last night. Great movie. If you like history - you'll like it. If you like sailing - you'll like it. If you like Russell Crowe - you'll like it. If you like action - you'll like it. But if you like leadership - you will love the movie. Crowe leads his ship with laser like focus and pure power. I loved it. Here are the traits of a great leader that I picked up in the movie. (it was the 10:45pm showing so I was bit tired - forgive me if I missed more - probably did)

1. Great Leaders believe in themselves.

2. Great Leaders inspire those around them.

3. Great Leaders mentor other younger leaders.

4. Great Leaders have compassion for people yet put the goals of the group first.

5. Great Leaders never give up.

6. Great Leaders rely on a mix of strategy and instinct.

7. Great leaders surround themselves with other competent leaders.

8. Great Leaders do what is needed (preach, assist in surgery, etc)

9. Great Leaders don't just wish, the work to make it happen.

10. Great Leaders don't take themselves too seriously.

Of course, there was a lot more than leadership lessons in the movie but I was most impressed with that one element.

Go see it, if you don't have a queasy stomach!

Here is part two from my Sermon called "The Root of the Fruit" about the fruit of the spirit. (See blog entry form Thurs, Dec 4th below)

2. It is Singular
No I’m not talking like the cell phone giant. I’m talking the opposite of plural. The fruit of the spirit is. Is not are. Now notice back up in verse 19. The acts of the sinful nature are. Those are plural.

I’ve heard people say botch it and call it the fruit fruits. I even heard someone the other day refer to this series as the fruits of the spirits. That was the first time I had ever heard of the Spirit being plural. It is important that we see the fruit as one thing. If we don’t then we think that we are spirit filled when we have only a part of the fruit. It is not a tree with multiple types of fruit or a bunch of grapes with 8 grapes. Think of the fruit of the spirit like an apple. The apple is made up of many parts but it is still just one apple. Without a stem an apple can’t be attached to the tree. Without skin the apple would rot faster. It has seeds and a core and vitamins and enzymes. You can’t say I have love, joy, peace (you just thought of a pizza didn’t you?), patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, but not gentleness or self-control right? Of course not. It is not like the spirit ran out of those. Sorry, fresh out of joy today – guess you’ll have to love others but be miserable while you’re doing it. No, make no mistake –the fruit is singular.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

I ran across a sermon I preached about the fruit of the spirit (it is the fruit - singular - and not fruits - plural, by the way. . . )this past summer. I'll post a small part of it over the next few days. (or the next few weeks if my past posting is any indication)

The Facts of Fruit
1. It is Spiritual

This means you don’t have it. It does not come naturally. I wanted to clarify this because it is so foundational to the rest of our study in Galatians 5. When we talk about this fruit we must understand that it is something that must be developed. It does not flow naturally from us. It must be developed. You don’t have to teach a little kid to be inpatient do you. No parent ever sat down and said ok Billy now let’s lets see the foot tap, and how about the let the breath out. Ok good now repeat after me, “Are we there yet?” Good job, keep that up and you will be sitting in the car impatiently honking the horn like a caveman while your wife is trying to get three kids ready for church. No, this fruit must be developed. It is different from a spiritual gift too. A spiritual gift is given from God. Spiritual fruit is developed by God. And fruit is more important. Spiritual gifts is about talent. Spiritual fruit is about character. You might be able to sing like an angel but if your character is like that of a demon then your giftedness goes to waste.

For those of you who don't know who Mike Yaconelli was you can get a pretty good glimpse of the man just by taking a look at a sampling of his thoughts below:


I just want to be remembered as a person who loved God, who served others more than he served himself, who was trying to grow in maturity and stability.
- Mike Yaconelli

If I were to die today, I would be nervous about what people would say at my funeral. I would be happy if they said things like "He was a nice guy" or "He was occasionally decent" or "Mike wasn't as bad as a lot of people." Unfortunately, eulogies are delivered by people who know the deceased. I know what the consensus would be. "Mike was a mess."
- Mike Yaconelli

Jump first. Fear later.
- Mike Yaconelli

It's not about perfection; it's about our intimacy with God, or our connection, our relationship with God. Once we get through that, once we realize that we can be imperfect, flawed, broken; those kinds of things are the ingredients of spirituality.
- Mike Yaconelli

We'd like to have it all neat and orderly. We want to be able to measure it and control it, but the reality is that Jesus is a mystery. The Christian faith is a mystery. The disciples spent their entire time following him going, "Uhh, what the heck are you doing? We don't understand what you're doing and we don't know why you're doing it." And when he would explain why he was doing it, they still didn't get it.
- Mike Yaconelli

The truly holy people I've met in my life are really interesting people. They're a mix of the most incredible godliness and at the same time, the most unbelievable earthiness. I know a woman who curses like a sailor, but she's the most holy woman I know. She is! I'm not kidding. We've created this image of what holiness looks like that's just nonsense. Good holy people probably drink too much some times, and have colorful language, and there's plenty of room in the Bible to see people like that. We have to see life for what it is, entirely more complicated then simple. Spirituality is not simple; it's complicated. It gets messy sometimes.
- Mike Yaconelli

There are a whole lot of people who are so freakin' busy—they've so cluttered up their lives—they're at their wits' end. And if they'd only just stop for a minute, they could hear the God of the universe whisper to them, "I love you."
- Mike Yaconelli

I'm in awe of youth workers, and I think Jesus is, too. I just wish the Church felt the same.
- Mike Yaconelli

Christ never promised that Christianity would be exciting, adventurous, or radical. He simply said it was the truth.
- Mike Yaconelli

I am beginning to understand that faith is not the way around pain, it is the way through pain. Faith doesn't get rid of the opposition, it invites it over for dinner. Faith doesn't give you the winning point at the last second, it ties the game and sends you into overtime. Faith doesn't give you the solution, it forces you to find it.
- Mike Yaconelli

The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of the whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.
- Mike Yaconelli

We have a room here full of rag-tag, foolish, unsophisticated, unfinished, work-in-progress, weak, disrespected, ragamuffins, who have been called to work with a group of rag-tag, foolish, unsophisticated, unfinished, work-in-progress, wondering young people. What an honor. What a calling.
- Mike Yaconelli

Youth group should be an adventure, a cauldron of fire and passion, an uncontainable terrifying presence of the Holy Spirit overflowing into the souls of students resulting in a volatile desire for Jesus regardless of the chaos caused by following Him!
- Mike Yaconelli

I'm beginning to believe that if those who are called into youth ministry follow the lead of the One who called them, getting fired is inevitable. Why? Because, in general, the institutional church doesn't get it. The institutional church has become hopelessly corporate, hopelessly tangled in a web of secularism. Instead of the church being the Church, it has opted instead to be a corporation.
- Mike Yaconelli

"Real Christians do not condone unbiblical living!!!" And they would be correct. Christians do not condone unbiblical living, we redeem it. Youth ministry, also, is about redeeming more than it is condemning.
- Mike Yaconelli

A youth worker in our town was recently fired because he was reaching the "wrong kind of kid." I thought the wrong kind of kid was the right kind of kid. The elders insisted that youth ministry was not about bringing in the "riff raff" off the streets but working with the kids that were already Christians. I thought we were all riff raff.
- Mike Yaconelli

If I were to have a heart attack right at this moment, I hope I would have just enough air in my lungs and just enough strength in me to utter one last sentence as I fell to the floor: "What a ride!" My life has been up and down, careening left then right, full of mistakes and bad decisions, and if I died right now, even though I would love to live longer, I could say from the depths of my soul, "What a ride!"
- Mike Yaconelli

I want a lifetime of holy moments. Every day I want to be in dangerous proximity to Jesus. I long for a life that explodes with meaning and is filled with adventure, wonder, risk, and danger. I long for a faith that is gloriously treacherous. I want to be with Jesus, not knowing whether to cry or laugh.
- Mike Yaconelli

I want to be "dangerous" to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that is considered "dangerous" by our predictable and monotonous culture.
- Mike Yaconelli

The grace of God is dangerous. It's lavish, excessive, outrageous, and scandalous. God's grace is ridiculously inclusive. Apparently God doesn't care who He loves. He is not very careful about the people He calls His friends or the people He calls His church.
- Mike Yaconelli

Christians believe in life. We seek it, long for it, and weep when life is snuffed out. Our belief in life after death doesn't cancel our love of life before death. Death is never better than life. That's why Jesus wept at Lazarus' tomb and defied death by bringing Lazarus back to life again. Although the Christian recognizes that death is not the end, that by no means justifies the belief that life doesn't matter.
- Mike Yaconelli

For the Christian, there is no distinction between the sacred and secular. Everything a Christian does is an expression of his faith. He does not make choices based on the religious significance of the alternative. As a Christian he makes the choice that is a logical extension of the values he has derived from his faith…
- Mike Yaconelli

Peace describes a condition rather than a demeanor. Peace is the result of salvation, which means that man and God are no longer at war. Peace describes the state of man after conversion. He is at peace with God.
- Mike Yaconelli

We're attempting to convince the world how good Jesus is by how great we are. This is precisely how Madison Avenue sells toothpaste, automobiles, and underwear. People don't need any more images of success, wealth, and power; they're surrounded already. What they need are their sins forgiven. What they need is healing. What they need is love.
- Mike Yaconelli

It is time for us to reclaim the glory of the common, the power of the plain, the authority of the unpretentious. It is time for us to reclaim the radical consequence of the Gospel—which is that the weak, the broken, the fragmented, the suffering, and the non-experts are the authorities of the Church.
- Mike Yaconelli

Conversion does not get rid of the secret self; instead, Jesus becomes a friend to it. We can live fully and honestly in the presence of the real tension between both selves.
- Mike Yaconelli

The tragedy of modern faith is that we no longer are capable of being terrified. We aren't afraid of God, we aren't afraid of Jesus, we aren't afraid of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we have ended up with a need-centered gospel that attracts thousands...but transforms no one.
-Mike Yaconelli

We are afraid of unemployment, we are afraid of our cities, we are afraid of the collapse of our government, we are afraid of not being fulfilled, we are afraid of AIDS, but we are not afraid of God.
- Mike Yaconelli

When people look at the Church and see only impostors, they conclude that Jesus is an impostor. But when they see followers of Jesus who are real, they see a Jesus who is real.
- Mike Yaconelli

If you want to know more about Mike check this link out.