10/6/11

Steve Jobs and King Solomon

Here is an article of the 20 most memorable quotes from Steve Jobs, the recently deceased co-founder of the Apple empire.

Unless you live under a rock, you have been impacted by Steve's innovations in the worlds of the personal computer (Apple Macintosh), music (iTunes and iPod), the phone (iPhone), and personal technology (iPad).

Upon announcement of his death, Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere lit up as folks remembered his life and accomplishments. People respond to famous deaths in various ways, which I find very intriguing. Our own personalities are the focus of our comments, rather than the sentiments of the deceased. Concerning Steve, I read everything from commentary on the horrors of capitalism to the value of adoption. (I even shared my own opinions on the value of life, noting that his adoption may not have occurred in lieu of the more "popular" abortion options had he been born a few decades later than he was. What would the world have been like with no Steve Jobs?)

But two of Steve's quotes have really stuck with me. He has inspired me, even in death. Here's one from his Stanford University commencement speech in 2005:
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external circumstances, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. ... Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
Here is an excellent example of agreeing with someone's vision of reality while disagreeing with their conclusions. Death shaves away all the excess. Our culture will laden you with the unnecessary, but the certainty of death puts all of those things in proper perspective. Hear the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 5:15:

The question for you and me is this: Do we make decisions as if we were going to die today? If we do not, why don't we? Does it really matter if all we did today was clock in and earn a paycheck? The wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes is echoed in Steve's comments. Solomon comments on many things that are useless, a "chasing after the wind." Solomon reaches a different conclusion from Steve. Steve Jobs says to a group of young college graduates to follow their hearts. Solomon says to us to "fear God and keep his commandments." I personally tend to take Solomon's advice over Steve's.

Steve reminds us of this:
Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. ... Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful... that's what matters to me.
I agree. The riches of this world are utterly useless to us as human beings. I too want to go to bed knowing I did a God-thing that was something wonderful. God knows what His plan for us is - and it is epic. "For I know the plans I have for you... to give you a future and a hope." The Christian has hope. This is no small thing. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 tells us that death is nothing to fear. It tells us where our hope is:
And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don't want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus. And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence-we have the Master's word on it-that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they'll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God's trumpet blast! He'll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise-they'll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we'll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.
I want to serve Christ and go to bed at night saying I have done something wonderful. Thank you, Steve Jobs, for reminding me of that.

8/26/11

A college football player gets it right

I had never before heard of Kirk Cousins, the quarterback for Michigan State, but I am glad I have now heard of him. He gets it precisely right. "To whom much is given, much is required."

He delivers a speech at this link:
http://bit.ly/qZpbPS

It is worth every moment of your time. I am encouraged to hear young men like him be the leaders God enabled them to be!

4/29/11

Church attendance is easy... and hard

God blew me away recently (in several ways, but I will only bore you with one today). After our church's recent excellent Easter worship, I ran across a news article with some disturbing and yet not surprising statistics. Apparently, 9 out of 10 American homes have a Bible in them. However, only 16 percent of American churchgoers read the Bible daily and 25 percent of churchgoers don't read the Bible at all.

The mental picture of the dusty Bible on the shelves of most American homes is not surprising in the least to me. It is, however, a grave concern of mine. It is most especially disconcerting when I notice that elsewhere on planet Earth, believers are using their Bible to stand up for their right to worship. Hundreds of believers were arrested in China on Easter Sunday (this link is working as of 04/29/2011)during a government crackdown on an unregistered church. The pastor's response is straight from God's Word. Read this for yourself, and be amazed. While we in the Bible belt attend church most frequently when we feel the pressure to do so from society or our spouse or our kid, we more often than not feel like staying home. Perhaps now that a tornado has demolished my community's park, some families will feel the freedom to worship for a Sunday or two at the altar of the Lord instead of at the baseball diamond.

Please don't misunderstand me. God does not hate baseball, and neither do I. And the tornado that struck here on April 27 was a tragedy, not a good thing. But I have seen with my own eyes in Burkina Faso, Africa, believers who walk for miles every week to worship with their brothers and sisters. When I see American apathy about church attendance (which is not the equivalent of worship), I see two perspectives that are way too drastically different. One perspective desires to worship because it is needed and commanded. The other desires to attend church because it is enjoyable and/or convenient and/or socially required.

Even in the midst of this discrepancy, there is hope for the American church. On Good Friday, 50,000 people gathered via simulcast to hear Bible teaching for six hours straight. We believers are hungry for the Word, so why don't we feed ourselves? Possibly because it is easier to let someone else feed us.

May we, brothers and sisters, pray to "hunger and thirst for righteousness" and find ourselves feasting on everything that comes from the mouth of God through His Word. Pick up that Bible, dust it off, and read it. Turn off the TV and read it. But be careful, it may change you!

4/20/11

Easter is Easy... and Hard



Read Matthew chapter 16, starting in verse 13 and going through the rest of the chapter. Go ahead and read it. I'll wait.

No really. Read it real quick. Take your time. I'll be here when you get done.

You back yet? You took a little while! But that's okay.

Jesus is trying to explain to his precious followers that he is going to have to march into Jerusalem and get murdered. Peter is not okay with this, and Jesus has some strong words to say to him. "There is a plan of God Himself at work here, and you had better not get in the way, Peter." And then he tells Peter, "You, too, will have to throw yourself away and pick up your electric chair and come on if you want to follow me."

Whoa. Those are such strong words. Christians quote this verse of denying self and picking up a cross frequently without thinking about what it means.

See, saying "deny yourself" is easy. But ignoring what you want is hard. Saying "pick up your cross" is easy. Suffering torture for Jesus is hard. Saying "follow Jesus" is easy. But doing everything in your life not for others nor for yourself but for Jesus is hard.

Going to church doesn't cost us much, although some complain about the sermon being too long or missing something on TV to be there or not enjoying it. That's not really suffering for Jesus, is it? Church attendance is not "picking up your cross."

During the Easter season, spend some time thinking about what Jesus sacrificed for us. And then consider sacrificing some of your things and money and vacation time and activities away from yourself. Give them instead to God and His big plan.

Deny yourself. Suffer torture. Follow Him. As crazy as that sounds, if you try it, I'm pretty certain you won't regret it! How could I know that? Because Jesus said "Whoever throws away their life for me finds a better one that I want to give them." If you don't believe me, re-read Matthew 16:25 for yourself. And think about doing it. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

4/3/11

Geraldine Tucker



The following is a tribute to one of the greatest women I have ever known - my mamaw, Geraldine Tucker.

She went home to be with the Lord on Sunday evening, April 3, 2011. She was 83 years old. But that is not why she was great.

The world will not do much more than blink with her passing. The world will stop spinning for some of us for a time, but planet earth will continue moving around us at lightning speeds, and eventually we will go back to our lives with only memories left. She gave us wonderful memories. But those are not why she was great.

She married Papaw in 1943, and a day or two later, he left with his Army unit for training, and for eventual deployment for Normandy. By the time he had returned, she had purchased for them a house and 50 acres. They built a life together, and raised a large family. They worked so very hard, but her hard work is not why she was great.

She fulfilled God's purpose for her here on Earth. He tasked her with creating and raising a family in the Lord, along with Papaw, who was a pastor, and she did just that. That is why she was great. How do I know this was her task? Because I see what God has done through her. I knew how proud she was of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And I know that one of the things that she was most proud of was how God has worked in the lives of so many of her family. There are three of us kids and grandkids who have been called by God to serve Him with our entire lives. There are at least six or more kids and grandkids who serve God with all that they are as deacons and faithful servants. And there are so many others - family and not - who love Jesus, almost directly because of Mamaw's influence. She was great because she left a legacy.

That inspires me. I also long to leave a legacy. How could I do that? What trick is there for that? Mamaw's life offers an example or two.

Prayer.
How else do we fall in love with our Maker? How else do we lean on His help? Who else controls all things? Prayer is more discussed than done. Lord, teach me to step off the bullet train of life and pray. To "be still, and know that [you are] God." Mamaw did this better than anyone I know. I, too, will learn from you, Mamaw, as I pray for those of us who will continue on down here without your prayers.

Humility.
How important am I really? How much newspaper or internet space will be dedicated to a simple woman who lived a simple life in rural Mississippi? Does it matter if it is not as much space for Mamaw as I think it should be? Doesn't her influence on me and countless others mean that she made a huge difference, no matter whether anyone hears about it or not? Mamaw understood better than so many others that she was nothing special, but that Jesus was!

Unshakeable faith.
Mamaw and Papaw never had much money. But that didn't matter. They moved around a lot as Papaw would preach at various churches in central Mississippi. (I was honored to be able to open the Word from the same pulpit he had preached from years earlier, from notes that were written with his hand.) What mattered most in the times of change or times of need? Jesus. What did Mamaw need more than any other thing in her life? Jesus. What consumed her devotion more than even her precious family? Jesus. In good times and bad, who did she depend upon completely? Jesus. What message did she insist I pass on to the entire family last Christmas? To be right with Jesus. Are we seeing a pattern here?

So I leave you with a humble, prayerful woman of faith's simple message to you, no matter if you knew her or not. It is found in 2 Corinthians 5:20. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

She would want you to know that about her. That she was God's ambassador to you. So come back to God. The parable of the prodigal son teaches that Jesus is just waiting to welcome you back home with open arms. Come back. Leave your selfishness and come back home.

She is at home now. And her home was not the house that she has been physically unable to live in recently anyway. She belonged to the kingdom of God, as a child of the King. And she wants you to come to join her there one day. Come back to God. Come back home.

Thank you, Mamaw. I love you.

3/10/11

Lent for a Baptist?




Before you read anything, watch the embedded youtube video of "The Skinny on Fasting." Hilarious stuff!

I hear so many of my Baptist brothers express confusion when I talk about giving something up for Lent. "Why? You're not Catholic!" But here's the skinny -- I believe that we Baptists aren't fasting enough. And isn't forty days of fasting biblical? Jesus fasted for forty days immediately following his baptism, and I think the Lenten tradition of giving up something in order to give more of me to my Jesus is such a fantastic idea.

But what should I give up? I am not going to tell you what I decided to quit doing. I don't want you to do the same thing I did. I want you to consider this idea for yourself, and find that thing standing between you and God and remove it, not merely for forty days but also perhaps for good!

But it is not merely enough to quit doing something for a period of time. That is not fasting. Fasting is the denial of something in order to spend more time with or be more focused on the object of our affection -- Jesus.

You may discover what I have already have: that you never know how strong a hold something has on your mind/heart/soul until you get rid of it. What about you? Will you consider releasing something from the time you read this until we celebrate our Savior at Easter?

2/8/11

Think Orange... for FREE










http://ht.ly/3RwiA

The above link is a blog from a friend/fellow youth guy on his excitement about Think Orange for his ministry. Two observations.

First, you could be a part of the Think Orange live webcast on Tuesday, February 15. The times are as follows for us in Central Standard Time:
12:00pm - Session 1
1:15pm - Session 2
2:45pm - Session 3
4:00pm - Done!
I will definitely be watching this at FBC Philly if anyone (church leader / youth worker / involved parent) wants to join me!

Second, we (the Student Ministry Team) at First Baptist have read Think Orange and are praying and talking through what that looks like in our context here. But I think that small towns and small churches (which make up approximately 75% of the Southern Baptist Convention) already do family-friendly ministry better than larger churches in some ways. Our events involve smaller numbers of people, so we combine several age groups for several things. Parents in small towns and small churches already have an informal network in place as they help each other with parenting. (Ask any teen how hard it is to get away with something here. Mom finds out about it before the student even gets HOME!) The major puzzle piece that seems to be missing here right now (and this is what we seek to remedy) is that parents always are looking for help as to what kinds of things they can do to guide their children and teenagers spiritually. Some need prodding from Deuteronomy 6 to realize that the spiritual growth of their student is not a church leader's job, but theirs. And some churches need prodding to see parents not as incapable of spiritual leadership but as spiritual partners.

This is what Think Orange is all about.

The home is a heart. It is red. It is where children and adolescents are nurtured.

The church is a lightbulb. It is yellow. It is the body of Christ, where God molds His children of all ages into faithful followers.

But to create disciples of Christ from the next generations, we don't need just yellow. We don't need only red. We need to THINK ORANGE!

We are praying that God guides us in the details of how to follow Him as we, too, seek to be orange.

1/18/11

I know you are but what am I?

There is an excellent article at by Jay Higham on how NOT to look at what other youth groups are doing. Take a second to read that article and come right back.

Are you back? Great!

I think most of us in youth ministry have some sense that we don't need to compare ourselves to each other. I think the problem in my own soul is that I subconsciously am doing it much more than I admit. I have to catch myself doing it in order to stop doing it. There are a few things that help me in concrete ways to bloom where I am planted rather than admire grass that appears to be greener.

1. My God-moments
I remember those late night one-on-one conversations with students that other youth guys have NOT had with our students. The other youth guy at Supah Kewl Church of Awesomeness doesn't know that the kid I had lunch with the other day wants to be in a job profession that his dad thinks is ridiculous. And he also hasn't listened to the sweetest lady in the world talk to him about her husband who recently passed away and confess that it has not really sunk in yet.

2. My God-given personality
I did a quick talk for a school club recently, and had a blast. It went great (as far as I know), and the Youth Pastor of the Year didn't do that. The students I share life with know me and will continue to get to know me, and if they think I'm cool, then who cares if anyone else does?

3. My God-given task
God brings us very specifically to the things that He has put before us. He did not bring someone else to our own version of Queen Esther's "such a time as this." Everything God has done in my life has brought me to this moment, and I need to dig my heels in, and point myself and the others God has put with me to the King and all of His glory! His face should be the one I worry about. I ignore the faces of other folks enough to picture the only Face that truly matters. Because no one else will have the authority to say what the Righteous Judge will tell me on Judgment Day. And it will not make a difference whether my brothers and sisters in Christ smile upon my efforts to serve Jesus. If He smiles at me, then nothing else matters!

1/13/11

One Thing

I was in Genesis 2 this morning, and was struck with a new thought. (Actually, I was struck with three thoughts, but I'll only mention one here.) In Genesis 2:17, God says to Adam, "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Now, I don't know about you, but I have always been VERY curious what in the world was so different about this one tree. And why is knowing right from wrong a bad thing for Adam, and later Eve?

And it struck me this morning -- there should only be ONE thing that consumes our life. Adam and Eve walked with God in Eden and talked to Him face to face. The only things on their mind and heart were the tasks God had given, the things God had made, their spouse that God had provided, and conversations with God Himself. There was no wrong. There was only God.

But knowing right from wrong introduced a second option. Satan, as a serpent, told Eve that it would make her like God. But he had to twist the truth to say such a thing, because this new thing called "evil" would give mankind forevermore a choice.

As a result, we Christians find ourselves today trying to focus on God alone. We are trying to put away our selfish desires, we are trying to pray to Him more, we are trying to please Him, even though we have never talked to Him face to face. And we find it so very difficult to do everything as if we were doing it for Him.

Why? Because there is a new way -- our way. Before, there was only God. Now we need His help to get over ourselves in order to go His way. Things were much simpler when there was only one way. At least there is comfort in our future! One day there will only be ONE who matters, and it will not be any of us! Just as in glorious Eden, in the new heaven and new earth we will spend all our worship and time on the ONE who is the one way!