Monday, August 30, 2010

Part One: Are We Talking About the Same Person?

We have all seen it before. We will be watching some sitcom on TV. Two of the characters will have a complete conversation about two COMPLETELY different people. The comedic effect? Both characters think they are talking to about the same person. The conversation goes on to the point that your sides hurt from laughter. Finally, they realize that something isn't quite right. In unison they exclaim, "Are we talking about the same person?"

This past week an article written by John Blake from CNN was put up on their website and went all over internet in an instant. There is no question in my mind that it was the biggest piece written about the faith and beliefs of teenagers all year. Blake discussed a topic that has been the main point of discussion in nearly every Student Ministers' circle I am a part of. We are all talking about the growing reality that when we talk about God with students, we might not be talking about the same person. The same is true when we talk about living your faith in your everyday life. We keep asking the question, "Are we talking about the same thing?"

I have included some quotes from the article to hopefully get you interested in reading the whole article on CNN's website. I would love for you to take the time to read the article and post your thoughts on this blog. My next post or two will be my thoughts on this growing reality. As Christ followers we need to look at what is causing students to be 'pseudo' Christians, and what God is calling us to do in response. So go ahead and read the article and let me know your thoughts.

Quotes from CNN's article Almost Christian by John Blake
  • ...more American teenagers are embracing what she calls "moralistic therapeutic deism." Translation: It's a watered-down faith that portrays God as a "divine therapist" whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem.
  • (Kenda Creasy) Dean is a minister, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and the author of "Almost Christian," a new book that argues that many parents and pastors are unwittingly passing on this self-serving strain of Christianity.
  • The study, which included in-depth interviews with at least 3,300 American teenagers between 13 and 17, found that most American teens who called themselves Christian were indifferent and inarticulate about their faith.
  • Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good -- what the study's researchers called "moralistic therapeutic deism."
  • Dean, a United Methodist Church minister who says parents are the most important influence on their children's faith, places the ultimate blame for teens' religious apathy on adults.
  • "If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation," wrote Dean, a professor of youth and church culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.
  • She says parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Albert Sabin's Birthday

Albert was born on this date, in Poland, way back in 1906. He would later come to the US and discover a polio vaccine while working at Children's Hospital here in Cincinnati. The vaccine would go on to be used by 200 million people in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Polio had killed 58,000 Americans in 1952 and was a devastating disease. Sabin's vaccine would lead to polio being eradicated completely in the United States.

Sabin would go on to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan in 1986, which is the highest honor for a civilian to receive. Sabin refused to have his vaccine patented. He could have made countless riches off of the vaccine, but instead insisted that it be freely distributed to as many people as possible.

I don't think that I will ever create a vaccine that prevents disease. Although I do make a mean Strawberry milkshake. Albert Sabin was an incredibly gifted doctor. He used his talents to bless people and help them, not to get rich and retire young. Don't be confused and think that the American Dream is get rich and retire young. That dream ends with you feeling empty and unfulfilled. The challenge God has given us in this life is to use the talents He has given us to the best of our ability. We have been blessed with those talents to bless others and share God's goodness with the world. Don't forget that we have been blessed to bless others and not just enjoy it ourselves. You may not feel uniquely gifted to help others in any big way, but God has created us all differently for a purpose. Use your passions and abilities and through hard work you will find a way to bless those around you with what God's blessed you with.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive and inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24

Previous Blog Posts
Our God is Near, Our God is Here

Watching Game Film

The Common Man's Olympics (It's that time of year again, let's come up with some new events)

Monday, August 23, 2010

I love Disney Music

I have a huge admission to make. I am 24 years old and the radio station I listen to the most on my Pandora account is called Disney Movies. Go ahead and make fun of me for it, but on the last Student Ministry trip we went on my van spent at least 2 hours of the trip shouting out the words to songs from Aladdin, Tarzan, Mulan, Toy Story, the Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast just to name a few.

You can ask anyone else who works in the Family Ministry Department here at church too. I listen to Disney music probably at least once a week in my cubicle. Which means that everyone else in our little area has to listen to it too. Just to brighten everyone's Monday I thought I would pass this embarrassing truth on to all of you.

And hopefully, to get some conversation going, I am going to put up my list of top 5 favorite Disney Songs. You can let me know what songs I've left out or what your top 5 favorites are. Have a great Monday!

1. Hakuna Matata from the Lion King
2. You'll Be in My Heart from Tarzan
3. Prince Ali from Aladdin
4. Kiss the Girl from the Little Mermaid (I actually have never seen the movie though)
5. I'll Make a Man out of You from Mulan

Honorable Mentions: A Whole New World from Aladdin and I Just Can't Wait to Be King from the Lion King.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Battle of Shiloh

The word Shiloh is Hebrew. It means peace. You may recognize it as the name of the place where Israelites would come and worship at different points in the Old Testament. In those stories the Ark of the Covenant was even there. In the book of 1 Samuel, Samuel himself called the Israelite people there and told them what they needed to do to turn back to God.

The Battle of Shiloh didn't happen in Israel though. It happened in Tennessee in 1862. On April 5th, 6th, and 7th Confederate and Union forces clashed in what was, at that point, the costliest battle in American history. In fact, the over 23,000 casualties suffered in the altercation were more than all the American casualties suffered in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War combined. That's a lot of carnage. It was after this battle that Union General Ulysses S. Grant came to the somber realization that the Civil War would be a long, grueling, and costly war.

The ironic thing about the Battle of Shiloh is that it happened on a patch of land named Shiloh. A lot of blood was shed in a place that has a name that means peace. That's what typically happens with war. World War 2 ended up having devastating effects on the beautiful and historic towns throughout Europe. Those places were never intended for warfare. Still most of our altercations, in war or in life, don't happen on battlefields.

Our costliest arguments happen in living rooms, classrooms, offices, and ball fields. Most of the time they don't happen with people we would label as enemies either. In fact, its quite the opposite. The casualties end up being siblings, parents, coworkers, and friends. That's not what I find most ironic either. What seems even more ironic to me is that as the casualties pile up in our arguments and fights with those around us, we tend to forget what started everything in the first place.

Something sets us off and we start to harbor a grudge. Then we start holding onto other things that happen that cause us grief. Next thing you know we aren't fighting fair, and we are doing whatever we can to pour salt in the wound of our enemy. Even though we can't remember why they are our enemy to begin with.

Shiloh means peace. It's easy for hate to split people apart and make them forget. We are called to love, even in situations when it's the last action on our mind.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Love to Hate Michigan

I'm speaking this week at church as part of a series called, "6 Things I wish Jesus Never Said." This week's topic come from Luke 6 and Matthew 5. In both those passages Jesus tell us to love the people we love to hate. The phrase is actually, "Love Your Enemies." That is one of those phrases that gets tossed around like crazy. It's right up their with treat others like you want to be treated or tun the other cheek. We say things like that so much that I'm not sure if we even get what they mean anymore. Well we get what they mean, but those statements don't have as much impact as they did the first time we probably heard them. Because seriously, who loves the people that make life difficult?

If you have known me for more than 5 minutes you know I am a massive Ohio State Buckeye fan. If you know anything about Buckeye fans, then you know we HATE the Michigan Wolverines. So much so that whenever I travel into Michigan I wait to fill up my car until after I get back into Ohio. Sometimes I even question the eternal plight of fellow Christ followers who root for that awful team up North. Don't worry I don't say all of this to lead anybody to believe that we are called to love Michigan fans. I tell you all of this just so I could show you this awesome video that has a little fun with our 'love to hate' relationship with Michigan.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Last Day of this Year''s Isaiah 117 Challenge

Yesterday was a ton of fun. Our team that is building a deck totally hit their stride, and the Mvca football teams and two of our other groups knocked out a ton more work at the Mount Washington Cemetery. We also had one other group that helped at the East End Outreach Center and they did an awesome job too.

Afterwords, we all got to head over to the Robert's house and go swimming and eat some awesome food. When it finally came time to leave nobody wanted too. It was a blast. I think it was the perfect way to relax after a hard day's work.

Clayton, our Children's Minister, came and talked with us last night as well. He asked us what dream we were chasing. He wanted to know what excited us or what we were passionate about. The answers were pretty cool. The covered the whole spectrum from playing drums, having a bakery, knowing Jesus better, serving God each day, painting and a lot more. It gets me excited to think about the many ways God can use each of our talents and abilities for His glory.

Please don't forget to continue to pray for us, that we would finish strong today and continue to be safe.

Thanks to everyone who has been supporting this group in prayer. It has been an incredible time for us all. The only thing that would make it better is if everyone who has been praying for us could come out to the Community Picnic that we are throwing tonight at 6pm at the East End Community Garden. We would love to have you be there.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I117C: Day 2

Yesterday was one of the coolest days. Our groups headed out to two different work sites. One was to work on someone's house and the other work site was Mount Washington Cemetery. Both of our groups jumped right in got sweaty and worked really hard.

Julie, the caretaker for the cemetery, called me at the end of the day to say how impressed and blessed she was by our students. Not only that, but at both sites our students got to meet and get to know people from the community. They have been inviting people left and right to our Community Picnic on Wednesday. Keep praying for our students and leaders that God gives us energy to be working for His Kingdom and that he keeps us safe.

We also did something really neat in the evening too. We had just gotten back and cleaned up from the work site, and we got everyone together. We spent just a few minutes about how everybody's biggest need is Jesus, and how finding ways to show Jesus' love to people is sometimes easier than others. At the end of that group discussion we surprised the students by telling them that for the next part of the evening we were going to head out into the community and just find ways to show God's love to people.

God did some pretty cool things during that time too. One group visited people in the hospital to give out ballons and pray with patients. Another group made dinner for one of their neighbors. A couple of other groups handed out Gatorade and water in different parks. One of those groups stumbled upon a young soccer team who didn't have a snack for after the game. It was perfect! One group headed out to help get somebody some groceries. When they arrived at their place the person wasn;t home. Instead of giving up they prayed that God would lead them. As it turns out the guy they were looking for was real close by and had a flat tire! They changed it and gave him his groceries. How cool!

To celebrate we all met up afterwords to swap stories at Skyline. One of our groups that had served at Outreach that evening invited the Outreach volunteers. The servers at Skyline did great! We loved it because we practically took over Skyline and all we were talking about was the cool stuff God had let us be a part of that evening.

Thanks everyone for the prayers. Please keep them up. Today the MVCA Football team is coming out to help us at one of our worksites. Another one of our groups is still working on finishing a deck for a couple. Pray that God keeps us all safe, but also that we get opportunities to have conversations with people in the community. We want a chance to hear their story and share with them how God's story has changed our lives in so many ways. Thanks!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Isaiah 117 Challenge Update

We have a great group of students this year for the Isaiah 117 Challenge. Yesterday they all arrived and we spent the evening hanging out and getting to know everybody. Jamie Ward came in for a few hours last night to share with us what it means to be a servant in God's Kingdom. All in all it was a great first day. Everyone is in their sleeping bag snoring away right now, but in just a couple of hours they will be out into the community working hard.

Jamie walked us through the first chapter of the book of Isaiah. We learned how the people of Israel had forgotten about the God who had created them. Everything around them was a mess, and they were just pretending like it wasn't. Jamie made a great comparison and said if Isaiah chapter 1 had been written today to us it would say, "You all come to church every week and pretend like everything is fine. You do a great job doing church, but you are missing me (God) in this whole thing, and you aren't helping anybody around you!" Pretty much the Israelites were being Sunday Christians. The type of people who come on Sundays, but thats the only time they ever think about God. That's a really easy trap to fall into, and most of us are guilty of it at times. Jamie really challenged us with verse 17 from Isaiah chapter 1. It reads,
"17 learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow."
The challenge of that verse is that it needs to be a way of life not a one time act.

I will try to keep everyone up to date on our adventures. I am so excited at what God is going to do this week. Please be praying for our team as we will be in the sun most of the day. Also be praying for us that we would truly learn what it means to be Kingdom Workers for God and not just Sunday Christians who ignore God 6 days a week. We are going to really try to grow and get beyond ourselves this week. Join us in our challenge and cover us in prayer. Thanks!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Morning Check-In

Reds vs Cards Series
This Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the 1st place Reds will be facing their Division rivals the Cardinals. I fell in love with baseball watching the Reds win the 1990 World Series as a kid. I remember during the Strike Shortened Season that the Reds and the Astros kept going back and forth at the top of the division. It was fun to watch. This year the Reds and the Cards are doing the same thing. For the first time in my life I have gotten to see the Reds in GABP while they were in first place, and that atmosphere is electric! I am so excited and nervous about this series. Hopefully the Reds can take 2 out of 3 games.

Samson and Focus
This summer our High School Guys Sunday School Class has been going through the book of Judges. Samson's story starts off in Judges 13. People here the name Samson and they think about his strength, but we spent most of our time talking about his focus (or the lack thereof). We dug into the first half of his story.

Samson's parents hadn't been able to have children before him. The Angel of the Lord appeared to them and let them know that their child would have a specific purpose in life. The term the Bible uses for this is Nazarite. To be a Nazarite would mean that you would abstain from alcohol, cutting your hair, and from being in the near vicinity from corpses of any kind. To take the Nazarite vow was to commit yourself to a specific purpose and setting yourself aside.

The interesting thing about Samson is that he didn't do to good of a job with his whole Nazarite Vow thing. He lacked the focus to accomplish the job at hand. It makes you wonder what he could have accomplished as Israel's leader if he had made better decisions. If you read his story though he comes across as a brash, smug young man who was pretty stuck on himself. Not only that he tended to fly off the handle pretty easily. His fellow Isrealites didn't even support him, in fact they turned him over to their enemies at one point.

Accomplishing any goal takes focus and sacrifice. You have to be willing to give up things that you enjoy that could get in your way. You can see what your priorities are in life by looking at what you sacrifice the most for. Whatever that is, it is the thing that you are most focused on, and chances are the thing you will obtain or achieve during your life.

Indoor Soccer
A friend of mine invited me to fill in for someone on his indoor soccer team last night. I told him I could help out, but that I hadn't played soccer since elementary school. It was a lot of fun too. I will admit that the only shot I got I almost whiffed on, but I also did some stuff right (I got to head a ball too which made me feel pretty legit). Chances are though I will never get invited back because of my newb status. We did however beat the top team in the Rec League.

Isaiah 117 Challenge
It is hard to believe it, but the summer is nearly over and that also means that it is almost time for the Isaiah 117 Challenge. In case you haven't heard me say it before, the I117C is one of my favorite parts of the summer. It is such a relational service project. I love getting to know the new students and watch our students step up as leaders and kingdom workers. The I117C starts this Sunday, August 15th and goes all the way to Wednesday, August 18th. We end it with a community picnic too and everybody is invited. This year's picnic will be at 6:00pm on Wednesday, August 18th at the East End Community Garden at the intersection of Strader and Wool Street. The more the merrier so be sure to be there!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Interns Strike Back

This summer at Parkside we have had two High School interns roaming our halls and offices. They have been everywhere from Chicago to pick up furniture, New York for a mission trip, all the way down to Tennessee for a conference. They have led our staff in devotions, accompanied us on hospital calls, and lots of other things.

Jess and Brian have both done a great job this summer. They have been willing to do whatever task is at hand, and have had a good attitude about it even when it is something that stretches them. They really have gotten a chance to see the full spectrum of ministry here at Parkside. They have even gotten to see a side of our ministry staff that few get to. That side is the side that got most of us detention when we were in High School. I have included pictures below for your enjoyment. This was when we taught Brian and Jess how to seran wrap a car. The car belongs to our Children's Minister Clayton. We didn't want anything to happen to it or scratch it so we thought a few protective layers of seran wrap would be good.

Jess and Brian Admiring their handywork.

Jess putting the finishing touches on the job.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Timothy's Mentors

Last week at CIY Move one of the things they focused on was finding a spiritual mentor. The talked about both sides of that relationship. Specifically, how God has called all of us to be investing in someone's faith, and having someone else invest in us spiritually as a mentor. It is a sharpening process that turns us into disciples who can actually make other disciples (which is what we are all called to do).

One of the great examples of this is Paul and Timothy's mentoring relationship. Its awesome that we have 1 and 2 Timothy to look and see how Paul encouraged and helped Timothy grow as a servant of God. If you haven't taken a look at those two New Testament letters, take some time this week to check them out because it will begin to paint a picture of what mentoring could look like for you.

The thing I would like to point out to you is something that was recently pointed out to me. Paul was not Timothy's only mentor. In fact the way that Paul describes it, he was at least 3rd in line in the mentoring process. Check out 2 Timothy 1:5. It says, "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." That is Paul talking there about the foundation of sincere faith that has been developed in Timothy by his mom and grandmother. They played the active role of mentors in Timothy's life.

I was talking about this with a student the other day, and I mentioned that even though it describes two family members being pivotal in his faith development, his dad didn't play a part in that. Acts 16:3 tells us that Tim's dad was a Greek. That doesn't give us the whole picture of Tim's family, but it lets us know that everything wasn't roses for Timothy. He didn't come from the perfect situation. However he did have family members who made sure to take time to pour into him. His grandmother and mother played an important role in shaping Timothy into the Kingdom Worker that he became.

Paul's mentoring relationship with Timothy was still an important one. Timothy was able to watch and learn as he followed Paul around. He would have gotten the chance to see how Paul spent his free time, and the things that Paul valued, which today we can see in all the letters that Paul wrote in the New Testament. Timothy would have gotten the chance to grow and learn through trial and error about sharing the story of Jesus. Being able to learn life alongside someone else is an amazing opportunity.

What I don't want you to miss though is the role that Timothy's family, even though it was far from perfect, played in his spiritual development. They placed the foundation of Christ in Timothy's life. God has positioned parents and family members in a place where they are uniquely gifted to do that best. Deuteronomy 4:9 is just one example in the Bible where God instructs parents to teach their children about God and His word so that they will be raised up in the way they should go. We all need spiritual mentors in our lives, and every child needs family members to be those mentors.