Do You Know?

I read an article the other day titled An Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy. The surprising part was it was not from unbelievers, it was in the group of people who claim to be Christians. The article is here. It's not too long, I suggest you take 2 minutes and check it out.

It's been obvious for a long time that society in general is less Christian-oriented. So it's not too surprising to hear about people who grew up without attending to church to be unsure what the Bible says. There are also a lot of misconceptions in comic strips and articles on the web about what Bible does and does not say. I've seen situations where something about the Bible was said in complete and total sarcasm and satire, but people have taken it for the gospel truth.  That leads to some really unique beliefs when you think the Bible says the exact opposite of what it actually says.

We've relegated groups of people to take care of things in our lives. Most of us don't scour the Internet for independent news sources; we flick on the TV and watch the station of choice. Most of us don't watch every game in our sport of choice; we rely on ESPN to summarize the day in sports for us. Many of us don't even like to read books anymore; we'll wait for the movie to come out. So it's not surprising that many of us don't read the Bible; we rely on the pastor to find the important parts and let us know about it. It's not a good way to be knowledgeable about the source. I have a pretty good pastor and I like his sermons, yet I would have a hard time telling you what he preached about 3 or 4 weeks ago. But I still can remember books I've read years ago. When you've discovered the knowledge yourself, it sticks in your brain better.

We also don't read the Book anymore, we simply search it. It's so much easier to just type a key word into our fav Bible app and be given a whole bunch of texts on the subject than it is to actually read the book and remember what it says. It's much harder to understand the context and determine how to apply the knowledge to our immediate situation when you are looking at a list of random Bible texts that match a key word. So we often take individual texts out of context because it popped up on our Bible app, it's God's word, so I must be using it correctly. I'm quite sure that's not the best way to do it.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16
Hopefully we aren't just relying on the pastor to give us our weekly dose of the Bible, but we are reading it and studying it for ourselves. 

Do you know what God's word says? That's worth pondering about...


There is no iTeam

As you are probably quite aware, Steve Jobs passed away. The news of his passing has been everywhere. Steve brought us many innovations through the years. Not just mundane products and innovations, he brought us products and innovations that people loved a great deal. So naturally people have been commenting on his passing.

One thing I can’t help but notice is that everyone attributes every innovation from Apple to Steve Jobs. I admit that I do not know exactly how they dream up and design new products at Apple. But I’m pretty sure Steve didn’t design every circuit, he didn’t write every line of code, he didn’t design every cool looking case. He had help. Probably lots of help from teams of committed engineers. Steve seemed to be the vision caster, but those products probably wouldn’t have come to be if there wasn’t a team of people working on them. But that team largely gets ignored. Lost in the shadow cast by Steve Jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against Steve Jobs. He did help shape technology over the past several decades. But if it was all Steve, Apple is in trouble now. If it was a team, then they are much more likely to be able to continue to innovate and bring cool products to the market.

Though one may be overpowered,
   two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (New International Version)

Are you a one man (or woman) show? Or are you building a team? That’s worth pondering about…


But, I don’t want to….

Most of us have had to go to a function that we didn't want to attend. Maybe it was a work thing that we didn't feel like being at. Maybe it was some family event, like your spoiled nephew’s or niece’s birthday. Maybe it was an event with people you don’t even know, like when your spouse needs to go to a wedding for one of their friends and you won’t know anyone there. You start dreading going. Your mind starts telling you how much you’re going to hate the event. How boring it’s going to be. How much you’d rather be doing something else. It’s just like a big, dark cloud on that date. You might even wake up in a bad mood because it’s the day of the [insert ominous music here] dreaded event.

Usually when this happens to me, the event is not nearly as bad as I imagined it would be. You might end up at the good table with some friendly people and actually have a good time. Who would have thought that was possible? Occasionally, the event is as bad as you thought it would be – but in my experience, it’s usually not. We build up the possible things that could go wrong that we won’t like and make it much worse in our minds than it really is.

We do this with more than just work functions, family get-togethers and weddings. Have you ever dreaded going to the doctor or the dentist? I’m sure we’ve all looked forward to cleaning out the garage or that junk room/closet. Sometimes even the mundane chores like doing the dishes or getting your car smogged can be an exercise in procrastination.

I suspect there are many reasons for why we do this. There’s probably nearly as many reasons as there are people. But I wonder how much easier our lives would be if didn’t make mountains out of molehills. What if we didn’t dread going to these events so much? What if we tried to look forward to these things? What if they were opportunities to have some fun instead of something to dread? What if they were opportunities to make a new friend instead of something to endure? What if they were opportunities to show a loving and kind spirit instead of getting into the usual family argument? What if they were an opportunity to show God’s love? I think that would change a lot of things. It would probably make our lives a quite a bit easier. We’d probably be a bit closer to the kind of attitude Jesus would have. And we might even help bring someone to Jesus.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 (NIV)
Can you change the way you think about things you don’t want to do? That’s worth pondering about….


Just for Fun

This guy is pretty talented.


Perspective Matters

Thanks Mom and Dad!
I was at a high school graduation today. That in itself is not all that interesting.  There’s an almost uncountable number of graduations going on this time year.  The graduation I attended was for a smaller, Christian school. If you never been to a graduation at one, it’s quite a different experience than the megalopolis high school graduation. The smaller school is able to do something things that just aren't possible when hundreds and hundreds of students are graduating.

One part of these smaller graduations I like is when the students have a moment to thank their parents. Today this was done via pre-recorded video messages. Some of the students are heartfelt in their thanks and some are humorous. But what is constant in nearly all of them is theme of “how far we’ve come.” The graduates talk about “having made it all this way,” or “you’ve really supported me in this long journey,” or some such statement. Those comments always make me smile.

I’m sure to the 18 year old graduate, it does seem like a long journey to graduation. After all, it’s been their whole life.  However, to those of us who are a little, well, ummm, a little more seasoned - 18 years just doesn’t seem like that long of a journey. Perspective matters. Those 'long' 18 years don't seem so long when you are two or three times older than that. I'm sure the grandparents in the audience really understand that irony.

It made me think about how God must view my few short years. I wonder if he smiles just a little bit when I remind him how long I’ve been waiting for something. How short my few years must seem in compared to all eternity.  But I think the real issue is not for God to understand my impatience and my short time line view, but for me to try to grasp God’s timing.

Are you stuck on your short time span? Or are you considering God’s much longer time span? That’s worth pondering about. 

And congratulations to the class of 2011. May God bless and direct your paths.


That Doesn’t Look Right to Me!

Have you ever noticed when things just seem wrong? Maybe it’s something that you’re not very knowledgeable about, but it still doesn’t ‘look right’ too you. Recently I noticed a transition ramp between two freeways. This ramp takes you from a lower freeway up to the freeway that is crossing over the first one. If you are local in So Cal, it’s the 605 S to the 91 W. This particular transition ramp is on top of a large berm of dirt to help it rise to the higher 91 freeway. However, the drop off is very steep, nearly vertical.

What’s weird about this whole thing is, there is a guardrail on the inside of the turn on the transition ramp, but not the outside of the turn. That just doesn’t seem right to me. I’m not an expert on such things, but I’ve never seen a car miss a turn because they turned too sharply. Generally they are going too fast and go off the outside edge of the turn. If it’s raining and slippery, the car isn’t going to slide off the inside of the turn (this transition ramp has nearly no banking), the car is going to slide off the outside of the turn, where there is no guardrail. It just doesn’t seem right to me.

I guess I’m supposed to trust Cal Trans and their experts that they know what they are doing and a guardrail is not need in that spot. But that’s kind of tough to do. Because right where this transition ramp joins the 91 freeway, I’ve only got a few car lengths to merge through 5 lanes of traffic to make it to the carpool lane. That monster merge turns out to be fairly challenging most days. If the people designing this couldn’t see that this arrangement was going to make those merges really hard and move the carpool entrance a few feet further down the freeway – how am I supposed to trust them that they know where a guardrail should be? You’ve got to be able to handle the small things (where the carpool entrance should be) before I’ll trust you with the big things (safety).

I’ve seen this same principle at work in spiritual matters. Someone reads a story about having strong faith and they want a deep faith like that too. So they attempt to trust God with something. Generally with something big and heavy. And if things don’t turn out just exactly like they wanted, their faith in God is shattered. But it was a fragile faith to begin with. Because it was not grounded in a lot of small things, but perched on top of one big thing. That just doesn’t seem right to me. A strong, dynamic faith is grounded in a ponderance of small, little things. That’s what makes it strong, many data points. Consider the example Jesus used to demonstrate faithfulness.
You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! Matthew 25:21 (NIV)

How is your faith? Is it grounded in the little things? Or just balanced, precariously, on one big thing?

That’s worth pondering about.


3 Reasons Why Friday is the Best Day of the Week

I love Fridays. That's not unusual. Nearly everyone who works in an office all week long loves Friday. It's the end of the work week. The beginning of the weekend. Time for some R and R. T.G.I.F. We all know the drill about Fridays. 

I certainly like those things about Fridays too. But that's not the real reason I love Friday. I really love Friday because on nearly every Friday night of the year, I get together with 8 of my friends for band practice. Yup, that's right, I absolutely love band practice. Weird, huh? This particular band practice is for the worship team at our church on Saturday mornings. Even when the week has been long and tiring, I look forward to band practice.  It's rejuvenating. It's fun. It restores me. It's hard to describe why all these things are true. It's many, many reasons and factors, but I'll keep it to just 3 for now.

1. I love music. I always have and suspect I always will. Music is unique in the way it works within us. Words and logic are useful in expressing ideas. Pictures are worth a thousand words. But music trumps them all. It has the ability make us feel. Music has the unique ability to lift my spirits without all the side effects of caffeine or an energy drink. I could go on and on about why I love music and all its endearing qualities. So I guess I'll just leave it at, I really love music. Getting together on Friday evening with my friends to make some music is one of the highlights of the week. Sometimes I enjoy practice more than playing at church. At practice there's no pressure and we have a lot of fun. We try different things, mess around. It's great. Playing for the worship service is wonderful, but it's more structured, and not quite as freeing as just playing at practice.

2. I love my band mates. Seriously. The folks in our praise band at church are great people. I like spending time with them. It's fun. It's uplifting. We don't have a lot of problems with attitudes or whatever. If you've ever been in a small group and you've enjoyed the fellowship, then you know what I'm talking about. Some of the people in the group I've known for many years and some of the people I've only known a few years. Yet, we all get along like we've been friends for decades. I look forward to spending time with these people. It makes ministry fun when you are serving with people you like.

3. I love God. That's easy to say, or put on a t-shirt or bumper sticker. But sometimes it's pretty hard to figure out what we are supposed to do to show that we love God. We try all kinds of things, like good works, Bible reading, study time, prayer, the list is long of things we try to do to show our love. These things can be good and worthy. But for me, music is such a simple way to show how much I love God. I sing his praise. Not only do I sing, but I encourage others to sing it too.  Music helps open our hearts to God. It prepares us as we enter into his presence. Yes, all the parts of a worship service are important. The Bible readings, the prayers, the sermon, the giving, it all works together. But I just can't imagine a worship being effective without music. I know it wouldn't work for me. Music begins and ends the service. It's the bookends that hold the whole thing together.

Do you look forward to the time when you are serving in your ministry? If not, why not? Do you love what you're doing for God? Do you love the people you are serving with?  If the answer is no, how are you going to change that?

That's worth pondering about.