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What are you worth?

Earlier this week Chris and I were talking to a friend who was hesitant to help out with the youth group because of his age.  At a ripe, old fifty-six years, he believed (and may still) that he had lost relevance with teenagers.  A lengthy discussion ensued, and I am pretty sure that Chris and I wore out our welcome, but I have been thinking about the subject all weekend.
The problem is not that we become irrelevant with age, but that we become much more valuable in different ways that are not always appreciated by those who could benefit most from our wisdom and experience.
Over the past few years, my attention has been directed to our obligation as Christians to make disciples, as commanded in The Great Commission.  The concept is less than revolutionary, in that it is clearly delineated in a book that has been around for...a while.  However, disciple making has become exceptional in today's church, while it was foundational in the first century church.  (This will most certainly be a recurring theme in future blogs, but I don't want to digress too much now.)  With that being said, I would like to turn your attention back to our friend, who we will call Fred (mostly because that is his name).

I believe that Fred is right in that most teenagers would not sign up to spend time with a fifty-six-year-old man.  So how do we get these young'uns to value Fred, a strong Christian man with a wealth of knowledge and experience?  I believe that prayer is the first requisite in any disciple making endeavor, but I think that at least one other important component is for Fred to have a solid understanding and appreciation of his own value.

Jesus made no qualms about what it would take to learn from Him.  He simply told the men he was prepared to teach to drop everything and follow Him.  Since none of us is perfect like Jesus, this approach is not going to work today.  The point is that Jesus clearly knew that he had a WHOLE LOT to offer these men.  His understanding of his own value came across in such a way that twelve men had no problem leaving behind everything they knew to follow Him.  

Obviously, none of us is going to affect others in such a way, but the prescription is clear: We must know what we are worth if we want others to value what we may have to teach them.  God has given each of us unique life experiences, good and bad,  that perfectly equip us in the way He desires us to be equipped to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [He has] commanded you." (Matthew 28:20-21)

My desire is for this to become a short series of my thoughts on some of the things we could do to help us better fulfill Jesus' Great Commission.

1.  Self-assessment of personal value

The Intentionally Withheld, Unquestionable Okayness of a Three-Year-Old

Day three of this blog series, and we are still on the opening session of the Orange Conference.  You may read on my thoughts on Mark Batterson'  After Mr. Batterson left the stage, Reggie introduced Chris Weirsma.  He began with a few one liners before he got to his thesis.  They warrant repetition:
No one on the face of the earth has ever needed less than the grace shown on the cross.
 No matter how depraved on is, he is never more than a moment's surrender away from a new beginning.
If the world's imaginations are going to be captured by the gospel, it won't be because of what we say.  We have used all out words.

Weirsma went on to emphasize our call to love others.  He said the we have to give up our statistics and out local addresses as churches.  The world expects us to get along within our own churches but to compete with other churches.  We must shed this proprietorialism if we want to reach people.  "They are waiting for our rhetoric to die."  Chris finally shared his thesis at this point.  He said, "We are not just called to help people.  We are called to nurture fascination."

At this point came the climax of my conviction.  Chris asked the question, "Do you dig madly in the people around you for the fragment that fascinated God so much that it was worth His blood?"  Every one of us contains a fractured image of God that was worth His Son.  Do you look for that in everyone?  I sure don't.  On the other hand, I do not seek to expose the flaws in everyone, but there are those people who don't require much seeking.  Do I require any less grace?  Was any more or less than Jesus required for either of us?

Weirsma began a tangent at this point that took a little while to reconcile with His thesis, but once it did...Whoa...("Whoa" here should be even more emphatic than usual because of my proclivity towards wordiness.)

Chris invoked the image of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:7.  Here "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves."  Ever since then, we have tried to control how we are seen.  

Q: What was lost?
A: The intentionally withheld, unquestionable okayness of a 3 year old.
Allow me to explain.  Chris told a story about his three year old daughter greeting one of his colleagues at the door wearing nothing but a smile.  Her biggest concern was, "What's your name?!"  Three years later on a Friday night, she is almost ready for bed when he bounds into her room to take her out for ice cream.  She is ecstatic...then she pauses and says, "Daddy, I am already in my pajamas.  People will laugh at me."  
How do children figure out that their greatest fear is that someone would chuckle at them when they didn't tell a joke?
 When do we lose the "intentionally withheld, unquestionable okayness of a three year old?"  When to we, like Adam and Eve, realize that we must make coverings for ourselves?  
Jesus' disciples were not exempt from the loss.  In Matthew 18:1-6, they ask, "Who's first?"  Jesus sets a carry-able child before them and says that they must become like the child or they will not enter heaven.  (It is important to note that Jesus carried the child because he or she could not have been much older than three.)  Jesus basically told the disciples to squeeze their egos through the bottleneck of what can be understood by a three year old child.  

We must get rid of anything we have acquired over the years that has clouded our "intentionally withheld, unquestionable okayness of a three year old," if we are going to become fascinated enough to transform others.  Mutual transformation will come from mutual fascination.  Again, we are not just called to help people.  We are called to nurture fascination.  Who is easier to fascinate than a three year old child?

A New Song

Orange Opening Session

Rewind a few hours to our drive to Atlanta. We were welcomed to Georgia by the biggest rainbow I have ever seen. I knew at this point that God had something special in store.

DISCLAIMER:  The following paragraph may seem rushed and fragmented.  While it is important, it merely details the events leading up to the meat of this post.  The opening session of orange began with a man posing as a random conference attendee preaching about the importance of colliding rather than comparing. Then, Reggie and Lanny shared their usual banter. (If you are not familiar with their banter, don't worry...). Reggie then began to "plug" his book Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (which by the way, I will plug now for anyone who is a parent, works with parents, has a parent, or ever wants to be a parent.)  Reggie interviewed a stat man and his co-writer before introducing the first speaker of the evening, Mark Batterson.

Mark's thesis statement was this: "We must be careful not to begin doing ministry out of memory instead of imagination."  He used a biblical and practical example to prove his point.  First of all, the psalmist can be quoted nine times saying, "sing a new song."  Batterson also stated that if you sing a song 30 times, you will no longer think about the lyrics.  (He did not, however, give any scientific reference for this fact, to be clear.)  His rather obvious point was that the church must change to stay relevant.  There is no blueprint for church in the Bible because the world needs different kinds of churches.

Before the session even began, I was flipping through my nifty Orange Journal.  I was a little disappointed that this one was not hardback like the one last year, but I soon got over it and began to read the quotes at the bottom of each page.  John Ortberg writes in The ME I want to Be,

Because you have been created by God as a unique person, His plan to grow you will not look the same as His plan to grow anyone else.  What would grow and orchid would drown a cactus.  What would feed a mouse, would starve an elephant.

I was taken aback by these words before Mark Batterson had ever graced the stage.  Little did I know that he would affirm and reaffirm the fact that there is no prescription.  He challenged that we as churches cannot ask ourselves, "How do we get these people to become part of our congregation?," but that we should be asking, "How can we become a part of THEIR calling?"  Whoa!

I'll leave you with this final Batterson quote to chew on.  "We are educated way beyond the level of our obedience."  (Ouch...As I did, you may need to get some ice for that sting.)

P.S.  The quote from John Ortberg has acquired additional significance to me because I have recently witnessed the death of an orchid.



Orange Thoughts: Part One

Well, I'll open by admitting that I should have written this two weeks ago, and I really have no excuse why I didn't. I can only hope that God will use my tardiness for His glory.

Now that we got that out of the way...The 2010 Orange Conference was (behind my wedding) THE best experience of my life. To be honest, this fact has more to do with me personally than it does with the content of the conference itself. It was AWESOME, but I don't think that it could have impacted everyone the way it did me, and I don't think it could have impacted me the way it did if I had attended the same conference a year ago. I was spiritually, mentally, and emotionally in the center of the bulls-eye at which this conference was aimed.

I am excited to share more about my experience over the next couple of days/weeks.

Boiling Frogs


They say that if a frog is dropped in a pot of boiling water, he will quickly jump out. However, if he is placed in a pot of water that is slowly heated until boiling, he will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

Let's say I plan an event. For the purposes of comparison, we will call it a swimming party. I encourage every child to bring a friend and every parent to bring a family that may not have a church home. We have TONS of people show up, and it is a blast! I invite everyone to church the following Sunday, and almost half of the visitors come. What a victory!

Of this half, most of them become regular attenders over the next few months. They enjoy services full of exciting worship music, fun games, and engaging Bible stories. You see, now I have turned the heat up a bit by inserting Bible stories. They come to service projects, eager to spend time with their new friends. They are serving! I've turned up the heat a little more. These families become church members and begin to tithe because it is very strongly suggested for members, and their kids love the church so much. They are giving! It is really hot now...

But where are their hearts? I got them in, got them serving, even got them giving...To any observer, it looks like they have committed to the Kingdom, but if all we have done is entertained and made it fun to "play" Christian or even guilted them into obedience, we may have boiled them alive without them even knowing it. We can create twice the sinner when we allow people to believe that works alone will save them.

Romans 10:13-
"For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?"

Thoughts on Leaving

During our last day at sea, Chris and I challenged each other to a rousing game of miniature golf on the Upper Deck of our ship. Why they would put mini golf on a cruise ship is beyond me, but as I waited for my ball to stop rolling back and forth on hole 6, I had a moment to look behind the ship. As far back as I could see, there were tread marks in the water where the ship had been. Even after gazing for a bit, I still had more time until my ball was going to settle(...remember we are on a the ocean...playing a game of precision...) so I began to think about the implications of these water tracks.

From the ship, as far as we could see, our effects on the ocean were visible. Of course, near the boat the water was a mess of white foam and further away only thin lines could be made out disappearing into the horizon, but nonetheless, we could see exactly where we had been and what we had left behind. However, in Cozumel, where we had been just 24 hours before, they no longer saw any evidence of the ship (except in their wallets, but that is neither here nor there). They had waved us off and turned to look for the next ship in the very same motion.

By this point, I had been away from the church and ministry long enough to miss it very much, so my thoughts turned home to any applications I may make to real life. Do I judge my life's effects on the lines in the water? Do I even know how to measure the impact I am having? Are the children in my ministry waving me off on Sundays and Wednesdays and turning to look for the next ship? How do I know, if I am sailing away?

Ahhh, back to the game. Double bogey. Now I am only 18 over par after 6 holes of mini golf!

The Cruise

We had an absolute blast on our vacation! This is basically a photo blog. See the captions for deets.

We began the week with a win at the Superdome. GEAUX SAINTS! Who dat?!

We spent the next morning in New Orleans seeing sights before boarding our ship. These are prayer candles in St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square.

We spent our first full day at sea and didn't take any pictures, but the next day we ported in Progresso, Yucatan in Mexico. This is an example of a hut that was actually a common domicile in the area until the government began to build housing 10 years ago.

Here is one of the many statues we ran across. Many of the men were depicted from only the waste down. It was considered an honor to be cut in half. In fact, the winning team in an athletic competition would have it's captain "honored" this way.

The city of Dzibichaltun was able to thrive because of its the freshwater well.

We got to swim in it.

See the entry?...That is where I changed into my swimsuit.

We came across a couple of dead tarantulas in the observatory.

The Mayans are well known for their study of astronomy. In fact, we still use the calendar developed by the Mayans. However, it suddenly stops in the year 2012. To the best of my recollection, the Mayans believed that a meteor would hit the Caribbean Ocean in September of 2012 and wipe out the entire world...I imagine their conceptual world was a bit smaller than ours.
Also, when children were born, the would wear a stint on the bridge of their noses to force their eyes permanently crossed. They thought that crossed eyes would help them to better focus on a single planet or star. The building above was used as their observatory.

We dined each evening at 8:15. We made friends with people who lived both near and far.

Jeremy and Megan Marie were from Maumelle, AR...Just north of Little Rock. They left their 3 year old girl with grandma.

Taumeka and (I forgot his name) were also from Maumelle!

Crystal and Dan were from Indiana, south of Indianapolis. Dan is a butcher...and he had some interesting stories...that would have been more appropriate away from the dinner table. He invited Chris to hunt his land this fall.

Our waiters liked to dance for us!

We spent our second port day in Cozumel!

This bird almost ate his ear, but he did tell us "hola!"

We stopped at Margaritaville...

and Senor Frogs.

The camera couldn't handle the humidity :-)

Home sweet ship!

I got a few shots as we sailed away.

Well, that was our trip in a nutshell. Check back soon for my observations on leaving.