Learning 2 Questions You Should Ask Yourself from Emma Watson’s UN Speech

These are two questions I can imagine Jesus training his disciples to ask themselves.

Maybe not at first.  The disciples weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed when it came to picking up on what Jesus was teaching them.  It took him several tries (at least three) before they caught onto to the announcement of his soon-to-happen death and resurrection.

If it didn’t come any sooner, I am certain Jesus must have taught these two simple questions to the disciples right before he ascended to heaven.  You probably know the moment I am thinking of.  The final four verses in the book of Matthew.  Jesus has already been crucified, buried, and risen from the dead.  He has appeared to the women and the disciples.  One final time, he stands with the disciples on top of the mountain.  He delivers what many refer to as “the Great Commission:”

Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore 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 that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  Matthew 28:18-20

Whether it really happened or not, this is the perfect moment to insert Emma Watson’s two questions.  I like to imagine Jesus did.  Having just commissioned them, Jesus must have challenged the disciples to ask,

If not me, who?  If not now, when?  –Emma Watson, UN Speech

Emma’s questions came as a followup to a quote from Statesman Edmond Burke, “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph, is for good men and women to do nothing.”  The evil she is wanting to extinguish is gender inequality.  Jesus would stand strongly beside her in that.  He doesn’t stop there, though.  He isn’t willing to sit back and let any evil triumph.

Before leaving this earth, he passes the torch to his disciples.  “Here you go,” he says.  “Everything I’ve done for you and you’ve witness me do for others, duplicate it in your own life.  Find as many people as possible in every part of the world who are willing, and empower them to defeat the forces of evil.  Teach them to ask, If not me, who?  If not now, when?”

Every Christian everywhere should ask these questions every day.  Doing nothing is doing something in favor of the forces of evil.  So, let me ask, “If not you, then who?  If not now, then when?

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to WATCH Emma’s UN Speech.

 

Learning from Meghan Trainor & Colbie Caillat What Every Man Should Say to the Women in His Life

You know Meghan Trainor is “all ’bout that bass, no treble.”  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you just can’t stand pop music.

I have three girls in my house, so it’s impossible to avoid such songs.  I can’t tell how many dance parties have broken out in my living room (kitchen, back patio, car) to Taylor Swift’s song, “Shake It Off.”  It’s part of my life as a husband and father to little girls.

So, I may be a bit more familiar with songs that most guys aren’t.  Don’t judge me.  I came across two recently that projects a message every man should hear.  Both songs are sung by a different artist (Meghan Trainor, Colbie Caillat).  Each song is powerful in it’s own right, yet share a similar message.

As I was hearing the words from these songs, I thought, “my three girls need to hear this message, from me.”  I may need to put it into my own words. But, I need to express them.  Contrary to the message of our over-sexualized culture obsessed with certain images, the women (girls) in my life deserve to hear what truly makes them beautiful.

In her song, Try, Colbie Caillat says it this way”

“You don’t have to try so hard, you don’t have to give it all away.  You just have to get up, get up, get up, you don’t have to change a single thing.

Take your makeup off, let your hair down, take a breadth, look into the mirror at yourself.  Don’t you like you?  Cause I like you.”

In her song, Close Your Eyes, Meghan Trainor says it this way:

“Show the world the you inside, raise your voice and close your eyes, cause you’re beautiful.

So I want you to close your eyes, sing to the world tonight, and show them what’s beautiful”

It’s your chance, men.  We have the opportunity to name what’s truly beautiful about the women in our lives.  We don’t have to superficial and image-obsessed.  Together, we can sing a new song.  One like Meghan’s and Caillat’s that gives our girls the confidence to realize their magnificent beauty.

 

Learning How to Collect 1000s of Cans of Food for Hungry Youth

BBQThrowdown New LogoThe majority of our energy has been exerted over here, all the while a mini-miracle has been brewing over there.  The number I heard uttered over the phone caught me completely off-guard.  “What!?  That’s amazing.  I can’t believe it.”

We haven’t been focused on collecting cans of Chef Boyardee.  Microveable cans of ravioli are a side note to the main event, the KidsPACK BBQ Throwdown.  We’re busy gaining sponsorships, procuring food vendors, making signs, recruiting volunteers, organizing teams, and everything else we can think of to raise more financial support. Bottom line, our energy has been spent raising money to pay for the food that feeds these hungry students.

This remains our primary goal.  It shows in the passion and determination of two guys responsible for making it happen.  They are pouring time, energy, and creativity into this thing.  Inspiring stuff.  That’s another blog post.

But…while we are facing one way, a small idea is turning into a large movement behind us.  It started as a fun competition last year.  We challenged the BBQ teams to participate in a non-BBQ event.  We asked each of team to collect as many cans of Chef Boyardee as possible, and bring them to the throwdown.  The team with the most cans wins “The People’s Choice Award.”  The award is a trophy with a Chef Boyardee Can mounted on top.  No big deal.

So we thought.  Apparently, the teams loved the trophy.  It’s the one award they’ve talked the most about.  Now, they are determined to win it.

Silently, or at least out of our purview, a movement is building.  BBQ teams are passionately collecting cans of food.  I wouldn’t have known until the phone call came.  “I have some word of encouragement for you.  There are two teams who are vying for this award.  Both of them have collected over a thousand cans.  But, we have a sleeper team.  They have already collected 2,500 cans.  We may end up with over 6,000 cans.”

That’s how you collect 1000s of cans of food for hungry.  I can’t claim credit for it.  I am not sure the person whose idea it is would either.  He didn’t expect it to be this big.  It just happened.  1000s of cans of food will be collected for hungry youth because a large group of people with a single purpose (to win) discovered a greater one.

If you are in or will be around Lakeland, FL on Saturday, October 4 from 10am-5pm, I hope you will stop by Highland Park Church for some BBQ.  We’ll have the cans on display.  See you there!

 

 

Learning Why The Old Testament is Important for Understanding the New

We can be quick to separate in our minds the Old Testament from the New Testament.  They function almost as stand alone portions of the Bible.  The Old is pre-Jesus, and the new is post-Jesus.  Jesus is the hinge pin.

This isn’t wrong.  A full understanding of the story of God’s creation and redemption of the world requires both the Old and New Testaments.  With both parts, we gain a broad view of God’s movement in history.  It is important to see these transitions in God’s plan of salvation.

It just isn’t the only relation.  The New Testament is full of quotations and allusions to the Old.  You may be familiar with Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah and their fulfillment in Jesus (see Isaiah 7:14).  These exists, but the New uses the Old to do more than support a messianic view of Jesus.

Take the book of Revelation, for example.  Some believe there are over 500 references (quotations, paraphrases, and allusions) to the Old Testament in the book.  There are 22 chapters and only 404 verses in the entire book.  That’s more than one Old Testament reference per verse.  Crazy, right?

The writings of Paul (most of the New Testament) are infused with numerous references to the Old Testament.  His use of Isaiah chapters 40-55 is impressive enough, especially in Romans.  There are fourteen quotations from Isaiah 40-55 in Paul’s letters, with seven occurring in Romans.  If you add the allusions to these same chapters, you come up with forty references in all.  This doesn’t include references to other books of the Old Testament.

What’s the point?  Your familiarity with the Old Testament is needed to grasp significant portions of the new.  Certain parts of the New are difficult and nearly impossible to understand without looking into the Old.  You can’t forget the Old and move on to the New.  You’ll miss something.  You might even miss alot.

 

 

 

Learning How Your Own Freedom Can Hold You Captive

Freedom is your right to do whatever you like.  Exercising this right can make you captive to the agenda of your own rights.  You are no longer free to act in the interest of others.

You are free to do what you like.  By making this choice, you forfeit your freedom to do what is good for others.  It’s not always an either/or.  It’s possible that what you like serves the best interest of others.  When it’s not (which is probably often), your freedom becomes a limit.

The Biblical writer, Paul, got it.  He says it this way, “I am free with respect to all” (1 Corinthians 9:19 NRSV).”  As a follower of the way of Jesus, he is no longer subject to any groups, cultures, or systems of this world.  “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NRSV).  
With his newfound freedom, Paul makes this choice:  “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them” (1 Corinthians 9:19 NRSV).  He limits himself so that he is free to love others.  He refuses his right to do what he likes “that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22 NRSV). 
Exercising his own rights would hold him captive.  He wouldn’t be free to influence others for the love of God. 
You are free to do what you like.  It’s your right.  Just know it can hold you captive.
Will you give up your freedom to be more free?

Learning Why Christians Should Watch More Movies

30 years ago I might have been excommunicated from my Christian community for suggesting this, but I feel safe enough to say it now:  watching movies can be a spiritual practice and Christians need to do more of it. 

God’s Spirit can speak to you through movies.  Not all movies, but most.  Yes, a medium that we assume is meant solely for our entertainment has the potential to influence you for the good.  Movies are not immune to the Holy Spirit’s power.  God is able to co-op the screen to speak to you.

Movies are one of the greatest storytellers in our culture today.  They tell the story of humanity.  Our brokenness.  Our potential.  The darkness that can live inside us.  The struggles that we share.  Our need to love, and the power of loving others.  Stories challenge.  They inspire.  They critique.  They expose.  They reflect pain.  They give hope.  They make you laugh.  They make you cry.

The power of movie in your life is discovered when God takes the story being told on a screen and uses it to speak to your own story.  God places the movie’s story in dialogue with your story and asks, “What do you learn about yourself?  How can this help you better live the story I’m writing for you?”

I have always loved movies.  You wouldn’t want to know how many times I’ve seen the original Star Wars Trilogy.  Movies have always spoken to my soul.  I just didn’t realize it in spiritual terms until Seminary.  Now, I only wish I had more time to practice it.

Maybe you do, too.  Any movie suggestions?

Learning 3 Meanings to the Phrase “You’re just like your dad.”

“You’re just like your dad.” 

You’ve heard it before, right?  Someone in your family says to their son or grandson or sibling, “you remind me of your father.”  You might even be the son who received this comparison.  You remember exactly how it makes you feel each time it is spoken to you.

There are three possible meanings:

  1. “You’re just like your dad” aka, you remind me of everything I hate about him.  This meaning is likely the most used version.  It is meant to hurt.  It’s an insult to your dad and to you.  Normally, a mother speaks it in a moment of frustration or anger.  With a scowl on her face and disgust in her voice, she lets it fly.  No son wants this type of comparison.
  2. You’re just like your dad” aka, you remind me of everthing I love about him.  This is probably the second most used meaning.  It is meant to encourage.  It is adulation of your dad and to you.  Normally, a mother speaks it in a moment of happiness or when she is feeling proud.  It comes with a huge smile on her face and sweetness in her voice.  Every son hopes for this comparison.
  3. You’re just like your dad” aka, you remind me of God our Father.  This is the least used.  To be honest, I’m not sure it’s ever used this way.  Sounds kind of corny or pretentious.  Maybe even too Christianese.  But, it is the one meaning that carries the most potential for our young boys.  It is calling to life God’s Spirit living in our young men.  It carries an amazing possibility to give absolute value to a boy.  I like to think that every son would choose this comparison every time if possible.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father.”  God is our Father.  We are God’s children.  Your sons were created to reflect the image of God.  Why not name it when we your child reflects it?  Maybe we don’t say the exact phrase, “You’re like your dad.”  But, there must be some way to say it.  I’ll let you decide.

Learning 3 Reasons Parent Involvment is Crucial in Your Child’s Education

We’ve all made the cliche remark at least once as a adult, “School isn’t like it used to be when I was little.”  The phrase may be worn out and overdramatized.  I agree.  It is often used to romaticize one’s own experience.  Everything is pitched in light that makes the past look much better than the present.  This is true.  But, it is also true that education has changed and continues to change over time.

One thing that remains the same is the need for parent involvement.  It is no more or less crucial to your child’s success today than it was yesterday.  Both then and now, your child needs you to be a part of the learning process.  That’s not to say the reasons haven’t changed.  I believe they have.

Here are are 3 reasons I’m learning parent involvement is crucial for your child’s education:

  1. Homework starts earlier and with a bigger load.  I don’t remember take-home work in elementary school.  Today, homework is given in kindergarten.  Regardless of your opinion of assigning it at this age, it’s your child’s responsibility to complete.  Your child needs you to be involved in this process.  Teach her how to be responsible with her time.  Teach her it’s okay to try an answer she doesn’t know.  And, explain to her why she missed an answer and how to correct it the next time.
  2. Accelerated Reading programs can be complicated.  Students are assigned reading goals based on an assessment given at the beginning of the year.  They are expected to complete a certain number of quizzes within a established number of weeks.  The process can be complicated for a first or second grader.  Your child needs you to help organize a reading list, establish a discipline of reading, practice taking quizzes, all while encouraging a love for reading.
  3. Pressure to the make the Grade.  It doesn’t take long for students to feel the pressure from teachers to make the grade.  Not so much the grade on their report card, but the grade each school receives from the composite scores from standardize testing.  Students acquire the stress of the teachers.  It heightens the already negative feeling of failure.  Students aren’t given the opportunity to learn through trial and error.  Your child needs you to take some of the pressure away.  Let her know perfection isn’t the goal, learning is.  Sometimes learning happens through a series of repeated failures.  Ask the greatest inventors.  Your child needs you to protect her from a fear of taking risks.

The three reasons I’ve listed may not be the same as your own.  I realize not every education system is the same as my child’s.  Contexts are different.  I would love to hear from some of you, reasons you’ve learned parent involvement is crucial to your child’s education.  And tell us,

How do you stay involved in our child’s education?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning the Central Concern of Romans Isn’t “the Romans Road” or Predestination

romans 3.29Your familiarity with the book of Romans most likely deals with one of two issues: (1)  the Romans Road to salvation, or (2) scriptural support for the doctrine of predestination.  These two points may take up some of the space in the book.  They just aren’t the main focus.  With too much emphasis, you miss the central concern of the book.

The primary thrust of Romans is sorting out God’s relationship to both Jew and Gentile.  It deals directly with the question, “Is salvation only for the Jews?”  If you were a Jew at this time, your answer would mostly likely be, “Yes.  God made a promise to Israel, the descendants of Abraham.  No one else is mentioned.

Paul, a writer of Romans, is a Jew by the way.  More than just a Jew by birth, he was an extremely religious Jew who protected the Israelite religion by force.  He would arrest and kill detractors, if necessary, many of whom were followers of Jesus.  Until, he experienced Jesus for himself.  Now, he is writing on behalf of the gospel of Jesus for everyone.  Including Gentiles.

Gentiles have a history of defiling the religion of Judaism.  They have no relation to the people God made a promise to save in the beginning of the Old Testament.  Previous to Jesus, their argument against Gentiles held strong.  Since Jesus, the tide has turned.  God’s offer of salvation is no longer exclusive.  It is offered to all, including the Gentiles.

This central concern surfaces in Romans 3:29-30:

Is God the God of Jews only?  Is he not the God of Gentiles also?  Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 

The Jews of this age were attempting to hold God’s salvation hostage.  They didn’t want to give it up.  They couldn’t imagine how Gentiles could be proper candidates based on their lifestyle.  It should be required of Gentiles to prove their worth by consistently following the law.  Then, maybe it would possible for them to be saved.

Paul says, no.  God isn’t working this way.  Through faith, not works, the Gentiles can become sons and daughters of God.

I wonder how many times we attempt to hold God hostage.  “No, you need to act like me before you can be saved like me.”  We might not say it, but we don’t have to.  God sent God’s son for all.  Everyone.  

How does this central concern of Romans challenge the church today?

Learning Where to Find Volunteers for a Large Event

BBQThrowdown New LogoThere are two ways to find volunteers for a large event:

#1  One person at a time.

#2  One tightly-knit group at a time.

I’m learning to focus on the second.  The first method to gain volunteers usually relies on a blanket invitation to unconnected individuals.  You throw out a general invitation to a crowd of people who don’t know each other very well, if at all.  They are not looking at each other saying, “Yeah, we need to do to this together.”  In their minds, they are thinking, “I bet the person sitting next to me will do it, so I don’t need to.”  You get a response, but it’s small and trickles in one person a time.

The second way focuses on a tightly connected group.  This group knows each other well.  They are family, coworkers, classmates, and teammates.  They are used to working together.  They trust and believe in one another.  One is part of the whole.  Asking a tightly-knit group means asking the entire group.  Volunteering one person at a time is thrown out.  A “yes” to your invitation means the group is all-in.

I’m learning this as I plan our second annual KidsPACK BBQ Throwdown.  The event brings awareness and support to a program that provides weekend meals to elementary students without adequate access to food.  Over 2,000 students in our county are in need.  At our first Throwdown, the event attracted about 5-6,000 people.  We expect more this year.  Volunteers are a must.

I have discovered a valuable resource of volunteers from a few tightly-knit groups:  local college athletes.  We are fortunate to have three athletic teams from three different colleges donating their time to our event.  Each team is bring 15-20 volunteers.  Amazing!

Thank you @seufiresoftball, Florida Southern College Women’s Swim Team, and Polk State College Women’s Soccer!