I have had some plans in the making for a while and now they are taking off. I have a new website called http://www.411ministry.com
This site is going to focus on teaching. Our tagline is Point, Click, Teach. I have felt like over the years that communicating the gospel of Jesus has been my evolving passion. So this is where I am blogging now and have some other cool stuff in the plans.
If you travel and don’t use Priceline you are only robbing yourself. I can’t tell you how much money I have saved on travel for me and the youth group. One big thing to know is that when you buy on Priceline you will never know what type of room you will get (king or double) and there is nothing you can do but hope and ask to get the room type you want. I have had success and failure in this area.
Now here are some tips to help you save money.
- Go to www.betterbidding.com. Here people tell you what price and hotel they are getting. So you can look up Atlanta, GA and see what prices are being accepted.
- Spend time on Priceline and pick your city. Look and see what hotels are what star rating. So if you go to Atlanta you will see that there are 50 hotels with a 3.5 star rating or higher. Scan them real quick and see if these are hotels you want to stay in. Many cities will not have star ratings over 3. Then click on map view to see where they are. When you bid you will bid based on location area.
- Start off low based on your 1st choice location. Like zone one. I hate when my first bid is accepted.
- If rejected you have 2 choices. Wait 24 hours and bid again or add a new zone. Atlanta has 22 zones most cities will have 7 or less. I like to add a zone that doesn’t have a hotel for a star rating I want. This way I can raise my bid little by little.
- You don’t have to raise your bid by much even if it tells you for $X amount you can get this room now.
- Spend time playing around and you will get a great rate. My last trip we stayed at a 3.5 star Marriott in Atlanta for $65 including tax and fees. This room would have been ($193 with tax) otherwise.
- I have done this with our youth group on some trips when I needed a great rate. We stayed in Cincinnati for $52 total at a Courtyard Marriott. We had to do some creative rooming but it fit our budget and it was a small trip with just 20 students. I would not recommend this with a large group.
President Obama statement that he believes government should allow gay marriage has created a spark on controversy politically and inside the Christian world. This has been an issue that I have been pondering for a while and I will be honest, I have terribly mixed feelings. Blogging on this is dangerous because someone will misconstrue what I am attempting to say but I can’t help to think out loud on this issue. So first let me tell you where I am coming from: I am a Christian and I believe the Bible condemns homosexuality. I am a libertarian politically and so most Christians think I am crazy. I am a Christian who believes love should always be the ultimate response to everyone and every situation. I am not always successful if practicing love but it is my goal.
My first quandary with this issue is determining the role I believe government should play in all this. I see most people belonging to one of four camps:
1) Government should impose the morality of the culture. We pass laws based on what the majority of people believe to be right or wrong. When culture’s morality changes the law also changes. A good example of this would be laws that made adultery illegal. They used to exist but then were taken off the books as cultures view changed. To me this is the least desirable because culture has often been on the wrong side of what is right or wrong and laws would constantly change based on the latest polls.
2) Government should impose the morality of those in leadership. This is seen by activist judges and politicians who will try to pass laws that their constituents oppose because it is their moral judgment that they know best. The advantage of this is sometimes a leader may actually see something is wrong before other do. Someone may rise up and say racism is wrong before people realize it is. On the downside they may lead us into moral depravity. See 1-2 Kings.
3) Government should impose the morality of the Bible. The center of the gay marriage issue is that the Bible only condones marriage between and man and a woman and condemns sexual relations between same sex. This sounds great to most Christians and in a perfect world it would be the perfect way. To be honest I long for the day when the perfect returns and all things are made new. But in a non perfect world like we live in we can also get the crusades, defending slavery, banning the celebration of Christmas, etc. I don’t care what religious group you belong to, but look at the infighting that exist. Would we not have the same arguments and instead of democrats and republicans wouldn’t we have Church of Christ, Baptists, and evangelicals versus Anglican, Episcopal, and progressives.
4) Government should only impose morality that allows people to live peaceably with one another. This view is that government should pass laws like do not steal, kill, injure, cheat, and the like because they physically or financially hurt others. But government should not pass laws to regulate other forms of morality such as prostitution, alcohol, or who can get married. The positive is that government stays out of the way. The negative is that immoral acts often lead to people being physically and financially injured.
I don’t know what role I believe government should play in this because if carried out to the nth degree I think any of these positions would be scary. I do know however what role the church should play in this. We need to be a place where love is supreme. The church should stand on truth and surround it with grace. We need to be place where one sin is not worse than another. We need to be a place of compassion and not campaigning, a place for people and not politics. We need to be a place for sanctification, justification, and transformation. We need to be a place less concerned with the kingdoms of this world and more concerned with the kingdom of God.
I was blessed to be the commencement speaker for Heritage Christian University. HCU is a university that offers one major, Bible. It is a wonderful place that specializes in educating and training ministers. I thought I would share my speech.
President Jones, members of the Board, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates.
When I was asked to speak at today’s graduation had two thoughts. The first was that of honor. To be asked by your alma mater to return and address graduates is a privilege. Today I feel like a prophet who has been honored in his own country.
I also felt a since of panic. What do you say at graduation and one to Bible students at that? But then a great sense of calm came over me. I have set through three of my own graduations and probably 20 others and I don’t remember anything anyone said. I have talked to countless people and they too have no recollection of any commencement speech they have heard. Knowing this I have no fear today.
Today I thought I would share with you four things that you need to know, but you probably were not taught in a class room. If you will heed this advice your ministry will be revolutionized and you will be successful. I can make this audacious claim because you will never remember this speech in five years to hold me accountable. So yes these four things can and will change your lives if you apply them.
Never serve red hotdogs at a church event. Yes you may save money as you can buy a hundred of them for a dollar. But if you serve red hot dogs people will see you as cheap. And if people think you are cheap then they will decide you don’t need much money to live on. Because you don’t have much money you will have to live on Vienna sausages, spam, and red hot dogs. Don’t spend the rest of your life having to eat Vienna sausages, spam, and red hot dogs. Serve pizza or fried chicken instead.
Go to preacher luncheons. You do not go to these for the comradery of fellow ministers. No, you do this because you are now a highly educated Bible scholar. Heritage has prepared you well even too well. Imagine your surprise when you begin to teach the documentary hypothesis at church in your bible class. Suddenly you discover your members do not find your theory on P or J interesting.
I have even had members fall asleep during a stimulating discourse on Paul’s use of the genitive. Was it a genitive of material or a genitive of content? They will not care. As you continue to study and learn more you will want to share your vast wealth of scholarship with someone. Thus, the preacher’s luncheon. Not that they want to hear about your latest finding but they will listen as a courtesy so you will listen to their newest discovery.
Communicate Clearly. President Jones would tell you that communication is the process where one person speaks and another has understood the message of the sender. But this is a different world and phrases, people, and words are very complex and have various meanings today. For example you may be teaching a class about Raccoon John Smith. But there is a good chance your audience will think you are talking about Disney and the raccoon and John Smith. You have to communicate clearly lest your church believe that Pocahontas was a leader in the restoration movement.
Finally, I will to leave you with the number one command in the Bible, “Do not fear”. This is a phrase God has told his people since the beginning of time. He normally would tell his people this when fear would be the natural reaction. A nation may be outnumbered or overwhelmed and God would tell them do not fear. Then God would show up and do something incredible. But God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and he is still holds the world in his hands and we have nothing to fear.
Ministry is a hard work and you will be faced with many challenges and rewards. You will have to preach on hard topics that you know will not make you popular, but do not fear, keep on speaking, do not be silent. You may be at a church that doesn’t have the resources that others do, but do not fear or use it as an excuse because the Lord specializes in doing great things with few resources. You may be let go from a church but do not fear, for I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. You will have to deal with situations Heritage could never prepare you for. But do not fear the Lord will guide you help you.
You came to Heritage because you wanted to serve the Lord and work in His kingdom. Satan will do all that he can to paralyze you with fear. He will try to convince you that you need to play things safe, to never think outside the box, your plans are not feasible, you will lose members, and that you are not the person for the job. Satan specializes in insecurities and doubts. But do not give into fear. God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of victory. The message of the Bible is that God is in control and he is all powerful and in the end he is victorious.
So when you are faced with a challenge and doubts and fears begin to creep in, go to God’s word and remember to be strong and courageous and do not fear because the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. I leave you with the words of Isaiah 43, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Do not fear, for God is with you.
Over spring break we went to the Nashville Zoo. We figured we would make the trip a little more interesting and have a picture scavenger hunt while there. It turned out great. Here is our list of 25 things:
- 3 animals together
- Someone with a crying kid
- White Bengal tiger
- Close up of a snake
- You in the photo cut out spot
- Kid doing something crazy in the jungle gym
- Looking like one of the dinosaurs ate one of your body parts
- Looking like a dinosaur is chasing you
- Teammate imitating a gibbon
- Picture with a volunteer
- Bird setting on you in lorikeet landing
- Picture of teammate trying to like the inside of their nose with a giraffe in the background
- Giraffe licking the inside of its nose
- Teammate doing something creative by a tooth, bone, or skull
- Teammates playing on the jungle gym with little kids staring at you
- Teammate running through the sprinklers at the jungle gym
- Picture with animal hats or puppets in the gift shop
- Teammate on the train
- Picture with alligator swimming behind you
- Red Panda
- Making fishy faces by the fish tank
- 2 or more teammates hugging an animal in the petting zoo
- Teammate puckering up inches away to kiss a animal in the petting zoo
- Teammates in glass tubes at Merkat Manor
We did this using the scavenger hunt with friends app and it was cool seeing all the pictures come in from each team as we walked through the zoo.
Our youth group went to Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, TN for a caving adventure and we got one. This is an amazing place! We did the Higgenbotham’s Revenge tour that takes about 4 hours to complete. You begin by taking a 1.5 mile walk to the entrance and then right from the start we began crawling, climbing, sliding, walking, and more. This is a great trip for a youth group. We had 13 go and it was awesome. I was proud of our students as they kept moving and doing things they were scared of. We even had one of our girls twist her knee pretty bad but she soldiered on for another 45 minutes of difficult terrain.
Couple of things to know if you decide to go here for the adventure tours:
- It is physical. Most of your students will make it fine but if someone has knee or other joint issues it could be difficult.
- There are tight spaces. If you wear over a 52 jacket for a suit you may not make it. I am 6’2 230 and made it fine but it was tight in spots.
- You will get very dirty. The cave floor is red clay and it will not come out of your clothes. Soft on your knees bad on our clothes. We were crazy dirty afterwards. Bring pants, shirts, socks, and shoes to change into.
- You will have fun! We loved this. My students kept talking about going back.
- You may not be able to walk the next day. I am out of shape. How do I know, because my body was sore that night after all the twisting and contorting. But I would do it again.