Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: August 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I'm busy. Are you?

Here is a list of a few topics I would like to blog about. But instead, I have the blessing of writing a review at 1:06 am about the nature of oral tradition in the Ancient Near East civilizations.

The Saddleback Civil Forum
Rob Bell and the Emerging Church
The first worship service in our new youth facility (it was amazing)
Callie Grace and our recent baby shower experiences
Michael Mann's next movie
Congregational Church Polity

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Commitment and Discipline

A commitment without discipline is worthless.

I have been working with teenagers in the local church for 10 years. During that time I have prayed with countless teenagers who have made strong commitments for Christ in various ways; some commit to sharing their faith, some commit to a changed attitude, some commit to simply being faithful in church attendance. Most nights when my head hits the pillow, I wonder what part I had to play in most of those commitments falling woefully short. It is the great struggle of youth ministry - teenagers who get pumped up, make incredible statements of commitment, and go right back to their old ways in a matter of days or weeks.

Of course, this frustrating cycle is not unique to youth ministry. It affects us all. I would be over the edge of hypocrisy if I failed to mentioned how many times I have discussed with Andi a commitment I was making in my spiritual life only to find it long forgotten within a few weeks.

Just a few weeks ago the teenagers and I returned from Mission Fuge, a week long missions camp experience. As far as camps go, M-Fuge is among the best. It combines the traditional elements of a camp experience with daily service tracks in the host city and dynamic worship in the evening. I have yet to take a group to Mission Fuge where by the end of the week many students were making strong commitments to God. I am thankful for those times of renewed passion for God and His ministry. However, most of those same commitments soon disappear in the business of school starting, the influence of friends, and the fading emotionalism that accompanies a camp experience. Emotionalism, or "camp highs," is one reason why I tend to avoid an excessive amount of conference and camp trips. I am fully aware that emotion is a vital part of our faith. Our good friend Jonathan Edwards reminds us of that fact as he found himself defending the Great Awakening from those who considered it to be emotional nonsense. Still, when we gage our spiritual life and make our commitments based solely on a foundation of emotion, then we are destined to fail.

The question I raise to my students every once and a while is this: Instead of gaging your commitment to Christ on the last day of M-Fuge, ask yourself how you are doing on a Thursday afternoon around 4:00 pm when nothing major is happening and life is just rolling along. Are you being disciplined? Have you talked with God that day? Is Scripture a part of your life that day?

The simple truth is that most of us leap frog in our spiritual life from one major event or commitment to another without giving too much thought to the day in and day out work of running the race. The only lasting way to firmly root our commitments to God is by becoming disciplined in our walk with Him. Dr. Donald Whitney in his book "The Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life" observes that "I've never known a man or woman who came to spiritual maturity except through discipline. Godliness comes through discipline." The longer I serve in the local church, the more I understand where he is coming from. We need to replace the anxious awaiting of the next great revival preacher with the daily struggle to be a disciplined people.

In Robert De Niro's directorial debut "A Bronx Tale," the story describes a boy named Calogero who has two influential men in his life; his father, named Lorenzo played by De Niro, and a mob boss named Sonny played by Chazz Palminteri. In one particular scene when Lorenzo forbids his son from hanging around Sonny, Calogero protests by telling his dad that Sonny has it all figured out and that the working man is a "sucker." Calogero is impressed that Sonny just snaps his fingers and things get done. Lorenzo grabs his son and explains that the real heroes in life are not the ones who have the fame or the power but are instead the ones who work hard, take care of their family, and do what is right. Calogero doesn't completely understand but knows his dad is on to something.

The reason a disciplined spiritual life is so difficult for adults and all but a losing battle for teenagers is that we are Calogero. We know there is something important about this day in and day out discipline, but we are more impressed with a quick, noticeable "high" that takes us to a spiritual peak and has us rededicating our lives to God once again. Maybe we should become impressed with the hard working Christians who are disciplining themselves. Maybe we should become amazed that God has given us His Word to read and study. Maybe we should pay attention to our pastor who has been faithfully saying the same thing that great revival preacher said. Maybe we should be living for God.

That's my commitment.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jif vs Skippy

Based a recent comment from my Jif post below, I decided to do an official taste test to see if Jif or Skippy was the better tasting peanut butter. This comes off my recent discovery that Jif is actually better tasting than Peter Pan.

After lining up all three peanut butter jars, I can confidently say that Jif still is the best tasting product. However, Skippy definitely rivals Peter Pan and perhaps would be my second choice.

Today for lunch I am eating a PB&J sandwich, and will probably be eating lots of peanut butter for the next few weeks since I have 3 jars of the stuff.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I have come to the conclusion that Jif peanut butter is actually better than Peter Pan. Since I have been eating Peter Pan for years, this is a pretty amazing change for me, but the taste difference is fairly substantial.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Guns and Churches

You absolutely have to read this post by my friend and colleague Mike Ruffin concerning Georgia gun laws and the church. As I mentioned in my comment to his post, I was laughing out loud while reading. It is a great post.

Win A Free Theme Park Ticket

Me and my partner in crime Rex are owners of the one-of-a-kind theme park enthusiast site RexandtheBeast.com. Having only opened the website in December of 2007, the response has been pretty remarkable. We are having a blast archiving and making available the memories of our trips and our thoughts on the theme park industry.

We are currently holding a simple contest where you can win a free theme park ticket to any park in the country! Wherever you want to go, we will purchase your ticket for you (up to a $75 maximum value). All you have to do is go to www.rexandthebeast.com, click on our "join our mailing list" and sign up. That's it! You will be automatically entered into the contest and a drawing will be held on September 1st to see who the lucky winner is. So, if you haven't already, go and sign up on the list and you might just win a free theme park ticket.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Vacation

Andi and I had such a good time on vacation last week. As usual, it wasn't long enough, but we had a blast. We went to Gatlinburg, TN for a couple of days followed by a great trip to Kingsport where I was able to show Andi the city I grew up in.

Upon getting to Gatlinburg in the evening of Thursday, August 7th, we headed straight to the most important place in the entire city; The Donut Friar. We grabbed a few d's for the hotel room later that night and headed to find a place to eat. After being momentarily distracted by a new magic shop, we found the Mountain Edge Grill, a cute little restaurant located in Baskins Square. Andi and I had never eaten there, so we decided to give it a try. We were quickly seated by a nice host, but when I sat down I noticed that I was sitting in a pile of Sprite or some other similar liquid. I thought that was not too cool, so we moved to another table. The atmosphere was nice, a sports kind of thing, and the food was pretty good. I think we will go back.

We then checked into our motel, the Park Vista (thank you Hotwire!). We were in room number 619 and had a terrific view of the Smokies! Basically, we could just stay in the room the entire time and be happy. God was so good to send me a wife who shares my love of motel rooms! Plus, the Olympic opening ceremony was going to be starting that weekend, so we weren't going anywhere! The room was nice, a little musty smelling, but we didn't care. We were a bit bummed out because some of the TV channels were not working, including Fox News, but at least NBC was coming in. I called guest services to check on the television. The response I got was, "yeah, those channels aren't working." Wow, thanks for the help.

On Friday we slept in till about 11 (well I think Andi got up at around 10) and then we headed out to enjoy the day at Gatlinburg. We ate lunch at Blaine's Grill (where the old Haunted House used to be, RIP) and then went to purchase Callie's Halloween costume. I can't tell you what it is just yet, but I love it! We then ducked into the Ol' Smokey Candy Shoppe to purchase 4 dark chocolate covered cherries (for Andi) and a 1/4 pound white chocolate pretzels (for me). We continued to walk around Gatlinburg and realized that it was really hot outside! As we passed Fanny Farkle's, I texted my best friend to let him know I was looking at the big corn dogs (its a tradition). We decided to head back toward the room, get in some reading, and then enjoy the Olympics. Ordering room service was the topping to a perfect evening!

The next day we drove to Kingsport, TN and I was able to show Andi some of the places I used to live. We met up with Aaron, Brittany, Keyth, and Greg and went to Discovery Ice Cream (where a robot serves ice cream, Bella would love this!). Greg, Aaron, Keyth, and I got sidetracked (as usual) by talking about old memories on the road with JF. We also enjoyed some real nice Broad Street cruising with really loud cars.

All in all, we had a great trip, but it is always nice to get back home. I love home. Talk to you soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Going Crazy

Andi and I were just shouting our heads off as the US men's swimming team defeated the French in the 4x100m relay. They were told they couldn't win and one of the French teammates said they would "smash the Americans." Well, the US won by a fraction of an inch and it was absolutely incredible. Way to go Team USA!