Not MY Son…

I was just thinking about an overused, and rather ridiculous, sermon illustration. It goes something like this:

A father works as an operator for a drawbridge which closes to allow a train to come across. One day, as a train approaches, just as he needs to close the bridge, he notices his young son playing among the gears of the bridge. If he closes the bridge, he will surely crush his son.  If he takes time to save his son, the bridge will not be closed in time, and the train will derail, killing many passengers.  As the story normally goes, the man chooses the train full of people over his own son.

I might have told that story as a young preacher, before the days of my own children.  But my reaction to it now is simple: Not my son.  If a train full of people depended on the life of my son, that train full of people would be out of luck.  In fact, if the entire world depended on the life of my son to survive, the whole world would be screwed. Not my son.

That is what makes His love so amazing.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Thank you Father for Your unimaginable and incomprehensible love.

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Disciple: Fan or Follower

This weekend, DCC is starting a new series of messages called “Disciple: Fan or Follower?”. We will be exploring what it means to truly be a disciple of Jesus. This series has been percolating in my brain for about 6 months now. In fact, in June I posted this:

It has struck me lately that Jesus has a lot of fans.

  • People who like the things Jesus said.
  • People who say nice things about Him.
  • People who get goosebumps when people the hear stories about Him.
  • People who get really loud and cheer for him.
  • People who wear His t-shirts and bumper stickers.

But I am not so sure He has as many followers.

  • People who are totally OBSESSED with knowing everything about Him.
  • People who are SO CONVINCED that He is LORD of everything they seek Him for everything.
  • People who don’t evangelize, disciple and worship as a ‘get out hell free’ duty card, but serve Him out a heart of gratitude.
  • People who LOVE Him enough to format their entire life around becoming LIKE Him.
  • People who want to be LIKE Him so much that they will go through all kinds of CRAP to get there.

I really want to be an obsessed follower of Jesus, not just fan. It kinda sounds like Jesus wants this from me too. (Luke 14:25-35)

I would love for you to jump in and let me know what you think distinguishes Jesus’ fans from his followers.

(By the way, yes, I know some churches did a Fan or Follower series earlier this year.  After I posted this in June, a few of you let me know!)

Haiti and YOU

In 3 and a half weeks, I will be heading out of the country for 11 days to teach, encourage, and work in the country of Haiti.  Most of you will know that Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest nations in the world. (You don’t have to do demographics and in-depth studies to figure out the needs of the community there.)

I am going with a team of guys who I respect so much. (I will definitely be learning as much as I am teaching.) While we are there, we will be visiting different churches and missions.  We will have work projects, teaching assignments, and many opportunities to shine some hope into one of the darkest places in the world.

Every time I talk about Haiti, the reaction I usually get goes something like this: “I wish I could go.”  Well, I would like to open up an opportunity for you to personally partner with me in expressing generosity for some people in Haiti. (And before you roll your eyes, I am NOT asking for you to pay for my plane ticket, or anything for me at all. Just read on.)

So, in Haiti, I will be carrying my Flip around everywhere I go, catching lots of moments on video.  How would you like to give $5 to someone in Haiti, and get to see them receiving your gift on video.  Doesn’t that sound pretty awesome?

Here’s how it works:

  1. You give me $10. (hang on…)
  2. I give $5 to a random person in Haiti, and record the giving, and me telling them who it is from.
  3. I give the other $5 to one of 3 missions I will be visiting. (Though less personal & individual, it will be more beneficial and exponentially effective.)
  4. I send you a personalized video when I get back. (Plus do an awesome compilation for all my GU readers.)

Pretty easy, cheap, and wonderful way to get involved in my trip and make it yours.

If you are interested: you need to email me at billy@love2serve.com.  Please note: this is only open to 25 giveaways. So, here is your chance to show some Grace Unfiltered.

Ready, set, GO!

~Billy

The Great Minivan Struggle

If you clicked here to see two minivans fighting to the death, you came to the wrong place. (The right place being HERE.)  This article is about an inner struggle in me. (Yeah! Metaphor champ here!)

As many of you GU (that being short for Grace Unfiltered, which isn’t shortened much when I have explain it in a long parenthetical statement) readers know by now, my wife and I are expecting our fourth child! (Watch out, Duggars, here we come….) (Oh, and if you didn’t know, pretend you didn’t read that yet and go watch THIS first!)

Having four children puts us into a difficult automotive decision mode.  Here is the problem: we currently have two vehicles, one which works, and one which looks nice. (Hey, trying to be positive here…) Here is a brief summary of each:

  • The working one: 97 mercury grand marquis.  This is a real wide, old lady type car. (Unless you have a cool grandma like mine!) It even has the fake wood paneling inside, but it is a pretty nice riding, low mileage vehicle.
  • The nice looking one: 98 jeep grand cherokee. We got it as a “fixer-upper”. (Reading between the lines, I actually mean MONEY PIT!) It is MY jeep, though, and I love it. LOVE IT! (Like Aunt Jemima loves her some pancakes.)

Here’s the issue: both cars have FIVE seats, and with 4 kids we need SIX!  So, enter the MINIVAN struggle. Roseann and I once had a minivan, due to the generosity of some family members.  BUT, I am struggling to go down that road again.  I do not like minivans.  For whatever reason they bother my sense of man-ness, decency, and all things good.  We talked about just skipping a level and buying a not-so-mini van, or a suburban or something huge. (But you know how I love the environment and all that…ha. Actually, doubling our fuel costs doesn’t sound so fun!)

I guess the key to this whole struggle is my pride. I don’t like minivans. I don’t like the way they drive.  I don’t like the way I look in them. I, I, I…. yes, I do get caught up in an all about me mode sometimes.

If I have to be honest, PRIDE influences my decisions far more than I would like to admit. So, my question for you is this: Where has pride been an influencer for you and what did you do about? (Yeah, influencer is not technically a word, at least according to my spellcheck. But, then again, neither is spellcheck.)

In related news: My family is in the market for a minivan, if you hear of anything…

What I Hate About Christmas!

Please note: if you do not read all of this post, please know that I love a lot about Christmas.  But not all of it. So read, laugh, get angry, whatever.

Everyone has their cheesy smiles painted on, credit balances maxed, and the Jingle Bells tune running through their head. It must be that time of year again. (The most wonderful time of year?)

I like Christmas, but alot of Christmas-ish things BUG me.  So, my “Grace-Unfiltered” readers, I present my “Most Hated Christmas Things” list.

  • Christmas Shoes“!!!!! A million times over. THIS IS THE SINGLE WORST MODERN CHRISTMAS SONG!  (Really, it is worse than the Lady GaGa song I experienced recently!) Seriously, this song/story about a kid buying his dying mom a pair of shoes so she can die looking good is only a Christmas song because he is buying them for her on Christmas Eve. (And the only reason my fellow Christians like it is because it says the name of Jesus in every chorus….) (I think….) (Sorry, I guess sob-songs and sob-stories have their place, but I cannot stand this one…in case you couldn’t tell) (Also, I am totally digging parentheses today!)
  • Mall Santas.  I am pretty sure most parents would not let their kids sit on the lap of some random stranger 11 months out of the year, but when December rolls around, things change!  In December they actually make a special trip and wait in line to do it. Seriously, parents?  Come on.
  • The Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays war! (I feel some hate-mail coming on..) Christian friends, do you really think you can take Jesus out of Christmas by removing His name from a Wal-Mart advertisement?  Stop expecting people who don’t follow Jesus to act/speak  like they do! Wish everyone you see a Merry Christmas, but do it as an honest expression of the hope and grace we celebrate at this season.  Don’t make it bullet in the war against Happy Holidays. (Oh, and go read THIS.)
  • A Christmas Carol. Seriously, Dickens classic story is certainly a good story.  It definitely was creative and original when it was written. BUT, how many times can you remake the story?  Really? Let me summarize the overused plot: A mean person  becomes a nice person because he is haunted. (Reality check: If I see ghosts all night, I become CRAZY, not nice.)
  • Since when was Christmas an excuse for crazy drunken bashes?  Just askin’..

So, there ya go.  A few things I hate about Christmas. Oh, one more parenthetical statement: (A few things I love about Christmas: Jesus, Egg Nog, My Family, Time Off, A Christmas Story, Carol of the Bells by August Burns Red, Decorating the Tree, Cookies, MOST of the Music….)

So, give me your hate (or love) list for Christmas!

2009 Moments: The Game

I want to take a little time and list some of my favorite 2009 moments with you folks over the next couple of weeks.  I will be sharing some awesome things that I did, re-posting some of the most popular posts and just having some fun.  Here is one of my favorite memories from 2009: The Game.

I despise watching baseball on TV. Football=pure awesomeness. Baseball=painfully excruciating.  BUT, actually being at the ball park is a totally different story.

At the ball park you’ve got bumper music, contests between the innings, crazy mascots dancing and, of course, hot dogs.

My son, Will, turned 3 this summer, and I decided it was time to take him to first ball game. Now, I wasn’t interested  in driving all the way to Baltimore to an Orioles game just to find out he hated it.  So we went to see the Delmarva Shorebirds in Salisbury, MD.

It was awesome.  He loved watching the game.  You can see from this picture I took with my phone:

We were close enough that he could actually see what was happening, and ask questions. (And many times, the same questions again and again.)

But, Will is still a 3 year old, and had to find some other distractions.  The game was rain delayed for a while, so there were puddles in the stands. He found one. ‘Nuff said.

He enjoyed a JUMBO hot dog covered in ketchup!  It was a mess to behold.

Will also found the bathrooms interesting! So, we took approximately 20 trips there throughout our evening. (You just don’t say no to a recently potty-trained kid!)

He also LOVED the peanut vendor.  I promise you that all the way home, and for the next 3 days, Will shouted “Peanuts! Get your peanuts!” over and over again.

3 year olds are no doubt high maintenance, and have a high probability of starting trouble and getting on your nerves.  But I only get a 3 year old Will for one year, and I will always remember the first time we went to a ball game. And it is one of my favorite 2009 memories.

Share some of your fave 2009 moments/memories.  I would love to hear your stories.

~billy