So this year for Christmas Santa brought us a Wii!!! Actually Katie's parents bought us a Wii and we're loving it! I went to Game Stop today to trade in my old PS2 and games for hopefully some Wii games. I made it through the line to find out that my PS2, wireless controllers, and games were only enough to buy 1 Wii controller. Anyways, neither Katie or I have ever been video game players but we're pretty excited about the Wii. We got the Wii fit and Biggest Loser and excited to hopefully use it to get in shape. My arm was actually sore this morning after playing Wii Olympics much of the day yesterday. I'd love to hear any suggestions on games you might suggest or if there's another system you prefer to the Wii.
Why do Bad things happen to Great people? This question seems to go round and round and it doesn't matter how well scripted of an answer that a Christian might have, it still hits all of us in the midst of tragedy. We all know people who would seem less deserving than us that seem to receive greater blessing and we have all seen tragedy strike people that are genuinely Great people. Why?
I don't think I could begin to explain why, but as I've been experiencing bad things happen to Great people recently I've been able to watch God use those situations in powerful ways. Recently a friend from High School, Joe Houston, was in a tragic plane crash losing his life and leaving behind his son and fiance. Joe seemed to have a great life ahead of him when tragedy struck. Even more recently I've learned of Matt Chandler having a seizure on Thanksgiving Day to later find out that he now has cancer. As I think about these two men it brings me back to the same question: Why?
I read these words in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." These words can be hard to understand at times, but I believe them whole heartedly. As I followed the search for Joe online and the dialogue after finding his body, I watched God's powerful movement through Jenn's Facebook and their blog. In the midst of such tragedy, God worked in and through Jenn's and others words that will forever affect my life and I know so many others. As I'm watching Matt Chandler face this tragedy in his life, I'm watching an incredible movement online through his Twitter and blog. It's hard to answer the question why but it's incredible to watch God work good into situations that seem so bad.
So this is the second time that I'm using this title in a blog post, but it's again just quoting someone else. My hits more than doubled last time though, so I'm curious if I'll see the same results this time. I've been reading this blog for a while and think others in ministry will be intrigued by it as well. I love their title: The blog to frustrate, educate and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ. They have great insights in promoting the movement of God in the local church and we can all learn a lot about this. One of the greatest opportunities I believe for any organization and especially for the church when it comes to communication is maximizing social media. Church Marketing Sucks shares great insights and ideas when it comes to this. Check out their blog and feel free to share any other blogs or websites that you run across that can help ministries and organizations when it comes to communicating the the general public. Go here to check out the site.
I shared this video with our students this past Sunday and thought I'd share it with you as well. I've always loved how the Skit Guys find away to capture you with humor and drama and drive home an incredible point every time. This video is a great reminder of the incredible gift that God gave us in His Son as we celebrate Christmas this season. Take 5 minutes today and watch this, it will be well worth your time.
Last night Katie and I went out with the family to see Christmas lights and drive through Concordia Lutheran's Live Nativity. I honestly had very little expectations going into it and was blown away. It really was an incredible experience and worth taking the time to drive through tonight. If you're in San Antonio, tonight is the last night of their live Nativity and I would make sure to take the 15-20 minutes to drive through tonight and experience this! You can get more information at their website here.
In my new role as Internet Pastor at Trinity Baptist, I'm getting to do some pretty interesting research and play with some pretty exciting tools online. Maybe the most exciting tool that I've been playing with is The City by Zondervan. I was introduced to this tool through The Park (a new church plant in San Antonio) who is using The City very effectively in building their community online. If you're interested in joining them in The City go here. The City seems to be a great tool to connect your church deeper in community maximizing the internet. The founder describes The City as "church movement software" rather than "church management software". I can't wait to see the impact of the city on our local church communities and can't wait to see how it develops in the coming months and years!
One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is Scott Crenshaw at New River Fellowship in Weatherford, TX. Scott's been a hero of mine since college when he spoke weekly at Crosstalk Bible Study in San Marcos. He has since led some of the largest college ministries in the country in Metro, Portico, and The Venue at Lakewood Church and Grace Church in Houston. He's now the Senior Pastor at New River Fellowship which is one of the fastest growing churches in the country right now. Scott brings life to scripture and will always push you out of your comfort zone. Scott's passion for God and for life is contagious! Listen or download Scott's podcasts on iTunes here.
I've heard several different takes on this question and I'm curious to hear yours. I've heard many pastors say that they believe that it's important to keep their personal quiet time scripture reading separate from what they are teaching on. I have heard others say that it's extremely important to keep these together as you are teaching directly from your heart and where God is moving in your direct study. I have tried both and prefer to separate the two, believing that I am still teaching from God's movement in my heart, but often what God is revealing to me in my quiet time with Him isn't always what needs to be communicated to the community that I am teaching God's Word to. What are your thoughts?
Video from Matt Matt Chandler has been a hero of mine for many years, but after watching this video I'm saying WOW to his life and ministry more than ever! In the midst of incredible struggle personally with the health issues that he is facing, his faith seems even stronger and his testimony heard even louder! It's an incredible perspective that Matt has on this personal crisis and will be interesting to watch how God will use Matt's faith to impact many!
I have been so blessed to have been surrounded by some incredible mentors since I first became a Christian. I think about the Youth Pastors that invested in me through my first steps, the leaders in the Brothers Under Christ fraternity who discipled me, and the pastors who have since mentored me. I rarely sought out a mentor, but God placed some of the most incredible people around me that have invested so much into my life and ministry. Over the past year, Dr. Hardy Clemons has faithful met with me every Tuesday for an hour. I have been able to pick his brain about life, ministry, weddings, funerals, marriage, complainers, and everything else in between. Currently, I'm in the middle of a huge transition in my ministry and have never needed Godly wisdom, advice, and encouragement. As difficult as this transition has been for me personally, the opportunity to meet with new and old mentors through this season has been so challenging, encouraging, and inspiring. If you are in ministry and you are not surrounded by mentors I can't encourage you enough to seek one or many out. Take a look at Paul's relationship with Timothy and how critical that mentoring relationship was for Timothy's ministry. I would love to hear about some of your mentors and how they have encouraged and inspired you in your ministry.
Over the past 6 months or so I have played this song almost daily on my iPod. The words are so incredibly powerful and have been a daily reminder of Who I live for daily. I have been especially drawn to the passion in which Kristian Stanfill leads this song. If you haven't already watched the YouTube video please take a minute to. Here are the words to this powerful hymn:
Verse 1 I hear the Savior say, "Thy strength indeed is small. Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all."
Chorus ’Cause Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.
Verse 2 Lord, now indeed I find Thy pow'r and Thine alone, Can change the leper’s spots, And melt the heart of stone.
Verse 3 And when before the throne I stand in Him complete, Jesus died my soul to save my lips shall still repeat.
Bridge Oh, praise the One who paid my debt, And raised this life up from the dead.
I would love to hear what songs or hymns that move you. It's been interesting to look back and how I can define certain seasons in my walk with Christ with a different worship song that was stirring in my heart through that season. What songs move you?
In two days Katie and I will be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary which also means that we've been together for 9 years (above is a picture from our Honeymoon in Lake Tahoe)! I'm so blessed to have such an incredible wife who has loved me more than I ever deserve! One of the things that we have learned in our marriage is how desperately we need to get away together. We have been on some great vacations to Lake Tahoe, New York, Las Vegas, and Austin twice (not big expensive trips, but great getaways). Tomorrow we leave on our first cruise on Carnival to Cozumel. We are so excited about the time together but also anxious about leaving our precious girl for the first time. Please pray for us while we're gone on our cruise. Pray that this will be an emotionally, physically, and spiritually rejuvenating time away. Pray that our marriage is strengthened as have been and are going through a season of transition. I'll look forward to sharing updates as we return. We'll be reading your comments before we leave, so we'd love as many cruise tips and suggestions as you'll be willing to share.
Over Thanksgiving I pushed my sister and brother in law into buying their first Mac! I consider myself a Mac guy even though I'm not very creative and I still privately cling to my PC at the office. I took another step in the Mac world by joining on their Mobile Me family account. Mobile Me is a very cool online storage, email, calendaring, etc. for personal use. It also can be a great tool for website hosting I found. After setting up my Mobile Me account I decided to try out iWeb and create a quick website. If you want to see what I created go to www.NilsSmith.com. I'm a bigger Mac fan after going through this process but have to admit that I'm a little concerned with how limiting it is. For a beginniner (which I would consider myself) it really couldn't be easier, but for someone that wants to have freedom in their website iWeb can be somewhat limiting having to stay within their templates. I do suggest though for any ministry that does not think that they have the skills or budget to create a website, this is the perfect resource. iWeb comes free on your Mac and Mobile Me is phenomenal for the cost (about $100/year or get a family pack like we did getting 5 accounts for $150).
Since college I have wrestled with these two systems of theology. Every church I have been a part of has Arminianism beliefs but many great theologians and Christian leaders that I respect have Calvinist beliefs. Recently Time Magazine listed "New Calvinism" as the #3 idea that is changing the world. Leaders that I respect so much like John Piper, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, and Matt Carter are lead voices for this movement that is impacting the world. At the same time there are leaders like Gregg Matte and Hardy Clemons that I also respect incredibly have spoken very convincingly about their Arminianism beliefs. Honestly, I have avoided this debate and thought it was not worth the argument. Many of my friends have this same mindset but others will challenge me saying that it's critical and I must understand what I believe and why I believe it. As I hear discussions both sides seemingly use scripture to defend their beliefs. I'm not trying to pick a fight, but I would love to hear your thoughts. I would love to hear what you believe and why. I would also love to hear about any specific readings that you might suggest or good websites for research on this debate.