Monthly Archives: October 2009

Good-bye iTem84

_MG_6743Last weekend, October 17, 2009, iTem84 played their final show.  Micah, Reyn and Jeremy worked very hard the last few years in making iTem84 a success.  They created an entire new album called Get Unique in 2009, played shows in Austin, Houston, Round Rock, Cedar Park and Hutto, were on TV twice, put on large concerts in Hutto, and much, much more.

Sadly, now, they have decided to end  iTem84, and focus on college and pursue other interests.  There are many reasons for their decision and I think they thought them out well and will all be better for the decision but it was sad watching them sign CD covers for fans after finishing their _MG_6740last ever set at Hutto Olde Tyme Days Saturday.  It is hard to express the emotion I felt watching their friend and frequent roadie/groupie, Amber, tearing down Reyn’s drums for the last time for an iTem84 gig.

I really love these guys – they are amazing.  They had more going in their music, stage presence, showmanship, heart, drive and diligence then most adults.  That’s not to say they getuniquedidn’t have issues because they did and, ultimately, they decided some of those could not likely be resolved – but, man, they were so close – it is hard to see them  come to this fork in the road.  Even after this show, adults who had never heard them before were telling me how impressed they were.  One woman who was there running a booth for a local clinic came over after the show, got a CD and asked them to sign it because she wanted to be able to have that when they became big.  Ed Broussard, EB-tweetHutto’s City Manager tweeted about their performance. This type of response was not the exception when iTem84 performed but the norm.  Adults as well as young people loved them. 

I have been honored to know these guys and support them with photography, computer support, and occasional business/marketing coaching but this was all their drive and energy and talent and I will miss them terribly even though I, of course, still get to hang out with them some. 

In my life, I have been blessed to find myself in the middle of very magic moments in the critical incubation and evolution of many organizations and movements.  These last two years for iTem84 was a magic time and, if IMG_6571I’m honest, I must admit that my voluntary positioning of myself near the window of their efforts was more because I was hoping some of the overspray of that magic dust would land on me than for any other reason.

I will miss attending their concerts, previewing new websites and graphics, being blown away by their crazy sponsorship collection efforts and Herculean attempts at birthing near-professional grade concerts out of thin air. 

Guys, I am so impressed with you all and I’m sure you have even more spectacular adventures brewing – but I’ve loved iTem84.  Thanks for the memories and the music.

Are You A Sinner Saved By Grace?

If you attend a church, certainly a Bible Church or other conservative church, you are likely to hear the idea that “Christians are Sinners saved by grace”.  What is interesting is that this cannot  be found anywhere in the Bible. 

That man rebelled against God and became separated from him is obvious.   It is this rebellion and separation, caused by sin that makes man a sinner and before coming to Christ, we were all sinners.  However, the identity and title used throughout the New Testament for believers is Saint.

This, of course, does not mean what Catholicism has sadly caused the word to come to mean – a person who has worked to grow holy and close to God and become so pure and good that we call them saints.  But it is very clear in the New Testament that we could add that prefix to a modern new convert as well as to St. Paul or St. Augustine. 

We were once sinners, but we were saved by grace and now, we are saints.  Sainthood, like salvation, cannot be achieved by our works – it is the title of the children of God who have become God’s children through union with Christ. Christ is now their very life, their only life and Christ was never a sinner – so neither are they.  Once you are a child of God, through your faith in God’s gracious provision, you are no longer a mere mortal, separated from God – a sinner.

That we were once sinners is true, but it is not the interesting thing – the amazing thing is that we are now Saints in Christ and we can boldly go before the thrown of God.  What’s the value of dwelling on the fact that we were sinners. And certainly, identifying ourselves as sinners can only serve to make our heavenly Father sad.  If we adopted a child from the gutter and loved them as our own but they constantly reminded us that they were not our child and kept dressing in the rags of their previous life, we would be greatly grieved.  How much more grief must God bear because of our misunderstanding of his gift.

Answer these questions for yourself:

1. If I died tonight, am I 100% certain I will go to heaven?

2. If I died and stood before God, and he asked my why he should let me into his heaven, what would my answer be?

If you answered no to question #1, would you like to be certain?

If for question #2, you answered with something like “I’ve tried to lead a good life” – can you not see that you are still working for your salvation.

The gospel – the good news – that God is proclaiming to man is that all man’s works are in vain and unnecessary for he has provided the lamb and the man who believes can be certain that he will be saved.  God, unlike men, keeps his word and is completely capable – can’t you see that you can be sure of God’s power and desire to do this – so trusting in him means you never have to worry about your ability to put it together.

When Egypt was plagued with frogs such that they were in the food and drinking water and beds and homes, Pharaoh summoned Moses agreeing to his demands and Moses asked Pharaoh when he would like God to remove the plague.  Pharaoh’s incredulous response was tomorrow.  Why in the world would he wait another day living with the frogs.   And why would we live another day being indecisive about accepting God’s infinitely better gift in Christ so we could sleep tonight certain that we will go to heaven because we can answer God’s question confidently that our basis for entry is on God’s Word, his son’s life indwelling us.

And what does that take?  Asking him for his life to count as our own. It is not merely believing – the Bible says even the demons believe.  Faith is asking his life to be your own.  If I showed you are sturdy chair and you told me you believe it could support you – but refused to sit in it – how much are you really believing in the chair?  Settle it once for all to fully engage with Christ.

Congratulations.

After you’ve given your life to Christ or if you already done that, then resolve to never again identify yourself as anything less than a child of God because no child of God is a sinner, separated from God.

Morality vs Nobility

Perhaps the saddest deception that Satan has perpetrated on the human race is that morality is what God wants from man. Our enemy was pleased to convince us that God was angry with us because we weren’t being good boys and girls. In this way, he enslaved us in between guilt and pride. First he pushes us into a prideful pursuit of proving to ourself and heaven that we could be good which of course sends us into condemning self-conceit and judgement of others. Then he is swift to accuse us and drive to guilt.

But the reality is that God is not after morality from us, he is pursuing us fully. He is about providing us nobility. Regardless of our human plight and because of his love for us, he has made Christ to become our very life so that we are his children. This is the secret his enemy hides because by merely receiving God’s gift, we are forever his child and the knowledge of good and evil is replaced by the tree of life.

Abiding Agape

A friend’s comment about my earlier post on accountability reminded me of a statement made by C.S. Lewis in his famous and fabulous speeches titled, The Four Loves. In discussing Agape, God’s love, referred to in this statement also as charity, Lewis says:

There is that in the heart of every man which resists and resents agape from his fellow creatures or even from his creator.  We naturally want to be desired, to be found delightful, to satisfy worthily some hunger in others. To receive a love that is purely a gift, that bears witness solely to the lovingness of the giver, and not at all to our loveliness, is a severe mortification. We desperately need to receive such love, from God and even from our fellow creatures, but we don’t naturally want to. 

That reality, of course, is due to the fall – that pride we inherited that wants to “be like God“.  This is also why many have a hard time receiving the free gift of God in Christ preferring, instead, a plethora of philosophies, ideas and religions that let them work up to God, building their own tower of Babel, with the same tragic results.

However, where accountability is concerned, we are not under any obligation to receive false charity.  Lewis continues:

“I don’t want any of your darned Christian charity” is a very familiar sentence.  Of course, it often springs from an ignorance of what Christian charity is – more often from a well grounded suspicion that Christian charity is not what we’re really being offered – because, of course, much of what is called charity contains so much vanity, self-applause, and veiled contempt that it cannot help but be resented.

Our Lord told us that he was sending us “out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves“.  He also told us not to give “that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” 

Trust your heart and seek counsel from those who love you as Christ does, not from those who care about moral platitudes and serving as modern day Pharisees. Psalm 103:13-14 says “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”  So, don’t give yourself to those who can’t remember that you, and they themselves, are made of dust.  Love those people, but seek counsel from brothers and sisters who love you and God and can encourage you with gentleness and compassion.

Lewis summarized this section:

It is hard to bear agape from our fellows, and yet, each of us needs it.  There is that in each of us that simply can’t be loved with natural love.

The question for us is whether we will recognize “angels unaware” and “today, if we hear his voice, avoid hardening our hearts.” Practice agape accountability with your brothers and sisters and let them practice it with you.  As St. Paul told the Ephesians: “And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.”

Accountability

We tend to hate the idea of accountability. I think this is because we imagine it to be about somebody telling us what we can’t do. The reality is that good accountability is positive. It enables those who love you to help you progress to where you really want to go but likely may not get to without a helping hand and encouraging words.

God gave us three gifts to help us accomplish our mission: the Word of God, the Spirit of God and the People of God. Sometimes, we really need all three gifts working together.

Sifting Sand to Soar

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey illustrates the secret of doing first (important) things first by putting big rocks into a jar first followed by smaller rocks then pebbles and finally sand. You cannot add the big important rocks on a life filled densely with sand.

Still, there are many day-to-day activities that can be added in while the sands of time are pouring your day away. Being prepared to leverage that time can help you maximize your effort and avoid the frustration that can occur when you feel like you are wasting your time. Waiting for a friend at the coffee house, or for your doctor to call you from the waiting room or in a line at the grocery store is a perfect time to check or update your list, sequence your next step or think about the challenges you need to work with next. You can often to this in your head but you can usually find paper and pen if you need to make notes.

If you have technology such as the iPhone at your disposal, you can do even more: call and setup that appointment or make it via their webpage form, reply to that email you haven’t had time for, find and order that birthday present and so much more. The iPhone is a great tool that can crystallize all the tasks that keep getting lost between the rocks and ever blowing sand of time. The only trick is to use it effectively and not let it fill your time with more sand.

One last note: driving is not sand time.