LifeWay Downloads: Tough Sayings of Jesus

And.... we're back!  After a brief hiatus in order to get out processes sorted out, we've begun to push out digital download content to LifeWay.com again.  I'm happy to say that the first out of the gate this go around is the Threads study, Tough Sayings of Jesus by Michael Kelley. For the downloadable resources, literally the entire study is available either as a complete bundle, as individual sessions, or as just the videos (in my humble opinion, the Captive video from this series is one of the short video segments to come out of LifeWay).  Each session contains a lot: 1) The Leader Guide PDF 2) The Member Book PDF 3) The Corresponding Conversation-Stater Video 4) Audio Teaching Help from Michael Kelley 5) Tough Saying Poster PDF & email banner JPG 6) Sample of Tough Sayings 2 The Threads team have reallyl gone all out to make this a complete digital offering.  Also available today is the "More Than Stats" video from Get Uncomfortable and the previously unreleased "Hear" video.
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Being a Career Christian

As I’m starting to wrap up my MBA, I’m moving to that weird stage in life where I feel the need to start planning some things out.  My wife and I are planning on having our credit card debt finished this year.  We’re looking at having kids in 2010 (so far away, yet so close).  I absolutely love my current job, but I’m always thinking about the next step.  But what’s next in the career of a Christian? continued
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Missions at LifeWay

One of the great things about working for LifeWay is knowing that we reinvest so much time and talent into building missions oppertunities for churches across the nation, and maintaining relationships with cities across the country. Because of the oppertunties that LifeWay organizes, youth groups and college students are able to go on short-term missions that have long-term missions impact.  It's a great oppertunity for the participants to grow on a personal level, while still impacting the people and communities they come in contact with on a long term basis. The first conversation I got to have was with Laurie Lee about the missions oppertunities that LifeWay provides for youth groups.  Through FUGE Camps, students are able to participate in missions first hand, as well as give to a missions fund that provides for the cities FUGE Camps partners with long term.  The video with Laurie is thirty minutes long, but if you choose to watch it you will see Laurie's passion for missions work just flow out of her.  If you have an interest in short-term or long term missions, I would highly suggest you give it a listen. appKey=MarbachViewerEmbedded&uri=channels/30228/102476&embedId=10070657] Last Friday I also got the chance to talk with Angel Ellis about the Threads event for college students, Beach Reach.  At Beach Reach, students travel to Florida during spring break to help drunk student get home safely.  Students get to take part by driving vans, praying together, or just talking with the students they are helping find their way home. You can listen to the podcast episode here.
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Threads Podcast: The Oscars

Yesterday I got to work on my first podcast for the Threads team, a roundtable discussion on the Oscars.  Normally the roundtable discussions are about ministry, culture, etc., but the group wanted to kick back and have a fun little movie chat. Unfortunately, as I was getting ready for the podcast I realized a horrible truth: I had only seen three movies out of all of the nominations.  So you can listen in as I desperately try to sound like I have a clue (though I did get to talk about Persepolis and Once).  I've found that I consume my media in a growing number of ways, completely at the sacrifice of actually going to the theatre.  If I can have a better visual and auditory experience in my home, if I can make it a social even by having friends over (and being able to talk during the movie), if I can get a glass of water if I'm thirsty instead of paying $3.50 for a bottle of water... and the cost is the same ($20 for two tickets vs $15-20 for a Blu-Ray)... why wouldn't I just wait until it comes out for home release?
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Chad Jordan and LifeMatters

In the first video I did for LifeWay Conversations, I spoke with Chad Jordan, editor of LifeMatters for the Threads line of products.  It was  actually great to get to sit down with Chad and talk about the new product, as it is a drastic change in the presentation style for LifeWay's dated/ongoing studies.  What I didn't know when I went in to talk with him was that he actually had a copy of next quarter's materials as well he got to show off.  I'm not sure how well it translates to video, but the style and design are simply stellar. In all honesty, now that I've seen the materials and where the Threads team is going with all this, Ashley and I are considering starting a Sunday morning study at our church, just to use these materials. [kyte.tv appKey=MarbachViewerEmbedded&uri=channels/30228/84682&embedId=10030237&locale=en]
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LifeWay Conversations

So... I recently got a new job, working as a Digital Media Producer for LifeWay.  What that means is that I will get to prepare our normal content for online delivery, including audio, video, and print.  This is something I've been doing for LifeWay in iTunes for over two years now, but this new position will have me doing it for all of LifeWay.com.  Needless to say, I'm excited. As a part of this new position, I'll also get to be creating some original content.  While we're still in the process of creating the necessary digital workflow, I've taken my downtime to drop in on people's offices and get them to talk about what they're working on.  The videos are then placed throughout LifeWay.com... I've already got several of them out there. So, you might see some (all?) of the videos show up on my blog here, just to keep you updated with what I'm working on here.  I figure a little video wouldn't hurt to spice up the site, too.  Enjoy, and try to give me some feedback on if I should collect them all here, or keep the blog and my LifeWay work separate.  Thanks!
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words for worship

Last Sunday, I got to partake in worship at my church in a way that I never have before; I got to help lead with the worship band. I don’t sing or play any instrument, though. Instead, I got to read. Now, that may not sound innovative or different or special. I mean, I’ve read scripture before in services… pastors usually read quotes and what not… but this was a little bit different. It was more of a spoken word piece, where the band played music and I read along, integrated into it. For example, I read this piece while the band played the song “Breathe Me” by Sia (and was sung by my wife… which was awesome to get to partake in leading worship with her, btw). Integrating the two just… worked. continued
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What do I Really Want?

I’m stuck with a “hard” decision. Let’s just be honest for a bit here and expose my struggle: the thing that I’ve been wrestling with the past few nights out to the ether of the internet: should I, or shouldn’t I, buy a PlayStation 3? This shouldn’t be such a spiritual struggle, should it? I mean… it’s just stuff, right? continued
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May I talk about Robots? (Spoiler: the answer is "No")

This post will set the tone for the next two years of my life.

But first, I have to say how much I appreciate the team over at threadsmedia.com.  They are doing a great ministry over there, trying to be honest about faith and life and trying to sort out what it means to be a Christian in today’s world.  They’ve let me play in their sandbox as an almost “adjunct” team member going to (some) team meeting and posting my thoughts on the blog.  I always want to add to the conversation and add to their ministry, never detract from it.  And that’s why I’m OK with this:

A blog post of mine was recently taken down.

The official reason is that it was off-topic from the direction the blog has been heading.  I’m ok with that.  The post (which we’ll get to in a few lines) was definitely an experiment and, honestly, not my best work.  It is more the kernel of an idea… the thoughts that I’m struggling with right now.

The intent of the blog at threadsmedia is to talk about our reactions to things that happen in life.  My post was my reaction to something I read that really hit home with me and I thought would be a great way to open up a new conversation for the readership of threadsmedia to discuss.

Ironically, I did not put the post on this blog for two reasons:

1)      I wanted to start diversifying my writing between what goes on here, threads, and my readingthebible blog.

2)      The post was written with the threads audience in mind, introducing them to my struggles in life with a topic that most people who know me personally (i.e. the readership of this blog) probably already know.

 Without further ado, the lost post of Aaron on threadsmedia.com:

***  May I talk about Robots? It was recently announced by Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp and Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle that, starting in September, there will be a congressional caucus to learn about robots.  This… could be big. As robots get more and more pervasive in society, it’s important that we begin to try and figure out what the ethics and morals are for them.  Eventually, their artificial intelligence will match/exceed our own.  As robots move past being our vacuum cleaners or pets and become integrated into society, life as we know it will quickly change.So, now that the American government is waking up to the realization that there is something to discuss here, shouldn’t we as the church begin to sort out our thoughts? What happens to us, morally, if someone write some bit of code that gives robots true feelings?  Are we morally obligated to them? What happens when some software is finally written that doesn’t need to be rebooted and can stay on forever, learning and thinking… do we have a right to take out its batteries?  Are we to hold true to Asimov’s three laws… or does that essentially make these robots little more than slaves? I don’t have any kind of answer for any of this yet.  But I want to explore it.  Shouldn’t the church and all our visionaries begin to enter this conversation?  Is this something that we need to be involved in, or do we trust that this is some subject the government can handle on it’s own? How do we as Christians begin to work through our morals and spirits to something so absent of life yet so full of potential? ***

So… it’s not my best work nor is it a fully-realized document at all.  To me, the ideas presented there are more like saying “hey, there’s a thing called an iceberg” moreso than studying what’s a mile or two deep into the iceberg… let alone 100 miles deep.

This conversation, however, is so far off the norm for typical spiritual conversation that it looks odd and out of place on the threadsmedia blog.  Like I said – I’m not at all upset, wounded, or disappointed with the choice to take it down.  I get it.  I understand the reasons and fully support it.  I’ll keep on writing for the blog and be honored and amazed that they even let me have a login.

My struggle is coming down the line, though.  I’ll be seeking people to have these kinds of conversations with and I’m not sure where to have them.  I’m genuinely concerned for the Church of America that is blind to what’s happening around us in regards to science, biology, culture and, well, the future.

And so, this August, I will begin working through the University of Houston’s Studies of the Future Master’s Program under the tutelage of Dr. Peter Bishop.  I hope to join the conversation of contemporary futurists and help shape culture there.  I hope there’s a place for me in the conversation of the Church to figure out how we are to react to changes in culture that are coming.  I pray that I’ll still be loved an accepted by my Southern Baptist brethren as my words and ideas might be new.

I know that there are struggles coming for me.  It’s going to be hard to walk the line between being informative and helping change lives with my studies and not sounding like an eccentric sci-fi author.  Taking this new knowledge and translating it into some kind of text or study will have to be prompted by the Holy Spirit because I don’t know how to approach it.

I want to talk about synthetic life and what it means for Creation.  I want to talk about gay bomb warfare and what it means for sexuality.  I want to talk turning off DNA, installing auditory nerve implants and I want to talk about whether or not turning off robots is morally ok for a Christ-follower.

I’m excited to start the futurist program at UH as it will give me an opportunity to have these conversations and, just maybe, gleam some insight as to what it means for us spiritually.  Maybe one day God will grant me some nugget of wisdom worth imparting so some listening audience, somewhere.  And perhaps, just by chance, I might get to talk about robots.

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Throwing Away Memories

originally published on threadsmedia.com  My wife and I are moving to a new home so that, of course, means getting this house cleaned out and ready to sell.  And so, today, I began to work through the little drawer in the corner of my office; the one that holds notes and cards, pictures and papers.  The one little place where my memories live on, frozen in time. How do you choose what memories to throw away?  I found in my litle chest of memories a binder full of newsletters I made for the Bible study I helped run back at Mentor High School.  It's a virtual library of old things I used to write... a blog on paper form!  I don't need to keep multiple copies of each newsletter... but how many should I keep?  3?  5?  Just recycle them all?  How do I choose which memories are ok to keep?  I'm very happily married; I love my wife and she is without a doubt the most important woman in my life.  So what do I do with all these notes and letters from the women who shaped me into the man that I am now?  Is it ok to keep the getting-to-know-you letters from Kim in 1996... do I keep the ones from 2000 telling me thanks for being a good man, thanks for helping her grow, now she's found the love of her life?  What about the letters from Jen when we fought because she started dating someone else?  Allen's random notes that are just as funny today as they were when I was 16?  Or the note of encouragement from Jessica after my speech running for Student Coucil President (my platform was "No New Taxes")? These memories of men and women, their stories and how they collided, were are part of, and tore away from mine... what do I keep?  How can I send them off to be collected with the rest of our trash to be collected some Friday morning?  And yet, what need do I have of them other than to look at them the next time I rearrange furniture and decide to throw away a few more..? How in the world do I decide what memories to keep and what to let slip away? Somehow, mixed in with all these other keepsakes, is a stack of greeting cards that my dad had given to my mom.  Some cute, some saucy, and some full of apology.  Is this something to keep for my kids who will never meet their grandmother?  They're just cards... veyr few words written in them.  Who am I to decide that this card goes in the trash, while that one I let sit in this drawer another twenty years. And if I don't decide to let it go... do I want my kids to have to make that choice?  Do I want my grandkids to see these memories?  The story of how I grew up will be lost on my grandkids if I don't tell them... do I leave these notes and pictures of people they won't know lying aroud so I can keep them as a visual aid?  Which of these stories will change the live of my grandkids that they tell their grandkids..?  And if I only have half a drawer of notes and papers and photos... how many memories have I already lost?
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Answering the Question

originally published on threadsmedia.com

One of my best friends, James, got engaged earlier tonight.  I’m excited for him and his soon-to-be-bride and all the memories that life together will bring them.  As a friend I get to share in their joy and be happy for them; they found the one they want to spend this life with.  In that same breath, I remember being in college and James and I being jealous as our friends married off and found some woman to love on.  We wanted so desperately to love and be loved.  We wanted a “successful” relationship.

Now, just a couple years later and very happily married, I have learned a little something about relationships:

Every relationship can be a success.  Every relationship should be a success.

As a young Christian growing up in youth group, I automatically assumed that every relationship was supposed to end in marriage.  I would think that if I dated a girl and wasn’t thinking about a ring then I was wronging her and dishonoring myself.  My perspective, and the goal or a relationship was wrong.

Every relationship can be a success; every relationship should be a success.  I all depends on what you define as a success.  My definition now?

Success in a relationship is determined by one little thing: Did I answer the question?

We befriend someone to answer the question: Should I date this person?

Now, that’s not to say the only reason we befriend someone is to figure out whether or not we should date them… instead, that before we decide “I want to date this person” we should at least befriend them.  We should know some basics – do they have the same beliefs as me?  Do we get along?  Am I attracted to this person?  Can I control myself around them? Do they let me be me?

If something happens here, if you aren’t compatible – it’s ok.  We obviously shouldn’t be trying to date all of our friends – people perceive that as just being creepy and/or desperate.  But look – if you decide that this person is not for you your time wasn’t wasted; it was a success!  You answered the question and you are both wiser for it; and hopefully, you have a new, real friend.

If you do decide to date them… then you’re still successful!  You answered the question.  But after that success comes and even more important question…

We date to answer the question: Should I be in a relationship with this person?

So we’ve gotten the basics out of the way.  You know you like each other, you get excited when they call and their sneezes sound cute.  But now you’re asking something a little more serious.  Being in a relationship is tying yourself to someone else.  You begin to see them through rose-colored glasses.  Because you want them to be right for you, because you want your time investment to be worthwhile, it’s easy to amplify the positive and pardon the real issues that are there.  There are so many important things to still be discovered… do your friends like each other?  Do your parents/mentors/guardians approve?  Do your moral values line up?  Is it comfortable to pray together?

If along the way you decide that no, I shouldn’t be in a relationship with this person that’s ok.  It’s still successful because you answered the question.  You were just dating, right?  It wasn’t a commitment and hearts don’t have to be shattered.  But if you answer the question and decide that yes – this is someone I want to be in a relationship with…

We are in a relationship to answer the question: Should I marry this person?

One of the most important decisions you will make in your life; is this the person I should marry?  How do you even begin to decide this?

If you never had a clear answer on whether or not you should date this person, if you never had a clear answer on whether or not you should be in a relationship with this person… the ideas and thoughts in your heads are going to be so muddy that you won’t be able to answer this question clearly.

The relationship was a success if you answered the question “no” and ended the relationship.  The problems come when the answer should have been “no” but you never decided the answer… or tricked yourself into thinking the answer was yes.

What makes you decide, “should I marry this person”?  I think it’s different for everyone; you have to know what priorities are.  If one of the pair has been called to international service work but the other doesn’t want to ever leave the country… there might be a problem there.  If the girl has always dreamed of being a mom but the man can’t stand the idea of children… there might be a problem.  Those are just surface issues.

Perhaps even better are the opposite questions: why should I marry this person?  Can we do ministry together?  Does he make you smile in the morning?  Do your friends see the love you two share?  Does she make you want to be a better man?

And if the answer is no; if you decide somewhere that you shouldn’t be married to this person… then the relationship is still a success.  Why?  Because you answered the question.  Yes, it will hurt and your heart will be broken.  But you answered the question and – ultimately – you can look back on the relationship as a success.

The goal isn’t to be married; the goal is to discover who you should be married to.  Once you find that, the rest is easy.

Congratulations, James and Heather.  I’m glad that each step along the way you answered the question.  I’m honored that I got to pray with you and can’t wait for you two to discover all the joys, struggles, smiles and tears that marriage will bring.  I’m excited that you discovered who you should be married to; I’m glad you had the courage to ask and I’m she already knew she’d said yes.

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Sexual Temptation After Marriage

 originally published on threadsmedia.com Recently, one of my friends made a presumption: “When you get married, all this temptation gets easier, right?” I remember thinking that way before I got married.  I remember thinking that suddenly all these lusts and desires would disappear and the world would be a wonderland, free of sexual temptation.  I responded to my friend in the most truthful manner I could: “No.  It changes, but it doesn’t get easier.  It gets harder.” It’s amazing how temptation finds its way through so many cracks and slivers of life.  Sexual temptation doesn’t simply go away once you’re married.  To think so would be naïve, and run the risk of exposing yourself to self-denial about the things going on around you. When I got engaged I had to stop chatting with friends I’d known for years because the moment I was “off the market” they wanted me to know that they had wanted to be the one to be with me.  I have friends who, once married, discovered something their sexual identity and decided that monogamy wasn’t for them.  I know of relationship after relationship where something happens, someone withholds love from their spouse, and suddenly there is deceit and pain and someone has been unfaithful. In a marriage, nothing is just about “you” anymore.  It’s about you and your spouse.  So even if you don’t think you were tempted… your wife might think your eyes glanced at someone to long.  Your wife may think she’s just talking to the girls, but you might think that she swoons a little too much over that actor on the screen.  These temptations might seem like little things, but they can quickly become memories that turn into your spouse thinking they see a pattern of behavior; and suddenly, just the temptations are becoming a sore point in the relationship. Temptations change in scope, as well.  When I was single, we were always trying to see how “far” we could get instead of how holy we could be with a girl.  But now that I’m married, going “far” isn’t even the temptation… the temptation is to even start down that path of thinking how “far” is ok. Most people would never think of hugging a girl as a sin.  Once you’re married, though, the moment that hug becomes anything more than a brotherly or sisterly hug a flood of thoughts and temptations can come into the mind of the friend, the hugger or the spouse watching from across the Church floor.  Why was the hug that long?  Why did that hand linger?  Why haven’t I gotten a hug like that lately?  Why did she hug me like that – is their marriage ok? The temptation no longer has to be how “far” you can get sexually, once married.  The temptation can become to even think about testing those boundaries. And, of course, temptation comes in the structure of marriage itself.  You are no longer dealing with just your own needs, but a spouse’s needs.  There are self-imposed issues of questioning whether you’re meeting your spouse’s needs.  If life is busy and there isn’t time for the necessary intimacy, then the temptation is there to just do a duty and not be engaging in relationship. We live in a world that models sexuality instead of intimacy.  I think marriages across our nation are begging for models of intimacy.  I’ve seen enough random hook-ups and mornings after in the movies and on TV to last a lifetime of memories.  I struggle to think about media that models sexual intimacy instead of just sex. These thoughts are just the tip of the iceberg of how temptation changes in marriage.  Probably books could be written (have been written?) on the subject.  I remember when I was in high school (and, yes, even some of college) wanting to get married just so I could be done with all those sexual temptations.  I remember my first few months of marriage thinking no sexual temptation was going to be coming my way; that part of my life was all taken care, I thought. It’s not always easy.  So my single brothers and sisters – pray for your married friends that they can be aware of the temptations around them.  Be aware that in the wrong situation, on the wrong day and with the wrong slight of hand, you might be that tempter.  My married brothers and sisters - don’t forget the temptations that so strongly affected you back “in the day.” Help your single friends know that sexual intimacy in a marriage is a treasure and worth waiting – and fighting daily – for.  Remember that just because you’re married, your single brothers and sisters don’t suddenly stop finding you attractive.  That, even married, you might be a temptation to someone else. So; let’s discuss.  What are the models of sexual intimacy out there?  What are the new temptations we struggle with when married?  What are the thoughts of you single-folk when you see a married couple in love?  In struggle?
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