Friday, December 23, 2011

The Christmas Spirit

A very distinguished Christmas cookie
Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. For some reason, the brightly colored lights, mountains of snow, warm hot cocoa and endless run of Christmas specials on cable TV brings a certain level of joy to my heart. I've always loved Christmas. Really, I've always loved everything about Christmas (except for Christmas cookies which I still don't get... they don't really taste all that good, they don't have coffee in them, and the frosting tastes like chalk). But this year it's been kind of difficult to "get in the mood".

Earlier this week a group of us sat and prayed at my church, repenting for our materialism and addiction to our own comfort. We begged God to let his kingdom come in our lives, in our city, in our world no matter what it cost us. We asked him to teach us to pray like Jesus prayed.

I guess more than anything, I'm conflicted about how much stuff I have. I haven't had to ask God for my daily bread since undergrad because I've always had so much. Even now, when people ask me "what I want for Christmas" I just see this image in the back of my mind of everyone around the world who has so little. Do I really need a "better" pair of shoes when kids in South Africa are playing soccer barefoot? Do I really need the latest Apple product when 80% of the world is living on less than a dollar a day? And that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

To quote David Platt, being a follower of Christ costs something but it also costs something not to follow him. As we hold on to the money and talents God has lent us, others are starving and hungry, dying and in desperate need of the crumbs we through away. 

Ironically, I love giving gifts probably more than the average person. And while I am hoping to become radically different in terms of the way I spend my time, money, and resources, I'm not advocating for the end of gift-giving. But if we're really going to grab hold of the Christmas Spirit, the gifts we give should be of eternal merit. If we're truly want to be like Him, we have to give like he gave.

And with all that being said, I do hope that you have a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In the Face of Desolation

I don’t like telling people what to do unless I’m quoting/paraphrasing the Bible. I don’t like the responsibility. In my mind, if you take my advice I’m then somehow implicated in the resulting actions. I also believe that if someone wants to leave, you let them leave. Present truth plainly but don't try to persuade. In the end, I firmly believe that people will do what they want to do most... hopefully it's to glorify God.

My church has been going through a transition these paste months and I’ve pretty much kept my opinions to myself. Today, I wanted to be a little more transparent. Pardon my emo trip.

Lately my church has been going through a tough time. Quite a few people have left. Some are on the fence, trying to decide if which way they’ll go. I’ve heard pretty much every side of the argument and am convinced that God alone knows the truth. I’ve been unable to sleep for the past few weeks as I’ve struggled to deal with disappointment after disappointment. Sometimes it felt as if people were trying to find reasons to leave, drop their responsibilities, and search for greener pastures. I took it personal and shouldn't have. It was probably selfish on my part.

For what it’s worth, here are some of the reasons why I’m staying: 
  • The Bible Doesn’t Say to Leave- I searched the scriptures. I feel that God has given us the Bible to instruct us how to navigate the waters of this life. In the New Testament you find a ton of churches that Paul is instructing. None of them are perfect. In fact, in many the leaders are teaching heresy. But Paul/Peter/John never tell the members to leave the church. They always tell them to rebuke, correct, train, and fix the body even if that means calling out the leadership. Paul submitted to Christian Pharisees in order to show them that God’s plan involved all people (Acts 15). Christ went to teach at the synagogue.
  • Counting the Cost- This might sound a little pretentious, se la vie. I thought of the souls that hung in the balance. I thought of friends who attended the church. I thought of new believers and struggling believers that attended the church. Was I willing to abandon them? Was it every man for himself? Or was their soul worth my discomfort? I feel that question is a rhetorical one.
  • I can’t leave something broken- this is a pretty big deal for me. For whatever reason, I just can’t leave a place broken. I don’t think it pleases God. I heard a pastor preach on working at his church. He said that each day his wife would drop him off and they would sit in the car crying and praying.  He didn’t want to be at the church. It was arduous work and the church was jacked up. They would pray until their tears turned to praise but he refused to leave the church because he knew that’s where God wanted him.
Division is ugly. What’s more is that it’s not of God. Unity is so precious and it’s something that God values (Jesus prayed for it). If somethings precious you fight for it. You fight for it with bloody knuckles, calloused hands, and a sweat soaked brow. If the church is precious to God... I could go on and on about this… one day I might but I don’t think now is the appropriate time. I don’t knock people for leaving. More times than not I’m sad to see them go. It’s just the logic that always kills me…

A city in need of healing
I guess ultimately it comes down to how God has interacted with man over the course of redemptive history. We have always failed him. We have always fallen short of his expectation and standard. But yet and still, he has endured our sin and pursued us. He never left us and went to find a new body. He never abandoned Israel and searched for a “better” people. No, he endured with them. He pursued them. He loved them violently as demonstrated in the cross. He sent prophet after prophet to persuade them towards righteousness. He sent pillars of fire, clouds of smoke, invading armies, sickness, famine, bread from heaven, deliverance, and exile in order to break their hearts and draw them back to him. Eventually, he even sent his Son, borne of a woman, whom we crucified on a tree. But he never left them… I guess I feel convicted to demonstrate this heart to God’s body.

I guess, in the depths of my soul I know that Christ died for the church. He died for Bethel… that means she’s redeemable. He loved her violently and died on the cross, becoming the very thing his Father abhorred, for the sake of her election. That’s not really something I can walk away from.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sure Thing in Christ

Ahhh… Life has been hectic and my bloggability has evaporated. Tiz the season to be jolly and eat insane amounts of Christmas cookies while watching Elf on repeat (is there really any other Christmas movie worth watching…?). 

Church and school have given me a never-ending “To-Do List”. Monday, I read so much that my right eye was throbbing. Yet and still, I think this is a beautiful struggle. I love my school. My job lets me spend all my time seeking the lost and discipling the saint… is there any greater treasure?

I don’t have a lot to say this time. Sorry if you were expecting something deep :-/

I know we all have lofty aspirations and goals. In about 3 weeks we’ll all pledge to do a bunch of things (lose 10 lbs, complete p90x, stop drinking coffee, keep our houses clean) and then find in a few months that are convictions failed. It used to really depress me. I could never really reach the standard that I was setting. My abs and arms still don’t look like the Rock’s. I can’t imagine what my mornings would be like without coffee.

Christ defines our success.  There is so much peace in that. There are some things we can work on. Perhaps even a few that we should work on. But our identity is held securely in Christ and not in some random checklist of things that we should or shouldn’t be doing. It’s only by his grace that we can change and he already looks at us and smiles.

Don’t get me wrong, examine your heart and ask for the grace to kill sin. But, at the same point in time, Christ gave us the sure gift of eternal life. He loves us despite the presence of coffee stains on our pearly whites and the love handles on our hips. Somewhere, there’s rest in that. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

I’ve been in the Mitten for the past week and sleeping for 10 hours has never felt so ama-za-zing. It’s been great to get a break from school/work and remember all the ways that the Midwest is different from the South (both in a good way and in a bad way).

The other night, I was driving through Ann Arbor and started to get teary eyed about the darkness of the city (teary eyed does not equal crying… cause I’m a man and men don’t cry unless they’re being stabbed or something…). But in light of it being the time for munching down pounds of turkey and whatever the heck constitutes stuffing, I wanted to run off my thankful list.
  • I’m thankful that Michigan will beat that Ohio school for the first time in about a decade and I can finally tell my one Columbus friend to kick rocks really hard without any shoes on…
    Beezy's French Toast is MAGICAL!!
  • I’m thankful that Chris Crump, Jimmy Needham, and David Crowder* Band actually know how to write/sing/play an instrument and give me running music.
  • I’m thankful that UnderArmor makes insulated running gear because it’s ALWAYS cold in Michigan. 
  • I’m thankful for compression shorts J.
  • I’m thankful for Bee’s French Toast, Pound Cake, Key Lime Pie, real (not instant) Coffee, and the fact that if you combine all three it negates the calories (I was an English major).
  • I’m thankful that the Chronicles of Narnia will always be greater than Twilight even if kids these days don’t know what the former is.
  • I’m thankful for musicals, plays, art galleries, and jazz and all the other artistic expressions that I took for granted as a kid.
    Even though they're in the NorthEast, it's good to have good friends
  • I’m thankful for friends that stay friends even when they live in different time zones and moms who mail goody bags to kids trapped in smog.
  • I’m thankful that College Basketball > lockout.
  • I’m thankful for newly married friends who get me super excited whenever I see them just because they’re married even though it means they have to ask their wives whenever we want to hang out :-/.
  • I’m thankful that teasing them about this never stops being funny…
  • I’m thankful for the Bobby Kelly’s, Terrence Quinn’s, Dr. Foster’s, Micah Caswell’s and Elliott Hill’s who poured into me, helping me mature and see what it means to be a man.
  • I’m thankful for CLMI and the fact that there are people who truly love God and truly want to know him even when life gets tough.
  • I’m thankful for Bethel Church and the fact that there are people who are eager to rebuild.
  • Most of all, I’m thankful that God saw it fit to write himself into our story by sending his son to redeem an ignorant and lost people.
I think it’s important to remember the little things. They say life is filled with them and I for one am grateful that my life is filled with that instead of stuffing.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Running Man

This past weekend I ran the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I finished at a decent clip. I had spent the past couple of months training with a friend and, although we had never run further than 8 miles, I was able to run the whole thing without taking any breaks (except for a serious bathroom pit-stop… but that doesn’t really count does it? Especially since I was doing the happy dance for 15 mins). The race was different than I’d expected it to be. The crowd of people never thinned out, I never was able to find a group of people running at my same clip, and spent most of the time wandering through the mob of runners while trying not to collide with any of them.

Finishing is a great feeling. You cross this imaginary line, which tells you that you’ve allegedly run 13.1 miles (Google told me that I’d run 13.5) and worm your way through crowds of people for random snacks, photos, and bottles of water only to find out that you’re hurting in places you didn’t even know existed. But none of that matters. You don’t care about the fact that you smell like an 8th grader’s gym-locker. You don’t care about the fact that your hamstrings feel like snapped rubber bands… the race is over and now you can eat ice cream and relax.

My mind is constantly drifting (when you’re running for 2+ hours you’ve got a lot of time to think). Most of the time I’m trying to process all the stuff I choose not to deal with. But on this sunny Sunday morning, running made me think of heaven. It would be a severe understatement to say that life has been complicated lately. Changes at my church, changes in friendships, changes in general… Change changes things. And in the end, I’m left looking forward to finishing the race...

Don’t get me wrong: there are some great things about this planet. However, despite the beauty of sunsets, amazement of aurora borealis, and the splendor of mountain ranges it just doesn’t compare to an eternity with the savior. I have so many questions to ask him…

I guess that’s my comfort through the grueling moments between the starting whistle and the finish line… soon it will all be over and the celebration will definitely top a couple orange slices and protein bars. When this race ends, the celebration never will. And that thought brings a smile to my face that trumps all the pain and confusion and silences the chaos. And maybe, just maybe, it will give me the strength to dance across the finish line… call it pre-gaming.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Stupidity of Objectivity

 Looks good enough to eat...?
Last Saturday while serving pancakes at Rice U., a student told me that he didn’t like C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity because it wasn’t object enough. He told me that it didn’t adequately present both sides of the argument (atheism vs. Christianity) from a objective perspective.

Truth is a philosophical question, not a scientific one...
While at first glance, objectivity sounds like a sound idea… I mean who wouldn’t want an unbiased perspective on Christianity vs. Atheism? Theoretically, it would allow us to make an accurate assessment on which idea is “more sound”… but honestly, that’s dumb. I would like to dress up the “Theory of Objectivity” with more PC terminology but the very idea of wanting to be objective is a complete conflict with a culture that has immersed itself in post-modernism. How can you believe that no one is objective and no solid definition of anything exits (Post-Modernism) while at the same time stating that truth can only be found from an objective perspective (Objectivism)?

If you believe that there is no God, all of your theories, ideas, perspectives of life/creation, and understandings line up in accordance with your “theology” (or lack thereof). You can’t accurately write from the perspective of a theist because in your mind they’re irrational. The only way to understand their perspective would be to start believing in a God but then you wouldn’t be an atheist anymore!

Objectivity in this case would be the line between believing in God and not believing in God... now what is that exactly? You either believe in Yahweh or you don’t. For those who do, everything changes. For those who deny His existence, everything changes. The two positions are at odds with one another so there can be no common ground.

For the Christian, God’s word is the only objective truth. If science says one thing but God’s word says something different, science is wrong (as it has been in the past and will be in the future). But that’s another conversation for another time.

The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. His Word is not illogical and won’t appear to be so unless we approach it with faulty logic.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Marathoning on Mission: As Our Own

A few months ago I was really convicted to use my talents and invest them in God's kingdom in a really practical way. A friend of my mom's had raised money by selling yarn and had donated all of it to a charity. Well I'm not the most talented cat and I can't knit worth a darn... but I can run (or hobble...).

For all who don't know, November 12th me and a buddy are running a half-marathon in the hope of raising both support and awareness for an Anti-Human Trafficking organization. I've included the blurb from our "Team Page" with some statistics (since numbers make the world go 'round...). If you're not involved or aware, I encourage you to raise your awareness and implore you to get involved...

We are running the San Antonio Rock n' Roll Half Marathon for PashiHer early life placed her in the path of her violent, alcoholic father. Thankfully, she has refuge from today’s danger and tomorrow’s hopelessness through As Our Own and You.


What will your donation do?
  •   $720 will allow her to attend school for 9 months
  •   $696 will allow her to eat three nutritious meals a day for one year
  •   $672 will give her a comfortable home for 1 year

If each of us only gave up three cups of coffee we could feed, house, and educate one girl, Pashi, for a year. Consider, one girls life or three cups of coffee? - Any donation would be extremely helpful toward achieving our goal.

What does Pashi face outside of As Our Own?
  • -  Sex Trafficking: Girls as young as 7 are forced into prostitution (source)
  • -  Slave labor: 82 girls per day are trafficked (source) 
  • -  Starvation: If you are a girl and not in the two above you face starvation (source)

Her story gives reason to our running . . .
Extreme poverty in India shows mercy to no one—not even to a small child, Pashi.

Her story begins in a small village in Western India, where she was born into a poor family caught in the poverty cycle. The cruelty of this life pushed Pashi’s father to seek refuge in alcohol. The alcohol pushed him to fits of violent rage.

Pashi’s mother decided to take the kids away from her raging, alcoholic husband, but that left them with even fewer options for survival. Often Pashi went without food, clothing, and shelter. There was little hope for a future outside the constant struggle.

When Pashi was 7 years old, As Our Own staff rescued her from extreme poverty and unstable living conditions. Her mom was hired as a cook at Hope College. This was a joyful relief for Pashi and her mother! Pashi would have not only food, clothing, and shelter—she would also have a good education, tutoring, lessons, and a larger lifelong family. Now, three years later, Pashi has excelled in her studies; her love for singing and dancing was unearthed and is being nurtured through lessons. Pashi is extremely grateful for the love of God she experiences through her As Our Own family.

Together, we are rewriting a real child's life story with every step. Will you sponsor Pashi?

Pashi is a pseudonym.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Consumerism 101

It's new!!
It’s no secret that American society is consumer based. I mean, our economy is based on people buying things, things they do and don’t need, to maintain a standard of comfort. We need, we want, we buy. The new iPhone 4s came out recently (s stands for... super?)  and I was shocked by how many people wanted it... but weren't able to tell me how it was different from the old one. Nike makes horrible shoes yet somehow I still buy them because the "swoosh" makes me feel more athletic (do I really have three pairs?)...

This week a pretty huge shocker was dropped from the leadership at church. Sparing the details, lets just say things are changing and people are parting ways. The natural tendency, at least for me, is to get frustrated and start worrying if the church will still be able to meet my spiritual needs. As the elders look for new leadership a couple questions have echoed in the back of my mind:
  • Will I still get to hear the expository preaching that I’ve grown accustomed to?
  • How long will this transition last?
  • What do I do in the meantime?
  • What is the reason for the change?
  • Why is it happening now? 
Those are just a few of the questions I’ve been wrestling with. I spent Wednesday night in a pretty sleepless tantrum as I battled worries and fears about the next few months.

Then, I had this brilliant epiphany. All of those questions float and revolve around a certain personal pronoun and his close cousin: “I/Me”. I guess the real question is, does my church only exist to meet my needs? Or, in other words, is it just another thing that I consume?

In order to find an answer, I believe it’s always best to look in the Bible and the life of Jesus. Unfortunately and fortunately, not a whole lot of looking is required on this one. The Bible specifically says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve others”. If we, as Christians, are to emulate his image we have to adopt his mindset as well.

So how does that change the way we interact with our Church? How does it change the way we view our job? Our friendships? Our God? None of those things were created or exist to serve us. They exist to demonstrate the sovereignty of God.

I guess the perfect example can be found in a friend of mine. Last week was his birthday, the perfect time to “get stuff”. Instead, he called all his friends together and they went out and ate with the homeless of Philadelphia. To quote a song from the ancient days J, you can’t always get… I’ll end the quote there.

Christ's church was created to serve Him. The Church isn't another part of this world that we should consume. We should serve it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It’s Pruning Season

Believers B3ar Fruit...
Work-life balance… I swear I don’t even know what that means these days. Schoolwork has been piling up and, while I’m definitely grateful for the blessing of seminary, the to-do list is never-ending.

A few nights ago, I was wrestling to control my frustration. I was so angry with the way things in my life have been turning out. Finances, physical sickness, scholastic endeavors (my fancy way of saying homework), and hardships had transformed my quiet times into a list of grievances. See the first two chapters of Habakkuk for my state of mind. But as I was wrestling… and I mean The Rock vs. Undertake “people’s elbow” wrestling (because the WWE is real…) I was hit with the fact that I was trying to make God serve me.

In the midst of hardship, I quietly (i.e. yelled) told myself “You were made to serve God…”. It’s been a difficult six months and change. Thankfully, God’s graced me with friends who call me out on my childishness. One of my best friends tee’d off on me yesterday with the resounding question: “Name a saint who hasn’t had to go through hardships… Christ promised it. Paul promised it. Peter promised it… name one saint who didn't suffer…”

So what happens in the meantime? While we’re waiting on God to change things what do we do? I’ve only got a piece of the picture but here it is: we bear fruit. God hasn’t changed just because our circumstances have. His glory is not dictated by what we go through. Our allegiance to him is not predicated on things going according to our plan. He prunes branches to bear more fruit. Bearing fruit means suffering well. Bearing fruit means worshiping the sovereignty of the creator. Bearing fruit means laboring through pain and hardship.

At any rate, I’m off to try and get back in the vineyard. Be encouraged: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Will is a word of certainty and Christ’s disciples did have troubles and suffering… In all honesty, I think it comes down to the question of where does your comfort lie?

Here’s a poem I prayed a few nights ago:

Aces and jacks
Plummet, tumbling softly
As autumn breezes dislodge
Carefully constructed structures
Queens soon pursue kings,
Falling headlong into the blazing pile.

I had made my bed besides
Diamonds and spades
Only to watch gravity bully them,
Tying shoestrings together,
Stomping their hearts into the dirt,
Spraying graffiti on clubhouse walls.

Rest in peace,
My home: the broken remains of a royal flush

Those who trust in Christ will never be put to shame...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Carb-Loading on Missions

The past week has been more than a little eventful. I spent the weekend in Minneapolis, MN for John Piper’s Desiring God Conference. Here is a link to the sermon’s/speakers. I encourage you to take a listen (especially David Platt and David Sitton). For the most part I’m still processing the conference. It’s a lot to digest to say the least.

The theme for the conference was “Finish the Mission”. The idea was to spur conference goers to the idea of reaching the unreached across the globe for the sake of the gospel. There are over 3,000 people groups who have never had access to the gospel and about half of those groups are unengaged (no mission organization is targeting them). Most of these groups are in South East Asia/the Middle East.
While sitting in the conference, my mind kept drifting back to the thought: will this passion last? It was so encouraging and exciting to see thousands of people exhilarated about missions but for how long will their passion burn? The inner cynic inside of me says it won’t last long but I pray and hope that I’m wrong. Mission work is unglamorous in nature. Kind of like whittling away at a boulder with a spork.

Right now, my biggest takeaway from the conference is a willingness to die for the gospel. Before going to the conference I was having a pretty consistent stream of nightmares about being martyred and the process of dying was really terrifying to me (not death itself). David Sitton gave a moving sermon about how Jesus is worth the torture, pain, heartache, trouble, and death. The gospel is so worth it and if our treasure is in heaven… why is our earthly treasure so important to us (for to live is Christ… to die is gain...)?

I spent all night Friday night crying in my hotel room to God in fear (literal tears... well not really… my eyeballs were probably just sweating). I was so afraid for my life. I just didn’t want the pain. I didn't want to risk my body, my teeth (seriously...), my health, my comforts... I didn't want to experience torture, malnourishment, or physical pain on any level. But John 12:17 came to mind and I repeated it through my tears. Here’s the poem I prayed:

Fear, taps delicately along aortas,
Hitchhiking on the backs of Red Blood Cells.
A Chesire grin draped over his face,
He quickly tiptoes across
Fertile soil, leaving a trail of feces in his wake.

Images of shattered teeth,
Broken bones and wounded loved ones
Flash through my mind.
Still shots of gun shot wounds
Tortured souls, and bloody nubs
Threaten to unearth the foundations
Of conviction.

Give me rest in the eternal presence of an eternal Father.

In a few seconds, it will all be over.
In a moment, the rushing of air
Will bring with it an exceeding brightness.
And I will be with you.
Leaving my heart purged from every fear.
For now, it’s back to reality. Seminary homework surrounds me in bundles and I’ve got some serious catch up to do in OT Greek. I don’t know what God requires of my life, perhaps he even requires it… but to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord. Death isn’t the finale but rather the crescendo that ushers us into the presence of our King. In a few moments… it will all be over. For right now, that’s my antidote to fear.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fast-Forwarded Memories

I was lying in bed and all I could think about is the marathon that I’m training for this upcoming month. I’m not really anxious about it. I guess it’s more the implications of running a marathon are hard for me to digest at the moment. This blog is a little more “open” than I’m normally comfortable being… but I guess there’s something to be said for transparency. Filling in the blanks would probably help you follow my train of thought.

I’ve always valued time with my dad. He’s a pretty cool dude. Not as cool as he thinks he is, nowhere near as cool as he remembers being, but still… a pretty cool dude. When I was sophomore in college my eyes kind of opened to the fact that time with him was valuable. He was getting really into weightlifting at the time and, since I was working in a research lab with him, I jumped on the bandwagon.  Getting stronger never really mattered to me. I just wanted to hang with my dad.

Then, he had surgery on the calcified lump on his shoulder. That kind of ended the whole weightlifting endeavor. So I started running. I figured, my dad had already run a marathon; it would be awesome if we could do something like that together. We started getting lofty ideas of running an Ironman and Triathlons… hilarious concepts in hindsight (did I mention that I can’t swim?). But then, knee surgery on his right knee and the doctor tells him running is a no-go. No more triathlons. No more Ironman. No more running period.

Everything is greener on the fairway
So of course since my dad loves golf, I try to pick up golf. Try is the key word here. We played a couple 18’s together. Not more than two because his knee never fully recovered and watching him limp up and down a green is not my idea of fun. He’s essentially been sidelined and in a few weeks the other knee is going to undergo surgery. Getting old sucks but watching Superman age is kind of brutal.

A few of my good friends have lost parents and I don’t know how they manage. Both of my ‘rents are still here and I’m already replaying my life on fast-forward thinking… As we age and as the loved one’s around us advance in years, faith is really put to the test. Do you really believe that they’re headed towards eternity? And if so, are you overjoyed at the fact that they’re about to be rushed into the presence of a Holy God? And doesn’t marriage just mean that I’ll be spending holidays with a family I barely know?

 It’s a hard pill to swallow… one that’s still stuck somewhere in the back of my throat. But the presence of God is the epitome of everything glorious and wonderful. A friend of mine says over and over that in heaven "we get God". I'd add to that the fact that in heaven, getting God makes everything so much better. No more goodbyes. No more sports injuries... just endless rejoicing.  For now all I know is that I’m fighting to rejoice in the fact that the relationships and reunions will be even more enhanced when we’re rejoicing in His kingdom.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

When Feet Hit the Pavement

My friend Mark's picture from Indonesia
It seems each week gets busier than the last. And I’m okay with that! I’ve been walking around college campuses and trying to reach out to the kids for our church’s new college ministry and it has been pretty cool so far. Now, getting shot down by anyone is not my idea of fun (I've started implementing the phrase "fare enough" whenever someone makes it clear they want nothing to do with the gospel) but evangelism is an opportunity to share the joy that beats so readily within our hearts.  Some people won’t appreciate the One we treasure but we’ve got to share the gospel. If we believe that the God is righteous and holy, it’s our privilege to spread this truth. I also got a chance to lead ABF (Sunday School). Here are the notes.

The Campus Outreach has been complicated to say the very least. Tonight we have our first small group at my apartment. While I’m not an optimistic person to begin with, I know that God is working and my job is to simply trust him and rest in his providence. He’s the one that establishes the work of our hands. He’s the one that waters the seeds that we plant.

Even though it’s an online class, my Intro to World Missions class is by far the most exciting. Now granted, Old Testament Greek has its moments, but I just keep getting blown away by the need for missionaries. Here are some of the stats from this week’s lesson:
  • ·      There are 4.4 billion non-Christians in the world.
  • ·      Approximately 1.8 billion of this group has had no opportunity to respond to or understand the gospel
  • ·      27.9% of the world’s population will live and die without contact with a person who knows Jesus Christ
  • ·      625 million children worldwide suffer from some form of child abuse each year.
  • ·      11 million children die every year from a preventable disease

Kevin Pinter teaching in South Africa
Talk about conviction… and that’s just the beginning. When I think of all that Christ suffered so that I could know the truth, when I think of all the people who poured truth into me until God opened my eyes, how can we not be moved by this?

Many times when I tell people that I’m going to do World Missions, they respond with the question: “why go abroad, there are non-Christians here?” But just look at those numbers… Almost 3 out of every 10 people will die without knowing the pleasure of Christ and will not have received his sacrifice for their lives.

Here are my notes on the Pinjara people of Nepal/India. I ask that you pray for them with me. Out of these 1.5 million people, not one of them knows Christ. If that fact doesn’t make you want to lace up the Nike’s and hit the streets, I don’t know what will.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Seminary Dreaming

roughly 1/3 of the books that I'm reading right now...

This past Saturday marked the start of Seminary and it has been intense. From sitting in class from for 8 hours straight on Saturday, to learning ancient Greek… I’ve been doggy-paddling it out for the past few nights. Thankfully, whatever happens is a result of God’s grace and I can try to find rest in that (although my sleep schedule is reckless).

Classes have been pretty smooth (except for taking notes with nine fingers thanks to a dislocated pinky). I was definitely in “Deer in Headlights Mode” for all of the two hours we spent in New Testament Greek. Apparently, we were supposed to memorize the Greek alphabet before class started but I had assumed that homework started after classes (my mistake!). Needless to say, the entire class was me trying to figure out why everyone else already knew these Greek terms. Reading is fundamental.

yep... that's me in class
All in all, one of my online classes, Introduction to World Missions, is my favorite by far. I’m trying to hold back the urge to do all of the reading and watch all of the videos this week. I just get so excited about that class (you know you’re a nerd when…). Right now I’m just trying to make sure that I throw myself into all of the classes and both honor and value the information that the professors present.

It’s good though. I mean, the insanely large To-Do List keeps growing, college outreach opportunities are starting to fall into place and I’m just happy to be used by God. We've been playing frisbee on the weekends at college campuses and will be stepping that up to actual "walking around campus and talking to folks" as well as reaching out to the campus ministries. I know that sometimes the list of things to do is endless (technically it always will be even if it’s just: “give thanks to the Lord”) but it’s so important to seek God first and foremost in your day. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have a quiet time at the end of the day but rather, make it a point to spend time with him even if it doesn’t look like there’s time. It’ll always be the most important part of your day. Time with the Father is always time well spent.

I don’t really have any deep philosophical point to present (both fortunately and unfortunately). Hopefully, sometime later this weekend or early next week I can bang out a Vlog but until then I’ll leave you with some Driscoll. I hope it blesses you like it’s blessed me!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to the Beginning

In about two days, I'll be a student again. It seems like teaching was a million years away. I can't quite come to grips with it. I was at a college campus on Tuesday and these two freshmen walked up and started talking to me. At first the conversation was normal until I was hit with the overwhelming realization that 6 months ago I would've been their teacher. That makes me... old. This week has been one to-do list after the other and, as much as I fight the irreversable fact that the younger version of me is off in some distant universe, the truth is that with each passing day I'm walking one step closer to nose-hairs and potbellies (these being my biggest two reasons why I never want to be old).

And I guess being a student makes the whole aging process a bit more... complicated. As a 23-year old, I struggle to stay awake past 10 o'clock without three cups of that liquid gold we mortals have dubbed "coffee". All-nighters are definitely something that I need to leave in yesteryear. Some things will be different (finding some way to juggle school and life) while others undoubtedly will be the same.

With school gawking at me from right around the corner, a lot of memories have come flooding back. I can laugh and remember how terrified/nervous/awkward I was during my first day of high-school. And a serious head-shake is warranted at the thought of how cool I tried to be in college... In hindsight, most of the times I tried to be cool (white-tees, rattails, afros, baggy pants, and FUBU) come off as embarrassingly corny. In fact, a trip home is definitely needed to destroy some of the evidence that these events actually took place (i.e. me having permanent residence on the sitting on the step). But I guess most of all I can look at harsh break-ups, rejection letters, failures, friendships and success from a different vantage point.

Lately I've been noticing how the root of bitterness destroys relationships within my own family and, maybe even more importantly, how it pollutes memories. Instead of the past being something we can laugh over, it becomes a justification for emotions. And I guess, like everything else, it all goes back to Adam and Eve (or... Eve cause it was all her fault right?). We could all hate Adam for messing up... everything. But then again, God had a plan in place to demonstrate his glory and his grace. Even though I find myself filled with it at times, I don't really believe in regret. It all depends on perspective.

Fight to believe that in your pursuit of God, the embarrassing, painful, surprisingly uncomfortable moments are displaying his amazing glory. The gospel transforms lives to the glory of a Risen King. He's not some evil kid with a magnifying glass trying to make our lives suck, there's a purpose to it all. Because if you don't have faith in his sovereignty, his purpose, his plan, his glory... at the end of the day what do you really have?

Friday, August 19, 2011

War Games

One week until classes start!!! I’ve been trying to bang out the reading (800+$ of books… going green? Not so much) but lately I’ve been less than productive. This past weekend was another “Homeless Grill-Out” and it was awesome. I met so many amazing people. My group went through the line and prayed with different people (both Christians and non-Christians). I even got to share a poem at one point! It’s amazing to see how God works. I also started marathon training. So far the knees are holding up well. The Machine is back!!

For the past two months I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at Starbucks drinking crappy Frappuccinos, mocha lattes, and every other manly drink that they sell. Some call me an addict but I prefer the term “connoisseur of coffee”. While perusing the pages of Systematic Theology by Wayne Gruden and Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie, I can’t help but hope that this theology pierces my heart and changes the way that I live. I don’t want to become a proud(er) Christian who knows a bunch of head knowledge, has memorized a bunch of scripture, and has mastered the art of quiet time but doesn’t truly know God.

At any rate, last night I was having an… interesting night before I went to sleep. As I sat/laid there battling thoughts/fears of every kind I actually started to think of truth. At one point I might have yelled out loud: "No... I want the real thing!" and then began to thank God for his timing and his will. All sin, whether it’s lust, anger, fear… insert term here, boils down to a simple, plain, flat out lie. It’s a choice between illusions and certainties. I guess it doesn’t take a degree in “War Strategy” to figure out that if you can get your enemy to pursue something that’s not there, he’ll be pretty easy to take out. Is our Christian walk any different? Fear over not having enough money to pay bills is really a question of God’s promise of provision and His character (both of which are the definition of truth). Lust and sexual immorality are perversions of the beauty that God has created in marriage and the wonder of communion with Him. The list goes on and on.

Take it from an expert sinner (yours truly), the lie can’t hold a candle to the real thing (ain’t nothing like the real thing baby… ain’t nothing like the real thing… don’t act like you don’t know the song!). A girlfriend will never give you the satisfaction that God delivers on the daily, worry and repeated financial analysis/budgeting will never provide the certainty and peace that comes from trusting in God’s promise. I hope that in the face of temptation you’re able to analyze the option that’s actually being presented to you and then realize how much it sucks. But even more importantly, the best Wartime Strategy that I know is to really relish the joy of being in God’s presence and finding Him as the source of ultimate satisfaction.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Artist

All week I’ve been struggling (I mean… seriously struggling…) to pick up graphic design and navigate the oasis of writer’s block. As I created one awful piece of typography after another while watching my fingers literally slip off of the keyboard as they dripped with sweat (probably had more to do with the fact that it’s 115 degrees outside and I don’t use the AC), I realized that art is hard… well for some of us. Below is a quote from Octavious Newman, designer of B3ar Fruit (here’s the whole speech):

“God’s a beast… I mean look at yourselves. Go outside, the sun is not wack… The stuff that God creates, it’s really dope… it really is.” – Octavious Newman

During my quite time today, I was reminded of the fact that God didn’t struggle with creation. He’s the most awesome poet of all time, his words created a literal world. And everything in it is always in style. Can you ever really tell Aurora Borealis that it’s not cool anymore? While I hope my own poems have some redeeming quality to them, God was the only fit to evaluate his creation.

And that goes for our own lives as well. God is creating sonnets, poems, concertos and ensembles, fresco, paintings, and graphic designs of the lives of His people (okay maybe not graphic designs…). While they may suck in the moment or don’t look all that hot from the ground view, He’s the only one fit to evaluate his creation… and for all intensive purposes… it’s art.

Below is a poem I wrote earlier today. I’ve also included a link to a site that has a few spoken word pieces on it. I hope they point you towards the Masterful Architect.


Fingernails, ooze,

Dripping dollops of sulfur

Leaving a perfect canvas tainted.

Bleach and baking soda

Retreat to the shelter of paper towels

As the stain surges forward,

Engulfing the knuckles,

Swallowing the wrists.

Guilty and unclean,

A spiritual bulimic,

As stomach acid refuses to catalyze

Enzymes of esoteric promises.

Torah’s whole grains and fiber

prove to much for a fragile frame

Accustomed to the sanctuary of milky


O to be satisfied…

Memories of famished and

Parched yesterdays bubble,

Boiling to the surface of a

Wheat grass tonic.

Adding hyssop and tomato paste,

The iron wool of a wooden cross

Scrapes skin from wrinkled fingers.

But o’ to be satisfied…

Somewhere in the pasture of purification,

Peace lies, waiting to be uncovered.

Somewhere beneath the layered dirt,

True love’s letter gazes back with

Unadulterated certainty.

As tender hands fold gingerly

Cupping a brittle assurance,

The hope of finding celestial courts

Burns anew as living water whispers

Confidence to cracked and splintered lips.

But oh gaze on you with rehabilitated eyes

For then I will be satisfied.