Recent Adventures

Well this past week or so has been really busy, but also very fun and makes me excited about what God has in stored for my future. I spent last weekend at Camp Omega where God lead me last year to serve Him in an outdoor ministry setting as a counselor there. Because of other commitments I could not reapply there this year, but it was great to go back and visit for their work weekend.

While there I ended up working with a handful of friends to help the counselors prepare for summer camp! We swept out the outposts, set up the counselor lounge, organized the canteen, had fun at campfires and other shenanigans that camp counselors do from time to time when they get the time to do anything. There were a handful of counselors there that just got certified as lifeguards which was exciting. They celebrated by going out to DQ. There were a ton of other volunteers that did various tasks to help set up for summer camp as well. It was such a joy to be at a home for a little while. Luckily for me I will be going back tomorrow for their open house and enjoy a day down there once more before the rest of the summer starts.

Earlier this week I had some good training for follow on training this summer. I am starting to get excited for it! All my gear is squared away and I have all the paper work completed. It’s going to be a good time! Before I know it I will be going home to California for a month to enjoy some R&R before internship!

Internship is another thing that I am really looking forward to. It starts in August. The end of August. Super excited to serve God in a congregational setting for the first time as a DCE intern.

Lots of traveling to do this summer as well as lots to look forward to! God is great!

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“For I Desire Mercy, and not Sacrifice”

9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?[a]”

12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’[b] For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Matthew 9:9-13 NLT

I have continued reading Mark and have come to the call of Levi (Matthew). When I looked at Matthew’s account of His call to follow Jesus as one of His disciples, verse 13 jumped out at me. When I first read it, I was reading out of the ESV, but I really like how the NLT translates this passage because it is very direct at what Jesus was getting at. He quotes Hosea 6:6 saying, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.” This is a command to His people, the summary of all the commandments, love. Afterall sacrifices are ways to make ourselves righteous. Because of the sacrifices we make, we think we are righteous people, but this is not what God desires. He has made us righteous. Through His sacrifice on the cross to forgive us of our sin. He wants us to acknowledge our sins, and knowing full well that we cannot account for all of them He forgives every single sin we have ever done and ever will do. That is His promise.

In that promise, I find joy. I look at my own life and I realize that I am indeed a sinner. I also recognize how the world is far from what God desires. Even the world knows that the world is far from perfect. The way the world tries to fix this problem is by trying to build the world that is perfect. As Christians we know that this world will not be perfect because of sin. But by the power of the Holy Spirit we get to live out God’s love by showing love to our neighbor. Through this living out our faith other people get to experience the love of God, and that speaks volumes. It invites us to a table where we get to recline at their dinner table as guest, and through this openness we get to verbally share the Gospel and point to the Scriptures and by the Holy Spirits power they too will be brought to Christ and be saved.

Prayer: God, forgive me for trying to make myself righteous before you. By my own power, this is not possible, but by the power of your Spirit through your Son, you have made me righteous. Thank you for your Son. Your love never fails. Help me live out that love to others, so that they may be brought to you for your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christianity Moving Forward in a Still Sinful World

The other day Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill that makes gay marriage legal in Minnesota. Minnesota is now the 12th state that has legalized gay marriage. Needless to say, I am not surprised. Disappointed, but knew that it was coming sooner or later. It is becoming quite clear to me now that the path that we are going as a nation where God’s institution of marriage is being perverted into something it was not intended to be. This is something that man has done to destroy what God intended to be pure. This post is meant for discussion purposes and is open to all ideas. Please keep any comments G rated because I want this to be somewhere safe for people to discuss serious issues.

Honestly, I have not given up on preserving what God has instituted [marriage]. I know that there are some denominations that have been lead astray and will not only marry homosexuals, but allow them to be pastors and other leaders in their denomination. Oh, how I pray for those who have drifted away from God’s word as well as our nation. Generally speaking, however, the Church will not marry homosexuals even after these bills for gay marriage have been passed. It is the Church’s right under the constitution to not take part in anything that is contrary to God’s Word.

With that said, I do believe that the next fight (and the fight that we need to be preparing for now) is the potential future debate on whether or not the Church is discriminating against homosexuals by not marrying them. I am not saying that this debate is going to occur, I am simply saying it has the potential to occur. I think it is something that we as Christians need to be prepared for in future years. I pray that such conflict does not happen.

With the growing trend of more and more states allowing gay marriage to be legalized, the Church should, however, start (and we have been already) exploring ways where we can still reach out to the homosexual community with the grace of God. The church is a place for sinners. That is why all of us are part of the church because we have come to know that we live in a world that is far from perfect and we are far from perfect. Though made perfect in Christ, we still have our personal struggles every day and break God’s will for our lives.

Now I also want to be clear that homosexuals can be saved. They are forgiven. They are God’s children and are loved by Him and God wants everyone, no matter their background to be in relationship with him.

How do we as a Church still minister to homosexuals and accept them as they are (like the rest of us sinners) without alienating them or excommunicating them? How do we make it known that (as with all sinners) we hate the sin, but love the person?
What is the best way to do that with the homosexual community?
Is the homosexual community as a whole even open to being in a community of Christians? If not, how do we break down those barriers without rejecting what God’s word has to say? If so, how do we proceed?
What are other questions related to this topic that you would like to ask and explore?
(Again please keep the discussion G rated and welcoming)

Forgiveness, Faith, and Sharing

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Mark 2:1-12

The past couple weeks I have slowly been reading Mark’s Gospel. I have been reading it by pericope and looking at the same accounts in comparison to the other Gospels for further in site. This same account of Jesus healing the paralytic can be found also in Matthew 9:1-8 and Luke 5:17-26. It is interesting to see the comparisons between texts and the unity of Scripture as seen when looked at side by side. In this post I will share my personal devotion with you all. For the record I use the SOAP (Scripture, Observations, Applications, Prayer) format for my personal devotions. If you do not know how to structure your own personal devotions, this format is a good place to start and I invite you to use it and let God speak to you through His word.

Observations: It astonishes me how many people showed up to hear Jesus preach. They all gathered around His own house and there was no way to get to Him. There was a group of men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel the men lowered the paralytic down through the roof after removing the roof. Getting their paralytic friend to Jesus had to be important to them and they definitely believed Jesus would be able to heal him. Jesus forgave the man’s sins first. The Pharisees called Jesus out on this by saying “Only God can forgive sins.” It is indeed easier to tell someone their sins are forgiven than to tell them to get up and grab their bed and walk. The people were amazed and praised God. I find it interesting that in Matthew’s account of this event he says such authority has been given to men.

“When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” Matthew 9:8 ESV

Application: We all have a disease. It’s called sin. It is everything that we do that is not according to God’s plan for His creation. We are born with it, inherited with it from our parents and grandparents through the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. Because of this disease we are separated from God like lepers. Our sickness is a sign of our turning away from Him. And like a paralytic we are stuck where we are. Like the paralytic in this account we need the forgiveness that Christ offers and has won for us on the cross. The beauty of this is that we do not have to, by our own strength, go to Christ, but Christ comes to us. He comes to us through our Christian friends. He comes to us through our Christian families, if we were blessed to be raised by one. He comes to us in His word where what He has done to heal us from this disease is made known. He comes to us in our Baptism where He claims us as his. He comes to us in the Lord’s Supper to strengthen and preserve us for a life walk of faith in Him. In the Lord’s Supper He says our sins our forgiven, now I am sending you out to do my work. In our Baptism he says our sins are forgiven once and for all, now I am sending you out to do my work. In His word he says our sins are forgiven, now with what has been revealed to you go do my work. Through our brothers and sisters in Christ (which are our friends and family) he uses them to let us know that our sins are forgiven, and they encourage us remind us that we have God’s work to do. For the forgiveness of sins has been entrusted to us. We see that in Matthew 9:8, “Such authority [is given] to men” in completion with the Holy Spirit. We see it even clearer later in John 20:17-18:

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them: if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” ESV

This is something that we get to do as a response to the grace (undeserved love) that has been given to us through Christ Jesus. The best part is we are still not the ones doing the hard work. We are a vessel for the Holy Spirit to carry on the work of God! And because the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, sharing the Gospel message, the forgiveness of sins, the proclamation that death and the devil are defeated, “where oh death is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55) it is natural. Praise be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for sending your Son to come to us to die on the cross to forgive all of our sins. Lord, you have called each of us to proclaim the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins. Lead us to share that with others by your Holy Spirit, so that all may come to know you and praise you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Everyone is a Nerd

So I am just going to be honest with you all, I am a complete nerd! I was having a conversation with a friend and a security guard (yes a security guard) yesterday on video games. The security guard was saying that he didn’t want to share what video games he played because then my friend and I would think he would be a complete nerd. So naturally, we had to ask him what game he was referring to and reaffirm to him that we would not think that he was not any more of a nerd than what we already thought of him. Turns out it was some morbid online game where you could collect ears of other gamers that you killed. He said he didn’t like it because one it was too violent and everyone on their was some kind of video game nerd. He then stated that when they got killed they would then harass you and say some very inappropriate things that are very graphic and should probably not be repeated, especially on this blog.

This whole topic got me thinking that we all have something we are completely nerd out about. For some people its video games. For the ones who never leave the gym and just stand, flex, and look at themselves in the mirror it is working out and body image. For vegetarians it is not eating meat (which reminds me I have a funny vegetarian story for another post some day). For those jocks in high school it is knowing the careers of all the professional athletes within their sport. Everyone has something that they are nerdy about.

As for me, I have a couple of things that I am nerdy about. One thing is the news. I absolutely LOVE (L O V E) the news. Especially national and international news. I do not turn on the news to see who murdered who today. I turn on the news to find out what is going on in the world. If there is a mass murderer on the loose then that is something noteworthy and should be brought to light or if someone did not get due process that is something that should be distributed on the news. But the news is so that people are informed about the world and the impact it has on their life. The GOOD as well as the bad. That is the important stuff that every news network should be broadcasting. Not just to attract an audience because it is not a television show. It’s the news.

The second thing that I am completely nerdy about is history. I really enjoy politics and history of warfare. I think it is fun to look back on the history, on the politics and view the situations that caused things to happen. A lot of times though, I feel like in our history classes we focus a lot on the things that went wrong and what caused them (such as the World Wars and the Great Depression) and we don’t spend a lot of time looking at what was successful like what caused the Roaring 20s, and why the civil rights movement was successfully won. Those should be just as important to study and learn from. Normally in text books these topics are pretty much only mentioned by giving them one or two paragraphs, but they are not seriously studied giving someone a better understanding of what was occurring at the time, who was involved and their background, etc.

One other thing that I am ashamed to admit to being nerd out on are alien conspiracy theories. I do not believe them in the slightest, but they are intriguing. When I shared this with the security guard he said that watching sci-fi and letting his imagination go wild is crazy enough. He didn’t even want to conceive the idea of having a conspiracy theory on aliens mix with his imagination because that would make him go insane! Quite frankly, I can’t blame. With the stuff that I had (and for lack of a better word) studied up on it has made my imagination go wild. And honestly I think that is why I find it interesting. It is so far-fetched that anything could be a possibility.

However, the one thing I have always been nerdy about since I was a child has been the Bible and ministry. I can not get enough from God’s word. It is something that is constant. It is true. It is life changing! To hear from God the story of Jesus coming to Earth to die on the cross to forgive our sins. And that he resurrected in three days is something that once one has been brought to know, it does not easy to leave that faith because you are God’s child. You are in his hand. He leads your life. My life. I find the Bible as the most interesting book ever because it has news and it has history (no aliens – don’t listen to the history channel), but the most important thing that it has is the truth of what God has done to fix a mess that we created through His son Jesus. That is life changing.

When I was a child I had a good chunk of the Bible accounts (notice how I always use the word account – not stories – because stories imply some fiction. Account implies that it is factual and true) memorized and I knew them well. As I grew older I didn’t use them as much and they started to fade away in detail from memory. Since college a lot of those details have been brought back into my Biblical knowledge. And there is still a thirst in me today to want to learn more. One thing I would like to buy is a chronological Bible where the books and chapters are in their proper order and the whole Bible can be read as a narrative from beginning to end (put that on my wish list).

Another thing I did often as a child was play “pastor.” I had a large, button down, yellow shirt that my dad gave me to play with and used it as a robe. Then I used the fireplace as the altar. I was like 3 to 5 years old when I did this. I am pretty sure my parents have a video of me playing “pastor” somewhere in the house.

Anyways my point being is that we are all nerds in some way shape or form and there is always something we are nerdy about. I apologize for the scatter-brainness, but that is just how I roll. Thanks for reading this novel!

The Waiting Game

Well, for my first post, I am sad to inform you it is not very interesting. This is really more of a vent of frustration and an expression of desire for things to get moving! I am currently stuck in a four bedroom apartment/dorm by myself and was told a couple of days ago that I was going to be moved upstairs to another four bedroom apartment/dorm to live by myself since I will only be here (Concordia St. Paul) until June 13. On the 13th I get to go to Fort Lewis, WA for Warrior Forge, which is a training and assessment period that all cadets go through. I am looking forward to it. It should be challenging and test me in a ways that I would not expect to be tested.

But the biggest thing I am looking forward to is internship at Trinity Lutheran Church in Urbana, IL. The start date for the internship is August 26th, but needless to say my patience for this internship to start is already being tested. I want to be thrown into a new experience away from academia and get my hands dirty with some real DCE (Director of Christian Education) type work. Lately I have been in touch with a few people at the congregation. I have heard nothing, but good news about this site coming from various people. It just makes me want to get started. I will most definitely be praying for patience as the summer goes on.

Gas Prices

Gas%20Prices
Summertime is here in Minnesota finally after an extended winter this year. Road construction has started as well as the travel season and that means that gas prices go up. Two days ago gas in my area was steadily between $3.70 and $3.80. Not ideal, but that has been the trend across the nation and seems to have peaked out around those prices. However, as of yesterday gas in my area jumped to $4.19, and as of today the gas station across the street is $4.29! I am just a broke college student trying to scrape by. Gas prices like this are ridiculous no matter where they are. I have already done some searching on google to see if there was any reason for these outrageous prices and it turns out that there are shortages and maintenance going on at a number of refineries in the midwest. Apparently,there was already shortages causing gas prices to be higher than normal. I am confident that the prices will come back down after a week or two because people are not willing to pay that price for gas. Looks like it is time to tighten my belt and not go out to eat as much. This, however, will start tomorrow as I finish my McDonald’s french fries (which are unusually not good tonight) and my watered down Dr. Pepper due to the melted ice. Maybe later I can write a song about my frustration…it’s not like I am doing anything else tonight!

Here is the article that I found regarding the gas price spike from USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2013/05/16/midwest-great-lakes-regions-driving-national-gas-prices-higher/2166845/