10 Facts Just ‘Cause

Here are 10 facts about me just ’cause I haven’t blogged in ages. (Yes I am still alive, but busy).

1. My favorite beer is Blue Moon. Hands down. I’ll drink other beers just to mix it up. But when I go somewhere for a drink, it is more than likely gonna be a Blue Moon. I don’t care if its not on special. (And I open with this because “I Love this Bar” by Toby Keith is currently playing on my Pandora radio station).
2. Mexican food is where it is at. I always eat too much. And I don’t care if it is Americanized. Sure authentic Mexican food is best, but the Americanization of the food is good too. Also far less healthy.
3. I do not like making phone calls. This is something new that I learned about myself recently. I much rather talk to someone face to face than over the phone.
4. My favorite color is black.
5. I put Worcestershire sauce on my macaroni and cheese. Don’t knock it ’til you try it!
6. I miss playing cards…and Yahtzee!
7. It infuriates me when people stomp on their breaks to stop on yellow lights. It’s a yellow light people! It means be prepared to stop. Not stop right now.
8. Speaking of road rage, it also infuriates me when people get on the freeway at 40 miles per hour. The speed limit on this freeway is 70. I understand you have a free lane for two miles, but I want to get around you NOW without getting into a wreck. #californiadriver
9. I have switched from sleeping on my stomach to sleeping on my side over the past year. And my neck still hurts every morning from it. I guess that’s what I get for not using a pillow.
10. God is good.

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All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

This hymn started playing on my Spotify today. Definitely one of my favs!

All hail the power of Jesus’ name! Let angels postrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the roayl diadem and crown Him Lord of all.

Crown Him, ye martyrs of our God,
who from His altar call; 
Extol the stem of Jesse’s rod and crown Him Lord of all.
Extol the stem of Jesse’s rod and crown Him Lord of all.

Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race,
Ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him who saves you by His grace and crown Him Lord of all.
Hail Him who saves you by His grace and crown Him Lord of all.

Hail Him ye heirs of David’s line,
Whom David Lord did call,
The God incarnate, man divine, and crown Him Lord of all.
The God incarnate, man divine, and crown Him Lord of all.

Sinners, whose love can never forget
The wormwood and the gall,
Go, spread your trophies at His feet and crown Him Lord of all.
Go, spread your trophies at His feet and crown Him Lord of all.

Let every kindred, every tribe
On this terrestrial ball
To Him all majesty ascribe and crown Him Lord of all.
To Him all majesty ascribe and crown Him Lord of all

Oh, that with yonder sacred throng
We at His feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown Him Lord of all.
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown Him Lord of all.

A Strange Brand of Happy Movie Review

 

On Friday a new faith-based film came out titled A strange Brand of Happy. I went with a handful of friends to go check it out and unfortunately I was disappointed with the overall message of the movie. Naturally, it was a low-budget film that a high schooler could have filmed around town with his/her friends. There also seemed to be a lot of pointless parts in the film because it didn’t move the story forward. There were also a lot of spots in the film where the film makers could have inserted a lot of additional detail and formulated the plot  better. Even though these were all filming and playwriting issues, my biggest let down was the lack of focus on Christ. However, it does provoke a lot of thought.

It is incredibly clear that this movie is not about what Christ has done for you. There is no Gospel in this film. Everyone involved with the film would like us to think that this is a great Christian film, when it doesn’t even talk about Jesus in the first place. There are a lot of references to God, but if we look at American culture right now I think that we will find that the trouble is not dealing with the question, “Does God exist?” because the overwhelming majority of Americans do believe in god. The question that Christians need to focus on answering is “What has God got to do with me?” I say this because God has a part with everyone! After all, he made us, and he has brought us back into a relationship with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Now with that said, it takes me to the part of the movie that I actually really liked. A Strange Brand of Happy did make me think a lot about Spiritual gifts and how I have seen God work in my life as well as others lives as well. This is where there is a little meat to this movie. David (the main character) has this very awesome skill of being an artist, particularly drawing and that is a gift from God! For example, what he does is that he is able to look at a person, give them a superpower, put them in a setting and off he goes and he makes a beautiful piece of art every time. (Now before you read more this is a spoiler alert. If you do not want to know how the movie ends do not read the rest of this paragraph). One thing that I think the filmmakers may have missed out on is the spiritual gift of listening and sharing personal testimonies. At the end of the movie, David has talked to nearly all the people at the senior citizen home and he makes a piece of art that tells each of their stories. Most importantly, he focuses on how God has worked in their lives to bring them where they are today.

From what I can tell from the movie is that it bases one’s faith on your personal feelings and actions instead of pointing you to Christ and what He has done for you. Certainly God can use you whether or not you have faith. I mean after all there are a number occurrences of that in the Bible. And someone without faith is certainly able to do good works even without being a Christian because the natural law is written on our hearts. And most certainly does God live in His people through His Holy Spirit whom we have received at our Baptism. We get to experience God through the waters of Baptism as well as at the Lord’s Supper, where He gives us His body and blood to eat and drink which strengthen our faith, not by our feelings, but by His WORD. Trusting in God’s word is the only way for us to know for certain if we have faith or not. Hearing the word of God and receiving the sacraments are the only ways to grow in the one true faith through Christ Jesus our Lord. No matter how we try to rationalize it, feelings and actions do not make us Christians. It is the seeing of our brokenness as shown to us by the Law and the restoration given and won to and for us by what Christ has done on the cross. If you know that you are a sinner and trust in God’s promise given to us through Christ Jesus you are a Christian. As a response we get to share that Gospel message to others through our Spiritual gifts that God has given us. This movie got into the latter, but went around the Gospel. However, I should have known better since “faith-based” is a very loose term.

Anyways, I would love to hear other peoples reviews on it! Because I could have been blinded to the actual message of the movie due to preconceived notions that I had from the movie trailer below. I am still considering taking some people to go see it and have a solid Christ centered discussion around it. It wasn’t a horrible movie as I may or may not have made it sound, but it was definitely entertaining and provoked some thought. It was definitely realistic in its playwrite. I would love to hear what you thought about the movie/my analysis in the comments below. Until next time!

How I Psyched Myself Out

Last night around 3 o’clock in the morning I woke up from an awesome dream that I was having. I don’t remember much of the dream, but I remember being at someone’s party and having cage fights in the bounce house (WHICH WAS EPIC!) Anyway sometime during my bounce house fight I suddenly woken up to a dark bedroom where I sleep every night.

Naturally, I rolled over to look at what time it was. 3:12. “Why do I always do this?” I thought. “I always wake up once or twice during the night. I cannot wait for the day where I sleep ALL night and get rudely awaken by an alarm clock.” So, like always I roll back over to go back to sleep.

Then it happens, the thing that my friend who lived in the house before me had warned me about. There was a creek in the walls. “It’s nothing,” I thought. Then, almost as if the house was taunting me, it creaked again. I tried to rationalize why the house was creaking, “It’s because the house is slanted.” “It’s because the house is old.” “It’s because there is a storm outside.” “It’s because…It’s because…It’s because.” Then it hit me. “Did I lock the front door?” I thought I did, but now since I was hearing things left and right I wasn’t so sure.

I look up to see if I could see any light under the door, and I thought I saw a moving white light in the hall way. I lay back down paralyzed with fear. “How could I be so stupid? Forgetting to lock the door.”  I told myself, I was going to be alright if I just stayed in my room, which wouldn’t have been too difficult because my brain was going 100 mph and I couldn’t and did want to move. “Maybe it’s a ghost,” i told myself trying to calm myself down. “Yes, it’s just Casper having a little bit of play time in the house.” Creek. “Nope. Not a friendly ghost like Casper. Probably just a demon that is trying to possess me.” Immediately chills filled my body from the feet up to my shoulders, but not near my heart or my head. “He’s trying to possess me! I don’t like it Jesus. I don’t like it.” (I am telling you I have one crazy of an imagination). I started saying the Lord’s Prayer, Apostle’s Creed, memorized scripture verses, everything that I thought would helped, and it somewhat did. I started thinking again and was able to move my toes.

“Ok, I am not going to get back to sleep without knowing what’s going on outside that door.” I keep a baseball bat right next to my bed for instances such as these. “Whoever or whatever, is in my house they will have a very bad night because I am P.O.ed now.” I remove the rubber band that was holding a sock over my bat to protect it from nicks while it was in the trunk of my car for the past year. I didn’t want the sock to mess with my grip of the bat or the impact to the head that I was going to blow to what was outside my bedroom door.

I got out of bed and slowly walked to the door so that I wouldn’t trip or make any noise and ruin my element of surprise. I open the door. Nothing. “Ok. So far so good.” I proceeded by looking down the stairs, in the bathroom and in the other three bedrooms all of which were empty. “No one would want to be up here because there is nothing to steal. Everything upstairs is in my bedroom.” I looked down the stairs again. The dark and motionless staircase. I turned on the lights to the stairs because if there was someone down there the light would cause them to run and make commotion and I would know to immediately call the cops and I would also have a clear view of the front door to ensure that it was locked. The light at the bottom of the stairs always flickers on like something out of a horror film. Silence.

“Maybe I just scared them and they are petrified with fear.” So I proceeded down the stairs to take a look. My laptop was still where I left it and my guitar, two of my most valuable items in the entire house (after all, I am just a broke college kid). The next place to look through and examine was the kitchen. I turned on the kitchen light. Everything was exactly the way I had left it. “Well that’s disappointing. Now I know I am just crazy.” I double checked the garage door to ensure that it was locked. “I was looking forward to an epic tale of someone breaking in and I protected the castle!” I open the refrigerator, grabbed the milk and drank what was left in the carton. With the baseball bat in hand I proceeded back up the stairs turning off all the lights. “This is all my friend’s fault,” I thought. “If she didn’t mention a guy with an axe and pig mask when we were skyping the night before during her the video tour of the house I would not be so crazy.”

I placed the baseball bat next to my bed as I crawled back into it. It was finally time to go back to sleep. Yet, still another creek from the house. Then it occurred to me. “I never checked the basement.”

Speak Christ Boldly

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. 17 He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there.

18 He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.”

19 Then they took him to the high council of the city.[a] “Come and tell us about this new teaching,” they said. 20 “You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.” 21 (It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)

22 So Paul, standing before the council,[b] addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.

24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man[c] he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.

27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your[d] own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.

30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” 33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council,[e] a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

I couldn’t help but realize who it was that accepted Paul and invited him in to tell them more about Jesus and what he has done. Of all the people, it was the philosophers. When he went to the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles they debated with him. They were not interested with what he was saying or what he had to tell them. All they wanted is a debate. With my experience of sharing Christ (or at least trying to share Christ) debating is not witnessing. Unfortunately I have learned this the hard way far too many times (more than I care to remember).  For effective witnessing, the one who is being witnessed to has to be open to the Gospel message. They have to be broken. They have to have a need for the Gospel. They cannot be above it. Philosophers seek wisdom. If you seek wisdom you seek the truth. If you seek the truth you seek Christ because he is the way the truth and the life. And what He has to offer is so radical and new that these Greek philosphers were all over what Paul has to tell them. So what Paul does is that he goes into Camp Counselor mode.

On Paul’s way to campfire he needed to think of an object lesson. It just so happened that the Greeks provided him one with an altar that was titled “to an unknown god.” Pual thinks this is perfect! I’m gonna go with that.

 

 

The philosophers who really dictated the religion of Greece at the time were knowledgable enough at the time to realize that there was another god. They left room for THE God. Interrestingly enough Paul first turns to how God was calling the people of Greece first. He talks about nations rising and falling and how their boundries are determined by God himself. How he blesses them, but then they turn to other gods and then God, being the jelous God that he is makes those false gods fall by destroying the nation because every nation is held accountable to Him because God is Lord of ALL. Weather or not you are in a relationship with him or not we are all called to him especially today in Christ who was the atoning sacrifice for our sins. And with that sacrifice it is now Last Call. Because that same person who died and rose from the grave will be back to judge us all. And it is at that moment when Paul starts to talk about Christ death and ressurection and His return is when Paul gets laughed at by some. And still others want to hear more and they come to faith to Christ. So Paul left those who closed their openness to the Gospel message and continued to persue those who wanted to learn more and came to faith.

This account is very appropriate to us today. Many people today want to know the truth of Christ. However, they don’t know who He is or what he has done. As Christians we have the truth and we have the way and we have the life, and we get to share that with all those around us. We get to speak boldly about Christ and what he has done because God is calling all the nations to Him. He is calling us all away from our idols who cannot withstand God’s wrath and He is saying that He is the ONLY safe place. He alone is God. That is the message that our world longs to hear. However, the devil in all his power has been working hard to distort the Gospel message and our neighbors think they understand Christiantiy, but they don’t. They think that they are OK with what they have replaced for God in their life, but they do not truly know God. Therefore the only thing to call them to the faith is speaking boldly the Gospel message in accordance with the law. They must be shown that they are not safe where they currently stand.

Most people in America today believe that there is a god, but that he will not do anything to them as long as they live a good life. So as long as they do more good things than bad they believe that they will be alright. That is the message that Satan has distorted the message of Christ into. However that could not be farther from the truth. And for most that is the only message they have recieved about the Christian faith, but that is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. People need to hear the real Gospel message. That God has dismissed our ignorance, and has sent Christ to reveal to the world that He is God and He will set things in our broken world right (because our world is pretty messed up). And if we do not turn from our idols he will bring his wrath on us when Christ returns. With that Christ alone is our refuge and strength. In Christ all our debts are paid for. We are forgiven, we are safe, we are free, we have life. And that today is still a new message to bring to our world. Speak Christ boldly because many today think they know him, but they really do not.

Ok so that is all I got today. I don’t know how much of that makes sense because I am slightly sleep deprived today on my third cup of coffe this afternoon and have spent three hours at Starbucks and because of that I am not going to proofread this blog post. If there is anything anyone would like to add or call me out on please do! Until next time!

 

The Past Few Weeks

Wow! What a crazy past couple of weeks! Where to start?

Well I guess from the beginning is as good as any other (as long as I can remember it correctly). My last week or so at home in California with family was great! Most of the family got together in the midst of a busy time for all of us. I was leaving to come here to Urbana, IL, My cousin was getting married, nieces and nephews (and cousins) were all going back to school! August this year had to be one of the busiest months in 2013.

The first destination on my trip out here was DISNEYLAND! So many memories from that place from when I was child, and it has a way to make you feel like an eight year old again. Seeing all the characters, the fireworks, Fantasmic and of course the rides took me back. It was some great time with my family down there too with my parents, my aunt and her mother. Truly one of the happiest places on earth!

After two days at Disneyland, we stopped in to see a cousin down in the area. That probably was the highlight of that week. I missed a family reunion last summer so stopping by to see them was great! Even though we were only there for a night, it was great to know how close my extended family is. From there we traveled to somewhere in Colorado, then Nebraska, and then to the Twin Cities.

While in the Twin Cities it was good to connect with some friends. While that was not the point for going there (the real point was to grab all my stuff out of storage) it was good to reconnect and hear what other people were up to and planned on doing. After taking care of business on the first workday of the week, I started my trip to where I am now in Urbana.

The welcome from the congregation I am serving my internship at (Trinity Lutheran Church) was a warm welcome! It was great to meet people for the first time and start to get to know them all. Unfortunately when you meet 200 people in a day, you only remember about 10 names and the faces that they go to. So that is going to be a huge challenge for me. One member of the congregation said that they will forgive me for forgetting names until the end of October, but after that there will be no forgiveness. The pressure is on!!

I am looking forward to the upcoming year! After two days in the office I can tell that I will be challenged in ways I have never been challenged before. Also it is weird not knowing any body in a new town (other than the congregation members). That is one of the biggest difference I have already noticed from college life to real world life. Meeting new people is not the easiest thing. However, it is all in God’s hands and I am looking forward to what he has planned for Trinity and myself this year!

Until next time (which might be tomorrow. I am beginning to dig the Starbucks spot!)

The Distinction Between Law and Gospel and Morality

A good friend of mine posted something on the youth group page of his congregation. It was an article from churchleaders.com titled 10 surprising Reasons Our Kids LEAVE Church . In this article the author states from multiple interviews with people in their 20’s that we are not giving our kids the “full weight of the law, and the full freedom of the Gospel.” All ten of the author’s points are based around this theme.

However, this is not the only person who has made this conclusion. In Kendra Creasy Dean’s book Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church she calls the faith of our kids as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” Not surprisingly in Marc Yoder’s article he says that kids view Christianity as a way of developing morals. Both Yoder and Dean blame the Church and parents for not giving kids proper Law and Gospel.

I am a 21-year-old. I am the same age as those who were being interviewed. In the same way, I have seen many friends walk away from the church after confirmation and especially after high school for various reasons. With these recent conclusions, I can contend that morality is being taught in church’s instead of Law and Gospel (aka the Bible).

To start we need to know what is Law, Gospel and morality. I my personal search I started with Law. Since I am at home in California, my personal resources were limited. So I went straight to my fathers 1943 edition of Luther’s Small Catechism from Concordia Publishing House. I looked up the section of Law and Gospel. The second question under that heading is “What is the Law?” (Hey work smarter not harder right?) In the response to that question it states

The Law is the doctrine of the Bible in which God tells us how we are to be and what we are to do and not to do.

And naturally following the response is scriptural references (Lev 19:2, Ex. 34:11, and Deut. 6:6, 7). From the answer given it is very easy to hone in as teachers, preachers, and parents on the “what we are to do and not to do” part of this response. Often times we forget the first thing that is instructed here in the catechism based off of Lev. 19:2. It is about our being, not our doing.

You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am Holy.

At beginning of creation, before the fall into sin, we were holy and were able to walk with God. To be holy means that you are “set apart,” “dedicated” or “belong” to God as defined by God himself. When we sinned that holiness was broken and it was our fault. We dedicated ourselves to idols. When we break any of God’s commands we must break the first commandment. We place other gods ahead of the Yahweh when we sin. After all as Kyle Idleman states in his book “Gods at War” all people are made to be worshipers. We must worship something or someone. Joshua challenges the Israelites on this matter. In fact Joshua doesn’t even give them a choice not to worship in what he says

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Therefore this question applies to us as well. Whom do you serve?

But back to Law, Gospel and morality. As Christians we are called to be holy before God. The problem is we can’t because of our sin. Therefore every one of us is damned to eternal separation from God because by our own power and might we cannot be holy. (At this time I would normally kick right into Gospel, but for purpose of the topic I am going to switch to morality and how we are teaching, preaching, and parenting Law).

Morality is different from the Law of God. While morals can stem from the Law of God, it is not the focus of the Law because the focus of the Law is to show us our sin and how we are not holy (mirror). These morality teachings come from the last two statements in our catechism question for the day: “What we are to do and not to do.” If we teach our children morality in our churches then they will have a view that church is just about establishing morals in children. Then as children get older they will realize that they could get morals anywhere and leave the church. This is all because as a church we have not appropriately taught our kids Law.

Even more so we have failed to teach preach and parent true Gospel. There are many ways that this has occurred. One thing that pops into my head was WWJD (What would Jesus do?). From that one acronym alone, and other questions like it, we have taken everything that Jesus has taught and done for our salvation and turned it into a phrase that condemns.

Another example of how the church is not properly teaching Law and Gospel is in the catechism during confirmation. When I was looking in the 1986 copywrite of Luther’s Small Catechism from Concordia Publishing House I could not find the simple question of “What is Law?” and “What is Gospel?” (Excuse me, but I think those two questions are pretty foundational to Christians, particularly Lutherans). Instead this edition even phrases the questions and answers related to Law and Gospel in a way that makes Law statements.

What does God teach and do in the Law?

In the Law, God commands good works of thought, word and deed and condemns and punishes sin. (References: Mark 12:30-31, John 5:45, Rom. 3:20)

What does God teach and do in the Gospel?

In the Gospel, our good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ, God gives forgiveness, faith, life and the power to please him with good works. (References: John 3:16, John 6:63, Rom. 1:16, Col. 1:6)

The 1986 edition of the catechism makes two true statements here, but leave us condemned. In the Law question it does not even allow holiness to even be mentioned as an important command of the law as the centerpiece as to what the Law commands. Likewise, in the Gospel question it takes the Gospel message and tacks on “power to please him with good works” thus crippling a Christian response to the Gospel (ontology and teleology). It is a natural Christian response to live a life in appreciation (as a thank you) to the Gospel. This is what drives us to live holy lives (again which means living a life in accordance to the Law of God). However, while we are made holy by Christ’s death and resurrection we cannot possibly live holy lives by following God’s commands because we still live in a sinful world. However, what we do have is hope. A hope that through our faith (trust/confidence) in what Christ has done we will live eternally with God. It is all God’s doing so to Him all the glory will go.

Once we come to faith the Law no longer has any power over us. We are free because we are no longer damned to eternal separation from God. However, the Law still plays an important role in the Christian life because it shows us that we are still broken and that Christ is still for us. It still shows us that we are sinners and that we need the forgiveness that Christ offers. It still shows us that we need a savior. It keeps us relying on Christ.

Now to move into the parenting portion of all of this. While the church has failed to teach full Law and full Gospel to the youth, the church only has kids one day (maybe two days) out of the week. This means that parents need to take charge of teaching their children Law and Gospel as well. In Timothy Paul Jones’ book Family Ministry Field Guide he brings up the fact that churches do not have kids nearly as much as the parents do, therefore the majority of kids perception of Christianity is shaped from their parents.

Often times parents parent from the Law perspective. They parent from an authoritarian perspective with no room for grace. This is where there is a disconnect from the church and parenting. Often times parents do not show God’s grace to their children. Therefore, the children do not get the experiential learning of grace from their parents. Jones, suggests that parents be authoritative when they need to be authoritative, but also view their child as a brother or sister in Christ as well. Otherwise, virtually everything that the child receives from Christianity is Law. Let the Gospel be shared in your actions with all including those in your immediate family and those who you have direct authority over.

I apologize for the book/lecture on Law and Gospel and how it differs from morality. Please comment if there are errors in my reasoning or theology as well as comment to start a conversation about other ways that we are messing up Law and Gospel in our teaching, preaching and parenting.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen!

Stuck in My Head

For the past two days I have had these two songs in my head. The first one is Easy by Sheryl Crow. It’s her new song. I heard this on the radio before, but didn’t enjoy it until recently. Now it’s stuck in my head and I am trying to learn how to play it on guitar (and that is harder than it sounds). I dig the rift and the guitar solo, but for me it’s a work in progress.

The second song is Copperhead Road by Steve Earle. This one has been driving me nuts because out of nowhere I start dancing and people give me weird looks as I line dance in lines at the mall by myself.

Anyways I thought you might want to share in my torture. Enjoy the videos, but enjoy the songs even more!

And just for kicks, here is what the line dance looks like so that you have a clear image of someone doing this randomly at the mall.

Recent Events

Hey all! I am back! I got back from training last week, but then had to take care of a few things over the weekend. Prior to going to this month-long training even I was a little nervous, but now looking back on it there was nothing to be nervous about. I was completely prepared and knew what I was doing at all times. With all that said, that does not mean that I did not learn anything, but  I will save learnings for another post.

Currently I am “that guy” sitting in Starbucks, writing on his blog in the corner with the only outlet easily visible. I am somewhat smirking and laughing at my self for being “that guy” currently because I use to make fun of people who did that. Now look at me! Oh well. I will embrace it! What else am I supposed to do while being home in California where I barely keep in contact with friends.

Now with all that said I am truly glad to be home. It is warm…ok that’s an understatement. IT’S VERY HOT! Especially yesterday, and the heat wave is supposed to continue over the weekend. I was hoping for good weather while I am back in my hometown, and I guess the weather is not letting me down. Even being back a week I have gotten a pretty awesome tan (soon to be). I burn first then tan. It’s great!

Over this last week I have been doing things that I love! This includes helping out with day camp! Mt. Cross came to my home congregation to put on a day camp for kids from first grade through sixth grade! Needless to say, the kids had a great time! There were kids that cried because camp was over yesterday. There is something that God uses about camp that connects with so many kids. Many of the kids enjoyed the songs, skits and games. Those will be the most memorable moments for them that they will take through the rest of their lives. This is very important in ministry because the themes of the day (Bible, worship, prayer, hospitality, and service) will stick in their minds and provides a basis to build on in education as well as growing in their faith. This reminds me of Proverbs 22:6:

Direct your child onto the right path, and when they are older, they will never leave it. NLT

How appropriate that is to children’s ministry. My supervisor over the last year has stressed this to me. He kept saying that if anyone desires to do youth ministry they have to do second grade ministry because that is where it starts. As church workers we can start building those relationships with children that way when they are older (and hopefully even when they are young) they are comfortable to have meaningful conversations especially around faith.

This brings me to my high point of the week. On Wednesday we were teaching the children about prayer. I had overestimated my third and fourth graders understanding of prayer. I realized this when the counselor that I was working with asked me to help a child to think of something that they wanted to pray about. I asked the child what has ben on their heart and mind lately. She said a certain television show that she really enjoyed had been taken off air fairly recently. For her this show was a source of entertainment, relaxation and allowed her creativity to grow. However she didn’t think that God would listen to her prayer about this certain television show because it was something silly to pray about. It was at that time that I realized why so many children do not want to pray and talk to God. They view God as one who does not desire to listen to children concerns. When I told this child that she could pray for it and God would listen and answer she was amazed. This then propelled me to take a moment and reread the scripture lesson for the day. It was Luke 11:1-13. I stressed to them verses 8-10.

But I tell you this-though he may not do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you what ever you need because of you shameless persistence. And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. NLT

Every single one of the children were astonished. Nearly every child came up with something that they thought was silly to pray for and asked me if they could pray for it. The news that they could pray for those things blew their minds! I remember thinking that the hymn, What a Friend We have in Jesus, was appropriate for that day.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

In short it is good to be home and be with family and to see what God continues to do through my home congregation and those involved there! His kingdom is moving forward!

As for the rest of my time home, I have no idea what I will be doing. I will probably go on morning runs, drink some more coffee and write more blog posts. I will definitely get in touch with some old friends of mine and visit with them. I will go visit with more family while I am here. Starting next week I will start preparing myself for internship which starts in one month (SO EXCITED!). Anyways that is what has been up in life!

Confessions and Places of Spiritual Growth

Today I got to sit and talk with a pastor for a good hour and a half. In this talk there were several themes that consistently came up that have been consistent with what I have learned over field work.

  1. Do not put God in a box.
  2. Listen for God’s voice
  3. Take Him seriously.
  4. Be in constant communication with Him
  5. Look for Him in daily life

Looking at these themes, I have to say that I have been doing a fairly poor job at these. I have put God in a box by saying that God does not do the things that He has done in the past because I have not experienced it. I have not been listening for my shepherds voice. I have only taken God seriously at certain times and other times I have blown Him off. I have not spent enough time with Him in prayer. And I have hardly ever looked for His work in my life and in the lives of others daily. These have all been areas of constant themes that I have found throughout my experiences at field work, and these are all areas where I feel as though I have grown some, but more growth I feel is coming.

Since last fall I have asked for God’s forgiveness and guidance to grow in Him. Surely enough He has answered my prayers. Before I was comfortable working in my power, on my own reason and strength to make the Gospel known. This is so easy for me to do in academia where we try to make God’s power into a science and try to comprehend Him. What I have noticed as change in my life is that I have gotten a little more relaxed in not worrying how to share the Gospel and teach it.

Very recently I have been more intentional in trying to quiet myself and listen for God’s voice. To pay attention to what He desires. To let him lead me to do His work. Along with this comes the practice of obedience. And from all of this comes the practice of taking God seriously. It is something that I have been working on and have since improved, but it is something will always require intentional focus due to my sinful nature.

Since last fall I have found myself more intentional about prayer and the power of it. Luke 11 is now one of my favorite chapters in the entire New Testament. Prayer is something that is truly a gift from God and if you have not taken full advantage of it I encourage you to pray to God because He does answer your prayers. Just as a small example of God answering prayer, I experienced something last summer while I was working at Camp Omega. I used my cell phone as my alarm clock everyday at camp. However, there were a couple of times where my cell phone was going to die and I did not have a charger or a place to charge my phone so that the alarm could be used. Instead, I prayed for God to wake me up at the appropriate time. The first time I prayed this prayer, I instantly woke up precisely at the time that I would normally set my alarm. Then something even more miraculous happened in the second to last week of camp when I was a counselor in the tepees. For two straight days my phone was dead and I was terribly concerned about oversleeping. On both of those days and nights I prayed. On both mornings, there was the most annoying crow that crowed at precisely the time I was supposed and meaning to wake up. Needless to say, the crow woke me up on both days and on those days I was more energetic on those days than ever before. It is truly something only God could do!

The last thing that I have grown in is looking for God in my daily life. Needless to say I still go days where I do not look for His work in my life and others around me, but that does not mean that He is not working. However, today more than ever, I am more intentional to look for God in daily life. I am looking forward to what great things He is planning to do in others around me and in my life as well. All glory and honor are His, now and forever!

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24