"Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever." -Paul

28 February 2006

Voice of Heaven

I read: 1 Kings 17-19

Finally a break from the bling-bling and the "and he killed this dude and took over as king" stuff! Instead, we get a great little section here which outlines the debut of none other than Elijah, prophet extraordinare. These three chapters include the famous God-fire burning down the altar in the face of the idol-worshippers who couldn't get a spark and the calling of Elisha. But what I want to take a look at is an event before all that: Elijah's misadventures during the drought.

Like any good minister/missionary, Elijah goes the route of seeking support. God hands it to him on a silver platter: through daily miracles, a widow will have enough food left over from a bottomless grain jar to make food for Elijah and herself and her son. Elijah gets a room at her place and everything is cool while he's on the run. Then her son dies and she is understandably upset. Not just because her son died, but she was housing a man of God and you think that should grant you some favor with the Almighty, right? That's reasonable.

Elijah responds by praying fervently for the boy to be resurrected. While what he does is admirable, the way he does it might be considered a way to quickly destroy your ministry today. Read it and see what I mean. But that's not the cool part, here's the cool part, what the widow says after her son comes back to life: "I see it all now--you are a holy man. When you speak, God speaks--a true word!" (17:24).

When you speak, God speaks. How amazing of an idea is it that you can open your mouth and speak and no that what you say is in agreement with the heart of God. Or as the lyricist of "Be Thou My Vision" put it: "Heart of my own heart, whatever be fall." I have had a lot of trouble with that line. It seems rather arrogant and prideful to make God follow you. But I think, after considering the widow's statement here, is that yeah, it's a lofty idea, but it's a valid one. Knowing God so intimately and constantly seeking his truth gives us that kind of authority with which to speak. And he wants us to speak with that kind of authority, that's why we're Christ's ambassadors! That's why we're the church, the bride of God.

I think that makes a worthy prayer: that our speech is God's speech and that our hearts match the heart of God. Not an easy prayer, one that we will fall short of nearly every time we open our mouth (see James 3:2) but one of those unattainable goals that our life in Christ provides us with.

How does it feel to want?!

Sorry for the delay! The much anticipated "Next Post"!

Read Numbers 22-24.

The story of Balaam:

Ok...so, Balaam is a prophet (one of the good ones). He listens to God; does what he's told and knows when to speak and when to keep his mouth shut (for the Lord!). Anyhow, there's Balak, the king of Moab, who is upset at the Israelites and wants Balaam to come and curse them for him. He sends his gang over to Balaam; Balaam checks it out with God. God says that he likes these nomads from Israel and that they shouldn't be messed with. Balaam tells Balak's people and so Balak sends some more noble friends to ask again. Balaam checks it out with God again and God allows him to go meet Balak, but not to do anything without His command. After a little traffic accident with God, they get to Balak's. Balak takes Balaam to a place where he can see the Israelites and asks him to curse them. They build seven altars and slaughter seven bulls and seven rams. Balaam talks with God about cursing the Israelites. God says (again) that the people from Israel are chosen. Balak takes Balaam to a different place to look over the Israelite camp (different perspective). They build more altars, slaughter more animals. Balaam talks to God again; same answer. Guess what, they go through the whole process one more time, with the same result. In fact, he actually winds up blessing Jacob and the Israelites, saying that they will destroy Moab (not to mention some other places).

Pretty simple moral here:

God is constant. And often, our goals are not his. In reading this story, we'd like to think that we are the faithful prophet Balaam, who consistently listens to the will of God (which tells him the same thing every time), not to mention actually does what God says.

Unfortunately, I find myself acting more like the king, Balak. "Maybe if I can just make God see it from my perspective, he'll do what I want him to." "No, no...God. Maybe you misunderstood; I want this."

In prayer, we repeatedly ask for what we want, ignoring the Will of God. We assume that we know best. "God, if only I could get this raise (or whatever it is that we assume will make us happy)". Really, our focus should be upon having the faith to do His Will. To trust God enough to not question and not seek for something to fill our hearts outside of His love.

"Good things come to those who wait." I'd rather think that it should be "Good things come to those who have faith"; and not faith in the good thing, but faith in God's providence. Only God knows where we need to go and what we will need to get through to get there.

27 February 2006

. . . And Repeat

I read: 1 Kings 13-17

Let me break down these chapters for you real quick: Israel and Judah suddenly had a bunch of kings in quick succession and none of them went out of their way to make God happy in the slightest, all but one went out of their way to make them mad, and they did not have very happy or peaceful lives at all.

The moral of the story: do what God wants or your armies will be constantly at war and someone will most likely kill you.

Oh, and if you're a prophet that God told not to eat or drink anything, double-check with God before another prophet says it's okay because you'll be the one eaten by a lion, not him (true story!).

he finally returns

i'm back.

sorry about the long absence.

matt 26

verse 56

"then all the disciples cut and ran."

i don't think that needs any expounding.

matt 27

at the very beginning of this chapter, Judas comes to his sense and returns the money. the pharisees response fascinates me. they realize the wrongness of what they're doing and try to cover it up by using the money for a good purpose. what a weird understanding of God. that you can somehow appease him with good works in one area, when your actions in another area suck. hmm.

in other news...Lent begins on Wednesday. and for Lent i'm going to join with my friend, austin (www.biblereaders.co.nr) in reading through the Bible. this might seem like somewhat of an audacious quest from a man who just missed an entire week of dLog, but i also know that the larger the challenge, the better i tend to respond. and when i look at my life, i get a lot of sleep & take a lot of breaks. and when i look at what i did to myself in college, i realize that i definitely have some flex right now that i could exploit for a task such as this. so wednesday...here comes something. i will finish matt tomorrow, so that i may commence with the entire book of Genesis on Wednesday. hmm...it took me a month to finish matt. this could get interesting.

26 February 2006

That Easy

I've pretty much eschewed the Old Testament for a good 3/4 chunk of my life but all of a sudden a creeping interestin Ecclesiastes and Psalms and, ahem, Song of Songs has given sway to a new appreciation. Yet, it has just list after list of names and how many omers of gold Johiaziah gave Nebemenatoad and, in that way at least, it's deserving of its bad name by me. But let me tell you, this 1 Kings stuff? Has me hooked. I think I'll finally dive into that whole second half of the OT that I've pretty much ignored (I have read Isaiah and Zepheniah, for shame, I know). Anyways, on to today's post!

I read: 1 Kings 10-12

So, Solomon. Talked to God directly. Gave God the right answer to a tough question. Has it pretty good. And then all of a sudden, bam, out of God's favor and given all sorts of cryptic warnings with the general idea being, "You screwed up and you're outta there, bucko."

Someone explain this to me: How does someone so close and so in touch with God, someone who just 4 or 5 chapters before is "granted a God-listening heart," FORGET GOD?! I really, really want to know. Doesn't it seem like all those things are so significant that remembering not to worship all these false gods shouldn't be so much of a big deal? Solomon, for being so wise, are you really that dumb?

And then there are the disciples. "Hey, guys, can you stay up with me and be with me while I'm freaking out about being crucified tomorrow?" "Yea-zzzzzzzzzzzz."

I tell myself over and over: "If I had the shot these guys had at knowing God so intimately, there's no way I'd screw it up like they did. No way. God is right there! He's standing next to them, appearing in a vis--oh wow, I got a new email! Who is it from?!"

Yeah, exactly.

I get frustrated and jealous with these guys but I have something they don't. Holy Spirit. Dwells within me. That's kind of a big deal, no?

What makes us so quick to turn away and forget? Why do these glorified shiny-objects hold so much sway over us? It doesn't seem fair. We're created with this amazing tendency, wait, no, this isn't a tendency. We'd move mountains to give into this temptation to desert God. We're built with this wanton disregard for God. It's scary. And all the heroes of faith, our Hall of Famers, they're just as guilty of it too. Guilty as we are.

Why did Solomon lose it? 1 Kings makes it sound like he just had too much philanderer in him, like father like son I suppose, he just couldn't deal with his desires. And we're talking 1,000 women here. One marital "consummation" a night and you've got over practically three years going. That's scary many. Why do I lose it? Why is my gaze so easily averted from God? What chance do I have? What chance do any of us have?

It's a frustrating thing. However, I believe our frustration here points to one thing: we need God. We fail when we begin to replace God or even just lower him one notch. And he's not about to let us go on with the lie that he doesn't have to be the center of our lives, our everything. Let us turn the frustration we feel towards these guys and ourselves into the conviction we need to live a God-centered life. This frustration is the proof of a life worth living, no matter how tenuous our grasp on it.

25 February 2006


I've spent most of the day so far reading Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and have been enjoying it thoroughly. It's been interesting to see how, despite not having formal youth ministry training, I managed to get some things right and definitely got some things wrong (eschewing evangelism in lieu of better discipleship, oy). But it's been good. And I think the prayer for God to empower me to discipline myself is somehow beginning to work (despite the fact it's been a day). I feel inspired, not to something but just generally inspired. I know I have something positive to contribute to youth ministry and I want back in the game in the worst way. I have something I want to give, I just need the place to begin giving it.

I have an idea for something that I want your guys' opinion on: group blogging as a means of discipleship! Building the discipline of daily reading/meditation is a difficult one but I'm definitely seeing the fruit in my life from this exercise in regards to that specific discipline. Kids these days love their myspace and xanga and all that, why not encourage them to begin doing something similar to what we're doing here? I'm thinking the best context would be in a message board setting where they would have their own sub-forum for their own daily writing that, through accounts, would be viewable by them, perhaps their small group leader, and whoever else they would want to invite (the rest of their small group, other friends, etc). Leaders and group members would be there to keep them in check, comment on their posts, etc. I think it would be a really neat thing to try.


I read: 1 Kings 7-9

More "Cribs" Solomon style! I could see how chapter 7 could be interpreted as a good argument for the Prosperity Gospel ;)

I think what is really neat here is God's presence in the temple: "When the priests left the Holy Place, a cloud filled The Temple of God. The priests couldn't carry out their priestly duties because of the cloud--the glory of God filled The Temple of God!" (8:10-11)

I realize looking back that there is something missing from yesterday's post: it's a wonderful thing to build God's temple(s), but there's no point doing it if God's not going to live there.

Looking at Solomon's dedication of The Temple, there are some good indications of why God chose to habitate there. In 8:17-19 Solomon relates the desire of his father, David, to build a temple and God's response: "It is good that you wanted to build a Temple in my honor--most commendable! But you are not the one to do it--your son will build it to honor my Name."

(God/Peterson loves using those --'s lately.)

Instead of building a house where God wasn't, Solomon looks at this promise made to David by God and builds the house over where God already is: among God's chosen people, in God's chosen land, and by God's chosen person. A.K.A.: the Israelites, Jerusalem, and Solomon.

Here's the application: when we endeavor to do God's will, we're much better off seeking God's desire first and then building off of that foundation than building irregardless of God and then begging him to take up residence in the foundation-less home we built. This is, after all, the guy who told us to build on rocks and not sand, right? I'm sure he's going to be checking the base materials before setting foot in the door.

So, as we build our temples (ourselves, our ministries, our families, etc), let's endeavor to find the space God has already set aside for their building. Let's build them at the right times. Let's involve the right builders. If we do we won't have to worry about God blessing them and entering the neighborhood, he'll already be there.

24 February 2006

Temple Building

First off, let me say how awesome amazon.com's "Search Inside" feature is. I was looking for a quote from Doug Fields' book Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and I couldn't find it again so I searched in it there and it was there and I am thrilled.

Second, let me say: as cool as that is, God is way cooler. I have a second interview with Huntersville Presbyterian Church! Which is the main reason that I'm reading PDYM. One of their items in the list of skills/knowledge they want their youth director to have is the PDYM so I figured I have a day or two before the second interview to ingest a 400 page book. Just like college again :) Anyways, it's a great book (all of 57 pages into it, skipped the first 15, thank you very much ADD) and I'm enjoying it and the thing that caught my eye (see first paragraph) blends beautifully to what I read for today's dLog entry!

I read: 2 Kings 4-6

Basically, chapter 4 is kind "Cribs" with Solomon: how much food they eat per day, all the stuff he has, etc. All cool and impressive but what I really liked was the description of the temple. God told David that his son would suit on the throne and build a house for God and Solomon realizes this (wisdom and all) and decides he's going to make good on that promise.

Here's the verses that I really liked:

The word of God came to Solomon saying, "About this Temple you are building--what's important is that you live the way I've set out for you and do what I tell you, following my instructions carefully and obediently. Then I'll complete in you the promise I made to David your father. I'll personally take up residence among the Israelites--I won't desert my people Israel! (1 Kings 6:11-13)

Good stuff! I guess I'm not sure where the verses are exactly about our bodies being temples for the Holy Spirit, but this speaks directly to that idea. We are to build temples of ourselves! But I think there are other worthy temples that need our construction. For us three youth guys, our ministries are temples of a sort that we are building. And as God and Doug points out in this passage and PDYM. More specifically, Doug says we are to be God's people, not doers of what we think God wants. When we take care of ourselves and nurturing our spiritual lives, everything else will fall into place. That's a very cool idea as it makes running a youth ministry a lot less daunting. It's not about programs and flashiness, it's about building ourselves up to be great examples and everything will flow from that.

One thing that Doug challenges youth folk to do is this: "Ask God for the power to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7 NASB)" (page 40). Here's the verse: "But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness."

I see a clear line connecting these two ideas. And, I decided rather abruptly, it's what I want to be about. I'm getting the feeling like I'm going to be back in YM very soon and I want to be doing these things as best I can. I'm excited about it, I'm psyched! But more than all, I feel like I'm just taking that first step into a much larger world by beginning to pray that prayer. This dLog has been a great insight into what discipled reading and meditation (and good use of writing gifts) can do to teach me, I want more! I'm starting to get that feeling I'm where God wants me to be, but not for long, because he has bigger and better things planned. That's a good feeling :)

23 February 2006

The Key to Wisdom

After reading the introduction to the book of Lamentations yesterday, I realized I didn't have too great of a grasp on the whole exile thing and how that all came about. So, as Rev. Peterson recommends, I'm reading The Books of Kings!

I read: 1 Kings 1-3

In a nutshell what we see here is the end of one rule and the beginning of another, David's and Solomon's respectively. There's some Lord of the Rings-esque malpheasance going on as Solly and his brother play little games to gain the throne but Solomon, as you guessed, ends up with the crown. It's kind of fun to get all this history 'cause it's full of political intrigue and the like. Actually, after Sol is king it reminds me more of Michael becoming the godfather at the end of The Godfather. How best to consolidate your kingdom? By whacking your enemies, of course!

Anyways, what I really want to look at is the famous exchange between God and Solomon right at the start of the king's reign. Starting at 3:4, God asks Solomon what he would like. Solomon replies by affirming the generous love God showed his father and the blessings that poured out on David when he was living correctly. He then acknowledges the awesome power and responsibility that he now yields because of God's will. Then he finally gets down to what he wants (yell it out if you know it now): a God-listening heart.

How many of you screamed, "Wisdom!"? That's what I would have said had I not just read the thing. When you hear this story it's basically God asking Solomon what he wants and Solomon replying, "Wisdom!" and ends up getting riches and a long life in addition to that wisdom 'cause God liked his answer so much. But it's an entirely different thing when you read it here, or at least in The Message.

"Here's what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?" (1 Kings 3:9).

Man that's good. We can see the fruits of knowledge apart from God-seeking all around us. Technology in its many forms and guises are those fruits. The implements themselves are neutral, but they can be used for bad and good, and it's often the clever who devises the bad uses out of them.

But knowledge coupled with a life affirming a need to follow God and constantly seeking him is an entirely different kettle of fish. Again, I think this comes back to the idea that the less of us the more of God there is. The less we try to rely on our own wisdom and seek instead what God knows, the better off we are. The best leaders we have are the ones who are willing to admit that they don't know much and wouldn't be there without God's help and couldn't continue to be there without that same help.

It's striking how different our definition is from Solomon's or God's. That tiny little difference makes all the difference in the world, however. And with that difference ingrained into our hearts and heads we can begin to lead those who God puts us in front of with the wisdom that is going to change their lives for good.

22 February 2006

Prayer for Thought

Here is a prayer that I found over the weekend:

Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier

I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for,
but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

My love and prayers to you all.

Run Away!!! I mean Retreat!

So...as reluctant as I was to leave the brothers, I have returned home (with all my hair and still only hood I own is attached to a sweatshirt). However, I have to say that this weekend was great. A real time of focusing and re-centering.

As for where I was, it was the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky. Claim to fame is that Thomas Merton was a monk there. Anywho…the stay is by donation, and they provide meals and a room. That specific group of Catholics believe it is their spiritual gift to pray for others. Particularly, they pray the Psalms; over the course of two weeks, they pray all of the Psalms. Seven services a day; the first at 3:15am, the last at 8pm (makes for a long day!). The services, along with all of the programs put on there, are optional.

As for what I actually did during the course of the weekend:
I attended many of the prayer services (which allowed me to learn a lot about the Catholic service). I had a lot of prayer time and meditation time (these were very refreshing!). Too often we rush these times to “fit” them into our day. With no real appointments or place to be, I was able to take time to talk with God, not just talk at Him. Along with the group I was with, I went on a hike to visit a local hermit (who, by the way, is a Father with the monastery. It was interesting to learn about his lifestyle and what he felt was his purpose. Also, I had several discussions with individuals along on the trip about faith and life, and how to live out God’s plan for us. (Yes, for the most part, there wasn’t much talking in the monastery, but we were allowed in a few select places)

In going into this weekend, I was interested in learning about the monastic life. Specifically, I was concerned about what purpose the brothers had for living in a monastery. I worried that they were merely attempting to avoid the “evils” of the world. However, when I learned that their intention is to pray for others (something that on the service seems trivial; but who can argue with the power of prayer?) and that they provide the retreat ministry for others (for basically nothing), I was reassured.

I am a big believer in doing God’s will. Initially, I was going into this weekend thinking that I might even take a vow of silence. The day that I was leaving to go, I had the realization that if I did undertake such a vow, it would be for selfish reasons. I wanted this weekend to be a refresher for me. Period. I began to see that I could be more effective for the Kingdom if I were able to talk about my spiritual journey. Not that I believe that I am worthy enough to tell others how to live for God, but I think that communication and sharing experiences is what allows us to learn more about who God is and how He affects our lives (kinda how this blog is).

As this weekend came to a close, I realized that through talking about my situation, and that of those around me, that I was recharged. This was not because of the act talking and listening, but in seeing how God is working in my life and the lives of my friends.

All I can say in summary is that God knows what He is doing. And as difficult as it can be to trust in that (especially when times are tough!), we have to believe that God has our best interests at heart and truly loves us.

Mother-Father God

How do you view God?

A big question, yes. But an important one. A good percentage (70-something) of people (including youth) believe in God, but most do not know what they believe about Him.

We've talked about God in descriptions of an Old Testament and New Testament God, but another way to look at it is justice versus mercy. Often we get both from God. Some view this as the fatherly and motherly roles of God.

Often we attribute to God the male sense of being: a dominating, disciplining law giver, who seeks to provide stability for His children through rules, punishments, and rewards. The opposite, yet balancing perspective of God is that of the female: a maternal caregiver, who offers refuge and tender love.

I see God as a mixture of these two roles - throughout the Bible. Only by growing to understand these seemingly conflicting natures can we begin to comprehend all that is God, our Mother-Father.

Look over the experiences of your life. Have there been times where you've felt God's presence as being more like a father? a mother? a mixture of the two?

How have these experiences shaped your picture of God? Is there any way to more accurately express the presence of God (rather than "He")? Or does that break God down too much into a concept? Do we do that already through our current verbalizations of God's presence?


So, day two of the mini-fast. I realized that I'm not exactly coherent or in the best of mood when I am suffering low blood-sugar and I really do want to be coherent and in a good mood when I have my interview tonight so I decided that my fast for today would be from last night's Wendy's dinner at 9:15 or so until about 5:30 today when I'll eat dinner and be set for my interview. So, this one is a fairly long one but I slept most of it so it doesn't count I suppose :)

Read: Lamentations

I was directed here, not quite sure why the thought popped into my head, but here it is. Truth is, I don't think I've ever read this one before despite an unusual attraction to the rather gloomy subject matter I think I would find therein. And it's everything I would have hoped. It's like the best of the blues-Psalms, the, "God has abandoned me, I've killed my children, woe, gnashing of teeth, woe, rending of garments, wail, wail!" type stuff that I sort of dig. Not because I'm glad it happened but I think suffering produces amazing things. You don't really know a man until he's being held over the volcano type thing (10 points if you nab that reference).

But there, right in the middle of the book, in the middle of chapter 3, gleams a brightness, an unwavering hope and faith that sees this terribly beset author through the gloom and doom he's living in (well, I'm assuming the writer is a he, not really sure at all who the writer is).

But there's one thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope.

God's loyal love couldn't have run out,
his merciful love couldn't have dried up.
They're created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He's all I've got left. (3:21-24)

Man, that's good stuff. And as much as I like the blues of the Psalms, I like the stuff like this too. The glimmers of hope in the midst of the storm.

Here's what I really, really like though: "God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks" (3:25).

"Passionately waits." I think it's a common mistake for us to believe that waiting is a passive action (paradox much?). Waiting, for me lately, has practically been a pass-time. Waiting to get to NC, getting to NC and waiting for a job, etc. The important thing that this verse points out is that, although waiting is the hardest part (as Tom Petty says), it's not a part that's meant to be endured or just simply waded through. It's a time of action, of going out and doing.

I think that's important. And I guess that's what I'm trying to prove with the fasting thing: I don't want this time of waiting for work to be passive. I don't want it to be even just filled with job searching. I want to do something more, take the time to try and prove to God why I'm worthy to be in youth ministry because that's honestly where I believe I belong. I want this so bad that I feel blessed to be able to sacrifice for it. It's hardly even a sacrifice. Perhaps this is just my arrogance thinking that skipping two meals a day will catch the attention of God and make him reconsider. But I want to do something that will prove to him how passionately I want to pursue kids for him.

Let's just hope this church isn't lame :)

21 February 2006

Fasting-Lite and Father Abraham

I really was serious about the sun-up to sun-down thing and even set my alarm for 7 am. But then it went off and I realized I was still very tired and it seemed like a silly thing to get up and eat and then fall asleep again so I decided I'd do two days of 12 hour fasting. Just for kicks :) So, 9:00 to 9:00 now.

It's a lot harder than I thought. With the 30 Hour Famine you have accountability and constant reminders of what you're doing. When you do it by yourself you have to keep reminding yourself that the urge for Frito's isn't a good one because you're supposed to be fasting. And I'm in my normal environment where I don't think about not eating so it's all the more difficult. But only 6 hours and 22 minutes to go and I haven't screwed it up yet :)

The other hurdle I need to get through today is really looking to God and spending some time in serious prayer and meditation. Have yet to do that really. This is part of the meditation but not all of it!

Read: Genesis 12:1 - 25:11

Hearing the introduction of Abraham ("God told Abram, 'Leave your country, your family, and your father's home for a land that I will show you." (12:1)) struck a chord with me, for the obvious reasons. I won't pretend that God has plans to give me limitless descendants, so not everything applies here except the idea of being a stranger in a strange land. Truthfully though, Charlotte is more northern than southern, but still :)

What it all comes down to is that Abraham is an incredible man of faith, able and willing to move at the craziest request that God makes of him. They aren't easy requests but I guess it helps to have God personally asking you to do them.

Tangent: how do we know that Isaac wasn't 13 yet when Abraham tried to sacrifice him? If he was a teenager it wouldn't be a sacrifice! Ba-dum, chhh!

The thing that stuck with me the most from today's reading was the story of Abraham's servant who is off to play matchmaker. We're not to test God but this servant puts some pretty amazing conditions forward that God honors. Is it a leap of faith or a bit egotistical to believe that God will just grant us stuff? I know I have a hard time trying to figure out where that line exists, or if it exists. To be honest, part of this fast is in some way a bargain with God: I will undergo this (trivial) sacrifice in an attempt to grow closer with you in exchange for a job, preferrably at this church I'm interviewing with tomorrow. I am going to admit I'm not entirely comfortable with this idea. But I don't think it's just my idea, it came to me pretty strong in prayer so I feel like there's more to it than that. Maybe this is my act of faith? Maybe God will see my desire to be in a church again and will honor it? Maybe I'm making it all up?

I guess this whole experience is an experiment in some ways for me. To see if I can really do it, to see what the outcome is. Testing? I guess. But I think sometimes we have to act boldly and do things out of the ordinary. Abraham and his servant are good examples of that. Hopefully I'll have a better understanding of all this soon :)

20 February 2006

Not a Monastic Retreat

I wish I could say I didn't post this weekend because of a retreat, but I can't, just suck :(

Anyways, here's what's up: while spending time in prayer yesterday morning, mostly focusing on the job search (God must be seek of hearing about that by now), I got a kinda powerful notion that maybe I should do some fasting this week before the interview I have with Huntersville Presbyterian Church this Wednesday evening (http://www.hpcpatch.org in case you were wondering). So, here's what I came up with: I'm going to do a sunrise to sunset fast on Tuesday and Wednesday because, well, I haven't really ever done it (I suppose the 30 Hour Famine counts in some ways) and I feel like it might be very beneficial to me, to really bring me to a point of needing God. Still drinking water and some Gatorade perhaps (have two left), just no food during daylight.

At church yesterday the reading focused on Abraham and the start of his story where he was called out of his homeland, out of his father's house, and into what God's much bigger plan for his life. Hearing those words (again, for the first time!) really spoke to me too so I think I will spend a good chunk of time over the next two days looking at the life of Abraham and perhaps some others who left their homes (Rahab comes to mind). And about fasting. So, if you guys have suggestions about reading I should do, I would welcome it.

So, this will be an exciting thing and I'm looking forward to the experience and what I'll be learning. I think it's something from God and I have a great peace about doing it. Your prayers in support of this and of my interview with HPC on Wednesday night. It seems like a neat church, it's PC(USA) which is my own upbringing, and they're youthspecialties.com job posting has been up since November so hopefully they're desparate ;) Thanks, guys!

16 February 2006

Monastic Retreat

Hey all...I'm gone for the weekend on a monastic retreat to an abbey in Kentucky. Pray for our group. I'll be praying for you. Don't worry...I plan to do a lot of journaling this weekend and hope to have a lot to talk about on the dlog when I get back. Have a blessed weekend all!

15 February 2006

Work Work Work

Read: 2 Thessalonians 1-3

Last day with the 2 Thess! The bulk of chapter three covers something that I don't often think about in relation to Christianity: the importance of doing good work. Not ministry work or spiritual work, but the day-to-day nitty-gritty of putting food on the table. It's not some namby-pamby chapter about putting up with lazy people and helping them out. In point of fact, it's quite the opposite. Paul is laying down the law here: you don't work, you don't eat. It's an interesting thing, not quite something I expect to see in the Bible, let alone the New Testament.

I wonder why Paul was so worked up about this topic (ha!). It seems an obvious one and not one that has a whoel lot of ramifications outside the practical. Not quite sure what the significance is here but I think it's significant or else it wouldn't have so much airtime in the chapter.

I want to do good work. Hear that, future employer? Let me do good work for you :)

Maybe it's just work that's on my mind ;)

14 February 2006

Lunging or Lazy?

so i know i'm not setting any landspeed records for reading through the Bible. but little steps are still steps.

and in my reading tonight, i am challenged again. Jesus shoots straight with the apostles, saying that they're going to scatter like snow flakes in a tornado (is that even possible?) Peter gets all up in a tizzy, saying "you're wack...we'll stand strong through any attack!"

but then, just five verses later, Peter and all the other disciples fall asleep on the job, when Christ is in obvious distress and specifically asks them to stay alert & aware. FIVE VERSES LATER!!! apparently Christ catches the irony in this moment as well, when he declares:

"There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there's another part that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."

I feel this dichotomy so strongly. i yearn deeply for God, desiring to scream his glory at the top of my lungs to the entire world with word & deed. and another part of me lies collapsed on the floor, immobile and slothly.

these are no mere stories. they are the same struggles we face today.

Everything You're to Be

Read: 2 Thessalonians 1-3

So, yesterday I deliberated over whether or not I was going to focus on chapter 1, chapter 3, or chapter 2 again, just to be different. Jury's back: chapter 1. And it's hardly even into the chapter. 2nd verse: "Our God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you're to be."

I wouldn't say by any stretch of the imagination that I'm "poor" right now. I might have less money coming in than I'm accustomed to at the moment but I can look around and tally the money I've already spent and know that I'm much better off than most of the rest of the world. Living within my means is not an easy concept to me as I'm a flagrant consumer with a constant need to constantly purchase things. I fight it and I've gotten better, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

Anyways, in these trying, jobless times I'm having to take a hard look at the things I regularly purchase and picking out the ones that are "needs." Food, rent, and health insurance are the big ones really and of those three, the last two are pretty non-negotiable (unless I tell Aultcare where they can stick that ridiculously over-priced health insurance). So, even within food I have to take a look at what is necessity and what is rationalized. This little exercise in unemployment has taught me the difference between the two and I'm learning to look for the bargains and maybe not buy the preferred brand every time. Or simply just doing without or less frequently than I'd like (man, do I miss Oreos, didn't even realize I really missed them until I decided I shouldn't buy them).

I suppose this is one of those God breaking through the clouds type times for me with me learning greater dependence on him for what I truly need, mainly a job and income and that sort of thing. I don't know exactly how he's going to provide but I'm still excited to see what he comes up with. Just hopefully he does it before I really am broke to the point where even comics aren't an option ;)

But it's the second part of the verse that I really like: "makes you everything you're to be." I love the idea that I'm capable of being much more than I am. It's an easy thought to grasp because there is a lot of room for improvement. It's a hard thought to grasp because there's a lot of work to do.

A certain image comes to mind: a sculptor starting with a big chunk of marble and slowly chipping it down over time. And this goes back to the first part of the verse: God doesn't add to us, he chips off. We're the statues hiding in that chunk of rock. It's when we get rid of the crappy outer layer that the beautiful aspects of us are visible. It's when we do more with less, when there's less us and more God, that we finally start to get it right.

Chip away, God, chip away :)

In the word...

So...the long awaited post is started (again). I think there has been a lot of demonic force put to prevent our updates to this blog recently. Sure, it sounds like Christian hocus-pocus, but it has really felt like something did not want me to get on here and post today, yesterday, or during the weekend. And when I did try to post, I ran into computer and network problems, multiple times. So...barring and unforseen hindrances, let my most recent post get underway.

I had a major realization this weekend. The epiphany came Sunday morning, yet had nothing to do with our Sunday service (sorry Pastor Dave). Let me take you back to Saturday night. (Aside: for any of my youth reading, here’s a picture of what went on in my head this weekend)

I had not planned my lesson for Sunday morning (something that never happens). Sure, I kid about not being prepared and often being unorganized, but I do take my lessons more seriously than I let on. So, Saturday night, I decided to plan my lesson before going to sleep. The next thing I know, I’m looking at my clock and it says 7am…no planning has occurred and I had fallen asleep with my light on.

Yet…I felt oddly calm.

Too calm. Calm like I had nothing to do that day calm. I had a reflection pop into my head that I’d heard a few months back: It doesn’t matter what you say or don’t say to the youth; God’s Will can be made known to them no matter how bumbling a youth leader you are. You aren’t the gateway to God – He can find other ways to reach the kids…

That was it. I’ve been worrying so much about how to affect the lives of my youth. I’d pushed God right out of the picture.

So, I got to church, still without having anything really planned. Although, I’d gotten the notion to use something from the dLog (in fact, my last post “Camp Hazeroth”).

When the kids arrived and we began to talk about Numbers, I asked the kids where they thought we were in the story.


Okay, what came before this?

“God created the earth.”

(A little author’s interjection here: These are junior highs.)

Okay, so…let’s move forward a little bit. We’re talking about Moses. What was he famous for?

“Umm…parting the water.”

Yes…and why was he doing that; where were they coming from?

::More crickets::

(Internal Monologue): Oh my goodness, these kids are Biblically illiterate.

It was quite a simple revelation, but one that crumbled what I had founded my youth ministry upon. The youth have no idea how the Bible stories fit together, which means they can’t have any idea as to the relevance of the stories as a whole!

We used the remainder of the time to look at the 10 Commandments, and specifically, I went over the idea of a Sabbath with them (as it has been on my mind a lot recently).

During the service, I paid little attention to the sermon or really any part of the service (and I openly admit that…my mind was too busy thinking about this new information). Afterward, Jamie (my intern) and I talked about a plan to help the youth to know and understand the progression of time and story throughout the Bible.

I know that many youth curriculum were getting back to just telling the stories, but now I see why. And although I haven’t done much research, I think that this problem of Biblical illiteracy is spread throughout the culture. I think back to my own Sunday School days and I didn’t have that kind of knowledge either. Youth generations for the past 30 years or so have gone without a good understanding of Biblical history (and I’m not just talking about Old Testament. Could any of you give an accurate timeline of Jesus’ life when you were in junior high? High school? College? Now??

I can no longer assume that these kids know the basis for the lessons that I teach. We have focused too much on the “ideas” of Christianity. Yes, they are great ideas: love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest of the song; but without the history behind the ideas, they mean nothing.

I know that this (and many of my dlog entries) has gotten away from being devotional, but I feel strongly about this and it has been weighing on my heart to share with you, my peers in the field.

I send my love to you all. Please pray for our youth.

God, help me to always step out of the way to allow for your will to be done. If it pleases you, use me to affect the lives of the youth. Lord, help them to grow in their understanding of you and your ways. As always, help me to keep my focus on you. Thank you for the blessings that you give me. And thank you for the joy that I find in my work. Amen.

13 February 2006

Short Memories

I'm going to start this one off with a joke: What kind of car did the disciples drive? They all went together in one Accord.

Ba-dum, chhh!

Read 2 Thessalonians 1-3

It's procedure that I would start focusing on the first chapter but what really jumped out of me in this three chapter jaunt is a little thing in the second chapter so I'm gonna go with that and perhaps focus on the first chapter tomorrow. Or the third chapter tomorrow. Or maybe the second one again because I realized I have even more thoughts on that crazy chapter. We'll see. Maybe just a full week of nothing but 2 Thess. Whoo!

Right towards the end of the second paragraph of the second chapter, Paul suddenly throws in these chiding words: "Don't you remember me going over all this in detail when I was with you? Are your memories that short?" (2:5 or thereabouts). Well, as a Sunday school teacher for about a year I know I can relate to Paul. This interjection strikes me as odd when I read it (and thus why I wanted to write about it) because Paul has some really, really nice things to say about the second Thessalonians (joke) in the first chapter. But then out of the blue he's throwing a rebuke their way. It's one of those personal touches that I appreciate about reading the letters as opposed to the other books of the Bible I suppose.

But seriously, don't these people get it?! And then I realize this could be Paul talking to me on just about any subject, not just eschatological fun. For instance, the fact that I haven't posted here in at least 5 days or something like that. I know that part of my walk with God is reading his word and praying and now writing about what I'm reading. But do I do it? Am I that wantonly stupid and disobedient? It's not that I don't have time, I definitely do not have that excuse right now with being unemployed and all. But everything else is so much more attractive to me than spending time with the one I love.

From the outside, this post, like many others that all three of us have made, might appear to be whining again. It's not. I think that these posts, although not the most uplifting thing, are the fruit of us getting into the word and actually thinking about what it's saying to us. That's what this writing is forcing us to do, use God's word as a flashlight which, instead of always shining into the darkness surrounding us, shining it into the dark recesses that we have in our lives. While there's value in shining the light for others to see, it's just as valuable if our sin an iniquities have come to light and begun to be dealt with. And that's cool to me. It's been rough going for all of us recently, who knows all the reasons, but there is fruit in our lives because of this project that we can see and feel so let's keep at it, guys. Let's do the impossible and let it make us mighty :)

missing weekend

so i was out of town over the weekend and did not post. but apparently, neither did anyone else. i will have something up by the end of the day today. and i hope to see my friends thoughts, too!

09 February 2006

Camp Hazeroth

Read Numbers 12. (No seriously, do it.)

I'm going to focus today on verses 3-8 or "the convo with God". Miriam and Aaron's doubt is understandable. We have all felt it at one time or another: "Why does God seem to favor that person? (and not me...)." When we see another walking closely with God, we feel like the one being slighted. We feel, as Aaron and Miriam, "Doesn't he also speak through us?"

Even as I write this, I wish for the relationship that God describes to have with Moses, "I speak to him intimately, in person". Wow. I want that.

But as I say this, I know that God's path for me is far bigger than my simple desires. His plan for all of creation comes down to details. In my case, it requires for me to learn to connect with God. This would never happen if he just showed himself and made it easy.

We are to admire those around us who have a closer walk with God and strive to be like them. As simple as this may sound, it can be difficult...especially in times when our personal prayer life seems weak.

Of course, when we see ourselves going down the wrong path, we are given the grace and forgiveness granted by Jesus, the Christ. In this story, it is shown by both Moses and God. In verse 11, Aaron pleads with Moses because God has turned her into a leper, "Please, my master, please don't come down so hard on us for this foolish and thoughtless sin."

And Moses is so cool. He prays on behalf of Miriam - not condemns, not says "Ha! That's what you get!" He prays for her healing.

And God, even cooler, turns the whole thing into a teaching moment. Basically, he tells them to check their laws (i.e. His Laws) and see what to do. After being quarantined for a week, she is fine and readmitted to camp.

I find it interesting that even in this Old Testament story, we get a glimpse of the New Testament God. I suppose that's because it is us who changed...at least our perception of God. But isn't that how it always is? God doesn't change, merely our understanding of him does.

07 February 2006

No Appointment Made

Read: 1 Thessalonians 5

I know I should feel guilty about just reading 1 chapter but I'm pretty wearied and it's the end of this chapter and I will do better next time. I promise!

Anyways, the eye catching phrase this time around is basically that first paragraph (verses 1-3). Paul spells it out pretty clear: there's no way we're going to know when the end of the world is coming until it's actually underway. Yet people are so compeltely preoccupied with how to hasten it, how to delay it, etc. For some reason, I just find it so ironic that it's the first and last books of the Bible that seem to cause the most trouble. Yet, in the big scheme of things, they're probably two of the more trivial books. Both can be summed up with: God is in control. Or, to paraphrase Bill Cosby, God brought us into this world and he sure as heck is going to take us out. And that's comforting. No, really!

And now I'm very tired but it was a short post for once, so that's something :)

06 February 2006

The Last Word

It feels like forever since I've posted on this crazy thing. I suck, but it was a busy, busy weekend. Anyways, here goes:

Read: 1 Thessalonians 4-5

Part of the reason this weekend was so busy was my grandpa's funeral. Well, rather, the whole reason. I'd like to contrast his funeral with a funeral for Bob Pfendler I had attended earlier in January. Bob: still a relatively young guy with a kid in college, died of a brain aneurysm that happened suddenly and completely without warning. Grandpa: old guy, lots of kids, grandkids, and even a few great-grandkids, lived with Parkinson's for the last 20 or so years, had trouble communicating and taking basic care of himself.

On paper it seems like Bob's death is definitely more tragic. I found myself often telling people who wished condolences that in some ways Grandpa's death was almost a relief. No matter how much better his passing might be, I was/am still hanging on tightly to the idea that life is always better than death. It just doesn't seem proper to say, "I'm glad he's gone," does it?

That's where 4:13-14 comes into play: "First off, you must not carry on over [the dead] like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus."

It's as simple as that: Jesus has the last word, not the grave. Not even Satan. But yet, death is still one of our most horrible fears. It's a weird contradiction we carry around as humans and Christians but I suppose contradiction is par for the course really. I know, however, that I'm thankful every time I hear these reminders.


I haven't been in Numbers since Thursday and I don't think that getting in it at 1:26am on Monday is going to result in anything worthwhile, let alone coherant. So, I'll begin by telling you about my weekend.

Friday: Kate was leading a ski trip out of town, so I spent the evening with my mother and my aunt, which was good. I haven't been taking much time for family (or friends) recently, for which I am sorry. The evening consisted of a trip to IHOP and Walmart, where I purchased a video game (even though I really don't have much time for playing). After watching television for a while, I played my new game: Medal of Honor - European Assault. What fun! I've missed that. However, as a result, I didn't get into the Word, nor did I take time for meditation.

Saturday consisted of more video gaming (it's like a drug), then going to visit my friend Josh (one of those friendships that I've neglected). I literally spent the rest of the day with him. Albeit, talking about some very important religious aspects of our lives, yet again not getting into the word.

Sunday always feels like work due to youth events.

So here I sit in the early hours of Monday morning, trying to come up with something worthwhile to put on here. I feel a strong commitment to this blog, yet I haven't worked as hard on it as I'd like.

(No transition whatsoever) The other day, on my Sabbath (Thursday), I was praying about sin and trying to confess, yet I had a hard time seeing my sin. My prayer changed. It became more about asking for God to help me know my failings. To help me recognize the things that I should be doing more of or shouldn't be doing at all. To see where both my actions and my thoughts betrayed my faith. I guess this blog reflects some of that and how I've attempted to modify my behavior to meet the needs that I have been neglecting. I know that this will be an ongoing process because of missing my prayer and devotional time. Some have said that the devil's greatest achievement was convincing man that he didn't exist. Well, his second greatest is finding ways for man to waste his time. (think of all of the vices of the world - they provide no valuable return; they only eat at your soul and take up your time; literally stealing time away from you and God).

Tonight, I sit here open and in full humility of my failures. Lord, give me the strength to be your servant. Help me to know more completely how to live the Christian life. Give me the ability to apply your teachings to all aspects of my life. I want to be able to represent you. Help me to continue to see where I fall short. And Lord, help me to bring myself closer to you every day.

05 February 2006


i've been thinking a lot about communion recently. and what would ya know, but it popped up in my reading. i was in matt. 26 tonight. katie and i were hanging out last saturday and she asked my thoughts of communion, since i'm a quaker. quaker heritage generally denies the sacraments, directing followers to the heart rather than ritual. this was largely due to the way in which many sacraments had become abused rituals in the church at the time when the Quaker faith was founded. since then, both the Church and the Quakers have changed, and many now do communion, baptism, etc.

anyway we were talking and she brought up how misunderstood communion is, which i totally agree with. one of the most oft-quoted scriptures in relation to communion is Paul rebuking the church in Corinth. but what many fail to realize is that he was speaking into a specific time and place of significant abuse. it's so often quoted as saying "check your hearts and don't come unworthy." but as i understand, that's just the point: we can only come unworthy. it's only in the amazing grace magnifying, sin defying feat of Christ's body being broken that we can come.

then today in church we took communion. now i have strange ideas about communion...like that i think that it would still best be practiced as part of a meal, and that in the church setting it often loses some of its significance. i'm not saying that we should cease practicing it...just that there may be a better way. but today was great. Zac Derr, one of our interns and an amazing man, shared about being careful to remember the significance of the moment...that maybe it's just a cracker & some juice, but in that moment of communion we're harkening back to the very blood and body that was broken, and recalling a sacrifice of the utmost significance. it was good.

so then i read about it tonight and it made me think of all these things and write this.

03 February 2006

Bono preacher

today i read one of my favorite parables, forever emblazoned in my mind by Keith Green: The Sheep & The Goats. if you get the chance, i highly recommend catching Green's energetic rendition of this weighty parable.

but today it reminded me of something i read earlier in the day; a speech given by Bono earlier this week at the National Prayer Breakfast. it's long, but it's worth the read. and it directly correlates to the things that Christ is sharing about in matt 25.


This Is Not About Thessalonians 3

I read 3-4 today but 3 is really short and there really isn't much that jumped out at me as being devotionable. Ha, another new word. Instead, I shall just blather on about the movie I saw last night: The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Frightening, frightening movie. I don't think I've seen anything that gave me that many hair-standing-on-end moments as this movie. Well, besides The Exorcist. Both are loosely based on true stories and, unlike The Blair Witch Project, that's kinda frightening right there.

But why is it scary? I know these things exist, duh. I know that God wins and as Christians we have authority over them. But still, I stayed up as late as I could hoping that I wouldn't be too freaked out to fall asleep or, even worse, wake up at 3 a.m.! Dun dun dun!

Well, you know what, to be honest I don't have a whole lot to say about this movie other than what would eventually end up in the mLog soon enough (that is, if you have a liberal definition of the word "soon"). So, to be honest, I have no real thoughts today that are worth writing about except that this movie has me thinking and you can expect a killer mLog post sometime. Eventually. Maybe. :)

02 February 2006

virgins & whatnot

i'll admit straight up that tonight i am not in a Bible-reading mood. there are times when life is baffling to me. and this is one of those.

so i read the parable of the virgins in matt. 25. the smart & silly virgins. and what i key in on tonight is "the bridegroom didn't show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep." i think we all have those times in our lives when we say "hey God...here's when you're supposed to show up. here's the situation you're supposed to sort out. and here's how you're supposed to sort it out." and he doesn't come. he's nowhere to be seen.

so i read on.

the bridegroom shows up. the silly virgins ask for oil & are denied & then run off, missing out. i think if i were there tonight, i'd yell at the bridegroom..."so where the _____ have you been?! i've been waiting...and yeah, i'm not prepared, and yeah, i've been sleeping on job...but where have you been?!?!"

i don't think that'd go over very well.

sometimes i feel like i'm in the next parable...of the wise (and not so wise) investors. except i'm not in the story. cause i'm the one that went out and invested like crazy and was flying high & waiting for the Master's return. and then the market tanks, and wouldn't you know it, that's the day the Master comes around. and i'm like "ummmm....sorry?"

so now i'll sleep. and tomorrow i will wake up and i'll still be breathing and my heart will be beating and i'll thankful for being alive. and maybe i'll buy some oil.

Grumble, grumble

Read Numbers 7-12.

There is a ton that could be talked about in these chapters:

The "all are welcome" feel of the description of Passover in Chapter 9.
The faithfulness of the People of Israel in obeying God's direction through following the cloud (also in Chapter 9).
The Blaze of Camp Taberah when the people grumbled about their lives in Chapter 11.

But today, I intend to look over the way God responds to the grumbling at Camp Kibroth Hattaavah in Chapter 11.

Basically, the People of Israel are upset. All they’ve had to eat in a while is Manna and they want some meat. Soon, they start whining and both Moses and God heard it.

I love the way that Peterson translates the situation: “Moses saw that things were in a bad way.”

The bad part about complaining is that it is a transmittable disease. All of this grumbling gets Moses thinking about the negatives of his situation and so he starts to complain to God.

Ever been there?

The point of all this is how God responds. He more than fulfills their request. In doing so, God shows the people that what they believed to be a need was merely a selfish desire.

Here’s what God says: “God has heard your whining and he’s going to give you meat. You’re going to eat meat. And it’s not just for a day that you’ll eat meat, and not for two days, or five or ten or twenty, but for a whole month. You’re going to eat meat until it’s coming out of your nostrils. You’re going to be so sick of meat that you’ll throw up at the mere mention of it. And here’s why: Because you have rejected God who is right here among you, whining to his face, ‘Oh why did we ever have to leave Egypt?”

God is showing that he’s a little perturbed that the people doubt him so much.

Of course, what does Moses do…he doubts that God can fulfill such a promise as meat every day for a month. His point is valid if you are thinking through the limited vision of man. They don’t seem to have many animals that they can eat around them.

God’s response is mysterious, yet direct: “So, do you think I can’t take care of you? You’ll see soon enough whether what I say happens for you or not.

We know that they end up with a whole bunch of quail.

This story should be enough proof to us of God’s providence for our lives. And yet, every day we gripe about some situation in our lives. It seems that no matter how many times God takes us through hard times and into better ones, we still do not trust Him. We often think that we have to deal with situations alone or if we do see God, we see Him as the ambivalent savior. If we’d only trust in Him, we wouldn’t have to concern ourselves with the hindrances to our lives, instead of how we can help build His kingdom.

I think it’s appropriate how God fulfills the needs of the people. I’ve found this to be true in my own life when I am worried about something. When I least expect it, He overfills my needs.

God, help me to have patience in being part of your plan. I know that you are in control. Give me peace in times of worry. Thank you for your grace and your love.

01 February 2006

Earning the Right to Be Heard

Read: 1 Thessalonians 1-2

You'd think that since I spent 1.25 years in youth ministry I would be familiar with this idea. I'm not really at all, amazingly enough. When I came into my position at JKPC the kids there already knew me and then they automatically gave me the right to be heard because I was their new leader, had some new/interesting things to say I suppose, and they're nice kids. This was very good for a non-trained leader who is still soaking wet behind the ears but in some ways I got off a little too easy by not needing to earn the right to be heard by them. I suppose in some ways that I still had to earn that right, and we had some kids become involved who I didn't have much contact prior to becoming the official leader, but still, I never thought about how much work goes into earning that right.

And that's where 1 Thess. 2:9-12 comes in to play. The first sentence of that paragraph explains it all: "You remember us in those days, friends, working our fingers to the bone, up half the night, moonlighting so you wouldn't have the burden of supporting us while we proclaimed God's Message to you."

As I've yammered about constantly, I'm standing on the edge of the diving board overlooking the Young Life pool. Already I'm making excuses as to why I may not be able to fully commit and why it may not be worth doing. This is something scary to me and it's out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways. But this is also what I dream of doing, what I feel God has called me to be doing. Maybe not professionally right now (or ever), but I still haven't lost my desire to show teenagers another, better way than the way of the world and to use my talents that make my demonstration and example a unique and worthwhile one.

This YL experience I'm about to breach might be the kind of hammering that Joel mentioned in his "Stakes" post. I'd like to think it's a sort of refining fire; burning away the dross (love that word) and leaving the pure. It's a necessary thing, even God's Message has to do that: "Be assured that when we speak to you we're not after crowd approval--only God approval. Since we've been put through the battery of tests, you're guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas" (2:4-5).

It's never easy with God and I suppose that should make us thankful. It's hard to say we'd like to redo the really awful crap we've been through but when we've squeezed those experiences dry for all the lessons they can teach us, we're almost tempted to say it. What it comes down to, I believe, is that we can rest comfortably in the knowledge that God loves us and accepted who we were. But, more than that, he loves us enough to not let us stay that way.

(I stole that last bit 'cause it's so good!)

A Stumbling Stake

"Staying with it--that's what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry, and you'll be saved. All during this time, the good news--the Message of the kingdom--will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country. And then the end will come."

stay with it. i have the perserverance of ADHD in a candy shop fun house. i get excited about an idea, a thought, a vision just long enough to begin it. and then i get distracted, then disappointed in myself & the outcome. but God calls us to unyielding faith. "staked" out in the ground. i love that picture. i can just see Jesus, holding me in place on the ground, my toes pointing, and then lifting a huge rubber mallet and banging me deep in the ground. my legs and arms are smashed up against the dirt and i can't run or be distracted anymore. all i can do is stand there and be a beacon for him. Christ said that he would be a stumbling block to the wicked. what is it about a stake in the ground that attracts feet? i could pick anywhere on God's green earth to step, and i think we always trip on any stake (like a tent stake). i hope that as Christ secures me in his word that i will be a stumbling stake for others. that they can't help but trip over me...and it will make them consider "who put him there...and why?"