Thursday, February 25, 2010

Imaginary Journey to Africa Day 4 - Your House

YYYAAAAWWWNNN!! Well yesterday was kind of a "day off" because the challenge was to sleep on the floor at night. It was more than just sleeping on the floor though, it was sleeping with no pillow and no blanket. I understand there are some people out there that like to sleep on the floor (i don't mind it if i have a pillow and blanket/sleeping bag) especially when camping but normally you do that when you don't have to wake up early or do anything productive the next day. Last night instead of putting on PJs, I put on some sweats and a sweatshirt and instead of throwing clothes off of my bed, I cleared out a spot on the floor. It didn't really take too long to fall asleep which was a good thing but I remember waking up pretty early in the night because my arm fell asleep (not the kind that tingles like needles but the kind that goes numb and feels like a club). I woke up at like 3:30 probably around the time my dad was getting up for work (i heard the shower a little bit later, and yes he is that crazy). I really wanted to get in bed! I woke up a little bit later pretty cold so I grabbed my robe and laid it on top of myself. I figured it wasn't technically a blanket so it would be ok. Again I REALLY wanted to get in bed! I think I probably woke up again before my alarm went of at 6:50 and almost told myself "you slept on the ground enough, just get in bed." Finally my alarm went off, unlike Greg, I did hit the snooze but I climbed into bed for 10 minutes before getting up for the day. Let me tell you, it was wonderful.

So here I am a little bit tired at work on my lunch break eating rice (more on that tomorrow) and struggling with my attitude all week. I feel like I have a "poor me" attitude and a very "me" focus even though I should be thinking about the poverty that is affecting much of the world. I don't think I am praying enough and thanking God for all of the things he has blessed me with. Its been kind of bothering me.

Todays passage is Luke 9:57-62. Here we are told that if we want to follow God, He must be our only concern. We must have faith in the promise that he will not give us a "stone" or a "snake" (different passage), it might not be what we ask for when we ask for it but God loves us enough to send His Son to die for us while we were still his enemies. We must not be concerned about where we will lay our head or say we will follow Him when we get our lives in order. Christ is sufficient. Even for providing the energy to get through a day after sleeping exposed in a cold room on the floor. He may give you a stiff back to make sure you think about him but He is enough.

So Day (or Night) 4 is complete.

Running Alongside a Chariot

Many of us are obsessed with determining God’s will for our lives. Myriads of books have been written, sermons preached, speeches given, Bible studies pored over, all in an effort to discover God’s plan for our future. This is understandable for two reasons. One, the Scriptures are obsessed with discovering God’s will. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:17: “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Second, everyone desires a purpose for their life.

I believe that this commendable desire to discern God’s will or purpose for our lives becomes a dangerous combination with the busy schedules and oodles of leisure time that belong to wealthier societies. Many of us have so much on our plates that we don’t want to take the time to wait for God to show us his way. We have so many other activities to occupy our time with we get easily distracted from waiting on the Lord. We come to expect that God will slot his map for our lives into our hectic schedules, much like a repairman, “between 2 and 4 pm on Wednesday.” When he doesn’t show, we move on to the next bullet on our schedule and get on with our lives.

This brings us to the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch found in Acts 8:26-40. Philip finds himself in an odd situation: Knowing where God wants him to be but not knowing what God wants him to do. Philip had been evangelizing in Samaria and doing miraculous signs. One day an angel of the Lord tells him to go down to the desert road. That’s it, nothing more nothing less. Now, being a desert road, I am sure Philip did not expect to find much going on. God simply tells Philip to be in a place. Have you ever heard a fellow brother explain that God had commanded him to go somewhere? “Why?” you may ask. “What will you be doing?” “I don’t know,” he replies. “God just told me to go there.” You would think that he needed a few more lessons in determining God’s will in his life.

So Philip goes down to the road and on his way meets the chariot of the Ethiopian. Remember, Philip has no idea why he is there. He may have observed several groups of people traveling the road. He may have walked north than south than north again. When the Ethiopian comes in sight, however, God gives him a most unusual command. “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Weird, huh? I know. God tells Philip to run alongside a chariot. The great evangelist and miracle worker is told to run alongside a chariot. Again, no reason why. Put yourself in Philip’s sandals. Think about how you would react in this situation. I know I would probably peel off at a hundred yards or so to go get homework done. I would ask God to clarify his will for me.

Apparently Philip is more patient and obedient than I am. He runs alongside the chariot for who knows how long. The Scriptures do not say. It explains that Philip heard him reading a passage out of Isaiah and asked whether the Ethiopian whether he knew what it meant. Again the facts are sparse. I like to think that Philip was running along listening to the eunuch reading out of Isaiah. When Philip heard the Ethiopian get to the particular passage quoted in Acts, he recognized his opportunity and took advantage of it. It was an opportunity available only because Philip had taken the time to run alongside the chariot.

I like this story because God never told Philip what to do. He only told him where to be. As a Christian, Philip, like the rest of us, knew how to behave and how to treat others. Yet we still desire God’s will for us perfectly spelled out. Philip didn’t need that. He only needed God to tell him where to be. His Christian attitude towards others took over when the opportunity presented itself.

So the next time you are impatient with where you are in life and are seeking to discover God’s will for your life, try running alongside a chariot for awhile. As a Christian immersed in the Word, you’ll know what to do when the opportunity arises.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Imaginary Journey to Africa Day 3 - Water

Wait right there! Before you stumble into that bathroom of yours, ask yourself this question, what is the longest you've gone without a shower, and why? I went a week once when I was at the beach. I figured the ocean and the pool water did enough cleaning for me. So as you can see the challenge for Day 3 is no shower. My initial thoughts about the challenge were "no big deal" and "I do this often" (maybe more often than I should) but then I remembered that just las week I said that I needed to make sure I showered everyday (I notice that I start to smell a little bit by the end of the day if I don't) so this was kind of funny to me. This challenge was hard for me to think about during the day but was reminded of it later in the evening after I had a full days wear and tear on me. I did end up putting on some cologne in the morning to help compensate which I normally don't do. I would feel bad if I made people around me uncomfortable because of the way I smelled. I wondered if everyone didn't shower would we notice the smell on each other. I am sure the answer would be yes.

The verse (or passage) for the day was John 4:1-26. It is the story of the woman at the well. Jesus tells her that "whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (we should maybe look at this story as if we were the woman at the well instead of an example of how to evangelize just a thought) Water is an amazing thing you should just google some of the facts about it. It has been and always will be relevant to people on this planet. It is imagery that will last forever so God knew what he was doing when he used water to point people to himself. I don't think we really understand this image of a spring of water welling up either. People out in the dessert or remote area looking for water would be so excited and dependent on that spring. What is it like to have a spring well up. I wish I understood that imagery a little more but either way its a great passage.

Those are my Day 3 thoughts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Imaginary Journey to Africa Day 2 - Heat, light, power (no media)

The best way to describe the day would be to take a child put him at a table every day for months and give him a cookie to eat then one day have him come to the table put a cookie in front of him and tell him not to eat it. So this is how my day went (sorry that it is so long but this one was hard)....

...So I woke up today and decided to check the challenge for Day 2 of My Imaginary Journey to Africa before I did anything else (I have 30 minutes each morning to shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and get out the door). When I opened up my document and saw that it was no media day (no computer, ipod (zune in my case), tv, radio, phone, etc.) I was a little dissappointed. Today is that day that Jack Bauer saves the world (again) in 24 hours. I need to write my post/update for the Day 1 challenge (I did that anyways but thats it). I need to talk to Becca throughout the day and figure out when we were going to hangout at night. There is a certain anxiety that comes over me when I think about not checking my gmail or searching the internet for stuff or thinking about leaving my phone at home all day. Then I thought about work. The initial thought was trying to make an excuse for why I could not do the challenge for today. I quickly threw that out and decided I would only do work stuff; no gMail, no amazon, no ESPN, no mint.com, no google Reader, no google Docs, no VT email, no twitter, no wedding stuff. I would only get on facebook to write my note for the Day 1 challenge (because I didn't plan very well). I would only send one text message to Becca to let her know it was no media day then leave my phone in my room.

While thinking about all the media I use in a day I remembered that I normally play a game or two of Call of Duty when I get home from work, well not today. I had to leave my Zune at home, no sermon or music on the train. When I got in the car I had to turn the radio off, no Mike & Mike on the way to the train.

It seems like every five minutes of work I go to click on Firefox to check gMail, gReader, or surf the internet (its pretty sad).

Its 11:00 and I really want to get online to see if there have been any comments on my note/blog post from the Day 1 Challenge (its only been up for an hour and a half). I think there is a little desire for affirmation and/or approval.

I want to konw if VT men's basketball cracked into the top 25, the pool probably doesn't come out until later in the day but I would want to check all day (it would be an excuse to go to ESPN).

Whats the weather going to be like today and the rest of the week for that matter. Is march going to be really bad in terms of snow fall?

I want to look at wedding stuff online.

I want my phone to check and send texts (especially to my fiance)

I need to look into getting a passport. Where are the rush offices?

Its lunch time, I would probably check out nbcolympics.com to check the TV schedule and medal count. I would check out the US men's curling schedule and record to see what they have to do to finish well.

So I just decided got around to reading the verse for today Philippians 4:8 and OUCH!! As you can see my thoughts have been on all kinds of trivial things.

The day is going by really slow. I think it is because I am so preoccupied by fighting the urge to get online. Its 12:34 and I just want to go home and go to bed so this day will be over. I know that is really sad. I think it is because I have to sit at a computer (like the child with the cookie) but can't get online and do what I normally do.

I just walked to Starbucks with a co-worker and I started talking about my no media day and the 30 hour famine. I was able to find out that he has practiced some Hinduism. Although we didn't get into a deep spiritual conversation it is a stepping stone for the future. I have wanted to ask him about his religious beliefs so this was good and God is good.

The afternoon has gone by a little bit faster. Its 3:01. There still seems to be some anxiety about not having my phone or checking my email or surfing the web.

Normally on the train I text Becca and see how her day was and figure out what we are doing at night. I tried to remember what it was like before cell phones, I do remember (barely) life before them but I never had a reason to talk to someone everyday like I do now.

I got home and Becca was nice enough to leave me a note letting me know her plans and when she would be by even with some options of some media free things to do.

We were busy enough at night for me to stop thinking about doing my media things. The day ended well and will probably be the hardest day this week. I wish I was able to think about and reflect on the reason why I was doing this more through out the day but I think struggling through the day was eye opening.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Imaginary Journey to Africa Day 1 - Clothing

This Friday and Saturday the youth at Calvary Baptist Church will be participating in year 12 of the 30 Hour Famine. This is an event to raise awareness and funds for the work World Vision is doing around the world to provide food, clothing, shelter, water, and the Love of God to the poor and needy of the world. This year Greg Arnold put together a great little week long devotional (adapted from material written by the Arritts (sorry if I spelled that wrong)). The devotional has a challenge each day that will help the students focus on some issues many people in the world are struggling with. I decided I would participate in this challenge and document some of my thoughts each day in the hopes that it would encourage the students to participate or at least think about some of the issues.

I need to keep this short because I ran out of time on Day 1 to actually write this note and the challenge for Day 2 is no media (this is like work and no I did not waste time on here before I wrote this note).

Day 1 - Clothing
Challenge: wear the same clothes you wore yesterday
Bible verse: Luke 12:22-34

I am going to be honest this wasn't too big of a deal to me. I don't care about wearing the same thing two days in a row maybe that was because I could tell people I was doing it to help raise awareness for World Vision. I wonder what it would have been like if I had to do it for a week or what if I didn't have an option. I know that would bother me, I would be self-conscience and feel like people were judging me.

The verse for the day was really good. I especially liked the "Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes." I really liked this in light of what we are doing this weekend. It is just a great reminder that God loves us and will take care of us.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Joy

So I will keep with the video clip and John Piper theme, I do so reluctantly though. I don't want to seem like I am "worshiping" Piper but I was trying to figure out what to share and this clip kept coming back to me. (technically it is more CS Lewis than Piper).

Piper recently hosted a conference focusing on Christian Hedonism/Joy/CS Lewis. (christian hedonism can be defined as "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.") I saw a video clip about "smiting morality with the joy of the gospel." The line that challenges me and gets me thinking in this clip is "A perfect man will never act out of a sense of duty." It goes on to say, "He would always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love for God or other people, like a crutch which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times, but of course it is idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs, our love, tastes, habits, can do the journey on our own." He closes this clip with "Christian hedonism is the smite on morality, its the smite on religion..." So a perfect man acts out of joy.

This is challenging because I know there are many times I do "things" for God and others because it is just the thing to do. I have said that a lot. Does this have to do with "knowing of or about God" and "knowing God"? I have often struggled with my level of joy. I am not saying I am depressed but I don't think my joy is what it should be.

Another thing that is interesting is "Morality is only good when it is trying to abolish itself."

"The whole point of the Gospel, for Tyndale, is to deliver us from morality."

Well here is the clip...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thoughts on Leadership

This video was part of a talk by Derek Sivers (I don't know anything about this guy, just what he said in this video).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ&feature=player_embedded

I'm particularly intrigued by this video because what the narrator is describing is exactly what I've been hoping to see our church accomplish. What I find to be most difficult in leading is transferring a vision. What I do know is that perseverance is a good thing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Compassion

There have been some lapses of compassion in my church lately.

Let’s be reminded that Jesus was motivated by compassion …
Matthew 9.36 - “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Matthew 14.14 - “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Matthew 15.32 - “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.”
Matthew 20.34 - “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”

Compassion drove Jesus to care for others’ physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Without compassion we can never see people as God sees them.

I believe compassion is cultivated by pain. The most compassionate people I know are those that have endured great personal loss. Experiencing pain enables them to take pause, consider others’ pain, and respond w/ mercy.

And a merciful response is what is required of us in Micah 6:8 - “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

As Bob Pierce (founder of World Vision) wrote after seeing great need in China and Korea, "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."

Lord, may you deal w/ us as you spoke to Israel in Ezekiel 36:26 - “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Grant us compassion Lord.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What to post when you don't really have anything to say?

Too often I think we believe we need to come up with clever things to put in a post. Sometimes you're just blank... The snow has caused disruptions to our routine and there is something to be said about having a routine. Although the government is closed and we are supposed to be on "leave" many of us continue on with our work routine unable to stop. I guess we are wired to be doing something all the time.
That said we were able to come together yesterday as a group of men to clear snow off the roof of the church building. Unfortunately I was unable to get there when the work first started but was able to get there at the end of the day - reminds me of the story of the workers that came to work the fields thruout the day and all ended up getting paid the same - I digress but will come back to it.
We all joined together to preserve the building - enjoying the physical labor and the comraderie. Maybe that was our "pay" - to enjoy the hard work and being with each other accomplishing a mission -- high motivation in guy-land.

I guess my angst is why we can't come together like that to serve our community and show the love of Christ? Why didn't we go down the street clearing snow just to show we care? Probably 'cause we didn't think of it or if we had said that's what we were going to do how many people would have shown up.

That's our challenge - to get this vision out to serve others with the specific goal of sharing the gospel. The plea went out for workers - an "all hands on deck" call. Guys responded - would we have done that if it had been something else? We've been given an "all hands on deck" call by Christ himself. Who tho, will step up and organize and lead the effort?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tweeting for the Glory of God

Some of you have seen my tweets/facebook updates that are somewhat random like;
"Sat on the train without moving for about an hour...it reminds me of patience and how God is patient with us and our sin" or "it is cold, there is ice, ice is solid like Jesus our foundation"

Now I know that writing is not one of my strong suits but after reading the article below I figured it was not only a good way to glorify God by allowing other people to read some of my posts but it also makes me think about God in unique and creative ways through out the day. The article is from www.desiringgod.org

Why and How I Am Tweeting


By John PiperJune 3, 2009


I see two kinds of response to social Internet media like blogging, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

One says: These media tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul’s capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem.

The other response says: Yes, there is truth in all of that, but instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can.

Together with the team at Desiring God, I lean toward response #2. “Lean” is different from “leap.” We are aware that the medium tends to shape the message. This has been true, more or less, with every new medium that has come along—speech, drawing, handwriting, print, books, magazines, newspapers, tracts, 16mm home movies, flannel-graph, Cinerama, movies, Gospel Blimps, TV, radio, cassette tapes, 8-Tracks, blackboards, whiteboards, overhead projection, PowerPoint, skits, drama, banners, CDs, MP3s, sky-writing, video, texting, blogging, tweeting, Mina-Bird-training, etc.

Dangers, dangers everywhere. Yes. But it seems to us that aggressive efforts to saturate a media with the supremacy of God, the truth of Scripture, the glory of Christ, the joy of the gospel, the insanity of sin, and the radical nature of Christian living is a good choice for some Christians. Not all. Everyone should abstain from some of these media. For example, we don’t have a television.

That’s my general disposition toward media.

Now what about Twitter? I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”

To which I respond:

The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
And if his wisdom see it mete,
He will put worlds inside a tweet.

So I am not inclined to tweet that at 10AM the cat pulled the curtains down. But it might remind me that the Lion of Judah will roll up the heavens like a garment, and blow out the sun like a candle, because he just turned the light on. That tweet might distract someone from pornography and make them look up.

I’ve been tweeting anonymously for a month mainly to test its spiritual and family effects on me. In spite of all the dangers, it seems like a risk worth taking. “All things were created through Christ and for Christ” (Colossians 1:16). The world does not know it, but that is why Twitter exists and that’s why I Tweet.

By his grace and for his glory,

Pastor John

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Importance of Community

The Importance of Community

So, we've decided to start up our blog again.  There were a few things that caused the slow death and we hope to fix them with these guidelines:

1. 2 posts per week
2. Assigned weeks
3. No topic limit

I think we got a little too excited last time and ended up putting all of our content up as soon as we could.  This new approach should help space out the delivery of our thoughts.  So for those of you reading our blog, expect to see at least 2 posts per week.  Hope you enjoy and please comment.

I've (slowly) been reading through a book called "Kingdom of Couches" which was authored by a a group of friends who run a blog much like this with similar purposes.  One of the author's major themes is the idea and importance of community in faith.

In America today, it seems as though individualism is king.  We live far away from each other, we travel to and from work, sit in front of TVs, read our Bibles for fifteen minutes each day, we eat our meals and don't ever really spend time with others.  The author argues that this not how our Christian faith should be experienced.  He goes on to share several practical examples of how to have community.

I believe his premise to be valid and important.  If we aren't spending time with each other then I think we'll find this life to be a struggle.  My hope is that this blog is one way that we can encourage community.