Thursday, January 29, 2009
Now, certain times in our lives, we get a temporary glimpse of this. In fact, sin is just that, a temporary pleasure. It ruins and destroys our lives, but for the moment, it often feels good one way or another.
No, the joy I speak of, found in Christ, is joy regardless of our current situation. This joy says, "I don't care how disrespectful my husband is being" or "I will not let my unemployment steal my job" or, for a certian first century missionary, "I care not that I am in prison", together these people proclaim that their joy is in Christ!
One of the greatest growth periods in the history of the church was in the 3rd century when the Roman Empire was engulfed by the plague. The reason for growth? These followers of Christ cared nothing for their lives and their well-being, forsook all else and embraced the people facing death by this pandemic. They embraced these sick people, joyfully. It was no burden or hindrance for them to serve and love when they knew they faced almost certain death.
This joy lives in us. The joy of being forgiven and of having our names written in the book of life. The joy of knowing you are loved, cherished, and adored regardless of your social, economic, or racial status.
Do you know this joy? Deep, in your depths, joy? Or is yours some fleeting worldly treasure such as women, prestige, money or power? Come find joy.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Both of our parents came and some of our siblings. It was great to see everybody and we really appreciated them making the trip. We all had a simple lunch together afterwards and then were a little surprised by the 3+ inches of snow that had accumulated since 10:00 when church started. When we got home, I took this picture of Melissa and Noah with the flowers we received at church. The red rose symbolizes the father's bloodline. The white rose symbolizes the mother's purity. And the yellow rose symbolizes the new life of our child. And we wanted to get a picture of them before they die (but knowing my wife, she'll probably dry them and keep them for him - you know, boys love flowers, especially as their room decor!).
It was a good day. And we're reading the Bible to Noah. It's never too early to start, right? And oddly enough, last night we read him the story about Noah. He loved it.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
One of the challenges of denominational church life, or at least denominational church life in America, is that in all its structures and the formality of things, Christ can be missed. Not only by those who are members, but also by the onlooking world.However, there does exist those in the body of Christ who never fail to offer a vivid testimony of the Lord Jesus. In those brothers and sisters who are pursued and harassed and persecuted, and yet remain faithful to that which they have received, is perhaps the clearest display in this world of what being indwelt by God in Christ looks like.In those who love their persecutors with genuineness, in those who endure the loss of all material comforts with joy, in those who speak the gospel to those who hate them withcourage, in those who are faithful to follow Jesus thru all things without turning back. . . you can see Christ.
Pastor Ibrahim Balami leads a Brethren church & school in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Since 1999 in Nigeria, over 600 churches have been destroyed & tens of thousands have been killed. In Maiduguri district alone, 56 churches have been burnt down and over 50 have been killed, including women and children, by organized mobs.Pastor Balami’s church & school had previously been torched and then rebuilt. He received a letter warning that the school would be burnt down again if the students and staff did not leave.When the mob came, they broke down the gates with axes, threw bags of gasoline against the buildings, and beat down the believers with heavy objects and machetes.When Pastor Balami was asked, “When the mob was threatening you, and you were terrified, did you feel the presence of Christ?,” he testified:
“I did, because at that time my whole spirit, I was carried into another realm of spirituality, that I became so oblivious to the environment, I was not even feeling the environment, I was not even feeling the pain, I was not even feeling the noise anymore, I was just feeling a sense of glory in me and power, and I understand what Steven when he said, Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing. Because at that point you are no longer yourself but Christ has taken over the pain, Christ has taken over all my beliefs, Christ has taken all over, I am being carried on his shoulder at that moment so I have never felt anything…”
“Christ gives the power to bear persecution, so my experience at that moment when they were throwing heavy objects, beating, cutting, I was feeling in me, a new life, a new spiritual life, because Christ has taken over and at that moment I can remember clearly, I can recall, why Steven in the Bible, in the book of Acts is saying, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they have done” even when Jesus prayed, because at the moment of persecution, when you are right there at the center, in the middle of it, God takes over, and it is no longer yourself, He gives the strength, He gives the words, He gives the wisdom, He gives everything that you need to pass thru that persecution and that is why I think I am still surviving today because my God is great.” (Quoted verbatim from video on Persecution TV.com)
Don’t let the hardness and the difficulty of their circumstances keep you from seeing possibly the clearest display of Christ in the world today. The promise of God is that regardless of our circumstances in this world, that in Christ alone we can be fully satisfied in a very real and present way. Let their lives fuel your prayers and encourage you in your walk. Embrace your brothers and sisters living in the dark and hard places in this world. And if it is in your heart to honor them, the best way is to be like them and wholly follow Jesus Christ.
(Bart now) I just had to post this. Hope you enjoyed it. I will comment with my thoughts tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
I've been on quite a bit of an anti-religion kick for some time now. That doesn't upset me, as Jesus was also on quite a bit of an anti-religion kick. People of religion just drive me bonkers. On the other hand, people of faith I respect and adore conversing with. The people that are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, voodoo or whatever just because they were raised that way often just make my skin crawl. They've given no intelligent thought, no honest intraspection and no true search to what they confess (many in ridiculous ways) to be true, even of eternal things!
One of the things I love about Christianity, in its true form, not the culturally defined parameters given it, is it is not a religion at all. It is based solely and completely on a person. This person was appointed heir of all things. This person really existed two millenia ago, and is the exact representation of God. And he has provided purification for sins. You want to define who a Christian is? It's not at all someone with a checklist of beliefs, or a church membership, or a certain lifestyle, or a political party, or any of that religious junk. A Christian is someone who has investigated and fallen in love with Jesus. Want to know what Christianity is all about? It's about this man. Come and meet Him. Spend time with and learn about Him today. It will not be wasted time.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
"Just because something's cool doesn't mean that something else doesn't suck."
... I'm not apologizing for the BCS. As I continue to drive home, there's no reasonable excuse to not have an eight team playoff with the six BCS conference champions, the top rated non-BCS league champion, and a wild-card (Texas this year, Georgia two years ago, Michigan in 2006). With that said, if the goal is to determine who the best team is, it still gets it right more often than the other sports.New England went unbeaten in the regular season last year, highlighted by a regular-season ending win at New York against a Giants team that came out with a maximum effort. That doesn't count, but that game a few weeks later did, even though the Giants hadn't even won their own division. This year, the NFL proved once again that its regular season is completely and totally irrelevant with the No. 1 seeds getting bounced out in the first round by teams that shouldn't have been in the playoffs, if you count anything that happened in the regular season. Philadelphia backed its way in, didn't win its own division, but now it's suddenly one of the NFC's two best teams? Pittsburgh already beat Baltimore twice, and now it has to do it a third time to prove it's the better team?! Can you imagine if Texas beat Oklahoma twice and still had to win a third meeting to prove that it was the better team? It's more insane than you think, yet the world has bought into the gimmicky playoff ideas hook, line, and sinker. You want it settled on the field? You think the college football system is unsatisfying? Try letting the mediocre get chance after chance to come up with an upset. It's not fair, and it's not right. The regular season has to mean something in the NFL, or else the sport will only be about fantasy and gambling (which it sort of is) for the 17 weeks before the playoffs. No, there shouldn't be a BCS, but the NFL should've made it only a tournament of division winners with Tennessee hosting San Diego and Pittsburgh hosting Miami in the AFC, and New York hosting Arizona and Carolina hosting Minnesota. Otherwise, why bother?
Why bother with the long, drawn out regular season of baseball? It should've been the Cubs vs. the Angels in the World Series after they each proved to have the best teams throughout the year. Of course, they each lost according to the gimmicky playoff system, and the sports world just accepts this as the norm.
Try watching college basketball ... it's hard. I love the sport, but the games simply don't matter. They're all exhibition games until March Madness.College football needs a playoff, if for no other reason than to shut everyone up. But it can't have one at the expense of the regular season, with the uniqueness that makes the sport so special. The BCS might be weird, but no one else has it right, either. College football has proven it can get some things right, like the overtime system and instant replay. Here's the chance to be the leader in how to determine a champion once again. Again, six BCS conference champions, top non-BCS conference champion, one at-large. The NFL should only be so fair.
(Bart now) Pretty sure he stole my ideas from a previous post.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
"Awareness of mortality exerts a unique power to focus the mind and heart on essentials." -Columba Stewart in Prayer and Community: The Beneditine Tradition
Morbid though it may be, over the last week or so I've been hit with what shouldn't be a startling reality at all: I am going to die. You are going to die.
It's heavy, but with a 100% success rate. You're life will end. It may be in a hospital many years from now if you're lucky. It may be at the door at walmart on black Friday, trampled by greedy people. It may be in a car accident this very week. But you will die.
This rocks my foundation. It makes some of the things I discuss, value, and spend time on so much less important, and it aligns me with the only thing I've found to be valuable and worth my time and energy, and that's the glory and pursuit of God through Christ. I am going to die.
Reading about Heaven has only reenforced these thoughts and feelings in me. I thought I'd share that with you. Do you ever think about your mortality? Are you in denial?
Monday, January 12, 2009
What has been hitting me rather heavily thus far is a deep dissappointment with myself for the way I treat my body and my surroundings. Heaven (both the present Heaven, where we go after we die, and the New Earth Heaven -> hope this doesn't confuse) will be a place in which we have bodies. Check out 1 Corinth. 15 if you tend to be somewhat gnostic and don't believe me. This reality of Heaven I had already known, yet for whatever reason, it's never registered completely. This body I have now, in some renewed form, I will have in Heaven. So why not strive now to be a good steward of what I will have eternally?
I'm horrible to my body. I eat fast food probably four or five times a week. And I stinking love Donuts. It probably doesn't help that we live one-minute walking distance from a great little mom-and-pop donut store named Honey-Dip Donuts. And I definately don't work-out a great deal. I'm not in terrible shape, but I'm definately no athlete.
One part of my New Year's resolution was to not eat fast food for the entire 2009. Thus far I've been faithful to that, though only because my wife is amazing. I've probably asked for Taco Bell about 6 or 7 times but she is helping me not to cave. Praise the Lord she is better than I!
Hold me accountable if you like. I know a lot of people reading this are probably on some diet or another (since a lot of you are Americans and we're all fatties) so I'd love to hear about it. I've been encouraged by my friend Chris' weight loss and the positive effect it seems to be having on him. I want to be a better steward of what will be mine eternally. I ask this:
1. Tell me if you're on a similar journey, similar thoughts.
2. Make sure you're going to heaven. The movies and books and most funerals you go to that say everyone is in Heaven are lies. Don't base your eternal destination on worldviews from The Five people you meet in Heaven, or What dreams may come because they're rubbish. I'd love to talk to you more about this. Email or comment! Are you going to Heaven?
Sunday, January 11, 2009
And in May, Noah will have another baby cousin. Melissa's sister, Deb is having their second child, a boy! So, I'm sure they'll love to do awesome boy things together, like breaks bones and stuff!
And for those of you who know our good friends Mark & Darci --they're expecting their first baby in July. We're so excited! Melissa and Darci always wanted to have babies together. We'll just have to figure out how to have play dates when we live in separate states (they live in North Carolina also). I'm hoping we can all go overseas together so we can keep the ladies happy. Anyone else interested? We're recruiting....
And guess what? There's a whole list of people having babies (and this doesn't even include the babies that have already arrived):
Andy & Raquel
Steve & Laura
Keith & Rene
Ryan & Leah
Matt & Alison
Paul & Jen
Cas & Sarah
Ben & Tracy
Doug & Chandra
I've just started a book called Heaven by Randy Alcorn and I already love it if only because he's pointed out some of the mistaken beliefs I have in the afterlife.
I'm only two chapters in, but my main misconception was that Heaven was this crazy place where you sit on clouds and strum harps and stuff. Ok, so I didn't really believe that, but it wasn't drastically different. I know we have bodies and places and stuff, but beyond that my understanding of Heaven is totally deficient.
Have you ever sung the song I could sing of you love forever? I've been in services where that song has been played quite a bit and it always depresses me a bit. Forever?! I have to sing, forever? Man that doesn't sound like very much fun at all. CS Lewis says, "Most of us find it very difficult to want 'Heaven' at all-except in so far as 'Heaven' means meeting again our friends who have died." He's right, I don't really want to sing forever, or do any one thing forever, it sounds kinda boring.
I'm being a bit drastic about my little knowledge of Heaven, but nonetheless, I'm no theologian on the subject either, which is why I'm excited about this book. Over the next few weeks or so I'll probably be posting things that grab my heart regarding the afterlife and the world to come. Join me in excitement about what's to come.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
In The Silver Chair, Puddleglum, Eustace and Jill are all trapped in a cavernous underground world where they begin conversations with an evil witch who claims to be the "Queen of the Underworld." This witch immediately begins to raise doubt in the heart of the three. She mocks the children and Puddleglum's belief that anything exists outside of the underworld.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
-I'm so happy for Boeckman, and really excited about the man he probably has become because of this year. For whatever reason, it takes years like he has had to humble us. Great game by him.
-It stinks that OSU fans will probably view this season as a down-one. Great year by these seniors.
-The Fox announcers are terrible. Just terrible. So many intense moments in this game and they acted like they were sleeping. Let another station have the game, Vasgersian is just no good. We had the ball on our 45 with 11 seconds left. We need 15 yards to be in field goal range and tie the game, yet all they talked about was how great Mccoy is (and he is, don't get me wrong) and what a big game Crosby had. The game is on the line!! Two huge plays remain (turned out to be one), and there was no excitement, nothing!
-Anyone else think they could take Darryl Dawkins or Vlade Divac in a 5 on 5 game? Just run up and down the floor a bunch those old guys are bound to croke.
-Malcolm Jenkins is awesome. Not many people realize the impact he had on this game since Texas only through his way maybe 3 times, all game. Texas was scared to death of him, and that makes the job of the other 10 guys that much easier. He shut down the boundary almost singe-handedly.
-I like seeing Buckeyes with scripture on their faces. Pryor's was Phil 3:14 and Laurinaitis's was Gal 2:20. Both great verses, look them up, you'll be encouraged.
And hopefully this game rekindles some respect around the country. I'm thinking it probably won't. Everyone will probably say Texas was flat and didn't show up, and still point out that we lost the game. Regardless, I think we can still play with the big boys. Next year should be fun, rebuilding years always are more fun for me for some reason.
Monday, January 05, 2009
Friday, January 02, 2009
The Rose Bowl was a blowout again. Ho-hum. Instead of playoff talk, I'd like someone to start talking about the fact that USC gets to play at home every Rose Bowl. And I'd also like someone to point out from the media that 1. OSU's "blowout" loss to LSU last year was closer than most realize and 2. LSU also played in New Orleans last year. Can we host the Sugar Bowl in the Horseshoe next year?
The Big Ten is down, but people are railing on them like their the MAC or something. Man I hope OSU pulls it off against Texas. Watch all the top high draft picks come from the Big Ten and them tell me they are slow.
I saw a good idea on my friend Paul's blog. He did a 2008 year in review and then a 2009 look-ahead. I plan on doing that as well, should make for some good intraspection. So stay tuned...