Category: Musings and Ponderings

To watch TV or not to watch TV?

As I have been pondering what living a holy life means for me personally, one thing that the Lord encouraged me to do was to fast from secular entertainment (music, TV, and movies)…

Today is the “last day” of my fast (which I know that I have not announced on here that I was even doing that…that was intentional, since Jesus tells us to not advertise our fasting)…

I have not watched TV in a month, and have only watched one movie (and that was with my youth group)…and you know what I have discovered? I really haven’t missed it!

I am going to pray some more about the next course of action; however, I believe that I will probably pay just enough attention to what is going on to be able to relate to the youth with which I work, so that I am not “out of touch,” but that I will not watch TV/movies much at all.

It’s just not worth my time, honestly. An occasional movie will be enjoyable, but really, I have noticed just how much more time I have had! So much more time for reading, reflecting, praying, spending time with friends and family…THOSE are the important things in life to me. I know that movies are an art-form, and that most are meaningful…but, I just don’t really know that I want to consume my time with that form of entertainment! I’d much rather spend 30 minutes conversing with my roommates than watching a sitcom on television.

To clarify: This does NOT mean that I look down upon those who do choose to watch these things! AT ALL! This is a personal conviction, and I honestly don’t care what others do with their time. I just wanted to make that clear–if you watch TV, that’s totally fine! 🙂 I know that some may take offense at this post, or think that I am making a jab at others–but honestly, I am not doing any such thing!

I think that I will follow the wisdom in Psalm 119:37–

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things;

preserve my life according to your word.”

And Psalm 101:2a-3b

“I will be careful to lead a blameless life…I will set before my eyes

no vile thing.”

Life leads us on interesting journeys, and I anxiously await

discovering where the Lord will next lead me!

Musings on the Church as it stands, part II

Each generation has had their “tool” for evangelism that worked. In the late eighteenth and early twentieth century, the circuit rider preachers were effective, and revivals were common. In the ’60s and ’70s, during the “Jesus Freak” movement, street evangelism worked. People responded. That was something that really reached people.

However, what is going to be the effective tool for our generation?

(Of course, these are generalizations, because not everyone is like this…just my observations)

* People don’t like to be bothered…they don’t like things to take up their time.

* People don’t talk to other people while walking down the street, and if someone talks to them, it is generally not well-received.

* People don’t mind if you are religious, as long as you don’t talk to them about it.

* There are so many misconceptions of religion, so many stereotypes…hard to defeat them all.

* Society is so individualized; yet, everyone longs to “belong” to something of their choosing.

It goes without saying that society today is a much different place than it was in the ’60s and ’70s…it’s even different than it was in the ’90s. Things are constantly changing in our world, and people are no exception.

Some of my own observations from my two summers as a missionary:

* Backyard Bible Clubs are no longer an effective way to reach children. With technology these days, going back to arts and crafts, Bible stories, and outdoor games are just not things that children are interested in. It was a great day if we had 5 kids at our BYBCs. Also, parents are less apt to allow their children to be somewhere with people they don’t know, because of the crimes that have happened in recent years with children.

* Many people don’t like to be bothered at home. My church always liked to do “visitation”, where one night a week they would go and visit the people who had attended the service the previous Sunday. I had to do “follow-up” visits after Vacation Bible School and BYBCs both summers, and it was–with one exception–unsuccessful.

* People don’t like to be “preached at”…they are less likely to accept the message you are bringing if you have no current relationship with them.

I have found that relationships are key. I’m not saying that I think you should go build relationships JUST so that you can tell them about Jesus…if that is your only motivation, to “win another soul”, then I don’t think I agree with that. But, people are more likely to go to church with a friend, someone they trust, than they are to go with someone who was doing door-to-door evangelism and handed them a tract.

So, what can we do to “reach” out to the world around us? We have to invent new ways…ways that we can reach them where they are. Perhaps we need to look at Christ’s example (heaven forbid, LOL) at how He touched lives…at how He ministered…

What is a “post-modern” church going to look like?

Musings on the Church as it stands, Part I

This is post #1 of a series regarding my own musings on the Church, evangelism, and Christian culture. To begin, I’d like to simply post a passage from Paul Marshall’s book “Thine is the Kingdom”, because it is among the many I have read today that sparked an interest in my mind.

I’ll be discussing ideas from theologians such as Lesslie Newbigin, Stanley Hauerwas, and other respected minds as I try to express my own personal frustrations. In all that I will write, please understand that I am by NO means exempt from these things. I am just as much at fault for being too wrapped up in “Christian culture” and secluding myself from the realities of the world (I attend a Christian university, which tends to be a “bubble” of sorts). These are just my musings, ponderings, my journey to discover how to be a Christian in a post-modern world.

As always, I’d love for this to become a “conversation”, and it is open for comments. I’d love to dialogue about these issues, as they are becoming increasingly important. It seems to me that the church (using the term “Church” as a general statement–I realize that there are exceptions, of course) is becoming more separated from the world as time goes by. In brief, I believe that when the Bible mentions being in the world but not of the world, it doesn’t mean to create our own “religious club.” Rather, I think that we should be following Christ’s example in reaching out to the world, meeting them where they are, meeting their needs…but most importantly, just loving them. Not trying to change them, not trying to push our beliefs on them…just loving them, and allowing Christ to transform their lives as He desires.

So here is the passage from Paul Marshall…

“Our task as Christians is, in principle, to do everything in a Christian way that can be done by a human being—from what we eat when we get up in the morning (if we have anything to eat) to what clothes we put on, to how we get to work (if we have any work), to what we work at, making what, for how much, in what sort of conditions, to how we vote, how we engage in research, how we understand the news, how we relax, what we do with and for the poor, and so on throughout the livelong day. In all these activities we are called to be new creatures taking our place as the stewards of God’s world, being servants of our neighbor and proclaimers of the good news of Jesus Christ. In all of them we are to learn what God calls us to do or, in other words, to see how redemption in Jesus Christ can bring healing and redirection. We are to proclaim and to show in our lives that Christ is Lord over every part of life. Just as every part of life is affected by human sin, so all parts of life can be renewed and redeemed by Jesus Christ. That is our only solid hope for families, factories or politics.

True Christian social action is always evangelistic work, for no area of life is ‘neutral’, supposedly immune from the effects of sin and the reach of redemption. We do not act merely on the basis of Christian ‘principles’ or ‘morality’, we are to act as witness to Jesus Christ. All areas of life must be linked to new life in Jesus Christ. In turn, true Christian evangelism is always social action because it lives and proclaims what is good news in each area of life.

Through the gospel God calls a new nation, a new people, a new humankind into being. As men and women turn to Jesus Christ in real, concrete, repentance from sin and, by grace through faith, are restored in God’s favor, they begin to live out the healing and restoration of Christ’s redemption and take up their Christian responsibility for the direction of human life and culture. Evangelism is, in a way, the recruiting process for this life whereby people come ‘on board’ for service to God’s kingdom. Evangelism calls people to repentance and to a restored and renewed love for God and, through that love, to a new life of service to our neighbors. This is the Christian life.”

Paul Marshall, Thine is the Kingdom, p. 37-38.

For discussion…

I decided to finally begin reading “The Jesus I Never Knew” by Phillip Yancey, as it has been on my shelf for about 3 years. On page 16, he makes an interesting point:

Today, people even use Jesus’ name to curse by. How strange it would sound if, when a businessman missed a golf putt, he yelled. ‘Thomas Jefferson!’ or if a plumber screamed ‘Mahatma Gandhi!’ when his pipe wrench mashed a finger. We cannot get away from this man Jesus.”

Why is it that people use the name of Jesus in such a way? Why don’t they use other names? This has picqued my curiosity, for some reason, and I’d love to hear your opinions on the matter.

“Love is Life”

Leo Tolstoy once said:

 

“Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.”

 

My relationship with God is the most important aspect of my life. This relationship has led me to spend two summers in full-time ministry in Williamsport, Pennsylvania (where I will most likely be moving next year)…it has led to countless hours in youth work, worship ministry, etc. But most importantly, this relationship has shaped who I am and all that I strive to be.

Lately, due to many extenuating circumstances, my time with God has taken a backseat to everything else going on in my life. Last night, as I sat alone in my apartment, I decided to spend time with my Maker…and I did. I spent 2 hours praying, singing, reading, etc., which made me realize how much I have missed this time with Him. This post is a reflection of what I learned last night, because this is going to change many aspects of my life over the next few months.

 

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” –Nehemiah 8:10

 

My strength, my joy, my serenity comes from the Lord. I have never been content with the ways of this world. Yet, lately, I haven’t been seeking my refuge in the arms of the Lord as I used to…and this needs to change. For, as MercyMe so eloquently put it,

 

“I have not been called to the wisdom of this world but to a God who’s calling out to me. And even though the world may think I’m losing touch with reality, it would be crazy to choose this world over eternity.”

What really matters in life? What is worth living for?

Love.

“Healer heal me

Savior save me

Maker change me

Lover love me

‘Cause I’m so tired of living for

The kind of love

That only lasts for a while

The pain, the shame

Tear me up inside

So I fall on my knees

To get back on my feet again

And I cry out for You

Would You please speak to me…”–Ten Shekel Shirt

Love is the most important thing. Not the kind of love that is fleeting, but the love that is eternal. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all we are and have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Is there anything more important in life?

1 John tells us that because God first loved us, we can more fully love. If I am relying on the love of my Lord for my strength and for my fulfillment, then I am able to love freely, without worrying about what I will get in return. I will be able to care for my neighbors, for those in need. And, when I love this way, God gives us life abundantly.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshall and direct our energies wisely.”

–Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message)

Love is life…love is everything. And I want to love more…more freely…more abundantly…I want to fully embrace the “greatest commandment”, for that is all that really matters in life. I want to live unapologetically, and how better to do that than to serve God with all that I am?

I don’t know how this is going to play out in my life practically, but I know that I have decided to once more live as my Lord has called me to live, which is to love.

“He’s everything to me, more than a story…”

“Everything to Me”

This song is so powerful, lyrically and muscially, and I will be singing it as a duet at church in the near future…just wanted to share the words, as it is so accurate of how I view my relationship with God.

Everything To Me

by Avalon

I grew up in sunday school

I memorized the Golden rule

And how Jesus came to set the sinner free

I know the story inside out

I can tell you all about

The path that led Him up to Calvary

But ask me why He loves me

And I don’t know what to say

But i’ll never be the same

Because he changed my life when He became…

Everything to me

He’s more than a story

more than words on a page of history

He’s the air that I breathe

The water I thirst for

And the ground beneath my feet

He’s everything, everything to me

We’re living in uncertain times

And more and more I find that i’m aware

Of just how fragile life can be

I want to tell the world I found

A love that turned my life around

They need to know that they can taste and see

Now everyday I’m praying

Just to give my heart away

I want live for Jesus

So that someone else might see that he is…

And looking back over my life at the end

I’ll go to meet you saying you’ve been…

You’re everything to me

You’re more than a story

More than words on a page of history

You’re the air that I breath

The water I thirst for

And the ground beneath my feet

You’re everything to me

Lord, you’re everything to me

Following the crowd….

I just wanted to post real quick to explain something…

I am not a follower.

My entire life, whenever “everyone” has been doing something, it has been an IMMEDIATE turnoff…just a few examples:

The color orange…I ‘discovered’ it in 8th grade, and my 10th grade year it became popular. It made me so mad that I didn’t wear it for awhile, until it was not as common.

The Lord of the Rings movies…I will not watch those until they aren’t an obsession for pretty much everyone I’ve met. Same goes for Reality TV–immediate turnoff to see so many people schedule their lives around television…I hardly watch TV at all. (no offense to those who do–this is just my opinion for my personal life!)

Etc…my parents can vouch for this individuality. Even with clothes–if something is “trendy” I could care less. I wear what I want to wear. I listen to the music that I want to listen to. I have come to the point in the past 4 or so years where I could care less what others think about me. Honestly. I just don’t care–because the only one I need to please is Jesus Christ…

Why am I blogging about this? Because there are some who think that I posted the list of 100 things because everyone was doing it. That is not the case. I did it because I had some free time (now that my life consists of work, church, and being at my apartment) and I thought it might help people to get a small glimpse of who I am…I thought it might be interesting…granted, I did get the idea from some others, but I did not do it because it is “trendy.”

Sorry for the rant…I’m a bit annoyed, a bit hurt, and I wanted to clarify my thoughts.

Note that the list has been deleted.

The Cost of Being a Disciple

APU is known for having phenomenal speakers each year, who come from all over the nation. One of our favorite speakers is Francis Chan, a pastor from the LA area. He comes each year for at least 5 chapels…I missed his 3 chapel series because of DC last Fall, so I was so glad he came today…

But it was also one of the most challenging messages I have heard in a long time. So I am going to share my thoughts here…

He talked about how success is often measured today in numbers…pastors love when their churches are growing, when there are tons of people attending each week…but he pointed out that in the Gospels, whenever Jesus had large crowds around, He was skeptical…

Luke 14:25-34 says, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'”

Numbers are not everything…because not everyone is following Jesus genuinely…

This is a passage I have studied many a time before; but as usual, Francis posed a question to us all that made us think in entirely new ways…and I was astounded.

He said this: What if Jesus were in chapel today, speaking? What if He told us this parable, and then asked us to follow Him right then, to just walk out the door without telling anyone…leaving everything behind…would we follow Him? And if He told us that we had to pick up a cross, and walk with Him to a hill to be crucified (as the scripture says) to our old life…to everything we have known…would we do it?

The Event Center was quiet, as people pondered the meaning of this question…

Would I do that? Could I do what the disciples did in John 6, when things started to get tough?:

“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.'”

Then Francis began to talk about the salt portion of the scriptures. He even brought salt, as is his style…he always has great object lessons…anyway, he had salt that was good, and salt that was worthless.

He poured a pile of the good salt onto the podium, making a small pile. He then poured the bad salt (or the “white specks”) over that until the pile was quite large. He stood back, admired it, and said “Wow! That’s a great looking pile!” He then asked us what good that pile was, what it was worth to anyone…nothing. The Bible says that the white specks were not even good enough for the manure pile, because manure has redeeming value, and the white specks have none…

Not good enough for manure?

It seems that in Christianity today we have lost the meaning of what it truly means to be a disciple, a follower of Christ. Churches don’t mind having the worthless salt mixed in with the good salt as long as their churches are growing and the numbers are getting higher…but what does Jesus say? The opposite!

What is wrong with this picture? Churches should be helping people to grow, and to become true disciples of our Risen Lord…

In closing, he asked us to consider whether we were the salt, or just a white speck…

And that is something I am deeply pondering today.

I don’t know if I could just leave everything and everyone behind, like Jesus says so often in the Gospels…I don’t know that I could do it!

Yet, that is the cost of being a disciple…

(NOTE: If you ever want to watch an APU chapel, use the link in the sidebar. Our basketball games and other events are also available live and online.)

A song with new meaning…

I Will Offer Up My Life

By Matt Redman

“I will offer up my life in spirit and truth,

Pouring out the oil of love as my worship to you.

In surrender I must give my every part,

Lord, receive the sacrifice of a broken heart.

Jesus, what can I give?

What can I bring to so faithful a friend, to so loving a King?

Savior, what can be said?

What can be sung as a praise of Your name, for the things You have done?

Oh, my words could not tell, not even in part, of the debt of love that is owed by this thankful heart.

You deserve my every breath for You’ve paid the great cost;

Giving up your life to death, even death on a cross.

You took all my shame away, there defeated my sin,

Opened up the gates of Heaven and have beckoned me in.

What can I give, what can I bring, what can I sing as an offering, Lord?

Oh, my words could not tell, not even in part, of the debt of love that is owed by this thankful heart.”

…Amen.

“The Passion of the Christ”

The screen goes black…as the music fades, the audience is left stunned, unsure of how to react…they are silent, even as they file out of the arena, caught up in introspection, after this incredible depiction of their precious Savior, who died for their sins…

I have no words to say…I am left humbled to a greater degree than I have ever before experienced…I am left feeling so incredibly ashamed, because I know that I did this to my Lord…it was MY sins that nailed Him to that cross…all the hymns from church now have much deeper meaning…

I cannot say any more, for we signed a release that stated that we would not reveal anything about this film–which is fine with me: I want you to experience this film for yourself…as it truly is an experience…

One thing, though: Mel Gibson has an incredible heart. As he spoke to us, it was so evident that he loves Jesus…

More on this later….I am honestly speechless, as were the rest of the 3700 viewers of the film today…much to reflect upon…