>Age is NOT just a number

>I just had a weird revelation handed to me in the face of Oel Castner, one of the spiritual titans here at GC4.  He reminded me that Jesus began His ministry at the age of 30…or, in other words, 6 years older than I am right now.  You can’t even use the myth of adolescence here, because in ancient times, people were treated as adults EARLIER than they are now, which means Jesus spent most of His adult life growing in stature and understanding before He started His ministry.

All the bumps and bruises (both literally and figuratively) that I am accumulating working as an intern are growing me and guiding me towards Him and to a better relationship with my Creator.  I need to stop getting so torn up over little mistakes that won’t matter at all a week from now.  Learn and move on…it’s not supposed to be like flipping a switch.
As Oel said, “allow Jesus to lie you down beside still waters, not rushing rapids.  Seek peace…seek Him.”
Amen.
“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  Psalm 4:8
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We need more people professing their faith like this.  Thanks Bryce.
“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”  Matthew 10:32

>Stand By Me

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I will readily admit I ripped this from Kendall Massey…but it’s awesome, and I don’t think he’ll mind a little extra publicity for it.

“So will it be on the earth 
       and among the nations, 
       as when an olive tree is beaten, 
       or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest.

They raise their voices, they shout for joy; 
       from the west they acclaim the LORD’s majesty.

Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD; 
       exalt the name of the LORD, the God of Israel, 
       in the islands of the sea.”   Isaiah 24:13-15

>Apologizing to a Book

>This may be one of the weirder posts I ever do. Which, if you know me, is interesting, because I’m pretty much a weird guy. But here it goes.


I have disrespected the Bible, and for that I am truly and deeply sorry.

It’s easy in the course of graduate school work to see the flaws in the book we call the Bible.  Stuff doesn’t make sense, there are some suspect editing choices, stories that contradict each other, gaping holes…it’s so tempting just to dismiss it as a human book trying to capture the Divine. 

But we can’t do that. There are two ways to look at the Bible:  either it is the inerrant, inspired Word of God, breathed down to writers who copied down the exact words of the Almighty, or it is the words of man with the Spirit of God as the guide and inspiration, but ultimately just a collection of religious thoughts of the day and stories. Stories with a good intent, but stories nonetheless.

Since 2 Timothy 3 reads “All Scripture is God-breathed,”  I’m going to go ahead and throw out the second option.

We so often try to cram God into our little mind-shaped boxes, to make Him fit and make sense in our understanding of Him.  When we read something in the Bible that makes NO sense (try Genesis 6-9, the flood story. Big ball of contradictions.) we immediately think that whoever wrote the Bible messed up or there was an editing issue (which there was) or a translation problem (also likely)…but we never, even for a moment, consider that maybe we’re just too dense to get it.  We take great pleasure in reading about how stupid the disciples were; they had the chance to see Jesus’ work firsthand and they still messed up.  But we never think we could be guilty of the same mistakes.

Our interpretations of the Bible have evolved over time with what we learn from archaeology, history, language, sociology, anthropology…we’ve been wrong before (see: Church, Women’s Role in) and we’re going to be wrong again.  

As we move along, gain more knowledge, we will be able to more clearly see the timeless truths in front of us.  The Bible isn’t going to suddenly “fix itself” because of how much we learn…it’s pretty much going to stay the same. As it has for years upon decades upon centuries upon millennia.  Our interpretations will change however, and hopefully through responsible work and scholarship, we will move closer and closer to the Truth God desires us to find in His book. 

But the problems lie in us, not in the Word of God. 

So for being dense, arrogant, self-centered, disrespectful…any number of flaws…I apologize Bible.

We should spend more time together. 

“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  2 Peter 1:19-21

>Drop Kicks

>I’ve played basketball for a long, long time.  Granted, those first few years couldn’t really be recognized as actual “basketball,” because, well, I was terrible, but the equipment stayed the same.  I’ve tried to bounce shots off cars, out of cars, off my house, from my street, tried to use a t-ball bat to hit shots in (ask me about that sometime, it’s hilarious), shot left-handed, right-handed, two-handed; I’ve tried everything.


At least I thought I had.

When I was in 4th grade, my grandpa took me to see the Harlem Globetrotters.  They did something I hadn’t yet dreamed of: the dude dropped kicked a basketball from half court and made it.  Combining sports, soccer and basketball fused into a moment of excellence and mind-blowing skill (and obviously luck) that left me stunned.  

Needless to say, at my basketball game later that night, I tried this mighty feat in warmups.  Almost killed innocent bystanders with the errant boot and almost killed grandpa from laughing too hard. 

From then on, every couple of years or so, I’d get the fire in my belly and want to try again. And inevitably, I would fail miserably, hope no one was watching, and go back to regular basketball.  I eventually got to where I was pretty good at the roundball; won a championship or two, could have probably played for my school, etc.  I got to college and stopped playing regularly and lost my game, and now it’s just a fun pastime that I’m not very good at anymore.

My junior year of college I went to Manchester, NH on a Spring Break Campaign, and the first day we had a 24 hour youth group lock in.  By the time church ended on Sunday, we had all been up for a little over 40 hours and were zombies.  The kids were still running amok and we tried to keep up with them, and somehow in the midst of cold and rain and muck we got dragged outside to the basketball “court” in their parking lot; a slanted, potholed blacktop with under-inflated, slick basketballs and a hill on the other side that made errant shots run a good distance away from the court.  After playing around for a bit, I decided that if I didn’t sit down, a trip to the ER would soon be on the agenda to take care of my exhaustion.  While walking away, back to the warmth and cushioned chairs of the indoor kitchen, a rebound rolled out to me, a good 40 to 50 feet from the goal.  

And for some reason, I just turned around, picked it up, and punted it.

And swished it.

Everyone just froze in shock, including myself.  The parents, kids, and my fellow campaigners weren’t quite sure what to do with what they had just witnessed.  I kind of yelped in celebration, remembered my strong desire to sit down, chuckled, shrugged, and went inside.

Twelve years of attempting this ridiculous sports feat had finally culminated in success, and I was too tired to really appreciate it or celebrate. But all it took was that one time…freak circumstances, bad weather, goal built on the side of a hill, a dozen other factors that made it unlikely that that attempt would finally bring me sweet release from the Globetrotter demon.

I’m reading the book “Just Walk Across the Room” by Bill Hybels, talking about how we can change peoples’ lives in the span of ten steps, taking the chance to go talk to them about life and hopefully Christ if the opportunity presents itself.  He relates stories of freak trips where he met people on the side of roads, at dinner parties, at his son’s soccer games and because he kept trying, he eventually was able to share the Greatest News of All (sounds better than Good News) with them in one freak random moment.

It may not be when we expect. We may be tired, we may have the odds stacked against us, but God desires to use us in His plan.  If we really do believe what we say we believe, and if we really do view it as a matter of altering eternity, then shouldn’t that effect the way we handle life every day? Pray for strength, pray for courage, and pray for opportunity.

And keep kicking.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'”  Matthew 28:18-20

>Ring Pops, Dirty Napkins, and My Own Selfishness

>I have no idea what God helps us control and what is just crazy random happenstance.  If I lean over and pick up my pen right now (which I just did), did God push on my heart to make me do that? 

No clue.
What I do know is that when something weighs heavily on your heart, you better do it.  God’s paths are always better than ours, and the fact that we keep ignoring Him is annoying.  A little depressing, but mostly annoying.  It’s like having a voicemail from the Creator and waiting a few weeks to listen to it. It makes no sense.
For class Wednesday night I gave the lesson written out in my previous post, Ring Pops and Dirty Napkins.  It’s been on my mind since I bought Abs’ ring, about God and being chosen and the true nature of love.  I’ve also had this weight on me to read Titus.  Not sure why…I usually arbitrarily pick a book of the Bible and read through it. 
Titus is NOT a long book.  Three whole chapters to be precise…the equivalent of 5 pages in my study bible. And for some reason I just didn’t do it.  Always found something better to do…talk to friends, sleep, play games, check sports updates, etc.  My bible even sat open for a couple of days to Titus and I never got around to it.  Still haven’t actually.
However, I was just alerted to Titus 3:5, which says something to the equivalent of “God loves us because He is merciful, not because of our righteous acts,” which sounds distinctly similar to what I taught about Wednesday night.  In fact, it’s a great summary of my idea.
God tried to help me sum up my thoughts through His Word, and His words are always better than my words, but I was too selfish with my time to sit down and read it.
Sorry God.
What is God trying to do to help you that you’re ignoring? 
“Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?”  Psalm 77:13

>Ring Pops and Dirty Napkins

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Rob Bell in his book Sex God tells a story about a junior high dance he went to.  We’ve all been there; guys on one side, girls on the other, a great chasm in between.  The problem is that in order to ask someone of the opposite gender to dance, you have to gather up the courage and boldness to cross that chasm before you even get to the task of asking. Rob finally decided to ask this girl he liked to dance, and after making the walk of shame, approached her, asked, and…she screamed, cried, and hid in the bathroom all night.

Now THAT is a confidence killer.

When you are in that situation, before the screaming and crying, there are steps to take in order to assure success.  You want to look good, make yourself as attractive as possible, right?

Now imagine that terror, only magnified a thousand times because you’re asking someone to marry you.

When I decided that I was going to ask Abby to marry me, I enlisted the help of my mother, who is incredibly thorough and helpful.  By the time I went home to make the actual purchase, she was basically on a first-name basis with every jeweler in the Greater Dallas area.  It was awesome.  However, after a few hours of looking at numerous stores, something just didn’t feel right.  Nothing looked good enough, big enough, shiny enough…desirable enough.

And then it hit me.  I could never understand how people could think of themselves as the exception to the rule.  If God loves everyone and forgives all sins, then He loves everyone and forgives all sins!  The concept that God forgives everything EXCEPT my sin or loves everyone EXCEPT me just never clicked…until I started looking for that ring.  I knew Abby would say yes…I could have proposed with a ring pop and gotten away with it.  She loves me for me, not for the bling I pick out for her.  I knew this fact, and yet it was still a terrifying experience.  I thought I was the exception.  Suddenly I knew how everyone could feel like that…and I hated that feeling more than anything.

Which leads me back to the ring.

That was one of the most exhilarating, terrifying, exciting experiences of my life, and I’ve been to a Super Bowl. (Don’t tell Abby I just compared our engagement to the Super Bowl.)

Staring at case upon case, store upon store, of rings, gold, white gold, platinum, something called palladium…gave me an overwhelming sense of power and fear.  But I also thought that I had to find the PERFECT ring, that Abby would only say yes if the ring was worthy enough.  And you know what? I found it. Then I turned over the price tag. And gagged.  

Needless to say, I didn’t get that ring.  I’ll get back to that in a second.

When it came to planning the engagement, I had an elaborate set-up at my house all put together involving something like 50 candles and a bowl of thimbles.  However, what wasn’t in my plan were the gale-force winds that prevented hardly any candle lighting, much less the little tea-light candles I had.  So I had to call an audible. Pictures are on facebook.

My perfect ring and my perfect engagement, both gone because of circumstances out of my control.  And yet she still said yes. 

Why didn’t I trust her?

More importantly, why don’t we trust God?  We are obsessed with trying to make ourselves more desirable to Him…but we can’t! He already loves us more than we could ever imagine just as we are.  In fact, in Romans 5, it says that He loves so much that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

The reason middle school dances, proposals, and ultimately giving ourselves to God are all scary beyond belief is that it makes us completely vulnerable. What we need to understand is that God loves us for us, not what we bring Him, not what we do for Him, and certainly not how attractive we are to Him. 

Isaiah 64 says that we have become as unclean, and all our acts of righteousness are like filthy rags.  Whatever we do to TRY to gain God’s favor is like the dirty towel you use to wash your car.  You can’t earn God’s love. It’s just given to us freely.

The true source of beauty is revealed in 1 Peter 3: Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Acts that come from the heart are gifts to God.  Just think…the Creator of the universe thinks that your heart is of great worth!  More than all the diamonds in the world or the mountains or the oceans…your “gentle and quiet spirit” brings Him joy. 

You see…it doesn’t matter whether you see yourself as a giant diamond ring or something as simple as a ring pop…God will ALWAYS say yes. 

You just need to ask Him to dance.

“Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King.  Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.  For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.”  Psalm 149:1-4