Saturday, July 31, 2010

Announcement (change of plans)

Hola amigos! Well, if you're reading this, you might be aware that I've been in the habit of posting a minimum of two blogs every month to keep you up to speed on my life and thoughts. Long in short, I will be keeping this blog active. However, I will no longer be keeping to any required minimum number of postings per month/year/lifetime/etc. Bottom line, I'd been doing the two-per-month-minimum deal in addition to a regular monthly e-mail update, a quarterly newsletter, and a boatload of other things while working a part/full-time job and being involved in YWAM. If I continue my regular communications at that rate, there's a lot that I should be accomplishing that won't come to fruition. So, when I have enough $ raised so that I can do the YWAM thing full-time, I'll likely get back into the 2-per-month groove. Until then, I'm just gonna let it go as it flows, and in the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I've got to say about that." Hasta luego!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Science in Missions: An Inconceivable Feat?

The memory remains with me almost as fresh as the string cheese I was holding that September Friday night back in '89. I stood by the refrigerator door w/ my snack in hand, a spy movie from the late '60's playing on the tv two rooms away. Though I don't know what prompted it, a thought just suddenly occurred to me. If a lightning strike can cause a power outage b/c of an electrical overload, what if somebody could have some sort of metallic ball in their backyard that could act like a lightning rod, which, if struck, could then kick the power back on inside their house?

Of course if you know your science, you know that this idea is wholly laughable (I was only 9 at the time, mind you). Even the very idea of harnessing energy from a lightning bolt is quickly dismissed due to the excessive amount of energy that you're dealing with, and the rapidity with which it is delivered. However, is that to say that the idea is unattainable, or at least unprofitable? "You could probably do it through the use of superconductors," a friend of mine told me. I like that, it sounds pretty cool, and the only question I have is...what's a superconductor? In any event, it's an idea I'm working with (sapping energy from a lightning bolt, that is; the ball-in-the-backyard idea was discarded a long time ago).

What of science in missions, though? Are there any possibilities, and what did all of that stuff I just said have to do w/ it? It is commonly understood that the work of a missionary is the communication of the Gospel, but one thing that's sometimes overlooked is that the communication of the Gospel must be accompanied by deeds: "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" - James 2:15-16

There are many needs in the world today, and the solutions to them can often be answered by science. One such need is for newer (and preferrably renewable) sources of energy, and along w/ that, the effective implementation, maintenance, and distribution of energy systems in underdeveloped areas around the world. Will I find a way someday to tap into the power of a lightning bolt? It's doubtful, but it's worth the try. The worst thing that can happen is that nothing I try turns out to be successful, in which case I've succeeded in helping others figure out what won't work so they can spend their time and energy on other approaches which might work, instead. The bottom line is I'm following this path b/c, to make a long story short, I see the arrows of God pointing in this direction, and if that's the case, the most intelligent thing I can do is to keep walking this path.

So, that's just one idea that comes to mind in terms of how science can play a role in missions. Think you might have any others? I'd be interested to hear what you have to say.

Youth Ministry!

So I have some exciting news to share. You might know that I have a real strong heart for working in youth ministry, and for that matter, that this is something I haven't done for a while. Having settled well into my new life in PA, I started attending a church nearby last January (the first time in nearly a decade that my home congregation is a Sunday church and not a messianic congregation). It turns out one of the areas where they've had a need for more volunteers is in their youth ministry!

I started joining them a few weeks ago in the classes they have during the Sunday morning service. I also got to go to a pool party they had this past Sunday. I'm talking w/ the youth pastor to see what service opportunities are available (teaching, planning activities, etc.). It's definitely a different feel than the last youth group I was involved with, carrying with it a new set of challenges. I'm enjoying it, though, looking forward to what lies ahead, and thankful that God is, once again, giving me the desires of my heart.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It happened for the first time.

So I've been up here in PA for a little over a year now. I visit home quite frequently as it's not even three hours away, but of course most of my time is spent near the rolling hills and pastures of Amish country. Now this isn't the first time I've lived for an extended period of time away from home (there was that year I spent mostly in Arkansas and on some travels, and let's not forget the better part of a year and 1/2 that I spent in Richmond), but what hit me as I finally made it into Herndon on Mother's Day came quite unexpectedly - the official feeling that I was no longer "visiting home", just visiting Herndon. I love making the drive down to see friends and family, but it no longer feels like home to me. It truly was an awesome and sobering experience. PA is where I am, and it is where I belong.

As I look back on the year and two months that now trail behind me, I'm so glad I made the move up here. It was nice getting to spend the majority of my twenties being a "Tarzan visionary", as I call it (i.e. "Lemme swing over here, check this out, and see how it looks. Cool, now I'm going to swing over there and see what that looks like."), but I can honestly say that I've come to a place of rest now where I can commit to something practical over the long-term, not just a "vision" that will come into fruition at some point in the future. I guess this is all part of growing up, something that we never stop doing (or at least never should). I'm enjoying learning what it means to mature without losing a childlike heart. Thank You, God, for Your direction in my life.

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." - Psalm 23 (KJV)

Dehydration (Another worship song written in spring '07)

"O God, You are my God. I will seek You early in the morning. My soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water." - Psalm 63:1


I am a desperate man

Hungering for truth

Thirsting for it like water

As I wander through this desert

This desert of Your presence

(Where are You?)

This desert of Your presence

(Where are You?)

Please hear my cry

And quiet these raging waters in my soul

They're drowning me away

They're drowning me away

This can't be Your will

You that made me in Your image

I am Your child and I know

You still have a sovereign plan

I am still in Your hand

So please answer this desperation

That I may understand

The things that come between us

That leave me in this paralyzing state

Oh, God Who raised the dead

I'll trust every word that You said

But only by a strength that comes from You

So hear me now and answer the cries of my heart

Touch me Lord, and give me a fire anew

That I may serve You

For I am Your child

I know this is true

And what would I be without You?

Without You, what would I be?

What would I be?

What would I be?

What would I be?

"My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1a; Matthew 27:46c; Mark 15:34c)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Whisper (A worship song written in spring of '07)

"To some G-d calls in a whisper, to others with a shout - depending on how close they are to Him." - Rabbi Nachman of Breslow

"...And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave...," - I Kings 19:11b-13a (KJV)


I heard a distant echo
From the caverns of my heart
I had to listen closely just to find out what it was
The sound was my desire crying out to You, saying,
"Speak here in a whisper."

So here I am before Your feet
Waiting patiently to hear
In silence I will listen and obey,
But if I turned my back on You
And ran so far away
Would You still call me in the thunder
Like You did before in days of long ago?

So call me in the thunder
And draw me back to You
Kiss the tears as they run down my face
And as You hold me near You
Pour Yourself out on me
And fill these empty caverns crying out
"Speak here in a whisper."
"Speak here in a whisper."
"Speak here in a whisper."
"Speak here in a whisper."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Drink (To Disconnect) - A Poem written on Thanksgiving Day, 2006

Inspired in part by the writings of Donald Miller, and by observations from the experiences God took me through during my time in NYC (fall '06)

To disconnect
And live in peace
Embracing now
This sweet release

To cease and desist from asking, "Why?"
For fear that in this, my soul would die
By the underlying worry that accompanies such
When life doesn't seem to be going much
The way I'd hoped
The way I'd planned
The way I thought it would someday be
Even though I know that it still someday could

Be thankful for the things you have
You might not now, but you'd be glad
If, after waking one day to find that they're lost
The sun does not go down without their return
For family, for friends, and treasured memories
Upon which no price can be laid
No cost to be paid
Treasure these deep within your heart

Blink, think, take a drink
For a moment, but sip
Slow down the empty pace of your caffeinated life
And take in slowly
The beauty of all that is around you
And be thankful that God has given you this day
Who knows but that it could be the best day of your life
A little bit of gratitude can give you such an attitude
That you see the good in everything around
Even when it seems that all you see is darkness
Hope lies in the light at the end of the tunnel
Keep moving on

But hide yourself in accomplishments
In all that this world rewards
And ask yourself at the end of the day
When all is said and done
And after all you've said and done
You're all done
Having done
More than Einstein
More than Edison
More than any man, woman, or child that ever walked the face of this planet Earth
Are you happy?
Do you find yourself fulfilled
Having pushed away the weightier matters
Burdening your soul with the lighter substance?

But let's return to our drink
For a moment
Taking in all that you consider precious
And sip
Like I said
Why not stop and enjoy this moment
While you have it
Who knows how long you will?
And if you miss the beauty of it all, can you ever get it back?

So drink, slowly, the sweet substance of life
Even if for a moment, it may change your whole perspective
And take it in with gratefulness in your heart
Draining away all your worries and cares
And be thankful that at least you've been given this much, if nothing else
Take it from someone who's learned the hard way
Thank God, thank God, thank God for this beautiful day
It is a gift from Him just for you, and He would never take it back, no matter what
So why would you?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

These Lamps On My Feet

Another Myspace extraction. This one was written in July '06, when I was putting myself to the challenge of writing at least two blogs per day (hence the mention of specific deadlines). I had no clue that it would be the beginning of a journey in faith which lasts to this very day (had I know, I probably would've been a little more hesitant to write, hehehe :o) ...........

Ok, this is actually cheating when you look at the heart of the matter here, but the funny thing about rules is that it's so easy to find the loopholes which totally defeats the point for making the rules to begin with (by cheating I'm referring to the fact that I'm actually getting ready to say something rather deep & theological & all backed up w/ Scripture...ok, well, hypotheticaly at least...but I have....HOLY CRAP!!! 15 MIN! That's about how much time I have left to meet my 2-blog-minimum requirement for today. So the cheat factor? Basically I'm trying to write about something that's too deep to be truly finished in that amount of time, but in order for the blog to be legitimate, it still has to read as a complete thought. So basically this is going to be a micro-blog [i.e. a microwaved blog vs. an oven-cooked one]. Ah, well. You're the only one that's suffering from that, not me, so I guess that makes it ok, right? I take well to the thought of putting others before myself. I mean, come on, isn't it obvious?).

Wow! Did I just write all of that in parentheses? Lame. Way lame. That is no accomplishment for someone in my situation. DEAR GOD, PLEASE HELP ME!!!! ALL MY RAMBLING JUST COST ME 3 MORE MINUTES, AND I NEVER EVEN ONCE STARTED WHAT IN ABOUT 12 MINUTES NEEDS TO BE A COMPLETE THOUGHT! Did I mention I'm also very good at time management? No? Well you knew that, too.

Ok, so my thought. What are these lamps on my feet? I mean, seriously, I'm not joking, and this is a riddle. I'm out on a dusty road, it's well past sundown, and what are these lamps doing on my feet? The riddle - who am I?

Let that thought sink in. Now, I don't think I'm gonna have time to get the reference for this (I'm also a good journalist, you know, making sure I have all my research before me in time to meet deadlines? Oh yeah! Smokin! I am what they call in my culture "the man", and I am only saying that b/c I am ever so humble as to care that you should be so informed:)~ There's a good chance you've heard the saying, that there's a way that seems right to a man, but the end of it is destruction. On the other hand, narrow is the path to life, and there are only so few that find it. If you've ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you might even remember a seen towards the end that illustrates this point (the clue is diamond-studded cup).

So what does that have to do w/ these lamps on my feet, & could somebody please answer the riddle and tell me who I am!?! I'm having an identity crisis, here! Well, about the lamps, does it remind you of any verses in the Bible (or songs by Amy Grant that are, oh, I don't know, directly related to the passage in reference)? It's in Psalms ("Tehillim" as some of you might know the "sefer", random fact of the day for you all of you little Hebrew scholars [you're something I am most certainly not, you've got me there]:). Here it is (exact reference not included;sorry, 4 minutes to go): "Your Word is as a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Now, who in here guessed that in the riddle, I am the Psalmist, David? Anybody? Anybody? EEEEENNNNGGGHH! Wrong answer (come on, I'm a sucker-puncher, what were you expecting?). But did you guest that I was one of the priests in "Old Testament" times? Wow! I'm impressed.

The priests would have a small oil lamp at the end of their sandals (as my understanding of the story goes) to give them just enough light for the next step, and the point of this is that God intends us for adventure. That's right, think about it. If I already know what's going to happen, what adventure is there? What need do I have to trust in God? But if all I see is just enough light for the next step...hmm...I dunno. I don't think most of us would sign up for that insurance policy. But what truly great story exists without the element of dire risk added to the conflict, where you somehow know (as if by faith) that things will turn out alright in the end? This is where I'm at right now, this is where I want to live the rest of my life, and I invite you to try on a pair of these sandals.

Blind Excavation of an Undead Heart

Ok, guilty confession. I'm not writing anything fresh, here, b/c to do so would be compromising value (the month's been very busy, so I haven't had the time to come up w/ something decent). Nevertheless, the material is fresh on this blog. I dug this out from something I wrote on Myspace almost 3 years ago. It explains the beginning of a journey I've been on which culminated in my decision to study math & physics. I felt like it was good for me to re-visit this, so I thought I'd share it w/ you here, too....

Hmm...what am I trying to write here? Good question, huh? Yes? No? Well, I don't care what your answer is. It's not you I'm asking that question to, obviously, therefore I am the judge and I say it's a good one. Seriously, though. For me it is. See, I've been going through a lot of changes in my perspectives on life, lately. It's kinda hard to explain, really, at least in a nutshell...then again, EVERYTHING's hard for me to explain in a nutshell. Basically what I'm getting at is this. We grow up, we grow old, we eat, we sleep, we live, we breathe, we die. Somewhere between kindergarten and the memorial service, we forget who we are, we forget what we are, and for that matter, we forget that we once knew why we exist. Ok, I'm trying not to make that sound to cliche, but seriously. We start off in life so young, fresh, full of ideas and excitement, then we just get distracted from all of that.

I took a trip to the National Air and Space Museum the other week, just for the heck of it. How often do you do that in your busy life, just do something b/c you feel like doing it? I haven't done that much lately. So I went, truth be told I actually just went b/c I wanted to get this stuff called "space ice cream" which I hadn't had in forever (give or take a few years, of course). It was so nice just to remember what it was like being a kid again. The world looked so different in a way. Memories were coming back to me that I hadn't thought of in years, so vividly it was as if I was re-living them. It was so strange, I couldn't explain it all, only that I was starting to regain a certain sense of purpose, the path of which I had been distracted from a long time ago, and it's taking me on a journey which I didn't anticipate. I don't know where this journey leads, but I want to find out. Am I beginning again, or am I merely continuing, having been on pause all these years? I don't know, but I'm glad to know that I'm gonna find out.

Anyway, so much more I could say, but that'll come later. Let me know your thoughts, if maybe you've been experiencing the same thing, yourself. I'd love to hear.

(excerpt from a comment I made in response to someone's question):

I've dealt w/ a lot of frustration over the fact that I know I'm gifted in a way that's rare, but how all of my giftings are supposed to function harmoniously remained a mystery to me. Then I realized that what's always fascinated me, be it about math, science, ancient history,...about this whole idea of mystery, that there's so much we don't know. Throughout my entire life, I've always loved to challenge people's assumptions and shatter their illusions, and now I'm starting to understand why. Beyond that, it's a long story, but the nutshell is that my heart is returning to that place of wonder, being fascinated by the Creator when beholding His creation, and I'm learning that while I may have chosen writing as my focus in life instead of some field of science, I can still study about the things that fascinate me and express it in my writing. Thanks for asking:)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"I'd rather be a Christian than to fight."

FORENOTE: I just want to clarify that this blog has nothing to do with war. I understand that there are many Christians who say that war is never justified. While I respect their convictions, I believe that self-defense (and the defense of others) has a place, and sometimes war is the necessary means serving to that end.

If I knew in advance what to expect that day, I wonder what kind of a difference it would have made. Danny and I were swimming at the pool like we often would, when suddenly a kid came up to us in the shallow end and started picking a fight w/ me. He backed off b/c Danny stood up for me, but that wouldn't be the last I saw of Anthony. I went back to the pool sometime later on only to find him approaching me again. "Now you are alone! Now you have to fight me!" he insisted. Anthony kept trying to egg me on, but I resisted by pushing him back a few times. "Why won't you fight me? You're insulting me!" he declared. "Because I'd rather be a Christian than to fight," I replied. "What do you mean?" he asked, looking quite perplexed. "Do you know what it means to be a Christian?" I asked in response. "Not really. It sounds familiar, though. I think my aunt is one." I explained to him what it meant, that we need to ask Jesus to come into our hearts and save us from our sins, that He taught us not to go around fighting people when we don't really have to, and that this was why I wasn't going to get in a fight with him. "So do you want to become a Christian, too? Do you believe in what I just told you?" I asked. Calmed down, penitent, in a surrendered tone of voice, he said the two words that blow me away to this day, "I believe."

I was 9 when that happened. More than two decades have past. As I think about how I would handle such a situation like that, today, I have to admit that it feels like something inside of me has changed for the worse. What is it about life that often causes us to become more defensive as we get older? Why is it so hard to let go and focus more on letting Jesus be known for Who He truly is, rather than focusing on boosting my popularity ratings and acting in my own self-will? What would you have done in such a situation? Am I the only one who feels this way?

That was the last time I ever saw or heard anything of Anthony. As I look back on it, I'm glad that of all the times we could've crossed paths under such unfavorable circumstances, it happened to be then. Who knows if he ever would've come to know the Lord any other way? I hope Anthony's walk with Jesus has been continuing and growing strong ever since.

"I say unto you that unless you change and become like little children, you will not make it into the Kingdom of Heaven." - Mt. 18:3 (paraphrased)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Purim: Why should a "Jewish" holiday matter to Christians?

"For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" - Est. 4:14

I want to start out by clarifying something - there are Jewish holidays, and then there are biblical holidays. Many churches have come into the habit of celebrating the holiday of Passover, noting the significance it has in the foreshadowing of the Messiah (i.e. Jesus). I once heard of a Christian man who was uncomfortable with this b/c it is a "Jewish" holiday. Allow me to make an observation. Scripture tells us that we're not obligated to the ritual elements of the Law (see bottom of note for detailed explanation), hence I have no issue with someone saying they don't want to observe Passover. However, I'm going to make a bold statement by saying that Passover is not a "Jewish" holiday. In order for me to consider a holiday or a custom distinctly Jewish, it must be something that was invented by the Jews during the evolution of their culture (hence "4th of July" is a uniquely American holiday, "Cinco de Mayo" is a uniquely Mexican holiday, "Guy Fawkes Day" is a uniquely English holiday, etc.).

What of Passover, though, or Rosh Ha Shana, or Yom Kippur? Last I checked, these are holidays that were given to the Jewish people by God, and are called the "feasts of the Lord" (see Lev. 23). In fact if I may drive the point painfully home, while we are not obligated to do these things (again, see bottom of note for detailed explanation), Scripture seems to say that the day will come when this will change (see Zech. 14:16-19; I might add, some Christians would look at a passage like this and say, "Well, it's speaking symbolically, not literally," despite having no solid source to back up this claim. Of course many of these people will just as quickly say, "Truth is absolute! You can't just go around bending God's Word to make it mean what you want it to mean!" when it comes to other touchy subjects [like homosexuality or hell]. But hey, nobody's perfect, right? :) The bottom line is that this is one of many instances of ignorance that I've seen in church circles growing up - in this particular instance, one stemming from anti-semitism in church history - where I think it would do us well to be a bit more enlightened. I'm aware that what I just said might offend some people, but you know what? If you say you believe in a God of truth and you find yourself struggling over facts, it sounds to me like something's not quite right with that picture.

Now then, there are Jewish holidays, and there are biblical holidays. I think we can all see the validity in learning about the biblical ones (regardless of how we feel about practicing them; who in their right mind is going to say they believe in a certain book, then backpedal and say they'd rather not learn about a particular portion of it?), but why should a Jewish holiday be so important to us? Consider. Much of what is seen as a part of Jewish culture today (i.e. things that arose from within Jewish culture independent of any directive from God) came into being before Jesus came to this earth. Such is the case with Purim, the holiday commemorating God's deliverance of the Jewish people from annihilation as recorded in the book of Esther.

Let me ask you, though, how often do you hear this talked about in church circles? I hear a lot of talk here in America about how our values are "under attack" (which should come as no surprise[1 Jn. 3:13]), occasionally I hear mention of the persecution that Christians face in certain parts of the world, and once in a while there's a passing reference to the persecution endured by the early church. I don't usually hear anything about the Jews' enduring hardship through dispersion in the Old Testament, witnessing the miraculous hand of God preserving them, keeping His promise to bring them back into their land. I don't hear much of any acknowledging that this demonstrates the faithfulness of God to all of us, how His preservation of the nation of Israel resulted in the coming of the Messiah.

We like to talk about ourselves, especially when we're under attack (everyone enjoys the benefits that come along w/ being recognized as the victim). Since when is it about us, though? Scripture clearly tells us in a number of places that we should put others before ourselves (Philemon 2:3; Mt. 5:41, 44; 25:31-36). Furthermore, it tells us that we are to honor our parents (Ex. 20:12) and give credit where credit is due (Rom. 13:7). What does it say of the Jewish people, but that they were the ones who fathered us (Gentiles) into faith in Jesus (i.e. the reason there are Gentile believers in the Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures [i.e. the Old Testament] is b/c there were Jews that believed in Him who led us to this faith [see Gen. 17:4-5 & Rom. 4:17-18]).

So why should a "Jewish" holiday (namely Purim) be so important to Christians, too? Because it is a remembrance of God's covenant-keeping faithfulness, the implication that has had for us throughout time, and taking the time to honor Him for what He did, much the same way that we honor our national heroes, as well.

*Explanation about our freedom from obligation to the ritual elements of the Law

Ok, let me start w/ the fundamental point of "Torah observance" (the keeping of the Law of Moses [i.e. all the commandments given in the first five books of the Bible {Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, "B'reishit, B'sh'mot, Vayikra, Bamidbar, D'varim," or however you want to phrase it :o) }]). "And God said to Abraham, 'Therefore you are required to keep my covenant, you and your seed after you in their generations. This is my covenant, which you are required to keep, between Me and you and your seed after you, every baby boy must be circumcised." - Gen. 17:9-10 (paraphrased) I feel that the passage is too long for me to quote here, but if you read Acts 15:1-21, it clearly says that full-adherence to everything commanded in the law of Moses is not required for those professing faith in Jesus, including circumcision (subnote: Although it is not required, I'm not saying that God doesn't ultimately desire it [which I'm sure you probably noticed me saying in the second paragraph of this note]. However, the passage in Acts, here, clearly indicates to me that we are not to judge those who exercise this freedom as being "less spiritually mature", and for those who might say, "The passage says God doesn't require Gentiles to live according to everything given in the Law of Moses, but Jewish believers in Jesus are still held to its expectations," I would question how that reconciles w/ these words: "Why do you tempt God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, one which neither our fathers or we were able to bear?" [Acts 15:10]). Furthermore, Exodus 12:48 plainly states that circumcision is a requirement for all male non-Jews that choose to keep the Passover. A friend of mine once tried to weasel around this by saying, "But all true believers in Jesus are circumcised in their hearts, so they need to keep the Passover, too." Nice try, but circumcision of the heart isn't strictly a New Testament deal (Dt. 10:16; Lev. 26:41; Jer. 4;4 [to give a few examples]). There's so much more that could be said on this matter, but I think that sums it up just fine. So that's why I believe that full-fledged "Torah observance" is not a requirement for believers in Jesus...but...please also remember that I said I don't believe it's forbidden, either, so long as anyone who chooses to try to do all the things mentioned therein (to the best of their ability) is doing it as a sincere act of worship towards God, and not as some form of self-righteousness. Thanks for reading :)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reflections on Eden: Pondering our beginnings (Part 1)

The story of Eden is quite an intricate one, laden with details that are easily overlooked. As I began to consider what I should put as my second entry for this month, it just hit me how much I've been wanting to share some of these details I've been looking at. As this is quite the lengthy topic, I've decided to break it down into parts. So, I submit to you, the reader, installment numero uno.

Let's start with a brief review of the story prior to the tempting of our common ancestors. God creates the sun, moon, stars, sky, earth, plant vegetation, aquatic life, and birds in 5 days (Gen. 1:1-23). On the sixth day, God starts by creating land-based animal life (Gen. 1:24-25). He goes on to create man (Gen. 1:26-30) before calling it a day (v. 30) and a week, at that (Gen. 2:1-3). Now before I say anything else, notice how much attention is given to one aspect of one day of the process. Five verses talk about the creation of man. That's nearly 1/6 of the entire chapter! If that weren't enough, He goes on to spend the first 6 verses of chapter 2 talking about how He rested on the seventh day and making a few comments on His creation before spending the rest of the chapter talking once again about man. The chapter closes with a very unusual verse: "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed," - v.25.

Hold that thought. Let's look at the opening of chapter 3: "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made." Let me share something with you. Did you know that the Hebrew word used for "subtil" in the beginning of chapter 3 is very closely related to the word used for "naked" at the end of chapter 2? I'll have to look further into the significance of this, but it seems to me like it's worth taking note of. Let me take this a step further, though. You're likely familiar enough with the story of Eden to know that the serpent tricks Adam and Eve into doing the one thing they were told not to do. Up until this point, Adam and Eve existed in a state of innocence (i.e. they weren't held as being guilty of any sin). Most likely you've also heard that Jesus once told his disciples, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and gentle as doves," - (Mt. 10:16).

Now get this. The Greek word that's used for "wise" is the same word that's used for "subtil" in the passage in Genesis as it's rendered in the Septuagint. The word for "gentle" could also be translated as "innocent". Have you ever noticed that people often associate intelligence with having a sinister nature? It's like the saying I heard once: "Knowledge is power, and power corrupts. Study hard. Be evil." Where in Scripture does it ever tell us that having our wits sharpened is in and of itself outside of God's will? If anything, we're warned about the dangers of foolishness (see Mt. 25:1-13, or Proverbs, the whole thing:o). It seems as though Jesus was reminding us of what it was like to be in Eden, giving us hope that we can maintain our innocence without being foolish (namely about the ways of the enemy).

I hope this really ministered to you like it did to me.

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." - James 1:5

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How "bold" should we be in evangelism?

I was talking with a friend of mine recently about the subject of evangelism. We were discussing the different styles that are used and comparing them with the examples given in Scripture. He said something that really made me jump a bit: "Where in all of the witnessing accounts in the book of Acts do the apostles mention God's love? Nowhere." I noted that the people they spoke with were full of religious pride, hence they didn't need to hear a "soft" message about God's love, but a "hard" message about His humanly unattainable holiness. "Not true," he replied. "Look at Cornelius."

I confess that I haven't yet looked at Cornelius, but nevertheless, there are some things that jump out at me. Didn't Paul say that it is the kindness of the Lord that leads men to repentance (Rom. 2:4)? What about when Jesus was witnessing to Nicodemus in John 3, where we find Him saying the oft-quoted verse, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life,"? Is there something to be considered in the fact that 2,000 years ago, Christianity hadn't earned the bad name it has amongst so many people today due to the church's mistreatment of certain people (pogroms, the Inquisition, and the Crusades, for example) and other forms of hypocrisy done "in Jesus's name"?

On the other side of the coin, how many Christians are there who allow the worry of offending people to get in the way of witnessing, who delude themselves into thinking that being a person's friend long enough and demonstrating God's love will automatically result in the person wanting to know what's up? In fact, where in all of Scripture do we see any mention of a "silent witness"? Have you ever heard of someone coming to know the Lord just because somebody was "really nice and loving"? Sure, living out God's love is a powerful testimony, but there still has to be the preaching of the word.

I've wrestled with this dilemma for so long, and I'm coming to this conclusion:

A. Perfectionism is a horrible mistake to make. It forgets that God is bigger than our shortcomings and ends up getting in His way.
B. Some people are going to be offended by the message of the Gospel no matter what you say or do. Oh, well.
C. Part of "loving" people is telling them that they're lost. Is it loving to look at a man who is going to drown if he doesn't swim to shore asap and say to yourself, "He looks like he's really enjoying himself out there. I don't want to be rude and ruin his fun,"?
D. Many people might be more open than you think.
E. Simply being "nice" is more of a turn-off than you might realize. It communicates that you aren't serious about what you believe. If you can't take what you believe seriously, why should anyone else?

Bottom line - We have a mission to do, and whatever we've gotta do to get it done, do it. We know what's loving and what isn't, and if we're honest enough with ourselves, we'll know when "being quiet" is something we're doing out of fear as opposed to wisdom. There's really no need for it to get any more complicated than that, so grab that bull by the horns and do what you've gotta do. I'm Jimmy Ballenger, that's my story, and I'm sticking with it.