Monday, December 19, 2005

I Own a Leather Jacket...

I was sitting in church yesterday listening to the announcements at the beginning of the service and I looked to my right because my eyes have a tendency to wander all over the place (I love to observe people, what can I say). As I was looking all around, my eyes brought themselves something very familiar to me--my adored leather jacket. From there I began developing a thought about sacrifice. First, let me tell you how I came into the possession of this beloved jacket.

It was Christmas six years ago when I opened the last present under the tree. We all know the last present under the tree is the grand finale, the one we've been hoping and asking for all year long! I was afraid it was going to be a joke because one year I was pulling the blanket off my Final Gift thinking it was a new bike, when my family got the picture of horror across my face as I had uncovered my old, regular, beat-up bike...yeah, they got me.

But this time was no joke. I opened up the box and sure enough, it was the expensive, black leather jacket from Structure I had wanted since I first laid eyes on it. I laid my nose upon it, taking the sweet smell in that remains still to this day. I put on the medium-sized jacket, hoping it would fit me just right, and boy did it; since I wasn't growing anymore, I knew this one would last me a long time!

Since I live in Florida the jacket only comes off the hanger a few weeks out of the year, but oh how I love those weeks. I feel so stylish and confident as I walk around in my nice winter clothes which are all accentuated by the lovely leather that I adorn on the cool, wintery days like the last few have been. On special occasions I must take it with me for trips to really cold climates like Santa Fe, New Mexico, thus I can enjoy the warmth the jacket provides. I love my leather jacket and I will be honest and tell you that my leather jacket loves me.

What does it all mean though? As I looked at the jacket I love, I began to wonder if anyone looks at me as I have a tendency to look at others and judge them, thinking, "Look at that jacket. That is a nice, expensive jacket. Surely if he owns that jacket he can afford to do more for his church and his community. He needs to learn what it means to sacrifice." A person with raincoat for a winter jacket may look at me and think this, while I may look at someone with $1000 coat and judge them. That is not the point. Simply because I am sitting there with less material possessions than another person does not mean I know the meaning of sacrifice. If that person who has the $1000 coat is willing to give it to a person who has no jacket at all, while I sit there and hold tightly on to this coat I love so much, unwilling to give it up because I am too busy thinking the person with more can give up with they have easier, then I have not learned the meaning of true sacrifice.

It has never been about what we do have or what we do not have; it has always been about what we are willing to sacrifice. I can look at people who have a lot and judge them, but I can be sitting with very little unwilling to let any of it go. Whether having much or having little, we must be willing to sacrifice it all at any point for that is the heart of true Christianity.

Simply look at Christ:
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
-Philippians 2:3-8

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Reality and Faith: Part 1

It seems like quite some time since I last updated my online journal. Life has not been short of anything, but crazy. But here is a reflection I have been wanting to write for quite some time:

Reality and faith. The pervading thought in today's society tells us that reality is dependent on faith; this is the essence of post modernism. Granted this is only thought, but many people try to argue the existence of objective truth based on the idea that each individual perspective is truth and reality is simply left to the mind of the creator of that reality. Thus what an apple is to one person may be an orange to another. Reality is relative and thus objective truth has no concrete foundation.

The problem is that reality exists beyond our perspective. Let's say one man is convinced that the object we have designated to be called an "apple" really should be called an "orange." This he finds to be truth and this he shall defend as truth. Granted, he probably will not convince many other people to change their perspective on what the object should be called but that is not the point we are making here. Unfortunately this is the major flaw of post modernistic thought. Everything about the argument for the post modernistic mind is based off of language and not on the object itself. Regardless of what we call the object--an apple, orange, peach, cat, windshield wiper--the object still remains as it did before. It will not disappear or change shape and conform to what our language has defined it to be; it will still be what it was before we gave it a name. The reality is not dependent on the language, but because it exists outside of our language and definitions, it is independent from our constructs and limitations. Simply stated, if there was no language, reality would still be real, we would just be lost and unable to begin to understand any of it. The true foundation of our language is the faith behind the words we use to define all objects.

Therefore what's left is reality and faith. What must be understood and reiterated is the fact that reality does not depend on faith, but that faith reinforces reality. It is as though reality only becomes real to us once two things occur--we first acquire knowledge and then have faith that the knowledge we have come to attain is truth. An example of this is the everyday activity of cities, states, or countries. I have never been to China, but I do read about how the church is being persecuted over there; I see pictures and read stories of people who are not receiving basic human rights and freedoms that we take for granted here in America. As I come to know of these things I have the choice of either believing them to be true or discrediting them as false stories that are developed to sucker people into giving them money. The organization that provides this news is also of good repute, which only aids in confirming the truth behind these stories. Even with this evidence, I still must make a decision of faith to trust in the knowledge of the reality I am presented. And so it is for every bit of reality, but some aspects of reality require more faith than others.

To Be Continued...

Friday, November 25, 2005

Back to the Basics


"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." --Galatians 6:14

This is timing divine. Back to the basics. The foundation of our faith. The beginning of life everlasting.

I have been reminded this week that all I really have is Jesus. All that my world is--the reality that life is not always this perfect masquerade of happiness, but rather hardships and pains that whether we want to or not, we experience--I am brought back to the Cross of Christ. I have been firmly rooted in faith by the power of a Spirit that made His dwelling place in me the day my heart, mind, soul and strength were opened up to the true reality of Jesus Christ, the Savior of my life. It is Christ crucified, Christ buried, and Christ risen, that brings me into an everlasting blood-covenant relationship with God the Father.

And we humbly admit that the message is foolishness. To the mind accoustomed to the world, a Savior that dies is no Savior at all. The world says a Man with great power and wisdom, with great compassion and mercy, with great understand and love must be crowned king in this life. But when they see this same Man willingly give Himself up to be laughed at, mocked, spat on, scourged, beaten, and crucified, they turn their backs and as if to never really know Him at all, place a sign above the His bloody, crown of thorns covered head, which spitefully reads "King of the Jews."

O HOW HE IS KING!
He is King of the Jews and King of the Gentiles;
He is King of the rich and King of the poor;
He is King of the proud and King of the humble;
He is King of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation;
He is King of all reason, all feeling, all emotion;
He is King of all that is seen and unseen;
He is King of all power, honor, and glory;
He is trly King of kings and Lord of lords.
He is Jesus Christ, crucified.

His sovereignty is not forceful.
He reigns patiently on His throne.
He carries out His will with grace.
He looks on His people with love, compassion and mercy.
His glory is everlasting!
He is Jesus Christ, crucified.

The eyes of His children have been opened and we are in the presence of of the glory of Christ, the glory that is incomparable and incomprehensible.

His kingdom is not of this world; His throne is not in some city of this earth. In order for us to be brough into this kingdom, to live in the city where our King reigns, He did exactly what the world never expected:

He conquered death through dying.

For our King is also the High Priest;
Our King is the Paschal Lamb.
He offered up the final and ultimate sacrifice.
He was the sacrifice.

Now we worship our King who lives and reigns in the celestial kingdom where His citizens will enjoy Him forever.

All this because of a foolish Man on a
Life-taking cross,
Who through death, made
Life-everlasting possible.

By His Grace...For His Glory.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Delighting in the Law of the Lord and the Fellowship of His Suffering

"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night."
-Psalm 1:1-2

Statements were made during a bible study I was in about how it would be dificult as David, the Psalmist, or any other writer of the Psalms to actually delight in the law of the Lord as written above. The reason being, there were so many specific laws that the Jews had to comply with back in their day. Ceremonial laws regarding what to sacrifice and when; civic laws regarding interaction with one another; and moral laws regarding motives behind doing things. They were extensive and deep. They covered the entire lifestyle one should have as a Jew. But David wrote that he delights in this; Paul wrote that the Law is holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12). How, with something that seems so burdensome as the law, could it be seen in this way? Simply stated, the law that is given to us is given by the One, True God, that is why!

God, through the law, reveals to us His standard, a standard that He has for Himself and the standard that is right to keep if one is to ever come into His presence. The reason why Dvid was able to delight and why Paul saw the Law in the light that he did was because God has revealed Himself to us through His Law. But in this light, truth is revealed. This is where the burden of the Law, no matter how mundane or exciting, is exposed. What we see is that we are incapable of fulfilling the complete Law of God. In looking at the Law, and even delighting in it for the essence of what it is, we feel a burden on our backs. The burden, what truly ways us down, is not the Law itself, but rather the sin that has been made known through the Law. What was on the back of the Pilgrim in his journey was sin; the Law only allowed him to realize that he actually had a burden to carry. But this is the only role the Law plays in this world. The Law cannot save us for that was never its purpose.


So because it is holy, righteous and good, we can see the Law as beautiful and are able to delight in it. The Law allows us to gaze upon the perfection of God, His standard for Himself, the joy He has in keeping His Law, and His purpose for giving it to us. Now the truth is we find great difficulty delighting in all of the Law, but if we are to delight in the Lord, we must realize that the Law is but a glimpse of who he is. To aparllel this I believe we must take a look at the New Testament example and truth of suffereing and rejoicing in it. We know Christ suffered for our sake, to the point of death on the cross, thus to be a Christian, to follow Christ, we must heed His words, "if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Mark 8:34), and realize that we too will suffere for and in His name. but I don't know too many people who actually consider it a delight to suffer. As Christians, knowing there is complete joy and life in Christ, we also know that we are to rejoice and find joy in suffering for His name's sake, because then we are participating in the life of Christ. Peter wrote it like this:

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you...if anyone sufferes as a Christian, he is not be be ashamed but is to glorify God in this name." -1 Peter 4:12-14, 16

And Paul affirmed this in his letter to the Philippians:

"...not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousnes which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. -Philippians 3:9-11

These great men of God, pillars of the Christian faith, knew that we were not only to suffer as Christ suffered, but to rejoice in that because we are fellowshipping with our Savior and Lord for His name's sake! Although it is not "fun" to suffer, we find our joy and delight in that we are alive in Christ and participate in His life forever through our life and the present suffering we may experience.

By His Grace...For His Glory.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Mission-ary Statement

We do not have it all figured out.
We do not have the entire Bible memorized.
We do not live off of $2 a day while in America.
We are not always praying and fasting.
We make many mistakes.
And we do not have all the answers that may lead someone to actually believe in Christ.

"How then will they call on Him in who they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?" --Romans 10:14

We are called into the mission field.

A field where the harvest is plentiful;
A field that is diverse by all means of the word;
A field that is in desperate need of caring, attention, and love.
A field lacking laborers.

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" --Isaiah 6:8

We are the workers who have responded.

We are His messengers of peace.
We are His laborers of love.
We are His bondservants of faith.
We are His children of hope.

"But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand." --Isaiah 64:8

Shaped in conformity to His will and good pleasure.

Made to share the joy of His gospel;
The mystery of His Son, Jesus Christ.
That in death we are brought to life--
His blood for our sins;
His resurrection for our eternal souls.

"'Holy, holy holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.'" --Revelation 4:8

All by His grace. All for His glory.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

An Amazing Gift

Well it has been almost a month since I last wrote about the camera issue I was facing. I had sent it in and found out that the repairs were going to cost nearly the price of the camera so I decided not to get it done. Instead, I began to pray that God would somehow provide another camera that meets the specs that my old camera did not.

God decided to provide me with a camera--the one you see to your right. Through the amazing generosity of a very great friend of mine, I was able to purchase a new camera that has some awesome features. Many of the pictures that I have posted on here over the last month (except for two I believe) have been taken with this camera. I have yet to really play with it and try out some cool things, but I am excited about the chance to do it with this new camera.

Thank you so much, friend for your generosity and your heart. You have been such a great source of wisdom and conversation in my life and I look forward to how God develops our relationship in the years to come.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Have You Earned Your Rights???

"Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight;
Surely every man at his best is a mere breath."

-Psalm 39:5

I was reading this Psalm and writing down what the Lord was teaching me through it. When I got to this verse I began writing about the obvious--that in comparison to the eternity of Our God, we definitely are nothing but short breaths. While thinking in this perspective, this proper perspective, we, like David, begin to realize what life is not about--it isn't about fighting; it isn't about walking around angry and bitter; it isn't about all the money we can make; it isn't about popularity contests. But fact is we all, somehow and in someway, get caught up in the temporality of life. That is life and as I began to mediate a little more I started to think about the way we live or lives, mainly that we believe in the "right to life."

Most of us who live in this world take hold of the rights that have been bestowed on us as a result of being human. In America this is most evident as we talk about our rights of privacy and personal space or our right to pursue happiness. In our country it goes even further, beyond human rights and into citizenship rights. By being born on American soil or by having an U.S.-born parent, I am automatically given the freedom of speech, religion, etc.; I have the right to bear arms, the right to a fair trial and all the other rights granted to us by the great Constitution of the United States. Some fight to maintain both these human and constitutional rights while others fight to bring these rights to people around the world who have never experienced the joy and freedom of living in them. But because they are rights, most of us take them for granted, much like the love of our parents or the superior technology of today in that while at times we express our appreciation for them, we more often than not live as if we deserve them.

And that is my question:

"What makes any of us think we deserve any of the rights given to us throughout our lives, whether human or constitutional?"

Is it simply because we are human? Is it because my parents are American? I don't have the problem with the answer to those questions being yes, but that then puts us in a position not many of us are comfortable with--a position of grace.

If because I am human I have inherited the rights of a human being and if because I am an American I have been given the rights of an American citizen, how can I ever be in a position to say that I deserve them...unless I give in to the position of grace. I did nothing before I was born into this world to earn the right to be a human or to be an American--that just simply happens to be the way it is. And now I sit here in a public place, enjoying a hot cup of coffee, writing somewhat intelligent, organized thoughts, without being attacked or bothered, protected by my rights and freedom. But I can't remember ever doing anything ever in my lifetime that opened the door to the position in which I now sit. I am in a position of grace.

Interestingly though, this is in direct opposition to how many of us think a relationship with God works. The mentality there is, "if I try hard to be a good person and don't do too many wrong things, I can get into heaven." And why not--every other aspect of our lives seems merit-based. Be a good kid, get some candy. The better grades you get the better college you can attend. How well you do in college determines how good your job will be; how well you do at your job determines the salary you will make. We are driven to earn our right to candy, grades, schools, and of course, money. So it is somewhat understandable how quickly we forget about the foundation off which we build--the foundation of human and constitutional rights we never earned, but were simply given as a gift at birth. This is unmerited favor. This is grace. And this is but a "mere breath" compared to the grace given to us spiritually by God through faith in Jesus Christ.

As we cannot earn the rights of being human or American citizens for they have already been given to us, nor can we ever earn salvation with God because the blood of Christ has already given it to us. And as all we did was be born into this world to receive our rights, all we must do is be born again in Spirit in to the kingdom of God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ in order to receive salvation, eternal life, and the true right to be called children of God.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

What was intended for evil...


I began writing this post on November 3rd.
Today I attended the funeral of a brother in my fraternity. Tom Brown was murdered this past weekend in Jacksonville after the Florida/Georgia football game. For a reason still unknown, five young men--4 from Jacksonville and one from Ponte Vedra--attacked him, three of whom held him down while two continually beat him. He died at the hospital an hour later.

It was senseless. No reason could justify why these guys acted in such a brutal way. And as a result of their depraved minds, many of us have lost a great friend and role model. Tom was an amazing guy. He loved to work hard; he had a passion for it. He was constantly working on his car, fixing it up and doing everything on his own. He was constantly looking at ways to fix up the house and bring it up to and above the standards set by the University. Moreso, he cared about people and loved them with a servant's heart.

He was the type of guy I have always looked up to. He was action first, talk after. If he didn't know how to fix something or build something, he would learn. He respected hard labor and enjoyed the fruits of it. Money was never his incentive. We will all miss Tom dearly...

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."
-Genesis 50:20-

And oh how the Lord is using Tom in ways he never thought possible. I traveled up to Gainesville in response to the Lord's tugging on my heart. I didn't know what to expect, but I was hoping He would use me in some way while I was there. About nine of us had a discussion that night about death and how it gets us thinking about important things, like life and God. One of them, my old roommate who is also named Tom, said "I never thought about the question, 'who am I living my life for--God or myself?' and I admit that I am living for myself." This was a breakthrough for him as he had spent most of his life trying to do the right thing and then would end up feeling guilty when he couldn't. He thought that was the way to please God, by doing good.

He and I ended up meeting with each other the following night at my favorite coffee shop in Gainesville. With the hope of the Spirit we began talking about God's love for us and how sin separates us from God. We began going through the Bible and I challenged him to really read it and try and figure out what it was saying. A key passage that we read was Ephesians 2:1-10 that stresses the transformation that occurs in our life as a result of God's great mercy and love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The verses we really emphasized were 8 & 9:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works so that no one may boast."

As he read this verse he began to realize that salvation does not come through the works of our hearts or the intentions of good that we have, but can never live up to, but rather that God has given us the gift of Jesus Christ by grace through faith. Tom's eyes were opened up to the reality that he could never do anything on his own accord to please God and earn his salvation. In those moments he began to experience a freedom he had never known before. I told him that he should go home and pray over this, confess to God that he is a sinner, ask for mercy and open up his heart to Jesus Christ, so that He may come into him and begin an amazing work through His Spirit.

And Tom did just that...PRAISE THE LORD!!!

It has been great to talk to him over this past week as he has been reading the Word, asking questions and growing. I am so excited to see what the Lord is going to do in his life over the coming weeks, months and years as he embarks on this walk that is so trying but so joyful. I have been lifting him up in prayer daily and trust in the Spirit's awesome power to sanctify him and reveal to him all the joys and wonders that Christ offers. Thanks be to God for His salvation in Christ Jesus.

By the grace of Jesus Christ I write this news to you all.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

You Are Not Your Own

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
"Do you not know that...you are not your own. For you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body."

Now that I live in Christ I am not my own man. But as I think about it more, I begin to wonder if we are ever at any point in life--whether with or apart from Christ--our own person. I believe individuality is simply an illusion created by the Master of Illusions. It is written that we were bought with a price; by the blood of Christ Jesus we were purchased and are now the eternal possessions of God. So what were we before? Who owned us? Through the Word of God and in our new life we learn that we were slaves to sin. Sin was our master and all our labors of sin were producing for us death. Therefore it is foolish to think that I have ever been my own man. that is arrogant and prideful, but then again that is exactly where the devil would like me to be--blinded from reality and kept in bondage by the power of his illusions.

This is why, when we are first brought into true fellowship with God through Christ, our eyese are opened, we come alive, and we see for the first time the chains that once held us captive to death. We know reality and the truth sets us free; now in God's light we are able to see light. As reality grows clearer we begin to understand better the pain and anguish Our Lord went through as He became sin for us and was sacrificed on the cross. Paul wrote that he wanted to know Christ and "the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings..." and David wrote in one of the most beautiful Psalms that the sacrifices of God are a "broken spirit" and that God will not despise a "broken and contrite heart." The point is that Christ was broken on the cross. He walked this earth in brokenness and humility as He--Our God--became flesh for His glory and for the sake of man. In coming to truth we must realize that the lives we once knew were illusions that are difficult to get away from and because of that we will experience pain and brokenness. But Paul desired to know this; Paul wanted to know the fellowship of Christ's sufferings because he knew that through it, he would attain great truth, greater joy, and greater love. In brokennes does God fulfill His purposes. In trials our faith is perfected. So the question is then posed by the perceptive Oswald Chambers, "If God can accomplish His purposes in this world through a broken heart, then why not thank Him for breaking yours?"

By the Grace of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

All Things To All Men

This post is based off of a meditation of 1 Corinthians 9:19-22:

"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. to the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some."

Paul's goal was to win people to the gospel. He knows he was free from the burdens of this world and the Law of Moses--all the pressures once placed on him. He was free from the judgments of men and from their control over his life. Yet he wrote here that he made himself a slave to all. This is following the example given to us by Christ Himself (see Phil. 2: 5-8). Knowing the power of Christ and the foundation He laid, Paul followed suit. So that he might "win more" Paul became like those with whom he was sharing the message of the gospel. Each situation had its different challenges and circumstances, therefore Paul had to adjust.

I am sure that his ministry afforded him comfortable times of living--good homes, good food, good fellowship, etc. But there were many other times when that was not the case--times he was beaten and left for dead, imprisoned and held in chains. Yet he wrote himself that he had "learned to be content in whatever circumstances" he was placed (Phil. 4:11). He continued to write that he knew "how to get along with humble means," but to also know how to live in prosperity. He had learned the "secret of being filled and going hungry, both having abundance and suffering need" (4:12). The secret for him was knowing that in every one of these circumstances he was planced in, he was drawing all of his strength from Christ (4:13). It is so vital to remember that our lives are lived for the gospel, that Christ chose us (John 15:16) and we are all set apart for the purpose of God. By the grace of Christ we experience His abundant and everlasting life, leading us to this strength Paul penned in his letter to the Phillippians.

So to the Jew, Paul became as the Jews
to win the Jews.
So those under the Law, Paul became as one under the Law
to win those under the Law
So to those without the law, Paul became as one without the law
to win those without the law
And to the weak, Paul became weak
to win the weak.

"All things to all men, so that we may by all means save some."

Here is the justification for serving the lost under any capacity, whether it be a mudhut in the jungles of Africa or in the comfort of a familiar university campus . to those in the mudhuts who live by means we consider primitive, we become like them for the sake of the gospel. This means not wearing Nikes and watching the latest episode of Desparate Housewives or going to McDonald's for a Big Mac--we must adjust to their lifestyle and see their culture for the joys and comforts they find in it. It is a large adjustment for those of us coming from the United States, but a native of that village brought to the saving grace of Christ would have no difficulty adjusting to that culture. And for the college students who many think it is pointless to spend time with and have a ministry for, we must go and share the gospel, becoming like the college students and reaching them where they are. For us this means a fairly comfortable lifestyle, but again, turn the table and imagine if that same native came to America as a missionary--oh how he would have an adjustment to make to the college lifestyle!

"All things to all men, so that we may by all means save some."

This is the mission. And for this mission we must have missionaries.

Monday, October 24, 2005

At peace...


I am at peace. Prayer and the encouragement of others has brought me to a peace I haven't really experienced this month. That is somewhat difficult to write because the verse I always bring myself back to is John 16:33 which Christ says "...in me you may have peace." The peace was replaced with pressures and burdens I chose to carry on my own.

But God has brought me to a place where I need to be at--patiently waiting. I am enjoying this time of questioning and discovery; challenges and trials. I have had some conversations that have been amazing and many that have been hard. Regardless, they all left me looking to the Lord.

I was just traversing through Scripture to find a verse that came to mind, but instead I was reading one that sums it all up even better.

"But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say 'You are my God.' My times are in Your hand..." (Psalm 31:14-15). Everything in my life--raising support, family, ministry, friends, personal struggles, etc.--is in the hand of the Lord. He is in control.

Oh how I must be reminded of that!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Saddened...

This is my camera. All of the pictures throughout this blog have been taken with that camera. I got it while I was in Italy knowing I would be taking a lot of pictures. I would always try and be artistic with disposible camera, but they just never came out the way I wanted and for good reason--that isn't their job. It was so exciting to receive this camera and see all the different settings on it to where I could be a little more creative with the pictures I would take. I am sure I took nearly 1500 pictures while in Europe (more would be counted for repeated shots of the same thing) and have continued to take pictures here in America. I have encountered a problem though that has saddened me deeply.

While in Ft. Lauderdale in June I was taking pictures of a CAFTA (Free Trade) protest in the street. I set it on a dresser and then I accidentally knocked it over. Consequently the monitor cracked, causing only half the picture to be seen. Pictures can and were still be taken, but it is very difficult to know exactly what you are taking. I sent it in to Casio to get it fixed while under warranty. Of course one of many things not covered is a the screen breaking. Therefore I am being charged. And this is how much I am being charged to get the screen fixed:

$210.00!!!

When I purchased the camera it was only $250.00 and I am sure if I were to get the same one again it would actually be cheaper than fixing the screen. I just can't believe it costs that much to fix the screen. So now I am debating. The mega-pixels were too low on that camera; the night shots didn't take too well; there is no shutter speed function on there; and the videos are in AVI format (MPEG format would allow me to put video on my website).

Now I am seriously considering getting a new one, but do not want to be hasty. Instead I am going to trust in the Lord for His provision and seek to figure out how I can get the camera I would like (Canon SD400) which is a little more expensive, but suits my taste with the next step I would like to take in this newfound hobby of mine.

I didn't have this camera long (only a year) and am thoroughly upset with the way things have turned out. I love taking pictures and hope to have some new ones up for you all to see.

In the meantime, enjoy some of my favorites taken over the past year:


By His Grace...

There is something about the word grace that brings me into complete awe of God. We know this word to mean "unmerited favor" and that is exactly how we should view it. The self-sufficiency of God brings me to the realization that God does not need me because He is fully satisfied in Himself. The God of all the universe and all creation did not need to do any of it, but instead did so out of joy and pleasure; He "saw that it was good." And as I learn I see that it is only by His Word that He created. "The God said, 'let there be light;' and there was light" (Gen. 1:3); "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made...for He spoke, and it was done" (Psalms 33:6, 9). This is how simple it is for Our God to have created and we know how easy it would be for Him to destroy, all we would have to do is read Genesis 6-8. Instead we see that all things are held together by, in and through Him (Rom. 12:36, Col 1:16-17). Therefore our existence alone depends solely on the grace of God.

This is where I begin to be blown away in so many ways that one day I hope to write a book about it. The grace of God, because we exist, extends to every single aspect of our lives. From the moment we are first conceived to the day we breathe our last everything is under the grace of God. I wake up by His grace; I move by His grace; I talk by His grace; I think by His grace; I even type this journal by His grace. Then as I think of all the good things, because I exist and in my existence I am fallible, God's grace allows me the opportunity to continue to live and breathe. Jesus, in His divine wisdom, said "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45). God's grace provides every human being the opportunity to experience His blessings, whether they are good or evil, righteous or unrighteous. It is amazing to me that by His grace (and an amazing display of His patience and mercy) God does not condemn me to death because of my unrighteous anger or jealousy or greed or idolatry.

The ultimate display of His grace is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Why did Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, die for us? We already know that God has no need for us, so if there is no need, why would He send His Son to die for His creation--a creation that has done nothing but rebel against Him since the days of Adam? "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works so that no one may boast" (Eph 2:8-9). This popular salvation passage reveals new truths to me everytime it comes to mind. Christ--the Word made flesh--came not to fulfill some need to be in relationship with us, but because of this unmerited favor, this grace. This is the most selfless giving we can ever attempt to know or try to comprehend.

One day I wish truly to share everything that I think about Our Lord's grace. As He reveals more of Himself to me daily I trust that volumes can be (and already have been) written about His grace, for without it, we would cease to be.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Mere Tomfoolery


The main reason for writing in here this time around is so I could post this picture. I just uploaded my STINT pictures from my external hard drive to my computer so I can have access to them and remember all the amazing times. This is one of my favorite pictures I took all year. We were on our final team trip, finding our way to the beautiful island of Sicily. We had a crazy, delerious time on the way down and ended up in paradise. The whole time was amazing, including when this shot was taken. I decided to take some time with the Lord by stopping at a cafe' near L'Isola Bella (The Beautiful Island), which is pictured in the background. This picture encompasses the serenity of enjoying a nice caffe while listening to the waves crash up against the rocky beach--truly admiring the work of God's Hands. I still don't believe it was me there...

And in other news, I finally have a picture of my new car! I have been taking pictures with my camera sparringly due to the fact that the screen is almost completely broken. I have to send it in to Casio for repairs, so I figured I would take some pictures before I couldn't have any access to it for possibly weeks. And I am sure that in these weeks I am going to have many opportunities to take some amazing pictures and I shall be kicking myself in the rear for not sending it sooner!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Very Encouraged Part 2

I hope that you have read part one so you can enjoy reading part two as much as I will enjoy writing it.

Tonight I had to make phone calls to supporters. If you are raising support, you know what comes over you when having to make calls. It is fear of the uncertainty, not really being sure how people are going to react to you calling them. My first few calls were made to set up appointments with people this week, all about which I am excited.

Then began the conversations that were such a blessing to have. I shall highlight three.

1) I called my friend's mom. She and I talked a few weeks ago and she told me she was interviewing for a job that she was really needing. I called after the interview to see how it went and I got her voicemail so I left a message. Then tonight I decided to call back and she picked up. She began telling me about the training she was going through for her new job so I, being quick to figure things out, realized she had gotten the job. It made me so happy to see the Lord providing for her needs and I look forward to hearing about the lives she changes.

2) Then I called a couple of supporters from my old church. They were so ecstatic to hear from me and we talked about what I have been up to and what they have been up to. Then they revealed to me how happy they were to hear from me through letters and e-mail. In fact, they appreciated it so much that they saved every letter and printed the pictures I would send in my e-mails and placed them all in a folder specially made for me and what God is doing through me!!! They kept telling me how much they appreciated hearing from me and how I have affected their lives. All I could say was thank you, Lord!

3) Finally I talked to a woman who I worked with in the Lions Club. She helped my club set up an art show for the blind called MindSight. Well she told me that God had been doing amazing things in her life and she is just finishing up building a house in the town of Alachua, which is near Gainesville. The conversation overall was so great and she made me want to be up in Gainesville so much faster to visit her and spend time relaxing in the farmlands!!!

Like I began in the first part, God has totally changed the way I view things. He has done it through people. I thrive off of relationships, whether deep or shallow. I love people...and God knows that.

Much love in the grace of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Very Encouraged Part 1

Man...what a shift in the way I have felt lately. To be honest with you, reader, this past weekend was rough. I was struggling in seeing the grace of God and His love for me. I wallowed in self-pity quite a bit as I found myself with nothing to do on Saturday. I sat and asked a hundred questions to myself and God pertaining to what I am doing with my life in these days.

It is difficult not being out there in the trenches--not aiding with the hurricane relief, not being in Italy serving the students in Salerno, and not being up at the University of Florida as this ministry seems to be kicking into high gear. Adding to that is the fact that I have very little fellowship with other believers down here and much of the fellowship I do have is limited to church service and a few conversations with the pastor and my buddy Chris. The intensity of community felt in Salerno is something I long for and hope to achieve to some degree with my staff team at UF. So to sum it up simply, there is a longing to be where I am not.

Impatience.

But reader let me tell you how faithful God is. You may know this or you may not, but God's grace is more than sufficient for my needs and the needs of all His children. I know this, but how quickly I do forget my position in this world and where I stand with the Lord. John 1:12 says "But to all who did receive Him, who believe in His name, he gave the right to become children of God" (ESV) and a few verses later it is beautifully written that "from His fullness we have received, grace upon grace" (v. 16). Dwelling on this and meditating on the fact that Christ "must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30) allows me to once again come back into the perspective of knowing my place in Christ.

Through Christ I have the right to become a child of God.
Through Christ's fullness I have received, immeasurable grace upon immeasurable grace.
And as Christ increases, in order for me to truly see and enjoy His glory, I must humbly decrease.

This began encouragement in ways I have never received before. First came a stern reminder of God's grace by a message given at church from my boy Chris, a 22-year old who's passion for God and His Word truly shined in those moments on the pulpit. The Spirit spoke volumes to me through him.

Then a great lunch with some folks from the church...great Chinese buffet.

Then tonight was the culmination.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Learning...

God is utterly incomprehensible and every natural attempt to know Him is simply idolatry. All we do as humans is create concepts of a God based on the moral climate of our generation. These days God is "all-loving" and fully accepting of all supposed "good" actions. Many others remember a God who was all-condemning, having no mercy on anyone and sending everyone to hell for any "sinful" action they would commit. These are man-made concepts of God and have no place in our language.

We do however have the opportunity to "press on to know the Lord." But how if He is incomprehensible? How if we are incapable and can only reach idolatrous concepts? The great paradox is solved only by the power of God Himself, linked to man through His Perfect Son, and being fully accomplished by providing man with the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. This is only part of the great glory of Christ. We know Him as Redeemer, Savior, and Friend, but may we open our eyes to the Majestic Christ. The King, who in His all-consuming glory, brings us to true, everlasting and eternal life. This new life in Christ is now governed and guided by the Holy Spirit and it is He who reveals the Father to us. All Three are bound in perfect Tri-Unity. If Christ were any less than God Himself, we could never know the Father because then Jesus would just be giving us a picture of the Idol God. If the Holy Spirit was not God dwelling in us, the God revealed to us would fall infinitely short of the One True God. Thus we know in certainty that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, are One and are all necessary for us to know Our God in heaven, however limited that knowledge may be. I will take this ever brief taste that I know lasts a lifetime than to go an eternity in thirst and anguish.

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness...
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
(Psalm 149:1-2, 6)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Tears Stream Down Your Face


The day was geared up to be an amazing day. I spent a little time with my mom in the morning. Went back to the old high school to get a taste of nostalgia. Had a birthday lunch at Ruby Tuesday provided by my boy Jason. Relaxed a little. Then I prepared for the drive.

I had driven there only once before from Orlando and it was when I first got my license. Back then I could have sworn it took at least three hours to get there. The radio in the '91 Stang struggled. For any kind of continuous music entertainment I would have had to bust out some of the old 80's Arena Rock cassette tapes my aunt and uncle owned for there was no CD player to be found. Nonetheless, it was the longest journey I had embarked on and one that shall forever remain close to my heart.

This time driving to this destination--this final destination--was seemingly much quicker than I had anticipated. With many miles in the dust over the course of these past six years, I realized that the city beyond the horizon was actually a faster drive than to the haven known as Gainesville. I knew I could get there in an hour and a half and not have to worry about facing any felony speeding charges.

The city beyond the horizon has lost its allure.

But in this case something special was to occur. Patrons from all over this fine state were traveling toward this one magical location in order to see a performance that had the potential to invigorate and inspire. As the numbers on the milemarkers dwindled to 60, then 55, then 50, my mind drifted everso softly into a world where only finely-played instruments and beautifully-written lyrics could be heard. Growing less and less aware of my surroundings and more and more fond of the sweet lullaby prancing around in my head, I found myself abruptly brought back to reality when the hard, pounding techno beat from my phone began to ring.

'Twas a gentleman who had made the decision many a month ago to travel from a different location in order to converge paths with me at the same city to witness the same magical performance. One word was all I understood from this poor soul's mouth:

Postponed.

Everything else became muddled and highly indecipherable. Yet the one word resounded.

Postponed.

...
...

"WHAT??? I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!!! WE WAIT ALL THIS TIME AND GET ALL EXCITED TO GO AND SEE THEM! AND IT'S POSTPONED!?! FLABBERTOMJECTORY! GRASSBLISHEMSHIRE!"

Postponed.

The band has yet to let the fine patrons who were to be in attendance know when they shall make up the day and provide for us the joy that was siphoned out of our insides and absorbed into the desert sands of life.

Postponed.



Well that was dramatic and fun to write. I hope you found it somewhat comedic. The rest of the story reveals that we all decided to go to the "city" anyway. I met up with Zach, Stephanie, and Kent at a thrift store. They made some very interesting purchases and then we decided to go get some grub and walk around for a bit. I was a bit off that night. The best word to describe it--uncomfortable. Or maybe...

Postponed.

Much love in His grace.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Crazy Days

The days are getting crazy here in Port Orange. I am working a good bit and 7-Eleven grows more and more interesting as each day goes by. Here is the story from today.

The weather has been pretty horrible here and because of a tropical storm there were no kids in school today. As a result of this and other factors the store was not as busy as it normally is. Well 12:15 rolls around and a couple of guys come in for lunch, getting some drinks and pizzas. After a short while we notice that something is going down outside. There is this old, green Ford pickup parked in one of the spaces on the far end of the lot and four cop cars are surrouding it. This grabs our attention and soon we notice that one of the cops has his gun pulled out and pointed inside the back of his window. There are other cops racing toward the truck with their guns ready to fire if anything was to go awry. Soon a large white man comes out of the truck and they have him do all these weird things like get on his knees and lift up his shirt. Then he had to walkk backward towards them and eventually the handcuffed him. We all thought that some drug bust had occured or maybe they had stolen something big. Well here is the real, but vague, story:

Apparently the guy and his friend (the one in the back of the cop car) claimed to have been making payments on the truck. Well something went down to where they had commandeered a dealer tag for the truck and we believe the truck was stolen as well. The cops proceeded to take the tag off, repo the truck, and leave the guys out in front of our store with all of their stuff. They just sat there. I walked past them not knowing what to say, ergo I said nothing.

Oh thank heaven for 7-Eleven!

Other than that all goes well here. I trust that support is going to kick into high gear soon and I hope to be in a good position come the time I leave for Atlanta for a short, but very needed, conference.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Something quick to ponder

I have heard this in prayer before and as I heard someone praying for it in recent days I began to wonder if this is what we should be asking God--"Lord, would you become more real to us..."

I honestly stopped my focus on the prayer and started to think about this request. I began to ask God if that is what we should be praying. First of all, I am pretty analytical about how my prayers should be lifted up to God and how we talk to Him. I may even be overly critical, but as for now I am not sure if that is the case. I think we have an amazing privilege in being able to commune with God on a regular basis through the power of prayer and repeating a bunch of "Lord, God, Father, would you do" etc. makes me wonder how genuine I am in my prayers and how much I simply want to fill the air with my voice and not have a pause in my speech.

With that said I was asking God about this and the answer, I believe, is pretty simple; actually it was confirmed to me in a song by Shawn McDonald. Here are the lyrics:

"Won't you come and fill
won't you come make me more real.
Take this life
Won't you change this life
Come and make me whole."

The point made in the song and what I know truth to be is this: God is. I live by that and things come into perspective. In true, unabashed reality, God always is and we are simply a product of His wonderful desire to create. As much as we build ourselves up, the fact is we are merely human. Though the most powerful living creatures on Earth we are again simply that--living creatures...on Earth.

We are limited. We are flawed. We do not control all things.

So God is. And we are. With God being who He is and us being who we are, who needs to become more real? As God is, always and forevermore, we must live our lives as such and beg to become more real as He is real. He is the One who will make us whole and as we step closer into His light, reality will become clearer. That which was once in darkness shall be exposed to the light and take shape, defined by the beauty of God, not by the hideousness of death.

Much love in His grace.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Long time...

Well it has been quite a while since I have written in here. My birthday has passed and I am officially 23 years old. I now have a car (I hope to put up pictures at some point), which I am not sure is a good thing considering what is going on in this country with gas prices.

Quickly shifting...I am very disheartened by what is going on down here in the South with regard to Hurricane Katrina. It is devestating to see the effects nature can bring to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. So much of our own human nature is exposed as a result of the collision with the natural ways of this world. I am disheartened, yes, because lives have been taken and destroyed; families have been torn apart and left with nothing; communities have been left to pick up pieces of what was once whole; and the nation must look on in fear and awe that this was something of which we have no control.

I was reading Hosea the other day (as I referred to it because Jesus quotes him in Matthew 9) and and this is what I came across:

"Come, let us return to the Lord;
for He has torn us, that He may heal us;
He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.

After two days He will revive us;
on the third day He will raise us up,
that we may live before Him.

Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;
His going out is sure as the dawn;
He will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth."

God is. That is the reality of our lives and in that simple statement we find out complete signficance. Hosea acknowledged that God had brought destruction to them (God is just), but that He is also a merciful, redeeming God. In these days, when destruction has been brought to us by the God who controls all things I pray, as Hosea did, for us to press on to know the Lord. We are all unsure as to why this happened, but God is also a redeemer and I trust that He will be glorified in all of this.

Let us take the time to think put perspective on this whole situation, to see just who we truly are and how we fit into this whole spectrum of life. For what purpose is everything we devote our lives? Is this yet another example or reminder that we are to serve God alone? That all the materialism and silver spoons we have in this country are temporary and hold no value in the Kingdom of Heaven? Again, I don't know why it happened, but I do know that many of us do tend to give Him more thought and attention in times of great peril and strife. So if that is the case, "let us know, let us press on to know the Lord."

I love you all.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Do You Get Free Slurpees?


So throughout the summer I knew this was inevitable. My support was low and I wasn't receiving paychecks from Crusade. I had no car and knew that it was a vital asset for raising support. During our Ministry Partner Development (MPD) training I realized that I truly do enjoy sharing what God has done through the ministry I have been a part of and how excited I am to serve Him at the University of Florida. I saw that doing this in person only increased my passion and wish to have the opportunity to share with current supporters and future supporters in person. Thus a car is necessary.

To supplement my income I applied for jobs all around town. I began at Home Depot and Target, thinking I could do stock and possibly work the overnight shifts to have the days free. Neither were interested, so I applied at a few more places and eventually landed the job at the haven we know as 7-Eleven! The hours are early--I am up well before the sun rises and I arrive at work while it is still mostly dark. I still go to bed late so I am not sure if this will catch up to me eventually.

I have to told many people about this awesome place of employment (I actually do like working there thus far). The greatest thing about telling them is the questions they ask, of which the most popular is "do you get free Slurpees?" The answer behind this ultimate question is a simple...YES!!!!!!!!!! Well the catch is that I don't get them in the Slurpee cup like normal, paying customers, but I do get unlimited amounts in our courtesy cups though and that is fine by me.

So in these days I am riding my bike, well my cousin's bike, to work, getting off work, relaxing for a little bit, and then the other fun job of finding Ministry Partners. God is faithful in so many ways and I am truly comforted in Him. He is true to His promises because He is true to Himself.

Much love in His grace.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pondering...

There is a lot about which I ponder. Many times I write these thoughts down in a personal journal; other times I type them out online for the world to see. I am not sure if these thoughts that I am about to type merit the word "deep" or "philosophical," but as I sit here on the couch wanting to post something of significance I feel a burning need to provide my readers with words of substance and meaning.

Nothing comes to mind though...

So I will simply write words that share more than I ever could:

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in Him.'" --Lamentations 3:22-24

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A little love.


This is love for all my peeps at New Staff Training this summer. I am sitting here, by myself, in Port Orange, Florida wondering where all my loved ones have gone. The crazy classes, the boring sessions on finances and MPD, and of course those wild nights at CB & Potts. I loved getting to know so many of you guys and I thoroughly enjoyed all the relationship conversations we had pre-Dr. Henry Cloud. It was crazy to see how God created so many couples this summer and I hope to be invited to many weddings in the coming years.



I will never forget the awesome trips and memorable nights, especially 4th of July in Estes and the night we were officially commissioned as staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. There was so much love shared this summer I felt like the type of Christians living as described in Acts 4:32--"and the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul." Man it was so beautiful and something I shall cherish forever!

There was the C&C Sundays crew. I loved those mornings when we new we would get a good message at church only to look forward to some awesome queso and questioning going on. MK and EAnn...riding in the car with you guys rocked this past summer, even with all the spiritual warfare we may have experienced with the dropping of flags on the Interstate or traveling to that strange, foreign place called Boulder. There is also the good ole Starbucks crew that allowed me to at least think I could stay awake through all those MPD sessions!

And then there is 508. Man...the summer would not have been the same without my boys in 508 and their honorary crew members. I give mad love to Jared, Mikey, Aaron, and Drew for making this summer amazing. The mornings in prayer were great and the times on the court were possibly some of the best in my life. I thank you for your brotherhood and I look forward to the love in Christ we shall share throughout the years!

I have got mad love for all you all and I thank God for what He has done this summer and I look forward to seeing what He is going to do through all of us in the years to come.

I will end on the verse that had been impressed on my heart throughout this summer. I hope you find it all as an encouragement as you raise support and report to where you will serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:

"These things I say to you so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Monday, August 08, 2005

The transition has been made.


So I am trying out this new journal that I have signed up for because I notice that you can post pictures on it and it seems easier than the one I had before.

As I have begun to work with it I seem to like it more already. Over to my left is a picture of some elk in the Rocky Mountains. I went up with a huge crew on the 4th of the July and probably had my best day in Colorado that day.

I am also writing in here to say that this marks the transition from my old journal to my new one so please put this journal in your bookmarks. You may be able to read past entries to my old journal by clicking on the links to your right.

Leave comments and let me know if you like this one better.

Much love in His grace.