Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer and Sermon Update

Well, it's been quite some time since my last update. I had almost forgotten how busy the summer can be for an intern in college ministry. I hope that doesn't sound like a complaint, it's definitely not. I absolutely love what I do and I'm grateful for every day that I do it. Here's a quick overview of some of the things that have been going on this summer:

About a month ago I had the opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic with a group of about twenty college students to work with an organization called "Children of the Nations". We spent nearly two weeks interacting with and sharing the love of Jesus with children from the DR and Haiti. It was an amazing time of growth and awakening for all of us as we saw first hand how truly blessed we are to live in a country of such wealth. Many of the children in the communities couldn't afford food, shelter, or even clothing. The good news is that COTN is working hard to provide these essentials to as many children as possible. I truly believe that Lord is working in the Dominican Republic.

I've also recently started a new guys small group. We are going through the book of Daniel, and I have to admit, I'm really excited about it! I remember reading through Daniel several times as a kid and I'm familiar with all the stories about the lion's den and the furnace, but I don't recall anything about all this prophecy! Aside from the fact that I love spending time with the guys, it's been a real exciting process for me as I've prepared each week to lead. God's word is truly living and active and it's been a blast digging deeper into the prophecy.

Lastly, this past Sunday I had my second opportunity to preach at The Well. I have to admit that I felt a little more disorganized this time for some reason, like I was struggling to organize my thoughts well. At any rate, I'm just thankful and excited to be getting opportunities to preach. I've actually been really surprised by how much I enjoy it. Not just the actual teaching, but the entire process. There's something really exciting about starting with a topic and having no idea what I'm going to say. but then slowly seeing the sermon start to take shape as I'm studying and preparing throughout the week. This week I used Act 2:42-47 to talk about true Christian community and the implications of the passage for us today.

You can listen to my message here. I would love any feedback.

Thank you to everyone who has continued to support me both financially and through prayer. I am so grateful for all of you!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Words. . .

The subject of words has been running through my mind for the past several weeks as Ryan has been teaching through the book of James. When I say "words", I mean the things that we allow to come out of our mouths. There is such power in our tongues. A playful jest or even an honest criticism by a loved one carries SO much weight and can be so damaging to the person it is directed at. Often times, the damage that words can create is unintentional but can still be so permanent. I've been doing some self-evaluation of my own ability to tame my tongue and I can say with confidence that I have a lot of room for improvement. I've gotten into a bad habit of using humor (mostly self-deprecating, but sometimes directed at others) as a way to show my love for people in my life. I definitely think there is a time and a place for sarcasm, but I also know there are many times where I have crossed the line into hurtful territory.

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be." -James 3:9-10

I have a friend that I admire a ton. I can honestly say in the two years I've known him, I've never heard him say anything negative about anyone. That is what I desire for my own life. Lord, help me to tame my tongue.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Common Men, Uncommon Calling

I've been reading the book "Twelve Ordinary Men" by John MacArthur. In the book, MacArthur devotes an entire chapter to each one of Jesus' twelve. So far, these are the things that have stood out in my mind. As the title of this blog suggests, Jesus didn't call the religious leaders and priests to be the men that would spend 3 years of their life with the Christ, but common men that MacArthur describes as,
"perfectly ordinary men in every way. Not one of them was renowned for scholarship or great erudition (knowledge acquired through study. Don't worry, I had to look it up too). . .on the contrary, they were all too prone to mistakes, misstatements, wrong attitudes, lapses of faith, and bitter failure. Even Jesus remarked that they were slow learners and somewhat spiritually dense (Luke 24:25)."
As I've been reading I've been able to draw so many parallels between the lives' of the disciples and my own. I am guilty of so much sin and wickedness, so many things I never thought I was capable of and still Jesus loves me and has called me to follow Him. I know that I have received His grace and mercy and I am one of his chosen people (1 Peter 2:9) but this is STILL such a difficult concept for me to grasp. Why would He call someone like me? Why does He call any of us? I think I still struggle with the truth that I am worthy to be called His son. The only thing I can do is rest in the knowledge of His wonderful love and mercy and live each day of my life to honor and glorify Him. Thank you Lord for your grace!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jon Foreman Show

A couple days ago I got to go see one of my favorite musicians play a free show at UCSD. If you've read my past blogs, you know that I'm a huge Jon Foreman fan and he DID NOT disappoint. Perhaps what I found most encouraging and impressive was not simply the music but also the way Jon conducted himself. St. Francis of Assisi is famously quoted as saying, "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words." Even though he didn't mention the gospel of his faith, I left feeling like Jon was an amazing witness for Jesus. In my opinion, Jon has every right to be prideful or arrogant, but he was just the opposite.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Shack

I finally gave in and read "The Shack". I don't usually run out and read popular Christian literature (I learned that lesson with "The Purpose Driven Life") but so many students had been asking me how I felt about it so I wanted to be able to give them my opinion. I went into it with a very critical mind mostly because I had been given very mixed reviews from several sources that I respect. After reading it I was actually pleasantly surprised. I would say that it has a lot of good but also a lot of dangerous content. While I definitely still think a lot of the author's theology was flawed, I think "The Shack" serves the author's intent to make people long for the presence of God in their lives'. The story is absolutely gut wrenching. I found myself in tears several times and not really knowing why but it really is THAT powerful.

Now for the negatives. I felt that at times the author painted a very irreverent, unbiblical, and inaccurate picture of God's character. While he did a fantastic job of showing God's love for us, he failed to show the other side of the coin and as a result, depicted a very "user friendly/God is whoever you want him to be" God. Very dangerous!

Overall, I would definitely recommend "The Shack". You definitely have to take it for what it is and really stay focused on the author's original intent. If you go into it expecting a theologically sound book you will be disappointed. If you want to read a book that brings comfort and goes a long way in helping us understand God's love, this is the book for you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I AM Holy

As promised, three weeks ago I had my first opportunity to preach at The Well. Actually, now that I think about it, it was really my first opportunity to preach ever. We had been going through a series on the attributes of God called "I AM" (see posting below) and I elected to talk about God's holiness. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. That's not to say that I didn't think I would enjoy it, just that I didn't expect to want to do it again. Ever since Ryan gave me the date that I would be speaking, I had been feeling worried and anxious. They say the number one fear is public speaking. . .I can definitely relate. It terrifies me. I felt extremely nervous all the way up to the point that Allison said my name and I walked up to the front of the room. Then something amazing happened. All my fear disappeared. I firmly believe that God was working in me. I've spoken in front of 15 people before and been absolutely unable to control my nerves. . .knees knocking, sweating profusely, the whole bit. That night at The Well there were around 130 students. Part of me expected to walk up, say something ridiculous in my nervousness, and run out of the room in shame. God is faithful!

As for the sermon, I'm happy with how it went. I obviously have a TON of things to work on. There were definitely several things I wish I hadn't said, mannerisms that needed controlling, etc. That's what I love about my job though. I'm in a great postion to learn and grow.

You can listen to my sermon here.
I would love to hear any feedback!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Series and First Time Teaching

This week we will be starting a new series at The Well. I'm really excited about it. Ryan will be teaching on the attributes of God. I just finished reading "The Knowledge of the Holy", so I'm anxious to see how the ideas I learned from Tozer will all tie together. This series will also give me my first opportunity to teach at The Well. I feel a mixture of emotions. I'm really excited, but at the same time I'm absolutely terrified. If you've ever heard Ryan preach, you know he's a tough act to follow. But, as I've been processing through it, I've realized that the Lord has given me a great opportunity to learn from a really gifted teacher so I look forward to the challenge.
Today we went on Palomar's campus with a video camera and interviewed random students. We asked them two simple questions: Do you believe in God? and What are some words you would use to describe Him? It was amazing to see how many students professed a belief in God, but how few of them could describe Him beyond the surface answers like loving, powerful, there for me, etc. While all these descriptors are true, they left me with a desire to help students develop a more personal idea of who God is.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Does God Change His Mind?

This week in our small group we discussed an article written by Dr. Robert Chisholm, a professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary. The article, titled "Does God Change His Mind?", had some interesting assertions that I had never considered before. The topic was brought on by our study of the book of Jonah in which God seemingly changes His mind and decides against destroying Nineveh after the entire city repented and turned to Him. In his article, Dr. Chisholm states,
"Some theologians argue that the biblical references to God changing His mind are “anthropomorphic”—they picture God as if He were a man. Even though God does not really change His mind, these texts describe Him doing so, because from the human perspective that is what appears to be happening."In other words, because we are human and cannot begin to adequately describe how God works, we resort to using human terms like "change his mind". As I thought about it, this seemed to make the most sense to me. But, Chisholm continues,
"This proposed solution arbitrarily elevates one set of texts over another and fails to take seriously Joel 2:13 and Jonah 4:2, which identify God’s willingness to change His mind as one of His fundamental attributes, closely associating it with His grace, compassion, patience, and love."
Chisholm then explains,
"When God announces His intention to reward or punish, the announcement may be unconditional or conditional. On the one hand, God sometimes issues a decree or commits Himself by oath to a particular course of action. Such statements are unconditional. God announces what He will do and He will not deviate from His announced intention. The oath gives the statement a binding quality."(Abrahamic Covenant)
"On the other hand, God’s promises and warnings are often conditional. He may not follow through on a warning or promise, depending on how the recipient of the message responds. For example, in Jeremiah 26:4–6 God declares, “If you do not listen to me and follow my law...and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets...then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.”

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure where I fall on this issue. I do know that I look forward to respectfully and fearfully discussing theological debates like this further when I enroll in seminary. For now, I am content to simply admit that the Lord is sovereign. He knows EXACTLY what He is doing, and that's good enough for me.

Here is a link to the entire article:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Songwriting, etc. . .

I'll start this blog by borrowing lyrics from a song written by one of my favorite musicians and adapt the words to fit my purpose.
"There's a song that's inside of my soul, and I've failed to write it over and over again."
I'm a musician. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a great one, but I have finally embraced the fact that God has gifted me with some musical ability. I'm fairly confident that I'll never reach the success level of a Paul McCartney or a Bob Dylan. However, I do know that in this stage of my life God has called me to lead His people in worship. This calling, partnered with the truths God has been teaching me about Himself, has left me with a strong desire to write my own worship songs. So here I sit day in and day out trying to write. Maybe it's because I'm my own biggest critic or simply a lack of creativity, but I couldn't write a decent song if I stole all the words and melody from "Come On Eileen". I recently heard an interview with Jon Foreman where he talked about how he wrote "On Fire" and "Dirty Second Hands" in 15 minutes on his tour bus. Are you kidding me?! I wonder if he has ever felt my current frustration. Of course, he would probably be the first to admit that he has written a lot of sub-par songs in his life too. I wish I could write a sub-par song. . . :)

Winter Retreat '08

This past weekend The Well took a trip up to Big Bear for our 2008 Winter Retreat. It was a wonderful time of snowboarding, sledding, and fellowship. We were blessed to have Brandon Fischer come and speak to us. Brandon is currently a teacher, but prior to that he spent several years working and speaking up at Hume Lake Christian Camps. This weekend he challenged us to take an honest inventory of our lives to discover just where we are with the Lord. This resonated with me in a very powerful way. I spent much of the weekend in prayer asking the Lord to reveal the things in my life that may need changing. I asked myself some very important questions:

How can I be a better steward of the ministry I have been called to?
How can I make a lasting impact in the lives of the guys that God has called me to disciple?
What areas of my ministry have I failed in up to this point?
What areas of my life do I need to surrender in order to become more like Jesus?

I know that there are areas in my life and in my ministry where I have failed miserably. At times this realization has led to feelings of discouragement and frustration. But I will continue to move forward as I rely on God's perfect grace. Even now, I am humbled as I consider how truly amazing His grace is.