Bittersweet Friday

“Good Friday is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary.” – Wikipedia (yes, I’m using that as a source)

Within that definition, I find a tension with how our commemoration seems to actually be displayed as premature celebration in today’s church culture.

Most worship songs end with the hope that is brought, and would not exist, without Christ having risen on Easter. This was difficult for me in choosing songs for our church’s Good Friday service, but what I observed both in the service by the congregation as well as through others’ comments expressed online, we don’t understand the purpose of Good Friday.

Easter is the day in which we celebrate our risen Lord and rejoice in the fact that we have the only real, true hope in Him. However, Good Friday is to commemorate the suffering that Christ went through and, as a friend so eloquently put it, Life itself being put to death.

Good Friday is the day on which we are called to remember (not that this can only happen one time a year) the agony that our God submitted Himself to in order to, eventually, bring us Salvation. If Christ had not risen on the third day, we would have no hope or eternal security, so that is where the celebration comes in on Easter. Until we reach that and as we sit commemoratively in the in-between of Christ’s death and resurrection, we should be in a place of mourning His death. This should including humility that God would stoop so low as to die for His own creation, anger at ourselves for the many acts of treason that we commit within every day, and reflection on what that treason is that tears us from our King.

It is impossible to celebrate as fully when we focus on the good that we already know is there. The disciples were left in a place of confusion, reflection and pain. Let us rest in that place until Sunday to share in Christ’s suffering and truly take time to try to begin to understand what He went through for us.

Let us rejoice on Easter. Until Sunday comes, mourn the death of Love.

Celebration can wait.

Read the Gospel accounts again…but don’t read to the resurrection yet.

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they slapped him in the face.” John 19:1

Advertisements

Two Ways to Start a Forest Fire

“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” – James 3:5-12

I am a firm believer in the notion that actions speak louder than words.

That being said, I think we sometimes use that as an excuse to say whatever we want as long as we are acting the right way.

Brothers and sisters, the topic that I am addressing is not literally one of starting fires, but more metaphorically, our speech. Within this topic, I will not be addressing cursing very deeply as that is not the main conviction that I am receiving from this passage (though an important matter), but instead, my focus will be gossip.

Last semester, a friend asked me for my own definition of gossip. Having not spent much time in though about this matter, I said that it was all about the heart of which the speech was rooted in. Looking back on that I feel as though that was a very naive statement as it is written, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9), which is of course followed by, only God can understand it.

In further thought this year, including a large amount of time spent in Matthew 18:15-20, I have come across a much more biblically-founded definition of gossip, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Something that we have made out to be a way of handling conflict, at least in Christian circles, is called “processing.” The concept behind having someone else give you his/her insights on a conflict that you are facing, itself, is not bad. The issue, however, lies in that a majority of times we include details that are not necessary, such as names or specific elements that do not actually need to be known in order to advise. It is easy to think of it as gossip only if we are just telling someone because we want to, but something as harmless as looking for advice can easily, and mistakenly, become gossip or even slander.

To broadly define these two terms before continuing:
Gossip – true
Slander – false

When we are processing through in our own minds how to handle a situation, we tend to speculate. Speculation, however, is just about as rooted in truth as worry. Worry is anticipating a negative event in the future, which could not happen as we do not know the future. I the same way, we can be incredibly logical in our thought processes, piece all the evidence together in our minds about a situation, and we still might be wrong. This is where slander can come in. When you process with another person and use names, you are putting this possibly false information in his/her head.

Gossip however would be once you already know that the information is definitely true, but as I mentioned earlier, you share information that is not necessary, especially with a party that happens to know the person of which you are in conflict with.

[note: I am primarily talking about conflict at this point, but will tie in a more broad definition of gossip at the end]

Matthew 18:15-20 clearly outlines how we are to handle conflict with a brother or sister:

  1. Go to him or her first.
  2. IF he or she does not receive it, bring in ONE other party.
  3. IF the issue persists, it is then time to bring in the elders of your church.
  4. Finally, if things rebuke will not be received in any sense, then it is time to sever the ties.

I find it fascinating that the context of this scriptural direction is meant for sin issues. A majority of the time that we have our little conflicts that turn into gossip or slander, they are based on relational misunderstanding and not on actual offense that could ruin a community under Christ. How is it then, that we convince ourselves that we can make exceptions to less serious things to spread them around like wildfire?

Gossip is sharing another’s information in any circumstance that is private in nature, unnecessary for the recipient to know, or not your place to share without permission.

Now, is that the most fully inclusive definition that I could possibly come up with? Probably not. But if I have not gotten my point across through what has been written already, I’m not going to get it across through a lofty definition.

Instead, why not spend more time on the do’s than don’t’s?

Go straight to your brother when he has done something to bother you or has sinned against you. It’s alright to talk to a close friend or mentor and explain the situation without names or all the details to see if you are right in the way you feel or not, but honestly, chances are, you would get that from talking to your brother directly as well.

An even better way of deciding what to tell others about people is looking at how the things you want to say will impact the recipient’s view of the subject. In other words, will it lessen his view of the subject or are you bragging on your friend for something awesome that he has done? I think you’re getting my drift.

We live in a culture, even within the church, where a majority of our jokes or comments that relate to humor are at someone’s expense. This is incredibly sad. Think of how many more Christians and those that we come into contact with would feel loved, accepted, valued, happy, and so on, if we just loved those around us and built them up instead of tearing them down.

We are called as a church, to love.

Let’s love people with both our actions and our words.

Instead of starting fires with our mouths, let’s put out the fires that others have started and take part in the process of healing and nurturing the forests to full health again.

Let’s plant some seeds among ashes.

For further scripture in relation to gossip, conflict and attitudes, see:
Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:17, Proverbs 10:12, Proverbs 11:12-13, Proverbs 12:16, 23, 1 Timothy 5:13, Ephesians 4:29-32

The Road To Recovery Is Easy…

That title is missing a very important clarifier.

The full sentence should read, “The road to recovery is easy, when you fully trust Him”

Now, the thing about this concept that is confusing is that life is not easy, and as Christians, life will be harder for us than those who live for themselves…so where does the “easy” part come in?

I’m glad you presumably asked.

Although we must pay careful attention to the context of verses (I am referring to the message of Jeremiah 29:11 that is often mistaken as a promise to us from God that was actually intended only for the Exiles in Babylon at that exact time in history), there are verses that give us reassurance that is warranted by the greatness of our God.

To give a few examples:

  • “I will NEVER leave you or forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
  • “and be sure of this: I am always with you, even to the very end of the age.”  – Matthew 28:20b
  • “God never abandons us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:9
  • “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” – Isaiah 43:2

Yes things will be difficult, especially living more for Christ, but the easiness is not in regards to the same concept as the difficulty we will face.

The easiness that I am referring to is the one mentioned in the following statement of Christ, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

The easiness that I am referring to is in regards to its counterpart, uneasiness.

When we are living for ourselves though we know that we should be making choices for the furthering of God’s kingdom both in our lives and around us, we are left with an empty feeling of disappointment and regret. However, no matter how difficult it is to live right, when you make decisions to glorify God instead of taking the easy way out, there is a form of contentment and peace that seems to make it clear how much of a better choice it is.

When we truly choose God and put what He wants above what is easy or desirable for us, we find greater contentment than we could ever imagine. This contentment may not always look as we want it to, it does not mean that we will have a huge house or large paycheck, but there is a peace in knowing the God of the universe and serving Him with your whole heart.

Go now and live your life in a way that is glorifying to the One who has brought us redemption and the possibility of peace in this inconsistent, fallen world.

Peace be with you.

Every Single Moment Counts

It’s been far too long since I’ve written on here.

In Bible study two nights ago, we looked at Matthew 7:24-29 (shown below).

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”  And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:24-29 ESV)

And we talked about how the main idea of this passage is that hearing the truth is one thing, but actually choosing to follow it is what we’re called to.  We could go to school our entire lives and hear everything that is said but never apply it to our living, but then what would it’s purpose have been?  Why would we not make use of such great knowledge as that of the Gospel?

However, there had been something on my heart earlier this day as well that seemed to tie in.  I have heard time and again that living for Christ is a daily choice, but the realization that I came to this past Tuesday was that it’s so much more than that.  We have a choice to follow Christ EVERY SINGLE MOMENT of our lives.  Think about it!  Every opportunity we face to do good or bad, to tell the truth or to lie, to continue in our sin or to finally turn from it, every moment is a choice and it needs to be for God.

We have the amazing opportunity to glorify God with our lives, but going to church and living a good life simply isn’t good enough.

The word that I can’t ignore that’s in my head right now is devotion.  When you are wholly devoted to something you will do absolutely anything you can for the purpose of doing right by that cause.  The gospel calls that of all of us, and it calls precedence over every other thing that we devote ourselves to in this life, rightfully so.

Brothers and sisters, join me in the difficult task of choosing Christ every moment.  We can help each other in not being silent when we see something wrong but loving each other and following convictions.  No one likes to be called out…but we need it.

I love you all.

(this image is from the Chicago mission trip I was on a couple weeks ago)

The Things We Love

The past couple days I spent some time drawing and coloring a picture for Stacy (my girlfriend) and then today (after I had finished it) I played around a little with photoshop and superimposed the drawings of us over some pictures I took at the Botanic Gardens. The three parts of this (drawing/coloring, photoshop, and photography) made me think about something that John M (one of my classmates) taught about today in Teaching the Bible.

It’s really easy for us to forget the things that truly mean a lot to us and the things that make us happy.

John talked about God specifically…but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing a hobby that you really enjoy as long as it doesn’t consume you.

My issue, however, has been I just get so caught up in all that I have to do that the only thing I really fill my free time alone with is music or reading the Bible. Neither of which are bad, but sometimes that isn’t really what is going to make me happy or feel accomplished or whatever feeling it is that I may be longing to feel.

I love art. I love drawing, I love coloring with pencils (or crayons – though I hate painting, at least small scale), I love taking pictures, I love being artistic, I love manipulating photographs with Adobe software…but I rarely do any of these things when I have free time.

Sure drawing takes a lot of time and coloring can as well, but if I’m doing it for someone other than myself, I am bringing someone else joy through my talents and that is a great thing to be able to do.

I also love taking pictures, but my camera is currently broken…lucky I have friends that don’t mind sharing, like Andrew Nyberg 🙂

Anyways, I guess what I’m getting at is, I think that people (including myself) need to just slow down once in a while and take some time to do something for themselves that they love (this does include time with God because that is such a good time that we often take for granted)

Enjoy yourself and all the opportunities and gifts that God has given you.

The drawing and the photoshopped version:

Stacy & Me with fireworks no signature

Stacy & Me (superimposed in BG pic)

Music is What Brings Us Together

I was in Jamba Juice yesterday with my mom and I noticed something interesting. This little girl was bouncing her knee, this guy in a kilt was bobbing his head and I was tapping my foot. The thing that somehow connected the three of us, being complete strangers in very different places, was a catchy song.

Music is something that transcends friendship, other interests, religion, nationality, gender, and sexuality.

Having just been at Cornerstone Festival I should have noticed this, but I guess the fact that it was a Christian festival seemed to overshadow that music was the gathering factor, it was also a gathering of believers.

I’m not saying that music is the best thing in the world but I guess it’s just interesting to think of what it means and how it connects people.

Sometimes it connects with someone’s story, or it’s their way of escaping from the crap in their lives, or their way to worship God or whoever else they worship, or even their way to just have a good time.

I really like music and I love how it connects people that otherwise would not be in any other way than the fact that we’re human (which rarely seems to matter to anyone).

An Unexpected Blessing

Today was my third surgery for my left ear.

I was scheduled to have a tympanoplasty, possible titanium rebuilt incus, possible mastoidectomy canal wall down, with facial monitoring.

If you’d like, you could look any of those up, but of those, only facial monitoring occurred.

The problem was that I had a calcium deposit on my scar tissue on my eardrum. All they needed to do was remove it.

God is good.

Visible Children

I am brought to tears right now. Tears of joy.

The last couple days have been very up and down. Thinking that rescue was going to come and then thinking that no one cares.

Today marks a day in history, when the children of the LRA are no longer invisible to US, but the public now knows of something that they have been blind to for the past 23 years.

This is the beginning of something huge. June 22-23rd, [I’d put the name of the event up but the IC website is being bombarded with people :D] but it’s going to be people marching on capitol hill to get the Obama administration to work with other nations to remove Joseph Kony without waging war on the children that we are trying to save.

Watching Bobby, Laren, and Jason on Oprah this morning was so amazing, and to see the 500 that I had just stood with out there yesterday was amazing. This is why you never give up hope. This is what they were holding out for.

Chicago was the last stand, and it was huge like it was supposed to be.

God is good.

The Last Stand

I don’t think any of us (besides maybe the organization itself) went in thinking it would be like this.

It has been 4 days now and there’s still not even a hint of any kind of Rescue.

I am not able to be there now because I have classes and I have blown them off a little too much the past two days and it is a good friend of mine’s birthday tonight, but I would love to go back if it is not done by tomorrow.

120 cities worldwide…Chicago is the only one left.

Mayor Daley doesn’t want the “bad” publicity because of the Olympics, we’ve pissed off the media by bombarding them with phone calls, Oprah has been ripped apart on national television by Scary Spice…are we doing something wrong?

Did we change our focus at some point and change our course of action to be that of an activism group that fights and will not shut up until they’re heard? I thought that this wasn’t our plan.

I am disgusted by Chicago’s disregard and ignorance of our perseverance through weather, disappointment, and regulations.

How long can this last? Will one of the 5 step up and finish this?

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Dick Durbin, and Joe Biden are all in D.C. (Barack’s actually in St. Louis today so maybe he will be it)

What’s Oprah’s excuse? Where’s that huge heart she boasts to have? Where’s her humanitarian side that we know her for? Is it all a facade?

I hope to be there for the end of it, because it will be huge. However, I just want it to be done and the impact to be made that we have hoped for. I really hope Obama will step up and show that he does care and that the voters made the right choice.

Stay strong Chicago.

Abduction

We started out with high hopes for the night and all that would ensue. As people arrived at Federal Plaza they were greeted by the roar of those already gathered and preparing for the event. After all had registered we got into a few long lines of people that would eventually become one long line marching through Chicago towards the “LRA Camp”. The march started as soon as it started to rain. The march was great and there were little spurts of rain here and there but even the worst downpours were followed by warmth and sunshine.

Once we reached the camp however, a severe downpour started accompanied by strong winds, thunder, lightening, and a huge temperature drop. From here it just seemed to go downhill. Many left right away.

We were gathered together to be encouraged and told about what we were trying to do tonight. The people that I was with huddled together as we discussed what would be done. We were soaking wet literally without an inch of dry skin or clothing, we were cold, and we were not holding up well with the weather.

We had decided almost right away that we would not be staying overnight, but it was still a question of how long we would stay. Part of our group left at 5:50pm and the other a little later. I was encouraged to go with the 5:50pm group (which I did) because I was just wearing an undershirt, tshirt and jeans through all of this.

The trek back to union station was especially terrible because there was extremely strong wind during the entire walk literally almost knocking us over.

I feel absolutely terrible that I did not stay, I should still be there with them in the shelter at Millennium Park awaiting rescue no matter how long it takes. I should have been more prepared. I wish I could end this with a happy note, but I do not feel so great about my own actions today.

Please rescue Chicago.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.