Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Pursuit of God: The Universal Presence

Today a rationalized hollow religion runs rampant throughout western Christianity. It aches me to read these poignant words from Tozer, written nearly half a century ago, that are still just as valid today as yesterday.
"The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamor and fast-flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.

The tragic results of this spirit are all about us: shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul." (Pg. 65)
I took a short break from blogging to celebrate with friends and family the fact that truly God is with us. I hope you were able to find a renewed sense of joy, peace, purpose, and hope throughout this Christmas season.

---
Chapter 1: Following Hard After God
Chapter 2: The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
Chapter 3: Removing the Veil
Chapter 4: Apprehending God
Chapter 5: The Universal Presence
Chapter 8: Restoring the Creator-Creation Relation

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Leopard on My MacBook!

I have been anticipating this day for quite some time now. Leopard has finally graced my MacBook with it's presence.

Initial Impressions:
  • Load times are noticeably faster! Especially Safari!
  • iCal received a really thorough overhaul. I really appreciate this because I cannot live without it these days (I am a list freak).
  • The new iTunes-esque Finder is a welcome upgrade! I know this one will prove to be extremely useful in the long run.
  • Spaces, nifty, but I am still figuring out how to use it productively.
  • A built English grammar checker (necessity for me)!
  • Stacks to finally clean up my desktop!
  • Even cleaner user interface (who knew that was possible?)
  • Mail 3.0 is stinking awesome because it integrates with iCal, Notes, Safari, and RSS feeds. Combined with the fact that Gmail just upgraded to IMAP! Only one downside. Nearly 3 years of archived emails is no snap to download. Note the following screen shot from Mail...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Resurrection & Life in Crime & Punishment (1)

I wrote a post on one of my favorite short stories by Dostoevsky, White Nights, which has been receiving quite a bit of traffic. Not that I really need any extra motivation to read (I just started The Idiot) and write more about Dostoevsky, but that doesn't keep me from using it as an excuse to do just that.

I read Crime and Punishment my senior year in high school. It drastically changed my perspective on writing and literature. I will open this series with a brief biography of Dostoevsky and the events is his life which led to the writing of Crime and Punishment.

Crime and Punishment is a powerful psychological study, a terrifying murder mystery, a fascinating detective thriller, all tied together with the infusion of a powerful Christian religious commentary. The author, Fyodor Dostoevsky, is said to be the greatest Russian novelist of the nineteenth century and rivaled only by Tolstoy in terms of achievement and influence. In 1921 he was born into a world of a semi-feudal serfdom. Peasants who were numbering in the many millions were bought, sold, punished, or conscripted at their master’s whim. The injustice of this situation gradually sapped the strength of Russia and its imperial dreams. Riots and revolts for reform were occurring during Dostoevsky childhood and into his teenage years. By 1949 he had actively involved himself in reform and was arrested and convicted for alleged political crimes. He was sentenced to death, but due to a last-minute reprieve, was instead sentenced to an indefinite term of hard labor in Siberia. It was at this time that Dostoevsky found his most influential inspiration. During the four years of Dostoevsky’s imprisonment at Omsk in Siberia, “the New Testament was the sole book allowed him. If we willfully close our eyes to these facts, then we deliberately ignore literary evidence of the most significant kind” (Cox 8). Dostoevsky’s religious experiences and values are reflected in the themes of Crime and Punishment which are centered on the spiritual growth of the protagonist Raskolnikov.

“One of the most frequently reiterated motifs in his work is precisely that of a blind and passionate commitment to a belief in a supreme value” (Frank 3). It is this belief that leads to an instinctive and unquenchable love of life which no unhappy experiences could ever shake or undermine. “Crime and punishment is a landmark for those looking for evidence of Dostoevsky’s religious development” (Gibson 32). When he sent a draft of the novel to his editors, they were embarrassed at the inclusion of scripture from the Bible. However, Dostoevsky pleaded; “and now I most earnestly entreat you: for the sake of Christ let everything stand as it is” (Mochulsky 87). He understood God called everyone to do his work in different ways. He didn’t consider himself to be the source of his talent, he knew God was to thank for everything he was given. On writing Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky said to his publisher that “with the help of God, this novel can be the most splendid thing” (Frank 46).
Dostoevsky was brought up immersed in a religious household and learned about the Bible from his mother. He acquired a deep abiding faith at his mother’s knee which involved knowledge of the lives of saints as well as regular family prayers. “The single most important lesson Dostoevsky learned in his boyhood was belief in a compassionate and loving Christ, the savior of the world” (Freeborn 12). Dostoevsky’s religious experiences and values start from this young age to parallel to Raskolnikov’s in Crime and Punishment.

Work Cited

Cox, Roger L. Between Earth and Heaven, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and the Meaning of Christian Tragedy, New York: Holt, 1969.

Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky, The Miraculous Years, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Freeborn, Richard. Dostoevsky, London: Haus Publishing, 2003.

Gibson, Boyce A. The Religion of Dostoevsky, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1973.

Mochulsky, Konstantine. Dostoevsky: His Life and Work, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Greenlight for The Hobbit!

From the mouth of Peter Jackson himself "I'm very pleased that we've been able to put our differences behind us, so that we may begin a new chapter with our old friends at New Line...We are delighted to continue our journey through Middle Earth." (ABC)

Preliminary Details:
  • Peter Jackson is executive producer.
  • Two "Hobbit" films are scheduled to be shot simultaneously.
  • Production is set to begin in 2009.
  • First part will be released in 2010.
  • Sequel scheduled for a 2011 release.
This is wonderful news indeed following previous rumors about the fate of The Hobbit. You can be sure I will be following the Official Hobbit Blog.

UPDATE: Fran Walsh is on board too! (theonering.net) Now we just need Howard Shore for the score and WETA Workshop for the set design and animation.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tea Party 2007

After raising $4.3 million on Nov 5th, the Ron Paul revolutionaries are at it again with another "money bomb". Marking the 234th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, Ron Paul could be making history, through a Tea Party in his honor, with the largest single day fund raiser ever.

John Kerry raised $5.7 million in 2004, and Ron Paul is sitting at just over $5.5 million with a few more hours to ago. Here's the live graph. It's worth noting there are nearly 55,000 total donors with over 25,000 being there first timer donating to the Ron Paul campaign (this is not the wealthy few, this is the masses reaching deep into there pockets to have there voice heard).

UPDATE: It looks like he just hit $5.8 million!!! (8:25 PM West Coast)
UPDATE: $5.9 million! (8:46 PM)
UPDATE: Surpassed $6 million!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cody and The Drug Dealer

I just got finished orientating a team from Crossroads Community Church. It's a stellar group from their "Bridge" ministry (18-30 somethings group). Right off the bat they were drilling Brian and I with deep challenging questions. After having some awesome conversation with different people on the team and getting them settled in for the night at Liberation, I walked out and ran into a guy named Cody. I had given him a bottle of water earlier in the evening (for his epilepsy med's).

I spent the next 45 minutes with Cody on my knees listening to his story. I ended up encouraging him in his walk with Jesus, and finally, spending some time in prayer with him (he is in remission from leukemia).

As if the story of this evening could possibly get any better, a man walked up to us and offered to sell Cody some pot. After adamantly declining the guy looked up at me, and of all things, crossed himself. I was thoroughly puzzled while he simply got a huge grin on his face.

He said, "You're Christian aren't you? I know you."

Now, further puzzled, I asked how. He said I had served him food underneath the Burnside bridge one time.

Wouldn't it be amazing if that's what Christians were known for; even among the drug dealers and addicts, the orphans and prostitutes?

I love the life God has given me!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Adsense (aka. Coffee Fund)

I am on a very stringent budget, being that I am a poor college student who works 30+ hours a week which I technically don't get paid for. I have a rent check and food bill (I never eat out, except under the Bridge on Friday night) which I split with my room mate. A cell phone bill. The occasional MAX ticket. It has been a good practice in penny pinching and cutting a lot of the luxuries in life that aren't necessary (And who would of guessed, I still love life!).

But it sure is nice to get a coffee once and awhile, and I don't even have expensive taste for coffee. $1.90 for a 16oz Americano does me just fine. So, with much personal debate, I decided to implement adsense (supposedly it crawls my blog and connects relevant advertisers to the topics I post about, for which I in turn get paid a marginal amount per click) on my blog so I can occasionally buy an Americano without feeling guilty for spending money that I don't have.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vernonia Flooding

This last week there was severe winds and flooding in Vernonia Oregon. In it's wake was a small scale replica of the Gulf Coast after Katrina hit. I had the opportunity to be a part of the Body of Christ mobilizing in response to the emergency needs right here in our own back yard. As we drove into the secluded community I was hit with flashbacks of New Orleans, Light City, the 9th Ward, piles of debris on the streetside, black mold, Aunt Betty... I spent all day ripping down sheet rock, tearing out insulation, pulling up carpet, and throwing away broken, destroyed memories.

Many have criticized residents of Vernonia for not learning their lesson in 1996. In my conversations with home owners I was struck with a different story.

Vernonia hardly has a booming economy. A single mother was living in what is best termed as a shack. Another gentleman who has lived in Vernonia for the better half of a century explained how the flooding is even worse than 11 years ago; the previous flood was 300 years prior. He expressed frustration with the tax write offs lumber companies are receiving from their irresponsible clear cutting methods. He said he has never see more trees come through Vernonia then this last summer. And clear cutting had already reached all time highs in 1996. The correlation is too strong to ignore.

My hope is to be a voice for the resident of Vernonia to whoever reads this, because their voice will likely not be heard.

But yesterday was also a testimony to the heart and potential impact of the Church. I was pleasantly surprised by the 40+ volunteers from my church who were ready to serve bright and early on a cold Monday morning. Upon arriving in Vernonia, I was shocked to see the Baptist church we were serving under had transformed their facilities into a emergency resource center, including mountains of clothes and a fully stocked storehouse of food (which were all donated this last weekend by other local churches in the NW). We were also helping them prepare for today, as they are opening their doors for use by the city to continue classes for over 300 elementary students.

My prayers are with all those suffering and hurting through this disaster.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Pursuit of God: Apprehending God

Continuing on into chapter 4 in my series of quotes from A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God:
"Personality and fatherhood carry with them the idea of the possibility of personal acquaintance. This is admitted, I say, in theory, but for millions of Christians, nevertheless, God is no more real then He is to the non-Christian. They go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle..." (Pg. 48)
Tozer gets to the heart of why so many people of the world view Christians as unChristians. So often we live a life that is no different then a non-Christian. It's because of our lack of faith and communion with God in tangible ways. We relegate God to a vague "spiritual" corner of our life, instead of a holistic tireless pursuit after Him. If your interested in further thoughts on this note, see my post UnChristian: An Explanation of a Generation.
"The Bible assumes as a self-evident fact that men can know God with at least the same degree of immediacy as they know any other person or thing that comes within the field of their experience. The same terms are used to express the knowledge of God as are used to express knowledge of physical things. "O taste and see that the Lord is Good" (Psalm 34:8) "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces (45:8). "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27). Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8)." (Pg 48-49)
I lived the first 18 years of my life full of Christian religiosity, never knowing God. Full of intellectual head knowledge, but never experiencing him. As Keels said last night, I'm not thankful that a god exists, I am thankful THIS God exists! I am thankful that our God is one who can be known and experienced through an intimate relationship with Him.

---
Chapter 1: Following Hard After God
Chapter 2: The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
Chapter 3: Removing the Veil
Chapter 4: Apprehending God
Chapter 5: The Universal Presence
Chapter 8: Restoring the Creator-Creation Relation

Ron Paul 3rd in Iowa!

UNBELIEVABLE!

Ron Paul is 3rd in Iowa! "The more we think about it, the more we conclude that none of the remaining candidates on this list have a strong base of support the way Rep. Paul does."

A mindblowing mashup of Meetup groups for various presidential candidates (I know that Meetup group membership is not an accurate correlation of total supporters, but this is a very motivated, dedicated, passionate, organized grass roots base).

It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's...Ron Paul?

I have not posted about Ron Paul recently. Here are a couple juicy tidbits I have been holding onto.

Ron Paul Revolutionaries have come up with yet another creative advertising method: Tucker on Ron Paul Blimp (MSNBC)

A great segment on Ron Paul Revolutionaries with a hilarious remark from Rudy G... "The Ron Paul people are all over the country...": Ron Paul Supporters Outside Rudy Fundraiser (ABC)

No matter what your viewpoint is on the war you should read over Ron Paul's "Questions That Won't Be Asked About Iraq". The truly amazing part about this list of 35 short questions; they were written September 10th 2002. To me this is such a demonstration of foresight and clarity of mind in the midst of a pretty chaotic time. If I had read these questions 5 years ago, it would have rocked my world and really challenged me to look at things differently.
  • 3. Is it not true that those who argue that even with inspections we cannot be sure that Hussein might be hiding weapons, at the same time imply that we can be more sure that weapons exist in the absence of inspections?
  • 5. Is it not true that the intelligence community has been unable to develop a case tying Iraq to global terrorism at all, much less the attacks on the United States last year? Does anyone remember that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and that none came from Iraq?
  • 15. Are you aware of a Pentagon report studying charges that thousands of Kurds in one village were gassed by the Iraqis, which found no conclusive evidence that Iraq was responsible, that Iran occupied the very city involved, and that evidence indicated the type of gas used was more likely controlled by Iran not Iraq?
  • 18. Are we willing to bear the economic burden of a 100 billion dollar war against Iraq, with oil prices expected to skyrocket and further rattle an already shaky American economy? How about an estimated 30 years occupation of Iraq that some have deemed necessary to "build democracy" there?
  • 22. If we claim membership in the international community and conform to its rules only when it pleases us, does this not serve to undermine our position, directing animosity toward us by both friend and foe?
  • 23. How can our declared goal of bringing democracy to Iraq be believable when we prop up dictators throughout the Middle East and support military tyrants like Musharaf in Pakistan, who overthrew a democratically-elected president?
  • 24. Are you familiar with the 1994 Senate Hearings that revealed the U.S. knowingly supplied chemical and biological materials to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war and as late as 1992- including after the alleged Iraqi gas attack on a Kurdish village?
  • 25. Did we not assist Saddam Hussein’s rise to power by supporting and encouraging his invasion of Iran? Is it honest to criticize Saddam now for his invasion of Iran, which at the time we actively supported?
  • 26. Is it not true that preventive war is synonymous with an act of aggression, and has never been considered a moral or legitimate US policy?
  • 30. Where does the Constitution grant us permission to wage war for any reason other than self-defense?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Pursuit of God: Removing the Veil

Chapter 3 was chock full of some very profound concepts.
"God formed us for Himself. The Shorter Catechism "Agreed upon by the Reverend Assembly of Divines at Westminster," as the old New England Primer has it, asks the ancient questions what and why and answers them in one short sentence hardly matched in any uninspired work. "Question: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." With this agree the four and twenty elders who fall on their faces to worship Him that liveth forever and ever, saying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelations 4:11)" (Pg. 32)
Technically, this is less a quote of Tozer and more a quote of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but it is good stuff all the same. It's great reminder of Dan Franklin's thorough message (Sept 29 2007), "The Two Competing Passions", on the same issue.

Though, it is the following (lengthy) excerpt (completely worth every word) that was most revealing.
"It is not too mysterious, this opaque veil, nor is it hard to identify. We have but to look into our own hearts and we shall see it there, sewn and patched and repaired it may be, but there nevertheless, and enemy to our lives and an effective block to our spiritual progress...

It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit. They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power. To be specific, the self-sins are self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them*. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.... (Pg. 42)
*I would even venture to add "self-rights" and "self-gratification" to this list - can you think of more?
"One should suppose that proper instruction in the doctrines of man's depravity and the necessity for justification through the righteousness of Christ alone would deliver us from the power of the self-sins, but it does not work that way. Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding Victim die and not be in the least affected by what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the reformers and preach eloquently the creed of salvation by grace and gain strength by its efforts. To tell the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at home in a Bible conference than in a tavern. Our very state of longing after God may afford it an excellent condition under which to thrive and grow.

Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgement. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that through which our Saviour passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate. (Page 42-43)"
I challenge you to define this veil of self-sins in your own life that hide the face of God. It is only after we have completely abandoned ourself, our own identity, that Jesus can in ever increasing amounts be identified in us.

---
Chapter 1: Following Hard After God
Chapter 2: The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
Chapter 3: Removing the Veil
Chapter 4: Apprehending God
Chapter 5: The Universal Presence
Chapter 8: Restoring the Creator-Creation Relation

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rudolph Goes Green

Picture this, Rudolph gallantly leading the other 8 reindeer with a bright glowing green nose! If that's not marketing genius, I don't know what is.

With all the hype around corporate America "going green", this seems like a given. Who wouldn't want to exploit Rudolph gone green? Everyones favorite reindeer helping Santa pull a sleigh full of their "green product" for Christmas shoppers all across America.

I still chuckle thinking about the NBC Green is Universal campaign with their Monday Night Football anchors turning off the lights "to do their part". Capitalizing on consumers emotions disguised as "corporate responsibility" at it's best (Not that being green isn't commendable, but no corporation would care about the environment unless there is a penny in it for them). Now we just need to focus on some good ol' personal responsibility.

Anyhow, I'm surprised no one has taking advantage of this marketing gold. "Rudolph the Green-nosed reindeer"...eh, I suppose it doesn't quite have that ring.

Yaaa....It's nice to be done with school for a bit.

I Am Legend/Terminator IV/Prince Caspian

I'm on a bit of a movie binge as of late.
  • Producers of the new upcoming Terminator trilogy, starring Christian Bale, said in a recent interview it will be "...a really interesting time in the franchise because it's where all the fans have always wanted the franchise to go, and it hasn't to date, which is the post-apocalyptic world. It's after judgment day. So because we're in a different time in the mythology, it introduces a whole new set of circumstances and characters." The Post-apocalyptic genre is one of my favorite and, which I feel, has been the most under valued in Hollywood the last decade.
  • Speaking of post-apocalyptic world's, I have been anticipating I Am Legend since I first saw the trailer before the midnight showing of Spiderman 3. Though I was suprised to read that it "is a rare Hollywood movie in that it contains a pro-God message in the midst of a scientific inquiry into the nature of the cure for a supervirus." It is being pegged as the "The First Movie of the Post Stem-Cell Debate Era!"
  • It looks like I'm surviving the dead season between Narnia movies (I'm not saying it's easy). Prince Caspian is slated for a May 16th release (I always felt like Caspian was more of a "summer" movie anyhow, as opposed to the strong Christmas/winter theme in the first.) and the official trailer has hit the internet! I like what I see so far!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Star Trek XI Cast

The inner geek arises! I'm excited for a revitalized shot of life to the Star Trek legacy. J.J. Abrams is leading the charge; following his also much anticipated movie code-named "Cloverfield".

The official cast has been revealed.

Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) will be playing the part of Scotty!

The original Captain Sulu is said to be making an appearance as well.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Pursuit of God: The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing

In Chapter 2 of The Pursuit of God, Tozer paints the most vivid portrayal I have ever seen of the "putting to death of the old self".
"We must, in our hearts, live through Abraham's harsh and bitter experiences if we would know the blessedness which follows them. The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough old miser within us will not lie down and die in obedience to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence, as Christ expelled the money changers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves against his piteous begging, and to recognize it as springing out of self-pity, one of the most reprehensible sins of the human heart." (Pg. 29)
If "the tough old miser within us" would simply "lie down and die in obedience to our command." than I believe a concept such as "paying it forward" would work. You don't need the Bible to tell you this is not the case, history repeatedly shouts the message loud and clear.

This "extraction of the tooth" is exactly the type of action, which must occur for anything truly good to come out of any man, that I am referring to in my previous post ("There must be a complete detachment from everything that one is. This old self must be put to death, and in it's place, a transformed self must arise.")

---
Chapter 1: Following Hard After God
Chapter 2: The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
Chapter 3: Removing the Veil
Chapter 4: Apprehending God
Chapter 5: The Universal Presence
Chapter 8: Restoring the Creator-Creation Relation

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pay It Forward

I watched Pay It Forward with a group of friends Saturday night. It is a tear jerker in it's portrayal of all the suffering and brokenness our world has to offer. It is light hearted and humorous enough to keep you smiling, more often than not. And you can't not resist those warm fuzzy feelings inside as a hope to change the world for the better unfolds before your eyes. Despite all of this, I felt like the movie on a whole fell flat.

If you haven't seen the movie it is essentially about a young boy given a social studies assignments to come up with an idea that will improve mankind, and put it into action. He decides that if he can do three good deeds for someone and they in turn can "pay it forward" and so forth, together everyone can make the world a better place.

The Utopian/idealistic nature of this is repeatedly acknowledged, but never resolved. There is one sole attempt to address this when the boy is confronted with the question of what is necessary for success. He responds "it comes down to a faith in everyone having good in them". I think this assumption explains the emptiness that the movie leaves.

While watching the movie you want to think so much that it is possible. You feel it should be possible. But if people were good, than why didn't this movie (and the book before it) create a revolution? After seeing the potential of such love, why did the concept not flood to every corner of the world? I walked away feeling guilty that such a naive hope gave me such warm and fuzzy feelings.

This naive "goodness" is not possible. Our actions will always be tainted. At the core of who we are is not good, we are bent, we are selfish. There must be something more than a mental decision. There must be a complete detachment from everything that one is. This old self must be put to death, and in it's place, a transformed self must arise.

As the teacher challenged his students, I believe it truly is possible to change the world for the better. As the reporter sought to discover, I believe there is a movement of selfless love and forgiveness started by one man. And as the masses mourned at the end, I believe this man was innocently sacrificed for another's life at the hands of evil. Just like the 3 lives touched in the movie through a relationship with this boy, I believe in a relationship in which a man touched the lives of 12 individuals, who in turn have spider webbed His message throughout history; and this message is indeed reaching to every corner of the earth. His legacy has touched my life, and changed the way I treat others. This story of this boy is a thinly veiled and slightly skewed story of reality, the story of man named Jesus and God's rescue plan to change the world for the better.

Where "Pay It Forward" falls short, Scripture perfectly explains the reality of the brokenness of our world. We once were good, and we yearn for this goodness (this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the book which inspired the movie was even written), but we have all fallen short. One of my favorite summations of this reality is in Jeremiah 30. The Lord is speaking through Jeremiah to Israel of their unfaithfulness to God, but these words speak just as powerfully to me and my unfaithfulness today.

"...Your wound is incurable,
your injury beyond healing.

There is no one to plead your cause,
no remedy for your sore,
no healing for you.

All your allies have forgotten you;
they care nothing for you.
I have struck you as an enemy would
and punished you as would the cruel,
because your guilt is so great
and your sins so many.

Why do you cry out over your wound,
your pain that has no cure?
Because of your great guilt and many sins
I have done these things to you." (Jeremiah 30:12-15)

But it doesn't end there! As is repeatedly demonstrated throughout history, and throughout Scripture, God's perfect justice is held in tension with his endless grace.

"But all who devour you will be devoured;
all your enemies will go into exile.
Those who plunder you will be plundered;
all who make spoil of you I will despoil.

But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,'
declares the LORD,
'because you are called an outcast,
Zion for whom no one cares." (Jeremiah 30:16-17)

And there in lies the hope! There is something more; a promise that a better world is possible! Hope of that warm fuzzy feeling being a reality through a restoration of what we all yearn for.

Oh how I so desire to have a Bible Study on this movie!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Pursuit of God: Following Hard After God

I have decided to try this idea which was inspired by one of my new favorite blogs, Jesus Creed. Scot quotes and comments on books that he is currently reading (most recently, Paul Metzgers Consuming Jesus). I recently read through Tozer's Pursuit of God and jotted down excerpts that really jumped out at me. Over the next week or two I will be posting them.

From Chapter 1, "Following Hard After God":
"The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be "received" without without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is "saved", but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and is encouraged to be content with little." (pg 12-13)
This really resonates with my thoughts on how we often put so much emphasis on the moment of "acceptance of Christ", the "just pray this simple prayer". We have raised a generation of Christians who place the sum weight of their testimony on a mere moment. We are content to allow one to leave their life untouched by the transformational relationship with Jesus that takes time and effort and loads of self sacrifice. We try so hard to make it easy, and in turn loose the beauty, the potency, the experience, the joy, the peace, the LIFE!
"Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth (pg 17)
Does anyone think Tozer would mind if I said "THAT'S AN UNDERSTATEMENT!!!"? This simple statement was a lesson I learned the hard way. I lived the first 18 years of my life in complacency. A complacency that brought nothing more than brokenness, regret, shame, hopelessness, bitterness, and frustration with life.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Candidate Concession

In the 2008 Presidential Election I will vote for either Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee (just watch the video, trust me, you don't want to miss this):



I can't disagree with anything on Huckabee's platform, I just think we need more, and Ron Paul is still the only answer.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Shack

The Shack blew my mind. It's a really emotionally powerful piece of fiction, but he tackles some really tough theological stuff in it, especially in regard to comprehending the Trinity (in a pretty controversial way) and why God allows suffering. It is ripping to shreds all my stereotypically views of God (God being some old white guy with a beard in the clouds and the trinity being some mathematical formulaic like triangle) and really deepening my perspective on love and relationship.

An interesting thing happened to the cover of the book over the course of reading it. When I looked at the cover - having just finished - it evoked such different emotions then the initial impression. It's a beautiful piece of art which comes alive when accompanied by an even more beautiful piece of fiction.

As a warning to some potential readers, I cannot even imagine reading this book as a father! It was hard enough (emotionally) reading it from my perspective of totally not being able to relate to the father role of the central character.

Two of my favorite excerpts:
"Jesus chuckled, "Good intentions, bad idea. [In reference to what would Jesus do comment] Let me know how it works for you if that's the way you chose to go." He paused and grew sober. "Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to 'Be like Jesus', it means for your independence to be killed. I came to give you life, real life, my life. We will come and live our life inside of you, so that you begin to see with our eyes, and hear with our ears and touch with our hands, and think like we do. But, we will never force that union on you. If you want to do your thing, have at it. Time is on our side."
What a revolutionary way of thinking, in such a concise and impactful statement, about how we live our life!
"[A conversation between God and the central character] You see, Mackenzie, I don't just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece, that is not what I want. I want all of you and all of every part of you and your day"

Jesus now spoke again. "Mack, I don't want to be the first among a list of values, I want to be the center of everything. When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life - you friends, family, occupation, thoughts, activities - is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being."
Talk about a great visualization to a holistic approach to one's pursuit in their relationship with God!

For some reason I am reminded of a couple questions that were often asked of us students at a small Christian private school growing up. "If your house burned down and you could only save one thing, what would it be?" We were preprogrammed to know and regurgitate an utterly meaningless answer to an equally pointless question, "my Bible".

Or, the other even more pertinent (to the above quote) question which was asked pretty much weekly, "What are your top 5 priorities in life". To which we instinctually responded "God, family, school, my dog, video games, food", as if God had nothing to do with our family, education, and everything else we did with our life. Priorities are great, don't get me wrong. But that line of thinking, separating out God as one of multiple priorities, probably does more damage then nothing at all.

Anyone else read the book yet? What did you think? What did you take away from the book? Do you think his portrayal of the Trinity is outright heresy?

In 48 Hours:

I discipled/encourage/worked alongside over 30 teenagers who are enthusiastically learning and experiencing what it means to live a life of radical compassion totally abandoned to Jesus on an Urban Mission trip through Bridgetown Ministries.

I helped mobilize over 200 Christians in the NW at Nightstrike to be the eyes/ears/hands/mouth/heart of Jesus loving on over 300 of the most hurting and marginalized of Portland.

I helped serve, and ate :), 2 Thanksgiving dinners to a total of over 700.

I had a test in Probability & Statistics and Sociology.

I slept 5 hours.

I loved every second of it (except for the tests)!!!

On Saturday Bridgetown Ministries also gave Thanksgiving Baskets (with everything needed to eat and prepare a complete Thanksgiving meal, from the table clothe to the turkey) to over 100 families (which puts the grand total of Thanksgiving meals served at nearing 1,000) at the low income apartment complexes we have developed relationships with over the last couple years through B-Town Kids. (Unfortunately I can't be at two places at once, so I wasn't able to directly be a part of this one).

None of this would have been possible if it hadn't been for the local church pulling together resources and manpower. What a blessing to witness the local church in action, glorifying our Father in Heaven!

I thank God for this opportunity to learn and experience so much as he continues to shape me as His vessel.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Missional Book List

I stumbled across an excellent book list which I wanted to share (and to make a note for future reference personally). Some I have read, many I already own, and lots to be added to my ever growing reading list.
  1. Orlando E. Costas, The Church and Its Mission: A Shattering Critique From the Third World (Tyndale House, 1974).
  2. Walter E. Pilgrim, Good News to the Poor: Wealth and Poverty in Luke-Acts (Augsburg, 1981).
  3. Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Eerdmans, 1989). (This book is next up on my reading list)
  4. David Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Orbis, 1991).
  5. Darrell Guder, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Eerdmans, 1998).
  6. Darrell Guder, The Continuing Conversion of the Church (Eerdmans, 2000).
  7. James B. Browson, Inagrace T. Dietterich, Barry A. Harvey, Charles C. West, StormFront: The Good News of God (Eerdmans, 2003).
  8. Reggie McNeal, Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church (Jossey-Bass, 2003).
  9. Lois L. Barrett, et al, Treasure in Clay Jars: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness (Eerdmans, 2004).
  10. Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission For the 21st Century Church (Hendrickson Publishers, 2004).
  11. Stuart Murray, Church After Christendom (Paternoster Press, 2004). (I'll have to read this simply because I find the title to be so profound!)
  12. Michael Frost, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture (Hendrickson, 2006).
  13. Obery M. Hendricks, Jr., The Politics of Jesus (Random House, 2006).
  14. Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church (Brazos Press, 2006). (This book has given me a completely fresh look at how "church is done". Highly recommended!)
  15. Patrick Keifert, We Are Here Now: A New Mission Era (Allelon Publishing, 2006).
  16. Alan J. Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World (Jossey-Bass, 2006).
  17. Tim Conder, “Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?” Leadership Journal (Winter 2007).
Anyone read any of these books? Any further Missional reading recommendations?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Quotes to Live By

One of my new top quotes to live by...

"I strive to give my todays for others tomorrows."

I only started thinking it over today, but it definitely has the potential to displace the current top spot of "Never settle!"

(GSCC: Stu Weber Nov. 10-11)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Banning Bibles or Endorsing Guiliani?

Pat Robinson is endorsing Rudy Guiliani for the 2008 presidential election (politico.com) and China is banning Bibles from the 2008 Beijing Olympics (cbn.com).

I can't figure which disgusts me more...(I also find it the tiniest bit ironic that I stumbled across the latter through Pat Robinson's very own media giant.)

Which do you think is worse? Banning Bibles or endorsing Guiliani?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sound Teaching Vs. Sound Living

There are two portions of Scripture (courtesy of Steve Keels Nov 3-4 message this last weekend) that really are speaking to things that have been heavy on my heart that I would like to share, partly inspired by Marks Sound Teaching & Sound Living.

As followers of Christ we are clearly called to a higher standard of living. This is made clear repeatedly throughout Scripture.

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:31-32)

And continuing on, Scripture models the correct lifestyle that should replace this.

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2)

That all sounds fine and dandy in theory, but for some reason (at least for me) laying a principle out with basic concepts does not provide the depth in understanding, and the "sting", to really encourage change in my life (head knowledge alone does not make for a changed heart, that's for sure). That's the beauty of parables.

I'm sure you all are familiar with The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35). But here's a quick recap. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone. Jesus responds with this story directly linking God's standard in human terms, "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants" (23). So there's a servant who owes a lot of money to the king (impossibly in debt, in today's terms, hundreds of millions). The servant falls on his face asking for mercy to which the master takes pity and cancels the entire debt. The servant turns around finds a fellow servant who owes him a fairly small amount and demands he repays him. Despite a plea for mercy, he has him thrown in prison.

Now for the kings response (and remember, this is God's response to us as well), "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant', he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed." (32-34) And Jesus made absolutely no room for doubt about who he is talking to here... "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart". (35)

"you wicked servant"...that's a far cry from the "well done my good and faithful servant" we all look forward to come judgment day.

Now, lets glance back to Ephesians once again...

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Sound teaching apart from sound living falls flat.

I want no part of a religion that offers sound teaching if it is does not in turn create a transformed life of sound living. What good is a mouth that talks of truth when the heart is removed and distant? True sound living can only come from the heart, which is why a relationship with Christ is key. It is from our relationship with Christ that we seek the truth as we continue to live it out in our walk with Him.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

NOOO!!!

This is no good...

“The Office” showrunner Greg Daniels is picketing his own Van Nuys set. Cast members – including Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski as well as WGA members Steve Carell, B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling and Paul Leiberstein – are not crossing the picket line.

Losing its cast shuts down NBC’s highest-rated sitcom a lot faster than a lot of other series, which are trying to put into production the last few scripts written before the strike." (www.aintitcool.com)

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Two Ron's

As I have researched Ron Paul I have been amazed at his integrity, clarity, and foresight when it comes to decision making. Republicans call for another great Ronald Reagan, well I've got a candidate for you that was pulling for Reagan before most republicans thought he had a was worth anything. "Ron Paul is one of only four Republican Congressman to have endorsed Ronald Reagan over Gerald Ford in his failed 1976 run at the Whitehouse." (USA Daily)

On a side note, anyone who chalks Ron Paul off as a fringe candidate who only has a small group of fanatical followers (first of all, you need to stop listening to MSNBC and FOX, who have their own prerogatives to push) you should check out Paul's donation graph for today. In the first half of today alone, he has raised over $2,000,000. That's a heck of a lot more money then a small fanatical group of followers can raise in one day (especially when combined with the fact that he has already pulled together a few million dollars over the last couple months).

Ron Who? A New Hope?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"The Church Is a Whore, But She's My Mother"

After watching Lord Save us From Your Followers I have had a Tony Campolo quote floating around in my head. The main point was originally stated by St. Augustine of Hippo, who by the way must have been pretty badass in his day to use the word "church" and "whore" in the same sentence. But Campolo dug it up and expounds greatly on it:
"It is certainly true that our congregations have, at times compromised the radical requirements of discipleship prescribed by Christ, and you may find yourself put off by the church because of its failure to be faithful to his teachings. But I would urge you to consider this fully, and to think about the words of St. Augustine: "The church is a whore, but she's my mother." That statement brilliantly conveys how I feel about church. It is easy for me, like so many of the young Evangelicals I know, to note the ways the church been unfaithful as the bride of Christ... Unquestionably, the church too often has socialized our young people into adopting culturally established values of success, rather than calling them into the kind of countercultural nonconformity that Scripture requires of Christ's followers (Romans 12:1-2). 
Why, then, do I encourage you to participate in organized religion and commit yourself to a specific local congregation? Because, as Augustine made clear, the church is still your mother. It is she who taught you about Jesus. I want you to remember that the Bible teaches that Christ loves the church and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). That's a preeminent reason why you dare not decide that you don't need the church. Christ's church is called his bride (11 Con 11:2), and his love for her makes him faithful to her even when she is not faithful to him. 
Through the ages, God has used the church to keep alive and pass down the story of what Christ has done for us. It is the church's witness that has kept the world aware that Christ is alive today, offering help and strength to those who trust in him. The story of Christ would have been lost during the Dark Ages if the church had not sustained it in monasteries where the Scriptures were laboriously hand-copied while barbarians were tearing down the rest of Western civilization. Church councils have protected Christianity from heresies by examining new theologies. Today, it is against two thousand years of church tradition that our modern-day interpretations of Scripture are tested. In short, it is the church that has preserved the Gospel and delivered it into our hands."
These are excerpts from Campolo's book, Letters To A Young Evangelical (I kind of wish I would have read this book 1 1/2 years ago when I was walking some slippery slopes. I turned out alright, but I suppose it's never too late.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

UnChristian: The Explanation of a Generation

I put UnChristian on hold while I scarfed down a wonderful piece of fiction titled The Shack (Check back in a couple days for a review.)

UnChristian captures my journey to God, and all my struggles with the religion of His followers, down to the very adjectives used (stale, dull, irrelevant...). All of the issues and frustrations with Christianity that had repulsed me and pushed me away for a large part of my life are perfectly captured in this book. It was the lives of individuals that demonstrated a genuine Christian faith which ignited the roller coaster ride that has been my life over the last 2 1/2 years.
"The nation's population is increasingly resistant to Christianity...the aversion and hostility are, for the first time, crystallizing in the attitudes of millions of young Americans. A huge chunk of a new generation has concluded they want nothing to do with us. As Christians, we are widely distrusted by a skeptical generation. We are at a turning point for Christianity in America. If we do not wake up to these realities and respond in appropriate, godly ways, we risk being increasingly marginalized and losing further credibility with millions of people." (Pg. 39)
If you are an over 35 Christian and are completely baffled by how my generation does life and is responding to your views of religion, I plead that you would just read this book. It will go miles in helping you to relate and engage with the younger generation that you so desire to preserve the clarity of the Gospel in all it's breathtaking beauty.

After UnChristian, I cracked into The Pursuit of God (Knowledge of the Holy got me hooked on A.W. Tozer) for my next piece of non-fiction. It has proved to be brilliant follow up. One quote in particular jumped out at me in regard to unChristian.
"Personality and fatherhood carry with them the idea of the possibility of personal acquaintance. This is admitted, I say, in theory, but for millions of Christians, nevertheless, God is no more real then He is to the non-Christian. They go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle." (Pg. 48)
Tozer gets to the heart of why so many people of the world view Christians as unChristians. So often we live a life that is no different then a non-Christian. It's because of our lack of faith and communion with God in tangible ways. We relegate God to a vague "spiritual" corner of our life, instead of a holistic tireless pursuit after Him.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Story from Somalia

It's LATE. And it's been a LONG day. I had three classes with two midterms from 9:00-2:00, worked an amazing night at Nightstrike from 5:00-10:00, and hung out with some friends afterward at Old Chicago from 10:00-1:00.

But my heart is urging, begging me, to tell this mans story.

Brian (There's another man's story that needs to be told!...But I'll save that for another time) and I were at Liberation Street Church around 5:30 getting things ready before volunteers started arriving for Nightstrike. I was in the back working with four of our new interns from Multnomah Bible College. Brian came running into the back and grabbed me, "I gotta introduce you to someone!". I half jogged trying to match Brian's excited stride. There was one man sitting in the middle of the room whom Brian introduced as Jamal. After quickly outlining the framework of his story I sat with Jamal for then next 15 minutes drilling him with questions.

Being born in Somalia, Jamal never had a choice to not be Muslim, but something never felt right - "such hate and obsession with power". Later in his life an underground missionary had developed a relationships through loving without expecting in return. Through the course of this relationship, he became intrigued with this man called Jesus, and these ideas of such sacrifice and incomprehensible love.

8 years ago Jamal became a persecuted Christian in Somalia.

After dedicating his life to Christ he was rejected and outcast from all of his family and friends. He was able to connect with an underground network of Christians whom he refers to as his brothers, his new family. But 3 years ago, Jamal's life had a drastic turn of events. His house, which he shared with a brother, was searched and their Bible was found. Without due process, without a legal hearing; he was thrown into jail.

Now Jamal was very adamant about his definition of "jail", this was not "prison". Prison is a place where you continue you live your life, granted within the confines of the premises, but a life all the same. A Jail is a 10 x 10 cement cell. A cell like that which Jamal spent the last 3 years of his life in. But God's plan for his life had another drastic turn of events in store.

In ways and by means completely unknown to Jamal, a Christian organization, that works to get Christians out of the worst persecuted countries in the world, found him. A man picked him and one other Christian up from the jail and the drove through Somalia into Kenya. What effort and what sacrifice went into his freedom is unknown. This trip entailed much planning and many bribes to armed militias. Once in Kenya these two waited for a month before word was given that one would be flying to Canada, and the other to United States.

Jamal arrived in Portland one week ago with all of his possessions on his back and a heart full of joy. He found a shelter with a bed to sleep in at night, and has spent his days roaming the streets of this foreign land.

On this particular evening he was walking down Burnside and saw "Jesus Christ" written on the window. He wandered in hoping to find "Church". Jamal wandered through doors that were open only because Brian and I had decided to get down there early to start setting up for Nightstrike.

Jamal has a bed to sleep on for the next week in Portland. I am arranging to meet up with him on my free time throughout this next week. Meanwhile we are trying to find him work and a place to stay until he can get on his feet. He said as soon as he gets his work permit (in the next month - pray sooner then later) he would like to work at one of the missions in Portland, though he would joyfully take any job he could get.

One of my favorite moments with Jamal was when I introduced him to the four Multnomah students. I told Jamal they go to a Christian Bible college here in Portland. His face was in utter amazement, scrambling to process the full impact of this concept, he finally managed to utter the words, "you are all so lucky". Some how those intangible words were transformed into a very real weight as they rolled off of Jamal's lips.

If all goes as planned, I will post more updated about Jamal in the upcoming weeks! Meanwhile, pray that God would continue to place people in his life to support and encourage him through this time of transition.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ron Who? A New Hope?

If politics haven't really been on your radar (understandably) then you definitely haven't heard of Ron Paul. I just ask that you give this guy a chance (and by that I mean watch this short 8 minute video). He is truly a breath of fresh air.



I have been following this guy since April. It is great to see him finally gaining some traction.

He is shaping up to be the only candidate, under either party's banner, that is worth getting excited about. That's an around about way of saying; "don't be surprised if you see more about this guy on my blog in the next couple months".

Friday, October 19, 2007

Surely We Can Change Something

I need to confess upfront after ripping on him in my last post, Phil Wickham wasn't too shabby. His live performance is much better then anything on either of his albums. BUT....

David Crowder Band pretty much rocked my socks. Amazing time of worship (the highlight being "O Praise Him"). He really challenged the audience to be a remedy (the title of his album/tour) to our broken world. He had been convicted that when his band comes to town and does a show, being followers of Christ, something should be different when they leave. Just before their last song he spoke to a flier that was handed out before their last song (Portland's flier isn't up yet, but you can see an example from previous cities online).

He closed with a song off his new album, though I had never realized the profound intricacy of the lyrics. Pay close attention to the minor shifts in the lyrics that cause major changes in the meaning.

And the problem is this
We were bought with a kiss
But the cheek still turned
Even when it wasn’t hit

And I don’t know
What to do with a love like that
And I don’t know
How to be a love like that

When all the love in the world
Is right here among us
And hatred too
And so we must choose
What our hands will do

Where there is pain
Let there be grace
Where there is suffering
Bring serenity
For those afraid
Help them be brave
Where there is misery
Bring expectancy
And surely we can change
Surely we can change
Something

And the problem it seems
Is with you and me
Not the Love who came
To repair everything

And I don’t know
What to do with a love like that
And I don’t know
How to be a love like that

When all the love in the world
Is right here among us
And hatred too
And so we must choose
What our hands will do

Where there is pain
Let us bring grace
Where there is suffering
Bring serenity
For those afraid
Let us be brave
Where there is misery
Let us bring them relief
And surely we can change
Surely we can change
Oh, surely we can change
Something

Oh, the world’s about to change
The whole world’s about to change

  • Track 10 of the David Crowder Band’s Remedy
  • Written by David Crowder

Thursday, October 18, 2007

DCB

David Crowder has changed my life. His music brings me closer to God. His lyrics are raw, genuine, and heartfelt. I have been anticipating tonight for a long time. A group of friends and I will be heading over to the Crystal Ballroom for a great time of worship. Oh, and some guy named Phil Wickham is going to be playing as well. I don't know.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Reunion

The rush and excitement underneath the Burnside Bridge was thrilling last Friday. Roughly 80 volunteers, 90% of whom were down for the first time. It was a beautiful thing to witness so many putting aside all of their own insecurities, stepping outside of their selfish ambition, and allowing something bigger then themselves to work through them. I thank God for the opportunity to be a part of that, and for the opportunity to encourage them in their pursuit of Him.

In the midst of this outpouring of love, my eyes caught Carl, sportin his usual bandanna, slipping through the crowds of people.

It had been months since I had seen him last, after which I wrote "Carl's Story" in September. My heart leaped with joy and I chased after him. The reunion was warm and complete, despite the disconnect in our months apart. With a grin I asked if he had got his feet washed yet, he returned the grin and said no.

I washed Carl's feet.

Since his first job out of the Culinary Institute, he has moved on and up to a better job as the assistant chief at a cafe/catering business in Lloyd's Center. This has also brought a harder work scheduale and more hours. He has either been working Fridays night's or has been dead dog tired after a 10-12 hour shift. It was his 35th birthday on Saturday. We discussed his walk with Jesus and how God has been working in his life.

I relished in the reunion as the MAX train screeched by to our backs, hundreds of God's dearest children being served out of love in front of us, and the dim flickering yellow lights overhead; with great anticipation we discussed the final ultimate reunion with each other and our Father in Heaven. I suggested that I might have the chance to wash his feet in Heaven, to which he responded "Maybe I will wash your feet for a change".

Time stood still.

An overwhelming mental image and the emotional state of this thought, for a brief instant, were tangibly real.

We spent a few minutes in prayer. After getting his phone number, I am currently making plans to break the Cardinal Rule of Nightstrike ("Never give out your number, take home, or make plans to meet up with anyone"), and will be meeting Carl for lunch in the next couple weeks (I'm staff now, so I have that liberty, and I have had a relationship with Carl for almost a year now). I am going to pick up a copy of Mere Christianity for him as a belated birthday present.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Conversation While Getting a Haircut


I got tired of my hair.

I made an appointment.

God had a greater appointment.

The conversation with my hair stylist was completely a God thing, a reminder of how God is arranging divine appointments around every turn. One specific comment has been bouncing around in my head all afternoon.

We had a great conversation about life, which turned to Spirituality, and finally to Church. She shared a story about when she invited her husband to church years ago for Easter. After attending the Easter service at one of the larger churches in Gresham he commented; "that wasn't a church service, that was a flat out Broadway production".

He wasn't interested in being entertained.

He hasn't been back.

Maybe this woman's husband is on to something about "Church" that the the millions of us "church consumers" (Dan Franklin just wrote a fascinating blog on a very similar subject) are missing.

Oh, and my hair is shorter (though not short) then it has been in a long time. It feels great!

Monday, October 15, 2007

GSCC October Newsletter

I posted Carl's Story back in September, and it ended up getting published in Good Shepherd Community Church's newsletter. So if by chance you go to Good Shepherd, make sure you check out page 6 of the copy you got in the mail - or you can get October's newsletter online. I was pretty excited.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Witness to What Faith Can Be

Tom Krattenmaker, writer for USA Today, is among the many who were interviewed throughout the movie I blogged about on Monday. He wrote an amazing article about Nightstrike that was on the front page of the Life section last December. You can read the article online, A Witness to What Faith Can Be.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Something radical is happening every Friday night where homeless people congregate downtown under the Burnside Bridge...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lord Save Us From Your Followers

Lord Save Us From Your Followers, with it's provocative title and chock full of brutal truth, will be a piercing documentary for any of the 200+ million Christian in America, and a breath of fresh air for the rest. I got the opportunity to watch a pre-release copy of this feature length movie, and I was floored.

Between hard hitting interview segments with Tony Campolo, raw footage from the cleanup efforts still continuing in New Orleans, and emotional excerpts from a Blue Like Jazz-esque confessional booth at Portland's own Gay Pride Festival (Much like Tony the Beat Poet, who is also interviewed in the movie, and Donald Miller, he is the one asking the visitors for forgiveness) are scattered controversial clips about Christianity, ranging from Al Franken to Rick Santorum, which you must decide for yourself whether you agree with or not. He does not mount some lofty impenetrable argument to crush his enemy (I have no clue who that would even be), it is merely a dialog that will have you laughing and crying and enough spark for hours of discussion afterwards.

His interview's throughout the movie are far from being an accurate sampling of the total population. However, I found the entire movie to be completely supported by the exhaustive scientific data collected by the Barna Group which I am reading about in unChristian. The two compliment each other perfectly.

Walking away from the movie I realized that in the context of American culture today, condemnation of sin is more often than not assumed without words or actions. Christ followers need to step out with the radical compassion and love that Jesus demonstrated and reserve the judgemental attitude for our own Pharisaical ways.

This point is driven home at the conclusion of the movie with scenes and interviews from underneath the Burnside Bridge at Nightstrike.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Evangelicals & Post-Evangelicals (Emerging Church)

Guys, I know this is a long one, but if you will stick with it, in the end, I think you will really appreciate his summation and assessment of the "conflict" between evangelicals and post-evangelicals (emerging church).

This is important stuff; the clarity of the Gospel for my (and many of yours) generation is in the balance.

Monday, October 01, 2007

unChristian

I got hooked on the latest book to form from data gathered by the Barna Research Group this weekend, unChristian. It is a great critical assessment of where the Church is at today; what major hurdles exist for Christians as we seek to engage our culture. Often times I pick up books like this and toss them aside after the 1st or 2nd chapter because they severely lack substance.

David Kinnaman (and Gabe Lyons) do an awesome job at breaking down the data, assessing the situation from within and outside of the church, and providing insight into how Christians can understand/engage culture in a more Christ-like manner.

David does not hold back. On multiple occasions you will be one or all of the following as he humbly reveals the hard cold facts about the way you live your life and how you may be negatively/unintentionally portraying Christ to American society: challenged, peeved, convicted, blood boiling angry, frustrated, heart-broken...

Changing the topic, I absolutely must recommend a short story. It was a blog post by my friend Melany who spent her summer in Romania. It just occurred to me that I have been sharing this powerful story with friends for almost a month now, but I have not plugged it on my blog. Melany beautifully details her experience in a very moving series of events that occurred with two young girls, Luminita and Regina. Read it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Portland Nights

Crack the window and there is a fresh rushing breeze off the Marquam Hill. There is a rhythm to the city; the steady hum of the MAX light rail, the pulsating rush of cars. It is quite soothing in some strange twisted way.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mi Casa

So tonight I am officially moving into my Apartment. I am trying to trim my budget to the bare minimum cost of living.

No car, no cable, no Internet.

I was already having pre-withdrawals from the Internet this afternoon just thinking about it. Tonight I unloaded everything, said a little prayer, flipped open my laptop, and BAM! My new best friend in downtown Portland is "BigCat".

I'm sure I will be posting updates about life in downtown Portland over the next few months. It is a little bit of culture shock because I have always lived in the outskirts of the 'burbs. But, right now I need to get my apartment in order, class starts tomorrow morning.

But first, I want to share a quick reminder. Jesus said:
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."(John 10:10)
Just like the three Greek words used for love (Philia, Eros, Agape) in Scripture, there are also multiple words for life. "Bios" is simply life as a mere existence. But here, John uses "zoe". Zoe means a passionate, vigorous, flamboyant life to the fullest! Keep your eye on Jesus, never stop refocusing on Him and the new life that He offers.

In the eloquent, yet potent, words of my friend Whitney, "get out of here flesh!"

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Carl's Story

In 1991 Carl fought for his life after a gunshot to the spine in Iraq. After rehabilitation and many months of aggressive pain relievers and muscle relaxants, he walked out of the hospital with a new fight for his life, drug addiction. With no family and a nice monthly paycheck from the government he went straight to the streets wandering from fix to fix. After a decade of feeding his addiction he hit rock bottom, realizing there must be more to life. In 2005 he found himself in Portland and put himself into an addiction program. He also started coming to Nightstrike under the Burnside Bridge every Friday night to get a hot home made meal, receive an occasional haircut, and have his feet washed.

Two years later, on a chilly fall night a wide-eyed nervous young man kneeled, removed Carl’s shoes, and washed his feet. Weeks passed in a blur with the hecticness of the Christmas season. A month later Carl sat down in a chair under the Burnside Bridge with a pan of steaming water in the crisp January air placed at his feet. The same young man walks by, and Carl asks if he is washing feet again tonight…“Again?” I ask in a daze. Carl explains that I did a really good job when I washed his feet months ago. I was hosting tables that night, but God had greater plans. I kneeled at his feet for the second time, of many more to come, and asked him how his week was going. He was finishing at the Culinary Institute, working 60 hours a week in a kitchen, and had been clean for 2 years.

For 5 months, through Nightstrike, I had the opportunity to develop a relationship with Carl - to listen, talk, serve, encourage, pray, and love on Carl. It took minutes for me to share this story with you, but it was months before Carl was able to completely share his story on one tear-filled evening when he told me he had given his life up to Christ. Over the course of this time he finished up his externship at a restaurant and moved out into a place of his own. Carl’s story was 17 years in the making from that day he got shot in the back. It took a lot of patience, love, and the life transforming power of the Holy Spirit to get to that point.

On any Friday night there are hundreds of “Carl’s” - in all stages - searching for hope underneath the Burnside Bridge. And over the course of any month there are hundreds of nervous wide-eyed individuals of all ages and stages in life, stepping outside of their comfort zone, desiring to glorify and serve God underneath the Burnside Bridge.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

expose_overload

This is why switched over to Macs almost a year ago and have no intention to ever go back...

This guy selected every application on his MacBook Pro and opened it at the same time and this was the result:














Ya, It took 12 minutes, but still! I never would have dared trying that on a Windows machine...unless I was trying to crash it.

UPDATE: I put my MacBook to the test. It took about 15 minutes (enough time to brush my teeth and get ready for bed) to open everything (including resource hogs like iPhoto, Word, Powerpoint, Halo, Google Earth, Garageband, and iMovie) at which point I was able to pull up my Dashboard, use Expose (looked pretty stinkin similar to the screen shot above) and tab through each app to close them. I fired up Firefox, and viola! Here I am, still running strong.

Now you can sleep soundly being assured of the stability of Macs. Goodnight all!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Summer Reading

I did not want to admit summer was coming to an end. However, classes start next Monday. So without further delay, my summer reading post inspired by Dan Franklin's and Melany's post by the same name... and I would have read more if I wasn't in Spanish class up to 16 hours a week for 10 weeks of the summer.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis: An allegorical tale in which ghosts of the dead struggle with living a new life that is true and complete or continuing to settle for an incomplete life by making themselves a slave to vanity and self deception. It strikes close to home - in much the same way as his Screwtape Letters - because of Lewis' brilliant insight into human nature. If you have read some of his more popular work like Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and Screwtape Letters, there is no reason to stop there!







Sex is Not The Problem (Lust Is) by Joshua Harris: Short, quick, and to the point. This book is a must for everyone (and I don't even particularly like the author)! Our culture is so self serving/lust driven it is well worth the time and effort to understand our sexuality and why God made us sexual beings. It is a pretty revolutionary book because it is a topic the Church shies away from and culture so misunderstands.








The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer: The book is composed of short chapters, each of which zero in on a brief over of a single characteristic of God. I feel like he creates a reverence for God that has been lost, at least that was lost in me. From the self sufficiency to the perfect wisdom, from the faithfulness to the goodness of God, my mind and heart was stretched. My upward gaze is now one of awe and reverence. I had put God into a box that my mind could comprehend, limiting him to my feeble understanding.







Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI: The back of the book sleeve caught my attention in Borders with the following quote: "This book is my personal search for the face of the Lord". I was curious what the "father" of the Catholic church thought of the person of Jesus. It turns out the requirements to be a pope must be pretty stringent, because this guy knows the Scripture inside and out. What is the significance and relevance of each of Jesus three temptations in the desert? What can we glean from the Lord's prayer? What is at the heart of Jesus parables? All of these, along with the rest of Jesus life, is studied in great detail.






The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch: This book has been a radical eye opener in how I look at the Church and Ministry in general. It has sparked a lot of thought on how to weed out all the part of culture that bog down the Gospel. He contrasts the "pre"institutional church as portrayed in the Bible and the underground church in China with that of the institutional denominationalized Christianity of the western world. Very interesting stuff if you are the type interested in sociology and people movements.






--- Still in Progress ---

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Tolstoy still doesn't match up to Dostoevsky in my opinion, but it is captivating. He captures authentic humanity in his characters, intimately grasping and conveying emotion. However, it is long, and my mind is fleeting. I keep getting the urge to jump into other books. I will finish it eventually.











--- Next Up ---

The Gospel According To Starbucks by Leonard Sweet: I'm really interested in the experiential emphasis of our culture (you don't just go to Starbucks for a coffee, it's the whole sensory experience) and the title is great!

The Pursuit of God
by A.W. Tozer: I can't get enough Tozer after Knowledge of the Holy.

Las Cornicas de Narnia
by C.S. Lewis: Yo necesito praticar mi Espanol mas!