Advent

Advent

Advent begins today. Liz and I are going to be going through a book her dad wrote for each day of advent. This article helps to outline the importance of observing advent during this Christmas Season. Check it out.

Let love be gen…

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited.”

Romans 12:9-16 (ESV)

Take notice of the words used and the actions associated with how to live each of them out. And make sure to read the Romans chapters before this. Paul has been preaching that we cannot fulfill the law or commands by actions on our part alone. We must allow God’s grace to shine through us. We cannot do it. We must go to God to transform our hearts to live the life he has designed us to live.

Poem For Easter Week

The Holy Thing

They all were looking for a king
   To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam’st, a little baby thing
   That made a woman cry.

O Son of Man, to right my lot
   Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
   Nor on the sea Thy sail!

My how or when Thou wilt not heed,
   But come down Thine own secret stair,
That Thou mayst answer all my need-
   Yea, every bygone prayer.

By George MacDonald

Humility

Being the Operations Manager at Mars Hill Church I lead work parties every Monday night. This means volunteers come and I help lead them in cleaning up the church facilities to make sure it’s operational each week and for each Sunday. I try and work closely with the volunteers who come so I can get to know them more on a personal level. Sometimes, my own responsibilities make this difficult but this last Monday (1/16) I was able to have some time after the work party while waiting for my ride.

There are two faithful young women of God who come pretty much every week to help with the work parties. Not only do they volunteer 2.5 hours at these work parties but they also have their own teams that they volunteer for each week. At any rate, we got to talking about the great breweries that are available in Portland and I began talking about my passion for good beer and the art of craft brewery. I mentioned it started after I turned 21 and was able to enjoy good drink and appreciate the art and hard work that went into make such a wonderful and creative product. I told them that I enjoyed beer and other alcohol after turning 21 even though I was under contract with my university that I wouldn’t drink. (SPU didn’t allow their students to drink, 21 or not, on or off campus, until July 2010. I turned 21 August 2009). I justified my decision “biblically” by citing the authorities scripture in Romans 13:1-7 and reasoning that though I was under the authority of SPU the U.S. Government was a higher authority and THAT said I could drink at 21. So, I conveniently followed that line of reasoning all through my Junior year.

Both of the women pointed out the fallacy that was my argument and immediately exposed my sin and showed it to me. I was taken aback and tried to justify my decisions to them and attempted to help them see my line of reasoning. Oh they saw it alright and pointed out how crooked it was. I CHOSE to go to SPU and CHOSE to go to that school. I was never forced to do so and I should have followed the rules from the beginning. One of the women even compared me to Thomas Jefferson, cutting out the parts of the Bible that I don’t like but keeping the verses that are more convenient and beneficial to me.

I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing like a hot plate of humility served up in your face like that.

I was initially embarrassed and defensive but after considering what they were saying I realized they were right. I was taking advantage of God’s word for my own benefit and absolutely committing a sin in the process. It was a humble, awesome experience because it caused me to consider my actions, why I did them, and think about how I will handle similar situations in the future.

This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve been forced to question my motives and/or actions. In fact, the greatest person that helps me do so is my wife Liz. She is always coming alongside me and asking me questions about what I’m doing or why I’m doing it and really pushes me to greater things and a more Godly way of living. I truly appreciate her because of this. She’s my best friend and greatest accountability partner.

All this to say, find some wise friends and be open with them, even if you don’t want to. Question your judgement and actions but also bring others into your life to speak into it as well. Outside opinions and questions are absolutely essential in pursuing a more biblical lifestyle. You may think you’ve got everything down but try engaging with someone about your recent choices or motives. Allow them to be brutally honest with you and I guarantee it will help you in not only your relationship with them but also your relationship with God.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. – Proverbs 27:6 (NASB)

Real Marriage

Image

Haven’t updated this in a while but for those of you who don’t know I’m an intern at Mars Hill Church Portland. I’ve recently been given the position of Operations Manager and oversee both the Logistics Coordinator and Facilities Manager. 

Mars Hill has recently started a new series called Real Marriage (launched Jan. 15). It coincides with the release of the book Real Marriage written by Mark & Grace Driscoll, a Leader’s and Participant’s guide for members of your community group, and a DVD package to help facilitate discussion with others. Real Marriage recently hit the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list for Hardcover Advice & Misc. and the book and this sermon series will without a doubt be a powerhouse force in changing people’s marriages, relationships, and lives.

Liz and I have read quite a few relationship books with each other in the past. Some good, some ok, and some were just bad. What seems to be setting Real Marriage apart from the rest is it’s a message that screams marriage and relationships are all about Jesus. Many christian relationship books that Liz and I have gone through quickly skim over the message of Jesus, maybe throw in a couple of Bible verses every once in a while, and focus more on the relationship aspect of marriage. The problem here is that to truly thrive in marriage (or any relationship for that matter), you need Jesus. Unless Jesus is the center, something else is the center, and that’s a false idol and a functional savior that will eventually fail. Whether it’s sex, money, your partner, or even you, if anything other than Jesus is the center of your relationship it will crumble because it is build on a foundation of sand that will dissolve in the storm.

Mark & Grace write honestly and openly about their past sin and how they continued to try and work on their relationship themselves but essentially just increased the bitterness between them. It was only when they broke down and let the Holy Spirit take over their relationship that they were able to empathize with each other and pursue each other the way God intended.

Real Marriage is a fantastic relationship book and I would encourage everyone to read it and to listen to the sermon series available on Mars Hill’s website.

Redeeming Summer

There is a special event that blesses the lives of students every year. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Kindergarten or Grad School, Midwest or Northwest, it knows no bounds. It is a time of beauty and majesty and it tastes like sunshine and lollipops. This little gem is called Summer Vacation. Who doesn’t love it? You’ve experienced 9 months of destruction, oppression, and stress when it comes down to a moment you’ve anticipated. Watching that clock, you see the hands slowly tick, then you finally hear the proverbial click of a key and the shackles of school release you into glorious freedom for the next 3 months! You can literally do whatever you want! It makes you feel like Chuck Norris, a unicorn, and that Old Spice guy rolled up into one. Part-time job? Chores? Laughable when you think about the amount of free hours you’ll have for the next 3 glorious months.

 

Though, there is a danger that comes with this “break”. The “break” aspect of Summer seems to magically carry over into every other area of our life. I’m not quite sure if this happens to everyone, especially after you graduate and start moving more into a yearly routine of  a full-time job, where Summer only comes when you’re 65 and your “break” is spent playing shuffleboard, watching the weather channel, and eating vitamins. It’s certainly a phenomena that has occurred in my life and a lot of my friends. The problem is we end up taking a break from everything, even God. I don’t mean we completely reject God or even make a legitimate decision to just not spend as much time with Him. But we begin to drift. Once class ends, our minds are flooded with possibilities of swimming, hiking, and catching up on the hit show Say Yes To The Dress. But we forget the things that have been a staple in our lives: Reading the Bible, Praying, even talking about God to friends or going to community groups. We may even still fit in going to church every week (if it works around OUR vacations) but the routine of feeding ourselves spiritually and pursuing a strong relationship with God seems to fall by the wayside. I know I myself have even gone to the extreme of completely forgetting my Bible even existed. Maybe catch a glance of it a week into Summer and reminisce, “Oh yea, I used to read you.”

 

My point is to encourage all students this Summer to plan your Summer around God, not God around your Summer. Think of Summer break not so much as your time to do whatever you please, but continue to think about it as you have for the other 9 months out of the year: As God’s time to use you. We as students are given the unique opportunity every year to have 3 months of an empty schedule. That’s huge! Rest? Of course. It’s absolutely necessary. Take a break? Watch some tv? Why not? I’m not saying you have to go 110% 24/7/365. In fact, speaking from experience of doing that far to often, I would absolutely discourage it. But take some time to pray about what God has planned for you this Summer. We’re in August and I can assure you it’s not too late to listen to God about what he has planned for you this Summer. I myself fell victim to the “Bible Break” this Summer as well and really had to fight to pursue God in the beginning. It was hard but it was worth it. Liz and I have experienced immense blessing during this time and we see God stepping into our lives and beginning to lay out a path for us. Sometimes it’s hard to discern but prayer and spending time in God’s word is a good place to start.

 

So take this as a (mid)Summer encouragement to continue pursuing God and His plan for your life. Let’s be honest, at this point in the Summer you’re probably just watching Office re-runs (like I am). Why not pursue the possibility of a grand adventure with God?

First Blog Post As A Husband

Me and the Wifey

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It’s been a while.

Let’s just recap the last month and a half.

June 6-10: Finals Week

June 11: Liz’s Graduation (in Corvallis)

June 12: My Graduation (in Seattle) and move out of house in Seattle

June 13-25: Wedding Planning Go-time

June 26: Married!

June 26-July 3: Honeymoon

July 10: Liz’s Birthday

During all that: Get our apartment ready, apply for jobs, work odd jobs.

Could I have written a blog post between my last one and now? Probably. Would it have been outstanding? Life-changing? Inspiring? Listen, I’m not going to limit the Holy Spirit…but most likely not…

So a real update now. Liz and I are living in PDX and loving it! I have yet to find a job but I’m doing odd-jobs and working on the apartment. I’m becoming fairly involved in Mars Hill PDX which is a huge blessing. Liz has a job with Merry Maids and is finishing up her first week of that. Overall, we’re feeling incredibly blessed. I have a wonderful, beautiful, hard-working wife whom I love. I’m happy to say I’m married to my best friend and intend to be for the rest of my life.

Which brings me to an important introduction. I’m now a husband. Believe it or not, I’ve been thinking for a while on how this will affect the blog. Being a husband is a huge change from being a boyfriend or even a fiance. You don’t hear much about being a boyfriend or fiance in the Bible but you hear plenty about being a husband. A significant life change will of course spill over into a blog. I’m not saying that this whole thing is going to turn into a “Thoughts from a husband” blog or anything but you can certainly expect some posts on the adventures in marriage.

So let me just leave you with one: Sacrifice starts now. In fact, it should have started before marriage but it FOR SURE starts at marriage. You’ve heard me quote Ephesians 5:25 before but here it is again: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (ESV). I’m always going to go back to this. It’s a clutch command for husbands. We are literally in the same sentence as Christ, and being commanded to DIE for our bride (as Christ died for his). If that doesn’t scare you, even a little bit, I don’t know what will. That’s a heavy command. But I hope it also instills an excitement in you. A determination to love your beautiful bride and to put her needs before yours. I hope it strengthens your spirit to wake each morning and choose to love your wife as Christ loves the church. I’ve noticed that, not even being married a month, this is something that is absolutely necessary for husbands and it certainly begins immediately. It is not a call to sacrifice wise discernment so you answer yes to every request of your wife. Dying for her does not mean you don’t have an opinion. It’s certainly a balance and one I hope to write more about in the future. But as of now, my only advice is to understand how to pursue, love, and die for your wife and then do it. Am I perfect in this? Certainly not. But I’m praying and trying everyday. Husbands, my prayer is that you please do the same and do it joyously and for the glory of God.

Summer Reading List Theme: What’s Wrong With Love Wins?

As many of you know, Love Wins by Rob Bell brought a storm of controversy with its release. Many protestant, mainline evangelicals were astounded that Bell would make many of the claims he stated in his book (whether it was said outright or hidden behind a question mark) and many liberals and emergent church members supported Bell’s message of God’s love overcoming all sin in the end and everyone receiving salvation.

Now, I don’t want to get into a firefight here on the blog but I’m just going to briefly lay out my stance so you know it once and for all: I don’t support Rob Bell’s position in Love Wins. I believe he is taking one aspect of God (the one that everyone likes and benefits from) and placing it above all other characteristics of God (justice, mercy, wrath, etc.). Of course “God is love” (1 John 4:8) but that does not mean that love is God.

Of course there have been plenty of responses by a variety of pastors and denominations within the evangelical circle to Bell’s book. Though, in all reality, blogs can only go so far. Not everyone reads them or accesses them and it’s hard to sift through all the trash to find the really solid responses. Sure, if you’re deep in the evangelical or reformed circle you’ll probably notice them making their rounds but the general public probably won’t realize what’s going on and they’ll continue to pick up Bell’s book because he relates to them and the questions they have. What we really need is to fight fire with fire. The best response to Bell’s book is…a book.

I watched this trailer last night for Francis Chan’s upcoming book and after looking it up on Amazon I noticed there was another book being released addressing Bell’s book. To get to the point, these are both extremely important in addressing the Love Wins controversy. Blogs are good but books are better. I’m extremely excited to read both (one of which may be coming out in a month!) and I would encourage you to read them as well. Especially if you’ve read Love Wins.

Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up

God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins

 

The Cook & The Cleaner: Revisiting Biblical Manhood

My mom recently bought me a cookbook called Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver. For those of you who don’t know Jamie Oliver, he’s a British cook who believes everyone, no matter how bad they think they are at cooking, can learn at least one meal and pass it on to their friends under the premise that those friends will then pass it on and so forth. It’s an awesome cookbook with a lot of great meals.

When I’ve received cookbooks in the past they usually ride the bookshelf. I’ve always assumed either I won’t have time, I can’t cook, or everything will be too expensive, never really investigating any of these preconceived notions. But this time was different. With the upcoming wedding and whatnot, marriage has consumed my thoughts quite a bit in the last couple of months and I can’t help but think that this cookbook will serve as an amazing tool for me as a husband. Generally, we think of the wife as the cook and cleaner and the husband as the 9-to-5 worker (I know I’ll probably get hounded for that but I’m going with common stereotypes for the sake of argument). But really, when I look at the Bible and what it has to say about husbands and wives, it really has more to say about love and service than it does to how that’s specifically played out in household chores.

Ephesians 5 gives us a glimpse into the overarching role that husbands must play for their wives: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself…However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Eph. 5:25, 28, 33. ESV) Now, I understand that these verses carry plenty of weight within themselves to FILL commentaries to the brim but I want to focus on how this can be applied to husbands cooking and cleaning for their wives.

First of all, we see that husbands are to model a Christ-like life towards their wife. This DOES NOT mean that the husband is their wife’s God. Far from it. What it does mean is that husbands serve their wives as Christ served the church. Christ ministered to those in need, healed those who were hurting, comforted and played with children, and absolutely adored the church (and still does). Christ addressed the needs of those around Him in a loving way and husbands should follow suit.

Second, we see that husbands love themselves. Of course they do! But I don’t mean in an egotistical way but more in a “keep yourself healthy” kind of way. Husbands, make sure you don’t run yourself into the ground at work so that you pass out into a couch coma when you get home, completely ignoring your wife and kids. Being a husband and a father is a 24/7/365 job and is priority #1. Make sure you are rested and healthy so that you can effectively lead and serve your family.

Third, wives should be able to look and their husbands and respect them in everything that they do. Husbands, through loving your wife and serving her she should want to point you out and be happy to identify you as her husband. Are you the guy that throws on sweatpants and has “me time” for 5 hours when you get home from work or do you plan dat nights with your wife and fun activities with the kids? Does your wife look up to you in service and leadership in a way that she respects?

Bringing it all back to the cookbook, I feel that every husband must learn how to cook and clean. And by “cook and clean” I really mean anything that will help alleviate your wife of some of the stress of her daily duties. Really this could be anything from picking up dog poop to running errands but I use the “cook and clean” example just to relate it to the common stereotypes (and it provides a pretty catchy blog post title). I’ve heard men say they don’t know how to clean a bathroom. Really? You really don’t know how? If you truly don’t know how to do some of the things that will help your wife, ask her to show you. Learn these tasks, love them, relish them, be one with them. Your wife needs to recharge just as much as you do (and it’s not just going to happen when she sleeps). You can play a huge role in this. Get her some gift cards to go out with girlfriends, tell her you’ll take the kids for the night, tell her you’ll cook every meal for the week. I know it may be out of your element. I know you may have to learn something new (heaven forbid). But by working on these tasks you’re not only showing her you want to take the time to learn how to help her and care for her but you’ll reduce the stress she encounters during the daily grind and help her recharge.

What I’m calling for is a new kind of Biblical Manhood. One in which men across the world pick up brooms, pans, and kids from school. Where the average joe throws on an apron instead of sweatpants after work. Where SWAT vests are the new diaper bags. Revolutionary? Hardly. It’s all about putting in a little extra effort to loving our wives and children how we’re meant to.

Why I’m Afraid This Blog Will Kill Me In My Sleep

I don’t write in this blog very much. Also, I’m male.

Both are literally the most obvious statements about my life.

I have a fear of this blog. Blogs are written in ink, not pencil. Once this is “published” on the internet, it’s there. I can’t delete it. Technically, I probably could but it doesn’t mean that someone could have come along in that time and copied some of it, only to quote me years down the road. Matt Chandler mentioned in one of his sermons that he’ll occasionally get e-mails from people asking why he said a certain phrase. Astonished, he’ll reply, “Where and when did I ever say that?” They’ll throw out a quote from a sermon from 2003 or earlier, even though since then he’s learned better and gained wisdom on the subject and likely wouldn’t answer the same way today as he did years earlier. Chandler is afraid that he may be judged on something he said years earlier, before he knew better. I’m in the same boat.

I have a fear that I’ll be wrong (as prideful as that may sound). If I’m writing on Theology, am I not also delivering a mini-sermon? Did Paul and James have blogging in mind when they issued harsh warnings for teachers overseeing a flock. What if I am held accountable for something someone reads early in my blogging “career” but doesn’t read my repentance for that same thing years down the road?

I’m afraid I won’t quote enough scripture. I’m afraid I’ll quote scripture wrongly. I’m afraid of NOT writing on heavy theology. I’m afraid that ONLY writing on heavy theology and not falling into the categories of middle-age, stay at home moms writing on how their lives were similar to Eat, Pray, Love or well-studied gentlemen who write 20 book reviews a week, will repel any readers I may have had a chance at if I had just committed to said genres. I’m afraid that I’ll begin to allow my self-worth to be determined by how many readers I have or the amount of negative comments compared to the amount of positive comments. I’m afraid that capitalizing all of the words in my post title is a “Blog Foul” and I’m just a victim of not knowing the culture. (Seriously though, should I have capitalized “in”? I kept getting stuck on that one…)

You can see the pickle I’m in.

This is what I propose. I’m going to continue writing on this blog. I’ll commit to that. It may not be an everyday thing. Hopefully it will be a once a week thing. But I need some grace. 95% of the time, I don’t write a blog post simply because I’m afraid I won’t do it right. I’ll commit to not quitting and to learning how to do this. I’ll commit to writing, though my content may be scattered, I’ll ABSOLUTELY make mistakes, and my posts may simply be boring at times. But I hope you’ll serve me up some chance with a side of understanding and a tall glass of grace. I know asking bloggers not to judge is like asking water not to be wet but I’m going for it anyway (I believe in you, people!…and a bible verse for good measure: Matthew 7:1). If you do this for me I’ll…well…I can’t really promise anything. But I hope I can, at the very least, provide some entertainment, insight, and learn something along the way.

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