Friday, March 7, 2014

Can it be? I'm thirty.

As I celebrate living on this planet for 30 years I have only one observation to share.  Life's greatest blessings are also it's greatest responsibilities.
Think about it.  What was the first big exciting blessing you received in your life?  Maybe it was a pet or your first cell phone.  Maybe you think of the first car you were able to call your own.  But when your parents agreed to bring home the puppy or handed you that coveted device they said something like, "Now you have to help feed and walk him" or "Don't lose it or drop it.  Because if you break it you don't get a new one."  All this not to mention just the built-in responsibility of how you use these blessings.
So as I reflect on thirty years of life and consider how extremely blessed I am it strikes me just how much I've grown in my responsibility as well.  (And how far I have to go!)  I'm blessed with a wonderful daughter.  She's just about the cutest thing in the world.  But I've also been tasked with the responsibility of caring for her each day and the greater responsibility of raising her to love and fear the Lord.  And what an incredible responsibility it is!  I'm blessed with a beautiful wife.  She's patient and loyal.  She keeps me on task and helps drive me.  But I've also been tasked with loving her as God does and leading her spiritually so we can grown in our faith together.  I'm blessed to live my dream of being a Youth Minister "playing" all day.  But I've also been tasked with being a positive influence to countless teens, to speak the truth of God's word on a weekly basis and to help guide young souls to encounter the love of the Lord who created them.  It's almost crushing to think of the weight of what I actually seek to do.
In all of this when you survey my 30 years I'm left with one burning emotion.  Gratitude.  Thank you, Lord, for the great blessings.  Thank you, Lord, for trusting me with these great responsibilities.  But most of all thank you, Lord, for not leaving me alone to fail under my own strength, but for being the strength by which I'm able to fulfill these responsibilities.  When I succeed it is only by your power.  When I fail I'm only able to continue by your grace.  There is no way I could ever do this without you.  Lead me to be found even more faithful to the blessings and responsibilities you've given me over my next 30 years of life.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Song Battle of the Week

I find that music sometimes follows trends right down to the theme of songs and their lyrical content.  Two current songs on Christian Radio are very similar in both style and message.  I was curious which you liked better.  So watch each video and let me know in a comment which song you prefer!  Thanks.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Video I Made for Class

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


"I have little doubt that the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the gospel has not been ints inability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out." - Ravi Zacharias from the book "Beyond Opinion"

This is the very issue I have been wrestling with. It's not so much that we don't really look like the First Century church, but that they looked more like the gospel lived out than we do. I attended the Park Plaza college class last Wednesday and we just so happened to discuss the Acts 2 passage which began my journey through this grand issue. In our talk I recognized a few things I'd like to share here as well as sharing something that my parents brought to my attention. I will begin there.

It should be recognized that even the first century church didn't go very long with doing it perfect. Let's take a look at Acts 4 & 6.

"All the believers wer one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possesions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, broght the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need." Acts 4:32-37 (TNIV)

Let me first note that here is another witness to the amazing attitudes of those first believers. The shared heart and mind which led to shared possesions and well being. It is to this ideal which I want to strive. However, it is made clear that it was the powerful work of God which allowed for no needy persons to be among them. In other words if we are to ever see this happen we've gotta turn to God! So, when was the last time you sold something as significant as your house or a piece of land and used that money to provide for someone else? I want it to be clear we aren't talking about tithing or giving out of our excess to a benevolent fund. This is SACRIFICIAL giving. But the pretty picture goes bad quick. In fact it is the ver next chapter where we see an example of those who lied about the sale of their property and were destroyed because of it. Thank God that we don't suffer the same fate. And then let's look at chapter 6.

"In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food." Acts 6:1 (TNIV)

Wow, already someone is not getting taken care of. How quickly we fall! But I have us look at this in order to see that even the First Century church wasn't a continuous example of perfectly living out the gospel. But I don't want this to really be a look at the macroview of the church. Really I want us to look at the microview. Specifically at our own selves. The question is: who are you? Are you Barnabas who at the very end of chapter 4 is mentioned to having sold his field and laid the money at the Apostles feet? Or are you Ananias, who also sold a piece of property, but "with his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet." (5:2)

Do I trust that if I will use what the Lord has already given me to take care of the needs of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that I too will be taken care of? Do I want an excess of comfort and luxury, of pleasure and excitement so that I give only what's left after I've enjoyed myself? When was the last time I let someone else use that prized possesion, or what's more, sold a prized possesion in order for someone else to meet a need? These are the questions I ask myself.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Miscommittment or Misunderstanding? Part Two

A whole summer’s gone by. I’ve talked with lots of people. I’ve had plenty of time to continue to think about this and here’s the result. Our church is broken but not failing. Our focus seems a bit off but the message is still being spread. It seems as though we’ve completely missed the point but with further searching and a deeper look the love, service, and essence of Christ and what He called His body (the church) to be is being fulfilled all around us. The only real problem I see is that it’s the mentality of individuals and not the church as a whole. Within each body of believers can be found those who share their blessings as though they never owned them in the first place. With each congregation you find those who have everything in common with their fellow man and give of their physical things and their time to ensure that there is no one in want. But still I see a church as a whole that is projecting a damaging persona of selfish living and vain achievement.
Let me begin with what I see as bad news. If you’ve read the book “UnChrisitan” then you may have an even better idea about this than I do. It seems to me that the general view of the Christian church today is a group of people who think they are right and everyone else is wrong and this makes them better than you. It seems to me that when an outsider considers the church he doesn’t see a group of people filled with hope and joy. He doesn’t observe the loving one another as Christ has loved us nor does he feel like it’s a place where people’s physical needs are met. But he sees a group of people who play the political game of policies before people when it comes to their views of government or even within their own walls. This was the surface view I saw and felt when I wrote my previous post. I could see each person’s own personal comforts coming in the way of their serving others and the Lord. I could see a shunning and division between the haves and have-nots. There was a reliance on the physical world and it’s trappings for happiness and success rather than a hope in the Lord’s providence and a joy in the gift of salvation that he’s already given.
So why am I no longer so worried about the future of our churches? Because I was wrong. The Body of Christ as it is described to appear and behave in the scriptures is alive and well. But you won’t find it on TV or the web. You can’t see it in a bulletin or a casual church visit. The true church and Christ’s true disciples are hidden amongst and within the broken “churches” we have all around us. The congregations of hypocrites and liars, vain and self-serving people are also the congregations of struggling sinners, humble and self-giving people. Many times in fact these very individuals are one in the same. Other times your find these true disciples hiding among the fence riders. But whatever the case they are there, giving, serving, living as one with their fellow man and having everything in common. The meet together and give to each one as he or she has need. The disparity is this. I wanted to boast and bring to the forefront what God’s Word says to keep quiet. I wanted every person who walked through the doors and ever claimed the name of Jesus to instantly become his perfect follower.
Within the Sermon on the Mount Jesus addresses the sharing of our things and giving to the needy by instructing us to not announce our giving with trumpets and not to do our good deeds in front of men as if to win their approval. But rather we should do them in secret so that our Father will reward us (6:1-4). As I looked for the fulfillment of Acts 2, I found men and women following Matthew 6.
I still have a problem though. My problem is that earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, while comparing us to a light on a stand, Jesus says this, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven (5:6).” So how can we find a balance? I think we must for two reasons. The first is that those who come into our churches and begin their journeys with Christ are immature in their walks and need to have the example of those living our Acts 2 to follow. Second, it seems obvious that unless the churches image among the unchurched changes we will remain a weak witness bringing little praise to our Father in Heaven.
I hope to next time discuss some ways that we might go about finding that balance. For now look at your own life and let’s see how we can change as individuals to better represent our Lord, doing good deeds in secret and yet being a lamp on a stand.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Missed Commitment? Or My Misunderstanding?

"I'm growin up! In the Lord. Oh I'm gettin stronger, turning back no longer. I'm growin up! In the Lord! I'm growing up in the LORD!"

"And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And the continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." -Acts 2:40-47 (NKJV)

"All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." -Acts 2:44-47 (TNIV)

"All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved." -Acts 2:44-47 (NRSV)

And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. -Acts 2:44-47 (The Message)

No matter how it's said, I can't seem to match this description of the early church up with what it looks like today. I grew up in, attend, and work in the churches of Christ. We claim a model of following the New Testament church. So, why is it difficult for me to find how we are living out the very verses that describe what the church looked like at it's very beginning. I'm not saying we are necessarily doing it wrong. I'm not trying to criticize or attack. I simply seek to understand. I already have found some answers to the question, "Why doesn't today's church look like this?" I'm going to share those with you in my next post. But I want to hear from you. Where do you see the church today (any denomination will do) succeeding in it's quest to fullfill these verses? Where do you see the church today failing in it's quest to fullfill these verses? Or perhaps you'd like to share why it shouldn't be our quest to fullfill these verses? I'm listening, not loading my gun. I'm seeking, not judging. I'm want to understand, not oppose. Teach me.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Nothin' Special

So, I know it's been a while since I've put anything on here. Some of that is because life has been full and kept me with lots to do. However, I must admit I haven't updated here in a while because I set for myself a precident and a perceived expectation that each of these posts must in some way be artistic or thought provoking. I felt as though a simple sharing of what's happening in my walk with the Lord wasn't good enough. But as has been the case most often in my life there comes a time when I need written expression even when the creative juices are lacking. So if you care to know what's been happening and is currently going on with me on a spiritual note please feel free to read on.

Let me begin with Anna. Anna is my girlfriend and has been for some time now. She has shown me beauty, talent, love, expression, joy, comfort and strength. As many of you know I function best when I have people in my life that I can show love to. That doesn't necessitate a romantic relationship but I've been blessed to currently have that in my life. Promising to be there for someone in a close relationship and walking through a relationship with someone like Anna allows for a unique practice of Christ's love that I otherwise would be without.

Now what about me. Well, I'm still working as the Youth Minister for the Central church of Christ in Topeka, KS. I've loved my time here and the church family continues to become MY church family. As with anything there are ups and downs. With every victory comes an attack from Satan. One of the things I'm struggling with in my ministry is communicating that the Lord desires us wholistically. Not just all of us some of the time or some of us all of the time, but all of us all of the time and the way that plays out in our daily even momentary decisions and lives. In this battle I fight against the whole of culture, school, family patterns, twitter, facebook, etc! It can often be overwhelming and yet I press on because I know the importance.

So this has become a focus in my own ministry but really stems from my own life and walk with the Lord. If I am to communicate to the kids how they can fully live for the Lord and give Him all they have I must first be able to answer the question. So how do I, Twig, a child of God, a minister, a boyfriend, a mentor, a guy who lives by himself give my all and live wholistically for the Lord? Got any answers? Cause I'm struggling. I'm searching. I'm seeking the heart and will of God. One thing I know is that what I've been doing isn't good enough. There's the surface stuff like not enough prayer and bible reading. But what really concerns me is the deeper, greater stuff. Let me just say this. I DON'T KNOW ANY POOR PEOPLE. Well, that's not entirely true depending on what your definition of poor is. One thing I love about my church is that because of our location we do have several families who are not middle class. Nor are they upper class. They live in places most of us have never stayed and don't have the stuff most of us are so accustom to. But I don't visit them. I help them get food from the pantry when they need it and I arrange for those with teens to get rides and scholarships to activities. But that's not what Christ called me to. Or at least as I'm reading both the Bible and books recommended to me by those who know me well I'm seeing a greater expectation that I have not really reached.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."

I've been teaching are High School on the Beatitudes and my study on this particular one has been a huge log in the fire that rages inside my soul. The following is some of what I found.

The Greek word used in Matthew 5:7, eleemon, means essentially the same as its English counterpart, "merciful." However, in all likelihood Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and the idea behind His statement about mercy comes from Old Testament—that is, Hebrew—usage and teaching. The word He would have used is the Hebrew and Aramaic chesed.

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible commentary on Matthew states regarding this word:
"It does not mean only to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for some in trouble. Chesedh [sic], mercy, means the ability to get right inside the other person's skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.Clearly this is much more than an emotional wave of pity; clearly this demands a quite deliberate effort of the mind and of the will. It denotes a sympathy, which is not given, as it were, from outside, but which comes from a deliberate identification with the other person, until we see things as he sees them, and feels things as he feels them. This is sympathy in the literal sense of the word. Sympathy is derived from two Greek words, syn which means together with, and paschein which means to experience or to suffer. Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, literally going through what he is going through." (p. 103)

And that leaves me here. Not knowing where to start, what to even do, or if there is something more I should be doing. I hope to update this again sooner than later and I have more to share with you. If you want some prep on the discussion read Acts 2 taking special note of verses 42-47.