Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Groans: when words are not enough

God, by definition, cannot be defined. When we try to spell out just what and who God is, we run out of definitions to explain what we are trying to say. By nature, if we can define and understand him, he ceases to be God. The creation shouldn’t be able to explain the creator; it doesn’t work that way.

Regardless of what we can and cannot do, we try and explain anyways. I think there are those who a very good job with what they have to do. While these men are usually older men who have spent most of their lives in study rooms of large universities-and have no idea of what worship is-some of the most popular theologians today are much different. These men are much younger, hipper, and are often college dropouts.

Today the most popular theologians are the worship musicians that are writing our worship music. While there are some who are kind of janky; there are some great worship leaders. This past December I helped work the Wesleyan Church’s Logos 5 Youth Convention. It was tons of fun the speakers were great, from what I heard the seminars were creative and challenging, and the bands were cool. But for me the best part was the worship band, Something Like Silas.

At the beginning of the week I wasn’t sure what to think about them. They seemed ok, but I wasn’t instantly sold on their music. But by the end of the week I was in love with them. My love was for a couple reasons, but there was one moment that completely changed my view of the band.

The lead singer was talking about how sometimes when you are writing songs, word cease to explain what you are thinking and feeling. He was talking about there are times when all you can do is groan sounds to communicate how you feel.

When he said this I had to stop. It was an amazing thought for me. I so often find myself in the role of the person stuck in a stuffy office knowing what it means to worship, but so often forgetting what it is to worship. Why is this so? What could stop be from being completely in awe of my Creator-God?

I think the biggest reason is arrogance. So often we study theology and God and we think we have it all under control. All we are doing is making our intellect our idol, cause like I said earlier, it is the nature of God that we cannot even begin to wrap our minds around who He is. So it’s nothing short of an arrogant idolatry.

I’m begging you! Don’t fall into that trap! Learn to sit back and fall in love with your creator. Get to the place where all you are able to do is groan-because words are not enough.

Naked: why clothing isolates us

When was the last time that you stopped and marveled at the fact that God loves you? How often does it strike you that the Christian life and the Christian experience makes no sense and God is getting a raw deal? I mean come-on we humans can be pretty lousy people. But he stands by our sides and never gives up on us.

I am constantly amazed by how this whole sin thing affects all human beings. My friend and I were talking about the sin and shame cycle in the lives of guys (sorry we're not girls so we don't quite understand how y'all work ladies) and how destructive it is to our self-esteem. I lived in shame for almost 10 years, and somewhat still do, for my short-comings (something that I am overcoming) all because I misunderstand who God is and how he relates to me.

You see God loves me because of who I am, not because of what I do. It's crazy to think about. Our performance has nothing to do with God’s love. It’s great! God will never stop loving me, but sin blinds me to this fact.

I have talked with many guys and they all feel the same way, “I am alone in this struggle.” It’s a lie from Satan and it is the effect of sin on our lives. Sin brings with it isolation, a lack of trust directed towards others around us. I contend that the root of sin is self-not necessarily evil-and sin destroys the community that God intends for us to have.

In the garden Adam and Eve were one with God. God’s love for them freely flowed and they were able to walk around naked. If you read Genesis you’ll notice that the concept of Adam and Eve being naked was a big deal. Thus when they sin in chapter 3, one of the first things that they do is hide from God-and each other.

Adam and Eve could walk around naked because they had no insecurities. It’s a simple concept-you are the most vulnerable when you have nothing to protect you from everybody else. People can see you for who you are, every excruciating detail of who you are is bared before all to see. Humans as a species do not like this. So Adam and Eve covered themselves so that they could have the dignity of privacy.

But God did not create us with clothing in mind. We are created to be naked-to be able to bare everything we are to the world. To find our sense of self worth in God’s love for us, and not in what other people think. So instead of being naked, our world is relegated to hiding who we are behind labels and brand names. We find our identity in how we appear to people instead of in the fact that I am loved and accepted by my creator.

The problem with the human being is not that we hate each other, but we are so bent on creating an image of security and independence, so people don’t think we are insecure and dependent on what they think. We have become a group of hurting people trying to hide our hurts from other hurting people, who are in turn hiding things from us.

I believe that the love of Christ creates a security and sense of self worth that enables people to strip down and let others see what they have been hiding. Because Christ loves us and finds pleasure in us for who we are and not what we do, we as Christians are called to live naked before each other.

Jesus teachings were all about breaking down the status quo-“you will be first in the kingdom of Heaven if you are willing to be last here on earth.” Translation: God loves you, who cares if you finish first. He sees you as a winner no matter what. Stop trying to impress people.

Please do not read this and go join a nudist colony, or walk around campus or your town physically naked. This would not be a good thing! Instead think about how much you are hiding your hurts and insecurities from other people because you think what they think matters at all. If what the Bible teaches is true, God’s opinion is the only opinion that should matter to you.

Because when it is all broken down, it really is our clothes that isolate us.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dan's thoughts on "End of the Spear"

I went and watched the movie, End of the Spear last night it was a great recreation of the lives of the Saint family. In 1956, Nate with his 4 four friends Jim Elliot, Ed McCully Peter Flemming, and Roger Youderian were killed by a tribe of Indians called the Waodani Indians as they were attempting to bring the gospel to the people.

This movie has made me stop and think, "Would I be willing to do that?" Would I willingly lay my life down for the gospel? Would I leave my family behind if it meant that the gospel would be spread to the very people who killed me? That’s such a tough question to work over in my mind.

I look at these men and they were the cream of the crop. Most of them went to Wheaton College (also where Billy Graham attended), and definitely would have been leaders in our own country if they had chosen that route. The book Through Gates of Splendor talks about their lives leading up to the massacre. These were extraordinary men!

How would it change the world if people would be willing to lay down their lives for others? What would happen if we lived our lives like these men? What if we decided that them seeing the light of Jesus was more important than our lives? or even our popularity? or living comfortably?

These guys went and died in a sticky, hot, nasty jungle and left their children without fathers and their wives without husbands-thousands of miles away from their homes-all for the very people who killed them! And we’re worried about what other people think about us in our new clothes.

This movie challenged me to really think about what it means for me to be a follower of Christ. I don’t think that there is any room for me to say, “Those Guys Were Missionaries, they were supposed to die for the people their reaching out to.” No I am a missionary today to the people I see around me. I am a missionary to the guy who I pay at the BP when I put gas in my car. I am a missionary to the lady who takes my change at Taco Bell! I am a called to love the person who hates me the most in the world, and be willing to give everything I have if they have a need. (I don’t know who hates me the most in the world today, I was just making a point.) I need to lay down what I want and what I think I need for those around me, I mean after what the guys down in the Jungle did for a group of murders, how could I not.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What I think about this week's spiritual emphasis

The Spring Semester’s spiritual emphasis week at our school has reached its halfway point and it’s a different feel than the last 6 summits. For the first time in 3 years the attendance level in the meetings has declined. People on campus are connecting with the speaker as easily and are not coming away with the feelings that they have in the prior 36 months.
There is a difference and this is readily noticed and I think that it is in the expectation students have for the atmosphere. Since the Fall Summit in 2003, the speakers have been powerful and charismatic. Their popularity on campus was not to do with their depth but with their style and authenticity. This is no diss on the messages that they have brought; they were good messages, but this has become the expectation and the atmosphere.
The height of this “show mentality” was last semester; the worship band and the speaker were electric. They played great music and gave a very relevant message. It was a terrific series of services and nobody who was there left the same. They really changed the school when they left; the next summit was going to be forced to measure up against this awesome time of worship and growth. And I believe that this week is the evidence of this.
Kevin, the speaker in the fall, brought with him the message of a “Revolution” how we need to change the culture around the church. He is right we do need to change the culture of the church around us, but while his message was this, his performance was nothing different than what came before him. They put on a great show, and everybody loved it.
I am in no way wanting to tear down what Kevin did when he was here, but I believe that because of the atmosphere his team created, people were more receptive to what he had to say-and not what he did say. If they really had listened to what he was saying the campus would be different-there would have been a revolution.
So what happens is 4 months later in the same setting, Dwight (this week’s speaker) comes to campus with a completely different style, and is greeted with empty seats. To me what happened 4 months ago loses all relevance. Yes, people came out by the truckloads, yes the campus was a buzz with the message that was brought, but the evidence of a God movement, disappeared soon after September was 2 weeks old.
One critique of revivalism throughout the history of revivalism is that it is just a show. We spent a ton of time in Church History class discussing the rise and fall of this movement, and I think it is a topic that we still do not want to address. We struggle with the thought of whether the movement is the show or it is the Holy Spirit. I think the only way to discern this is to look long term. Does the impact last longer than just a few months? Do we see other people impacted by the power of God in their lives? Does this revival not only impact how the people worship but how they live? Because worship is all about how you live, who you are impacting, and a lifelong pursuit of God.
Dwight was part of a revival some 30 years ago, while a student at IWU (then Marion College), and his life has changed the face of the evangelical movement. People are in ministry because of his work. He has touched churches, pastors, denominational leaders, and lives of common everyday people in the pews-all because of the impact of a simple revival that he attended in College Wesleyan Church.
As a result of this occurrence in his life, Dwight has impacted people all across the world through discipleship. His main focus is to not bring thousands of people to the Lord, but to take the people in front of him closer to Christ likeness. In turn, those people he has impacted will impact the lives of the people in front of them-and so on and so forth.
The evidence of a successful revival is the long term life change, not the amount of people who put their butts in the seats of the sanctuary. This is the only way to properly judge the power of God as successful, but this does not mean that a series that has 15 people there is successful if the room is built for 1500! We need to remember that in the end we must wrap the message of truth into a relevant package. The more people who hear the message the better, and the more lives changed the more the Kingdom is built.
So I hope that the lives of hundreds of students on the Indiana Wesleyan University campus are changed eternally tonight and tomorrow as we listen to Dwight proclaim the message he has been given. That’s when we’ll know it has been a success.

Sports Blog newest attraction on internet...

I just started a converstaion blog with some friends. We are planning to post sports related comments on this site where we can argue and discuss issues that pertain only to sports. I am so pumped about this, so if you're interested to see what we have to say about the world of the jock, then by all means take a look at.

  • Homecourt
  • Saturday, January 14, 2006

    The Golden Years

    One of my newer books that I enjoy is Everyman's Talmud. My friend Nick had it in his library and he uses it frequently in his teachings, so I thought I would pick a copy up. Basically it’s a collection of the Jewish laws and their interpretations by Rabbis. It is just like a theology book, but it is Jewish so it has a different feel.

    Anyways, I was reading about the Jews understanding of the Messiah. The introduction to the section talked about how for Jews, the glory years are ahead. In the same way that in our culture we are always talking about how great it was “back in the day,” Jewish people (at least in first century Israel) were looking forward to the future.

    This lead me to think, shouldn’t this be the way that we think as Christians? Aren’t we supposed to be looking forward towards the prize that awaits us? Why do we always want life to be like it was 15 or 50 years ago? Well let’s be honest, culture in America is definitely less Christian that it was 15 or 50 years ago. So for some reason American Christians want to go back to those days.

    The problem is that as Christians remove themselves for society, society loses its moral compass. How Christians can expect non-Christians to act like a Christian would; it doesn’t make sense. Non-Christians act like they do because they do not have Jesus! Without Christ a person is not a Christian and cannot be expected to think or act like one.

    Thus the doctrine that the world is getting worse comes out. Yeah it seems that the depravity of those around us seems to be getting worse, but does that really mean that the best is behind us? It almost seems like that mindset is “we’ve lost the battle, lets give up” I would like to think that God in his infinite mercy and grace (and the fact that He’s all knowing and all powerful) would provide ways for the Christian populous to transform this culture back to one focused on him. (What that looks like I don’t know and maybe I’ll discuss later.)

    I suggest that we as Christians fight to make the future a better place in this world! Just because the trend seems to be moving away from God and morality, does not mean that the sky is falling, and we should start shouting, “Come quickly Lord!” Thus taking away that which keeps it preserved.

    Be the catalyst that changes your community, that’s the way that the Golden Years are yet to come.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    Dan's thoughts before the semester starts....

    This morning I was forced to go to an RA in-service. The in-service dealt with ‘pop culture’ and how it is impacting the lives of students in America. PBS’s documentary: “Merchants of Cool” broke down just how in depth that these huge companies, that control up to 90% of the media outlets, study teenagers.

    I guess being a young adult I am an expert on ‘pop culture’ as these very people that are working on teenagers today have sold me on what ‘cool’ is also. It is no incident that they have so much influence on the market today, not only do then have a near monopoly but they also spend millions and billions and dollars studying and selling their pitch.

    I think there were 5 ideas that I realized today that really challenge me about ‘pop culture’ they are:

    1.) There are really only 5 major companies that own all of the smaller companies that dictate to me what I should think, act, wear, eat, look like, etc.
    2.) It is no incident that trends move so quickly, those 5 companies are trying to push the envelope.
    3.) Christians are just as influenced as everybody else.
    4.) These major companies don’t care about happiness, they care about the bottom line.
    5.) Cool ceases to be cool, once people realize that it is cool.

    If cool is being marketed to me, which it is, MTV (and the like) is the tool. The special made a comment that I never thought of before; MTV is a 24-7 commercial. Everything is selling something to me: the music, the clothing, how I should look, movies, what I should think about social issues, etc.

    The disturbing part about this is that the second that we think that we’re cool, and that we are on the edge we find that we’re just in the middle of the crowd and everybody has moved on beyond us further out and further in. So we go off searching for the next “cool” thing. When we find that we must go off and find cool again, and we end up in a big circle. Running around never finding what we’re looking for.

    The whole precept of the piece was to show that while this culture is what I know, it is nothing more than a grand scheme to make me think about my self in a certain way, and then buy accordingly. While that may not be a fun thought it is probably the truth. The executives don’t care about me being happy, as long as I think happy is what they’re selling.

    Sounds like a pretty dark view of culture. Makes it look like everything I know as less real and more fake than ever before. That who I am is worthless and nothing more than another buck in the coffers of the rich.

    But it doesn’t have to look this way. I think that as Christians we must force ourselves to see the good in the world around us. ‘Pop culture’ may be flawed and have entirely incorrect presuppositions, but there is beauty in the world around us and we must look for it.

    As a Christian if we put our heads in the sand and give up on the world, we're damning people that we know who are in the world to a fiery hell. We must! We must engage culture, we must show the world that there is so much more than just being cool. I believe we need to stop trying to be cool, because all we are doing is chasing our tails.

    This culture will be completely different in 25 years. It will probably be different in 10 years. And I contend that it is different than when I was in High School 5 years ago. If we are continually running around trying to catch up, we’re losing track of what we should focusing on, and that is the healing power of Jesus.

    I guess to sum up this little rant, culture is important and we’re always going to be trying to catch up to it, but while we are doing that we need to remember that the message of Jesus, is a message that will meet the student, meet the parent, meet your neighbor right where they are.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Nobody Likes a Bad Fan!

    Ok I love basketball. It's the most exciting beautiful sport to watch. Basketball at it's finest makes grown men jump up and down and pretty women cry. I played this lovely sport in high school and for fun in college, and while I am not a great player I'd like to say that if I was in shape I would fit into most (obviously not like D-1 ball or the pros) groups of ball players. So when Stephanie's grandma bought me tickets to Indiana v. Michigan at Assembly Hall I was pumped.

    I went into Assembly Hall a marked man. I knew that it was going to be crazy and everybody but me was going to be wearing maroon, and thus my blue and yellow shirt was going to stick out like a sore thumb. And I did, but it was tons of fun. Indiana pulled out the victory, and Michigan played well. So it was a good experience but I noticed a bunch of things.

    I have liked I-U basketball for a while, I think that Bob Knight had his teams play the right way, even if he was a bit off into the deep end. But when I came to Indiana for college, I learned that there are fans (some who root for I-U) who need to study how to be a fan. This showed itself to be true when I was at the game last night. I couldn't believe some of the things that they were saying, and how livid that they got over things that happened in the game.

    No before you think I'm sounding off at people just because they are from the state of Indiana, let me clairify my point. I-U has good fans and Michigan (or MSU) does indeed have bad fans. And yes i sometiems classify myself as a bad fan. But I am a recovering bad fan. So the next time that you're watching a game try and remember these tips:

    1.) It is just a game. Unless you're gambling (which is a terrible way to spend your money) you have nothing to gain or lose besides pride for your team. Don't let your emotional status be determined by how well your team did, cause I guarentee you this, they will lose sometime.

    2.) Usually your team is fouling just as often as the other team is (especially in conference play) so stop whinning about the officials! As I was watching the game last night, nobody complained when I-U wasn't called for a foul-but everytime Michigan got away with one there was an outcry! So remember not to be too hard on the officials.

    3.) Yelling at the players doesn't help them. If you were at work and you messed up, how would you feel if your boss was standing over your shoulder yelling at you? would it be better if your boss was encouraging you? So when your team messes up cheer or encourage them instead of yelling mean or harsh things to them

    4.) The team can't hear you yell. Unless you have courtside seats your yelling for directions cannot be heard so remember that! It's ok to yell, just don't expect your team to respond to your prodding.

    5.) The coach is the expert not you. Hey I like to think I know tons about basketball, and I do. But not as much as the coaches do, regardless of how dumb he (or she) is. Remember they didn't hire you, so the decisions that are made in the game should be respected (to some degree at least)!!

    So that is how I feel about bad fans. If you want to see a good model of how to be a crazy fan, watch Duke Home Games. The Cameron Crowd is crazy-thus the nickname for the student section-The Cameron Crazies! They cheer and are rowdy but their chants don't involve cussing and they are polite to the officials, well as much as can be expected. I just think that they're great and I have a ton of respect for their additude during the games.

    Also, if you're a believer and you're reading this, remember that you are representing Christ when you are watching sports. So do such good deeds among the pagans that they may praise God on the day that he returns!

    Anyway thanks for reading if you have anymore tips leave them I may do a little update later! Peace!