August, 2013 Archive

 

He's even got a good looking image for the site. #covet

He’s even got a good looking image for the site. #covet

So, a couple weeks ago I asked my good friend Aaron Avery to write an article for my blog. He’s one dope human being, on fire for the Lord, and has been a great friend and profound influence in my life. I am so thankful for his heart and to have a Kingdom-servant like him by my side.

He just started blogging himself, and wanted me to share his first post with you all. It is titled “Stand. Run. Repeat.”

If you want to stay up-to-date on all the happenings on his site, make sure to check out www.mynineveh.com!

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I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of running. Don’t get me wrong, we’re built to run, and we live in a culture built to run, but our running fundamentals are quite broken. We live in a society maintaining the mindset that being busy is being successful, that not having a full plate is like not having a plate at all, that moving up the ladder, earning more money, and constantly outdoing ourselves and others around us in some facet or another is how we are to gauge our own measures of success. Many of us have become uncomfortably busy. Many of us have either purposely or inadvertently submitted to the ideas that taking time to rest isn’t productive, that quiet is complacent, and that stillness is weakness. This is all crap. I want to take a moment to share with you a few things. I want to pause for a moment in order to illuminate a few realizations I’ve had over the last few years. Take a moment, hit the “pause” button on your to do list, read for a moment, and then get back to work.  If you do, you may return to your work to find yourself a bit more productive…or you might not return at all…

I quit my well paying, secure, practical job last week. Amongst the many reasons why, the reason I’d like to chat about right now regards a disturbing statistic. I read the other day that one third of our nation’s “youth” is being raised without the presence of biological fathers in the home. The age and specifics of this particular statistic didn’t concern me, mostly because the thought of over one hundred million kids being raised without dads made me sick to my stomach. Why did this hit me so hard? Because just a few years ago, I was amongst that population. Though I wouldn’t change it for the world, I was one of the kids raised without the presence of my biological father. I am also one of the kids raised by a teen mother who had been abused as a child, who’s father was addicted to drugs and would end up bailing on the many families he’d create, who’s family tree showed little hope…or so one would think. I quit my job in order to have a conversation with those hundred-and-some million others who were brought up in a similar manner. Not to have done so would have made my soul’s greatest concern my part-time job, and this just wouldn’t do.

At the time of reading this alarming statistic, it had been a matter of coincidence that I was contemplating transitioning my career from business development and contracting to…well…something else. In contemplating career fields, I tended to ask myself, “What is something I could devote my life to?” I also asked myself, “What work could I possibly do in such a way as to maintain a hunger, a fire, and a passion while allowing me to be fully present with my wife, my family, and my community”? To make an incredibly long story short, that statistic was the last straw. See, I had been running from ministry my whole life. I had been running from sharing my story due to the idea that no one would care to hear it, that no one would be positively impacted by it, and that my valuable time would be wasted in telling it. I had suppressed a long time passion to write about certain things because I had become accustomed to thinking that things like passion, sincerity, “a fire in one’s bones” so to speak, was all nonsense, and that no family was ever supported by someone “doing their own thing”. The responsible man would grow up, go to school, graduate, go to school some more, graduate again, get a job to pay back the debt he had incurred in school, find a lady somewhere along the way, marry her, have kids, raise them with the money earned at the traditional 9-5, and send them off to college at some point in order for them to repeat the same cycle. Why? Don’t get me wrong, it is a downright blessing to live in a country where we are able, given education of some sort and the development of a skill or two, to get a job or employ ourselves in order to support a family, but where is the pause? Where do we stop and contemplate doing something different? Often times we don’t. We are comfortable with what we can count on. We are often comfortable with the false sense of security our money offers us. We are comfortable being able to predict our future, plot our own fate, and control our destiny. What if we were built for something else? What if we were build to depend a bit more on a thing called faith? What if we were built to run, but so built to run differently than we’ve been taught? You see, having hit the pause button in my life has opened my eyes to the fact that there’s a natural sequence to the way we ought to be running our courses. In order for one to run, one must first stand. The idea of standing is an amazing thought.

The idea of standing is the “pause” button. It is the time spent resolving and establishing the position, or the platform from which we will launch into movement. Where we stand, how we stand, and what we stand for most certainly effects the direction, the magnitude, and the way we run. I find it to be no coincidence that we have all become fantastic runners. We have become experts of “busy”. We are running after things, running from things, and running in place. The question though, is what do you stand for? Have you been running having not yet established your platform? Are you feeling as if you’re running in vain somehow, regardless of how successful your peers may see you as being, regardless of how educated you are, or regardless of how productive your busy days tend to be? Many of us tend to run in the exact ways we’ve been taught, but if we ask ourselves a few hard questions, if we concentrate more on what we stand for, I’m sure many trajectories would be changed for the better. What are you running after? What are you trying to escape? What kind of legacy do you wish to leave? Are you fully engaged with your occupation? Do you have a vocation, or a specific reason you are motivated to get out of bed in the morning? It could be the case that keeping busy is distracting you from refining your calling. The day job isn’t our enemy here, rather the idea that it is possible for us to run without first establishing what it is that we stand for. Take a moment to stop. Take a moment to search yourself. I beg of you not to take another step without having reflected on an idea of what you’d like to stand for. After truly developing an idea of what we’d like to stand for, and intentionally investing ourselves in that idea, our actions tend to follow suit. Your life is valuable, your testimony is yours alone, and the world needs to be impacted in a way that only you can impact it. Are you living, or just running?

Stand. Run. Repeat.

Much love,

Aaron

SolaWednesdayFinal

1) Twelve Myths About Calvinism

“Calvinists to do not believe that people are robots or puppets on strings. Calvinists believe in freedom and, properly defined, free will. While Calvinists believe that God is ultimately in control of everything, most are compatibalists, believing that he works in and with human freedom (limited though it may be). Calvinists believe in human responsibility at the same time as holding to a high view of God’s providential sovereignty.”

These are helpful notes for anyone new to the idea of Calvinism.

2) Are You Needed in Your Church?

“A lot has been written lately about people in my age demographic leaving the church. Some have suggested reasons for this, others countered with other possibilities. Solutions have spanned the spectrum. We’re told our generation is wary of anything that hints at consumerism, and then in the next breath we’re given reasons for attending church that center on what we can get out of it. It’s no wonder we are leaving the church–we’re not even sure what it’s for.”

The Church isn’t about what you get, but what you give of yourself.

3) Redoubling Failing Efforts

“But Franklin admitted no Savior, no God who was personally present in his world, so he had no choice but to look within and to continue his efforts. With his notebook full of holes, rubbed through by all these evidences of his depravity and inability, he bore down all the more. ‘He transferred his charts to ivory tablets that could more easily be wiped clean.'”

Even the most intelligent of man may never “get it.”

4) The Amalekite Genocide

“One of the standard ways that the New Atheists attack Christianity is by using some of the Old Testament war passages to argue that God is violent and petty. One of the favorite passages for this is the so-called Amalekite Genocide of 1 Samuel 15. But difficulties with passages such as this are not restricted to atheists. In 2009, the popular website Ship of Fools ran a feature called Chapter and Worse. Readers were invited to submit their least favorite Bible passages, and an evangelical acquaintance of mine submitted 1 Samuel 15:3.”

This is very helpful exegesis on a relatively common brought up issue.

5) Seminary Wives: 10 Encouragements for the Journey

“My husband and I have enjoyed the privilege of ministering to seminary students for the past 12 years at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s an honor to watch the Lord train up church leaders and to be involved in their lives for this special season. In particular, my heart is always concerned for the wives, knowing the sacrifices they bear and the quiet yet powerful service they give behind the scenes as they support their husbands. Of course, many women attend seminary as well, and that’s a wonderful thing! But if you’re a seminary wife who isn’t a student, here are some words of the encouragement as you partner with your husband in the seminary journey.”

My wife-to-be said she teared up as this helped her realize the profound impact she could have on my life. This is an excellent article.

6) Ten Things Pastor’s Like Most About Their Jobs

“1. Seeing lives transformed. This response was an overwhelming number one. You could almost feel the enthusiasm for this aspect of their ministry as they responded. These pastors feel that God call them to lead toward transformation of others, and seeing that happen is their greatest joy in ministry.”

Unfortunately, personal discipleship is number 10.

7) An Interview with Anthony Weiner

“Smith: Do you feel like you’ve damaged her place in that world?

Weiner: I feel that what I’ve done has hurt her, yeah. It’s hurts her professionally. It’s hurt her personally. We made a decision that these things were behind us and we made a calculated gamble on the question of whether or not citizens would be more interested in their family’s future than in my personal failings that are behind me. She’s gotten roughed up and it’s been completely unfair in my view.”

Seriously, this guy seems so nonchalant about his behavior I can’t believe he hasn’t been forced out of the race yet. Disgusting.

8) California Law Protects Rights of Transgendered Students

“A new law requires public schools to allow pupils from kindergarten to the 12th grade to access male or female toilets according to their preference.

The legislation also allows transgender schoolchildren to choose whether to play boys’ or girls’ sports.”

We live in an age where anything goes – as long as it makes you happy.

9) The Beginner’s Guide To Interpreting Old Testament Law

“For Christians, the interpretation and application of the Old Testament law doesn’t begin with the law—it begins with Jesus. The law points us to him (Luke 24:44). The law is fulfilled in him (Matt. 5:17). And the law takes on a new meaning for us today in him (e.g., “You have heard that it was aid…but I say to you…”). For us to interpret the law rightly, we need to understand it in light of Jesus.”

Super, super helpful words on reading through Old Testament law.

grandpa1

As I was cleaning out some old documents for my move (I get married in 19 days!), I stumbled across a copy of the eulogy I wrote for my grandpas funeral in 2008. This month marks the five year anniversary of his death. It is difficult to believe he has been gone that long.

Some of my family members have asked me for a copy of this document in the past. I am mainly posting this online now so they have it as a source to go back to, or if they wish to save it as their own document.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:3-5

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Papa and grandkidsFor those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ben and I am one of many grand-kids sitting in this room today. My grandfather was such a great man, that I don’t know if anything I can say will put his memory to justice, but I will try. I know exactly what Grandpa would be saying right now if he was here. “What the heck are you doing up there on that podium? I don’t deserve all this!” The fact of that matter is that no one I’ve ever met in my life deserves remembrance more.

Grandpa was a simple man. He wasn’t worried about economics, and he didn’t sweat politics. In fact, eating potato salad that was made by anyone other than my Aunt Trudi was more of a crisis to him than ANYTHING else that could be going on. He would, of course, eat all of it – but he would let you know how he felt about it with each passing bite. He was only worried about the finer things in life we all take for granted – quality time spent with friends and family and the love we share with one another. I remember all of my phone conversations with him going about the same – first I found out what the weather pattern in South Dakota has been like, and then heard about how great Uncle Troy was doing on his current job. I don’t know if anything made him more proud.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what it means to leave behind a legacy. As I said before, Grandpa was a very simply man. He did not have many possessions, and he did not have a lot of wealth. But one thing I think we often forget is that wealth is not measured by the money in our pockets, but rather by the love we have in our hearts. By this standard of measure, I think Grandpa was the richest man in the world.

One of my favorite memories with Grandpa is our many strolls through town. With his one arm out the window and a grin on his face, we would make our way to the Dairy Queen to get a Blizzard. I’m sure as many of my family members can attest to, Grandpa had a massive sweet tooth. My favorite quote from his has always been “There’s always room for ice cream, because it fills in the cracks!” I couldn’t count how many times I heard that one.

It was so great to see him dance again.

It was so great to see him dance again.

He may have been simple, but he sure did know how to make a statement when he needed to. I remember once when I was young and were at a Denny’s down in Kansas. Grandpa ordered a tall glass of milk and the waitress thought it would be a good idea to bring it to him before his meal came – that was a mistake. “Why would you bring this out before the meal? Now it’s going to get warm.” If I remember correctly, I think we left the restaurant because of that incident. He was a man very set in his ways.

Where any other man would’ve been annoyed by the actions of his grand-kids, our grandfather couldn’t help but smile. I know I speak for all of the grand-kids when I say one of our fondest memories as kids involved one recliner, a few rolls of masking tape, and one loving Grandpa. Sometimes up to a dozen of us would race into the living room, steal his infamous crossword puzzles out of his hands, and then we would climb up on his lap and waste rolls of masking tape, binding him down to whatever we could find while Grandma just stood there laughing. Of course afterwards, all dozen of us would spend the rest of the evening passed out on his lap – somehow we all fit.

We all have our own great memories of Grandpa. For some of us, it may be the few times we spent in Grandpa’s bus as we eagerly awaited lighting off fireworks on the fourth of July. For my cousin Josh, he loves his countless memories shooting rifles out in the country with Grandpa, who bought him his first two rifles at a very young age. Grandpa loved nothing more than taking those rifles out and firing hundreds of shells at nothing but empty cans, especially with his grandchildren.

sierra1

So. Precious.

And then of course there is my little cousin Sierra, who in the last 10 years has created enough memories with Grandpa to last a life time. If there were ever two people who were truly attached at the hip, it was those two. Sierra, you should know that Grandpa was very, very proud of you and the countless memories you have of him are something that no one can ever take away.

For me, today is not a day of mourning. Today is a celebration of the life of a great man. If he were here right now, he would not want a frown on any of our faces. When I think of him smiling, or his belly rolling with laughter because I just sneezed Diet Pepsi all over his new pickup truck, I know I can’t help but smile. And that is what he would want from all of us today.

As I was saying, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have a legacy. At first glance, would would say the grandpa3countless buildings, homes and renovations he has done throughout the year would be Grandpa’s legacy. But I think it is much more than that. I think it is also the countless peoples lives he has touched while doing all of these projects. I think it is the unending, selfless love that he has shown for his friends and family through the years. I think it is the five wonderful children he has raised, often sacrificing his own well being for the benefit of his family. So maybe we can learn a lesson from Papa and his ice cream, because just like we can always make more room for a frozen treat, we can always make more room for more love in our hearts.

evolution-vs-god-screenshot

This week saw the release of a new internet documentary that is taking the blogosphere and social media by storm. Evangelist Ray Comfort, president of Way of the Master ministries and producer of other documentaries such as 180, has a new assault on Western Civilization. His target this time? The scientific community, specifically that of the evolutionist crowd.

Entitled Evolution vs. God, Ray Comfort promises to debunk evolutionary theory in a way that would make even the most astute scientists squirm. I know Ray’s heart, and I know he earnestly believes this documentary is going to serve the Christian community. Unfortunately, the film neither debunks evolutionary theory and it ultimately harms the Christian community and our witness.

Now, I’ve previously hinted at my position on this topic, and it’s probably best I elaborate slightly before proceeding. I am neither an evolutionist nor creationist, and I am pro-science and pro-conservative faith. I am against the dichotomy that science is always opposed to faith, and I think such arguments are unhelpful and naive. I first began questioning evolution when I was in college, years before I was a Christian, and it was simply because the university’s leading anthropology professor gave a really shoddy explanation of it. Essentially I am not an evolutionist (although I do believe in an old-Earth) because I do not yet see the evidence for it. At the same time, I do not think it is necessary nor is there evidence to suggest a young-Earth literal creation account.

Evolution vs. God is a short film that is approximately 35 minutes long. In the film, Comfort “interviews” 4 university professors (two from UCLA, from USC and another from the University of Minnesota), along with a handful of science students from various disciplines on the campuses. I use the term “interview” lightly, because Comfort often comes off more hostile than not, and only hammers a single question home rather than getting flushed out information on the subject. In addition, almost all of his discussions appear outside, which suggests these conversations aren’t taking place in an environment that is conducive to honest and genuine discussion.

Comfort’s assaults attempt to prove that evolutionists do not have adequate responses nor explanations for the evolutionary theory. He tries to argue that evolution requires belief and faith, in the same way that Christianity requires belief and faith.

I am a little bit disturbed that Ray would equate belief in scientific theory with belief in the most holy, kind and gracious creator of the universe. The Christian faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The scientific, evolutionist “faith” or “belief” is that their evidence suggests they will still find the missing clues they’re looking for. These are two completely different kinds of faith, and trying to mix the two does injustice to the gift of faith given to us in Christ.

Ultimately, the film fails to deliver on several other levels. These points I will outline below:

  1. The film only furthers the mentality that science and faith cannot coexist. This only serves to create further separation between the Christian and humanistic/atheist science communities.
  2. It does not fairly represent the scientific community – four professors and a handful of students are not an accurate representation nor adequate sample size of people to interview.
  3. Comfort appears to be intentionally making scientists look stupid (how many reasonable answers to his questions are there that we DIDN’T see?).
  4. Comfort employs bullying tactics when he tries to force the idea that atheists like evolution because it gives them an excuse to be sexually immoral.
  5. The film ultimately hurts witness with the scientific community.

Every good debater knows that to have a fair debate, one must represent the opposing side in its strongest and most accurate forms. Otherwise you are simply presenting a straw-man. Comfort does not present evolutionary scientists in their strongest form, and instead paints the picture of brainless scarecrows from Oz. It would be just as easy – if not easier (given the average Christians abysmal Biblical literacy) – to make a similar film about Christians who can’t answer the questions of an atheist. We wouldn’t want to see a film like that about us, so why would we do that to others?

Similarly, humanistic/atheist scientists are going to watch this film and only become more upset and frustrated towards the Christian community. For most scientists who see this film, this is only going to alienate them and further harden them towards hearing the gospel in the future.

To be fair to Ray, I think this film does deserve some credit in that it may show that many students and people buy into evolution without understanding it for themselves. This is a similar attack that is often levied on lay-Christians for not knowing their Bibles, so now we begin to see that the same might be said for the average believer in evolution.

In closing, I want to make it clear that I am not attempting to tear Ray Comfort down nor question his ministries. I don’t doubt the countless people who have heard the gospel through his evangelism, and I am greatful for his service to the Kingdom. However, as Christians I think it is necessary for us to be aware of when we are betraying Biblical practices for worldly obediences. Sadly, I think this film ignores Biblical premise for treating others as we’d like to be treated, and instead allies with the worldly desire to tear down an idea simply for the sake of disagreement.

We can do better than this.