Archive for November, 2008

If you’re not familiar with Sara Groves’ music, please listen to her sometime. I’ve quoted her in an earlier post, and once again I come back to her incredible lyrics. The song is titled “Painting Pictures of Egypt,” and it is a beautiful description of her struggle as a Christian for contentment in God’s plan. Here is just the chorus and a verse of it (please read carefully):

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And those roads closed off to me
While my back was turned

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know

Though I’ve heard this song before, listening to it after reading my sister’s post on contentment prompted me to evaluate my heart anew.

I’ve found myself slipping into the habit of internally reminiscing about my “Egypt,” younger years of fewer responsibilities and a carefree life. The demands of college life have tempted me to regress to longing for the ease of elementary and high school years; longing to go back to a time when I could finish school and play outside with neighbors. But in reality, I’m “painting pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacks.” In elementary years, I couldn’t wait to grow up and be able to drive and make money, to embrace more responsibilities. “I was dying for some freedom, But now I hesitate to go” In high school, I worked proportionally as hard for school as I do now, and struggled consistently with social acceptance. Why then, have I constructed memories of these years that are so misconstrued from reality? Why have I blotted out the struggles of my Egyptian years that were just as difficult? Why would I want to go back when, by God’s grace, I’m being led into the Promised Land?

“The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned”

It’s easy to read about the Israelites and distinguish myself from them. Condescendingly, I pity their quickness to desert God’s plan and go back to a former time of difficulty simply because it was familiar and predictable. And yet, that’s me: “The past is so tangible
I know it by heart.” Longing to wander back to a place without challenges or struggles to avoid facing new obstacles, I paint obscured pictures of Egypt. Previous seasons of life were, without a doubt, providential in their own time. But now they are foundations on which God wants to build me up more, to sanctify me more. “The places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned.”

God, help me to confidently press forward to the Promised Land, knowing You are leading me from former times of bondage to the majestic place of freedom. Help me keep my eyes forward, not even sneaking a look back like Lot’s wife (knowing what happened to her). Father, never let me forget that the future provides so much more hope than living with backward aspirations. My trust lies in you. Amen.


Quoting Myself

Posted: November 18, 2008 in Uncategorized
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I’m not sure why I was thinking about this today, but my mind wandered to a memory of a time several years back. I was in early high school, probably about 13 years old or so, and had just finished writing the last line of my paper. Before turning it in to my mom for grading, I remember asking her how to quote myself. I wasn’t saying this to be humorous or clever, but I just thought that my last line was superb. In all the books I’d read, when a line was noteworthy or extraordinary, it always seemed to be in quotes, and so it made sense that my little magnum opus deserved to be emphasized.

As silly and absurdly proud as it seems now, I’ve found I still tend to quote myself subconsciously. Jerry Bridges, in his book The Discipline of Grace, describes our daily thought-process as an ongoing conversation with ourselves. The person I converse with most is me. The person I talk to most has the most influence on me…and that person is me.

So in a strange way, every time I reason, every time I justify sin, give someone advice, or write something on a blog, I am quoting myself (unless I specifically quote somebody else). When I consider this, it causes me to think about the significance of quoting Scripture to myself regularly. If I am going to be speaking to myself 90% (or more) of the day, what better way to speak than to quote someone whose thoughts and ideas are infinitely more important and worthwhile? Memorizing another person’s quotes is one of the best ways to make their thoughts your own.

“Why not quote God more instead of ridiculously quoting myself?” -Steve Zubrowski, author of some blog.

Isaiah 55:8,9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Sometimes God teaches me what He wants even when I’m trying to learn about something else. Today, I was working on a paper about career choices for my Psychology class. Yes, I’ve actually decided this time not to wait until the night before! The objective of the paper is in part to list what careers currently interest us, and then to relate those to psychology. For example, I wrote about how I’d like to pursue a career in computers, perhaps programming or something along those lines. Then, I related it to psychology by saying I could analyze computer software to see how effectively it interacts with human users. Research was going well, thoughts were flowing fairly freely. Then I got stuck on my second career interest. I had already written about how I might like to take a job involving theology, and now was just trying to relate it to psychology.

This task was harder than I thought it would be. I assumed that because theology and psychology both involve, to some degree or another, man’s thought processes, the correlation would be easily presented. What I failed to consider was that Christianity and secular psychology have two entirely different platforms on which they build their cases about man’s thoughts. Christianity assumes that mankind is by nature sinful and in need of a Savior, while secular humanistic psychology presumes that man can improve his state simply by discovering his genetic predispositions and manipulating his behavior. Website after website warned me about this, and at first I thought maybe these were some overly judgmental Christians. But as I read what they had to say, I saw the seriousness of the situation.

You see, Christian theology and humanistic beliefs simply clash. They don’t have common ground because they start with opposing premises. I think psychology is an interesting subject and can tell us a lot about how the human mind works, but when it assumes a philosophy contrary to what God teaches us and tries to answer underlying “why” questions, it’s downright dangerous. Humanistic psychology tells us that man is basically good, and we’ve simply been corrupted by a flawed society. Fix the mind to disregard those skewed societal thought processes and we’ll live in a much better world some day.

Yet Jesus tells us in Mark 7, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (v. 21-23). Our natural sinful condition is our problem, not external influences.

Extending this knowledge of secular humanism beyond the classroom, it means that as Christians we need to be discerning in our culture. Humanistic ideology is so pervasive, and psychology is only one realm in which it spews its atheistic ideals. For example, we constantly see on tv that sex outside of marriage or getting drunk to drown out our sorrows is acceptable. This comes from the secular humanistic idea that we are only here to enjoy ourselves however we want in this life because this is all there is (secular humanism does ascribe to some moral code, but that code is a bit vague because it can change with new discoveries). Let’s look out for these lies so that they may not permeate our theology and faith. We must be on guard to grow in knowledge of truth and in godliness.

If you’d like, you can use this prayer that I’ve prayed during this process.

Lord, help me to be discerning in this world that is hostile to your Truth. May I see past the futile teachings of the day to understand that I am utterly sinful outside of the gospel. Psychology and science cannot change my eternal condition before a holy Judge. Thank you that you sent your Son to forgive my sin. Help me to declare the truth of Jesus Christ to others who have bought the lie that they’re not really in that bad a situation. May you open hearts to this truth, Father. Amen.

Tutoring Team?

Posted: November 9, 2008 in Uncategorized
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For the past several months, I’ve felt God tugging on my heart to serve evangelistically. However, as I brainstormed, I struggled to figure out what that would actually look like. Only old ideas were recycling through my head, and all of them were either unrealistic or didn’t required me to actually push past my comfort zone. One idea did surface amidst the useless ones, though. I wanted to work with kids in academics, perhaps by tutoring or helping with homework.

What I’m thinking now is that I want to gather together a team of high school and college aged students who are academically gifted and who also want to serve kids for the glory of God. I think as a team of Christians we could not only bless these kids and show them Christ’s love for them, but our actions could also potentially provide an open door for sharing the gospel with the children and their parents. They will see that we truly care for their needs and are not just trying to find something to put on job/college applications.

So I’m throwing the idea out there to anyone interested. If you are in that age range and believe you have the gifting for it (we do want to serve the kids as effectively as possible), please leave a comment here, message me on Facebook, or write me an email at letting me know that you’d like more information. If enough people volunteer, I will make some calls to see what sorts of programs are available.

Tonight, Kenneth Maresco from Covenant Life spoke to our youth group (and a few singles) about using internet technology to honor God. Specifically, he talked about using social networking sites like Facebook in a God-glorifying manner.

He began by saying that “Everything has changed,” referring to the unprecedented level of technological advancements, at an exponential rate many can’t even keep up with. He then contrasted this point by saying that, in fact, “Nothing has changed.” What he meant by saying nothing’s changed is that all the underlying Biblical principles for using social networking are the same as they’ve always been.

Just today, I wasted hours reading Chuck Norris jokes, and watching videos of Lord of the Rings parodies as well as a guy singing a mash-up of theme songs to a Star Wars parody theme. I know, productive stuff.

I was encouraged tonight to prioritize my time, to make sure my attention is focused in the right order: God, responsibilities, others, then maybe Facebook. I was also inspired to use Facebook to encourage and keep in touch with others. Basically, I want to use my time on there with limits and purpose rather than mindlessly cruise around the site, looking for the next thoughtless thing to distract me from priorities.

“Life is brief,” he pointed out. I don’t want to toss it in the cyber garbage can, investing countless hours in the plummeting stock of a wasteland that will pay back no lasting dividends.

Perhaps God is convicting you about the amount of time you spend online as well. If so, join me in giving up some of my internet usage time for awhile. God knows we’re not going to miss anything by doing so, and He will show us a lot about himself and us as we allow ourselves to think, uninhibited by these distractions.

For those interested in listening to the message, you can download it here (this is the same message, but this recording is from him preaching to his own church).

Last night marked an unarguably historic moment in American history. Barack Obama is our new President. With his victory and celebratory anticipation, however, has come the expected groanings from many of the opposition. I want challenge two groups right now.

For the first, I challenge those of us who do not support Obama to refrain from joining in the disparaging cries of bitter resentment. In refusing to do so, we reveal a pessimistic unbelief in the sovereignty of God over human history. Pitiful complaints do not bring honor to God, as if somehow we please him by saying, “well, God, if things go downhill, remember I was always against him.” It’s almost as if we’re gearing up for a massive “I told you so” moment. Such pessimism raises man to a level unfit for mortal creatures. It blurs the distinction between man’s power and God’s power by saying our nation’s future lies in the hands of one person. Let’s understand that the will of God is unavoidable, inescapable. Our hope doesn’t rest in any president. God is the supreme Governor, and the only one who has never failed to fulfill a promise.

For those in support of Obama, I bring up one cautionary point. Please, in celebrating, don’t go to the extreme of expecting perfect change from him. No man can meet the expectations of an entire nation, especially the ones many have placed on our new President. We will never have a perfect economy, a perfect educational system, or a perfect environment, but that’s ok. No such utopia exists on this earth. Expecting perfection from a human will only bring disappointment, but remembering who your Comforter is in difficulty is crucial to a joyful life.

With those two things being said, let’s praise God that we live in a land of freedom in which we have the privilege of voting for our leaders. Let’s anticipate a wonderful future, knowing the One who is in control.

I love rhythms and beats. I always have. When I was little, I used to beg my parents for a drum set, even though I was already taking piano lessons. Piano was nice, melodies are great, but I couldn’t resist this percussional longing (yes, I made up the word “percussional”).

One Christmas, I received a small djembe, but this small hand drum didn’t satisfy me. I simply couldn’t do enough with it. A few pitches, some various rhythms, but nothing on a scale that kept my attention. That same Christmas, my parents bought us kids a new keyboard, the kind that had about 100 different styles you could use, such as banjo, flute, or…drum kit. I begin to pick out the keys for the bass drum, snare, hi-hats, and crash. The essentials. For extended periods of time I would concoct patterns and beats, and thoroughly enjoyed myself for awhile.

I quickly grew disinterested, however, due to the fact that these sounds were not only limited, but they were unrealistic. I wasn’t actually hitting anything, and I felt artificial pressing the keys. Then, finally, Darren Mangrum offered to let me have his old drum set, free of charge. Ecstatic, I took it home, ordered some parts online so I could actually play it, and I was on my way to actually drumming! Starting out, I struggled to coordinate my foot with my hands, but as I continued I gradually gained the skills to improvise, to use some creativity. I would play for hours (much to the dismay of my family), attempting different things like adding a snare hit on the downbeat, rolling the stick head instead of popping it, etc. This medium for “percussional” expression finally allowed me to experiment with an endless supply of uses for each piece of the kit. I was no longer restricted to a few pitches or a few keys, but could try new techniques, forms, and styles.

I’m still experimenting, and whenever I hear a new or complex beat in a song, my mind locks in and I lose touch with reality for those few minutes. One recent example is a new song from the Psalms CD from Sovereign grace called You Will Never Change. It’s a fun drum beat and an overall great song. A profound sense of happiness overcomes me whenever I can play the drums or absorb the sounds of a skilled percussionist. Sometimes when I hear traditional songs like hymns, I hear a beat and style that could complement them. As you can imagine, I can be easily distracted during corporate worship. I focus more, at times, on what the drums are doing than the lyrical content, and often must intentionally pull my mind back to the words. When I’m sitting at a red light with my turn signal on, the tempo of the blinker turns into a metronome, and the steering wheel beckons me for a beat to match. I must oblige, again much to the chagrin of any passengers.

How good of God to bless me with the pleasure of drums. Amazingly enough, I can worship God even without playing worship music on drums by simply acknowledging His goodness in creating music as I play. But I have the added privilege of being part of a youth band at church that comes together to combine talents for the purpose of leading others to worship. I get to play drums as my bandmates play guitar and sing God’s praises, and we all share the experience of God’s greatness. What a joy!

What are your simple, unique pleasures?