Monday, December 14, 2009

Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men

I havent blogged in a while so I'm just going to repaste some thoughts about Christmas from my community group's topic page on The City... Christmas laziness at its finest...

So this season has gotten me in the Christmas spirit more than most. After not really experiencing an American Christmas the last two years, I found that I really dont complain as much about the commercialism that I used to talk about all the time. In fact, I was that guy who was always quick to point out that Jesus’ birthday was probably in April, not December and that the only reason Christmas happens now is because early Christians wanted something to compete with the pagan traditions surrounding the Winter solstice. Even the tree and the lights are pagan.

But thankfully, I’m not the Debbie Downer I used to be. One thing that has struck me recently is the phrase above, “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” It’s a very happy thing for the angels to say to the characters in the Nativity story. So happy in fact that while I was watching my usual Thursday night comedy tv show lineup, that was really the only positive thing people had to say about the Christmas holiday. For the most part it was very PC, relativistic, humanistic, etc. but these shows did like this peace on earth line.

What the first meaning would indicate would be that the angels are telling these Jewish peasants and foreign kings is that “Hey, there’s a King coming and he wants to make everyone on earth get along, so quit squabbling with each other, AIGHT?!” But the more I look at this passage, the less this makes sense. Jesus even at one time says “Do not think that I came to bring peace. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Mat. 10:34.

Especially because the angels are the ones speaking here. They spend all their time singing around the throne of God when they arent being sent on missions by God to defeat demons or give revelation to mankind. You have to think that they are more concerned about the cosmic things than people being nice to each other ie. the enmity between God and man, not the wars between man and man.

Other contextual clues point to this as well, that “peace on earth” means peace between God and man. Christ was born for something greater than Reformation of our lives, like Tyler said yesterday. He came for more than self-improvement. (There is a great line from Fight Club about that, but its a little vulgar, so I wont use it). I love this though. He came to create a cosmic peace, defeat a cosmic separation, and give us cosmic victory over our sin. Anything less would lead to “the world’s lamest Lion’s Club” (paraphrasing Tyler). Anyways, if ya’ll have thoughts on Christmas that have struck you amidst the season of busyness and shopping, post away!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Boys Who Shave

The last few days have been pretty great for me from a "living the single life" standpoint. There have been obvious moments in life where I've thought to myself, "Man, you have it good. None of your married friends have the ability or freedom to go to a bar to watch the Panthers game or stay up late watching South Park reruns. Those poor suckers. They don't know what they're missing out on."

Seriously, though. It was great to be around other bachelors, at a bar, watching sports, not worrying about anyone else. Even though now all of my friends from high school (the believers that is) are engaged or married, the single life is still something I enjoy, despite the necessity of having divergent lives. In a way, it seems the way God intended it. Live life through your 20's. See the world. Activate your adrenal glands doing things that would make good stories later. Watch South Park Marathons until 3am.

I am probably insecure about being single about 50% of the time, but the other half of the time, it really does feel pretty freeing. A way that God lets us guys forget for a split second that we still have to wait for his marriage plan way longer than we want. There are just times you experience in bachelorhood in your mid-twenties that seem to make you feel like you're actually in those budweiser commercials with all the good-looking young professionals laughing at some off-camera tomfoolery, enjoying life and freedom while their friends are at home changing diapers, watching the Home and Garden Channel.

But then I heard a sermon (not even a sermon, just a sound bite, as I had it on in the background while watching tv) from Mark Driscoll.

"You are boys who can shave."

I know he has an audience there in Seattle that he was really preaching to. But it seemed very convicting to me while I was in the middle of snickering at the Coors Lite commercial on tv, realizing I hadn't actually shaved in a few days.

Outwardly guys can appear as men and act like boys was his point I guess.

He went on talking about "Delayed Adolescence." He said that back in Jesus' time there wasn't such thing as "adolescence" much less, the delayed type. It was something that we post-Renaissance humanists made up to make money for companies in need. Like retirement or engagement rings or the Moon landing.

Back then, girls (like Mary) would get married at 12 and so would the boys. It didn't matter that they couldn't shave or drink or stay up late eating Matzah with their friends. They were men at that age. They took on the responsibilities I avoid and that was that. They were "producers" not "consumers." They worked and provided for others. They didn't waste time playing video games or mooching off their buddies.

A lot of what Driscoll kept saying didn't so much apply to me I don't think, but that was something that thankfully got me thinking. "I can do all the things that define men, but am I acting like one?" I'm not particularly neat or organized. I can change my own oil and shave and play fantasy football for money legally, but am I capable of doing the responsible things that men can?

I started looking around my room in despair. Then I looked at the inside of my car. Even worse.

My freshman year at UNC one of my Bible study leaders started going on and on with an endless story from his life. He was talking about living selfishly in relation to David living in Ziklag while on the run from Saul. He wasn't really able to do anything, to move the plot of his life story along very far. But being prepared in our Ziklags, he said, was just as important as growth on the throne when we're the boss. It was a good reminder of how I should be focused on becoming a person with character and a strong core now so that I won't have to flesh out that sin later with someone else.

So all of these deep revelations led me to do the most obvious thing to me. Make my bed every day. Seriously, I'm not kidding. I'm gonna start doing it every day. Yes, I know that I've argued with my parents since I was 5 at the merits of doing something that will just get undone in a matter of hours, but I'm starting now. Here's a picture to prove it to you. Hopefully this thing catches on and it turns my life around.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Worshiping at the Stadiums and in the Mancaves...

Recently, as some of you may know, I've had to take a step back from campus life and my role with Bridges International. It's just a temporary thing (hopefully!), and once my support gets back to a healthy role, I'll be chomping at the bit to get back to the calling that I am sure God has given me for the time being, of sharing the Gospel among the brilliant minds of international students/faculty at UNC.

But one of the the positives (yes there are SOME positives to going back to raising support!) has been that I'm a lot more aware of how I spend my time and can reassess which parts are worthwhile to the kingdom and which are frivolous and wasteful. Essentially which are worshiping Christ in his glory and which are worshiping some kind of American cultural idol and its "glory."

It started a while back, my thoughts about what I worship with my time and emotional energy when I was having trouble really feeling God's presence when I would read the Bible. Then last night it was rekindled. My roommates and I found something on tv that we all found interesting around midnight: Mel Gibson's directed, Apocalypto. For those who have never seen it, I cant recommend it in good conscious (much like The Wire, its too graphic, but EXTREMELY interesting and well written), but just as a summary, its the story of native tribes in the Mayan region of Mexico dealing with tribal warfare due to the presence of white settlers from Europe coming. The hero's village is attacked by the Mayans, his friends killed or enslaved, the women and children raped or left behind defenseless before the men are taken to the capital city of the Mayans to be sacrificed to the Sun god.

It's a ridiculous display of gore, even for Mel Gibson, who of course was the weirdo who made the Passion of the Christ and Braveheart and We Were Soldiers so bloody. The scene that made me think took place as Jaguar Paw (the main character) and his friends are taken up to the top of a tall pyramid to be sacrificed, stabbed, "de-hearted" then beheaded. As he is taken and put on the altar, all of us watching couldnt help but squirm and hope that somehow the gore would take a respite. All of the crowds of Mayans are in a tizzy waiting in anticipation as the priest raises his knife. A little chubby boy (probably the son of the king) sits up top watching and smiling in his sheltered, aristocratic upbringing, calloused to the fact that a man is about to be savagely killed to honor a god that doesn't exist.

That's when I was convicted.

I remember Mark Driscoll telling Nightline recently his idea that if a person from antiquity were to travel in time and stand before the massive buildings and stadiums in America, he would say something to the effect of "what kind of religious ceremony is going on inside? It is surely a majestic building built to appease a god of great following." The Dean Dome, Trump Towers, and especially now that it's football season, Kenan and Soldier Field become places of worship, even if I'm not there in person, I can still worship through the power of HD and DirecTV. Ok, maybe not at Kenan, there must not be a very powerful god there, but I digress.

The point is, I realize that I may only watch football on tv or in person twice a week, but it consumes my thoughts far more often than Jesus' life, death and resurrection. It consumes me more than Heaven and the promise of eternal joy. It consumes my thoughts more than almost anything at times (maybe my reputation before others and girls could make a case for the #1 spot). I really enjoy the camaraderie and even friendship with believers and unbelievers alike through football and sports, but when I wake up eagerly seeing which waiver requests my fantasy team won, its a little much. When I dream about losing and winning games I dont play in, its a little much.

So I'm going to prayerfully cutback the time I spend on football, trying to treat it like other addictive vices like beer is to the alcoholic, like credit cards are to the shopaholic, like really fast internet without accountability is to the sex addict, trying to avoid the situations where I can sit in front of a TV for hours or reading articles forever about who is the next hot pickup.

Hopefully, like Jaguar Paw, I can miraculously escape the death of the sacrificing altar and retreat home to the rightness of being at home with the Lord and his will for my worship.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Implications of Colossians 2:8 for tonight

"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty conceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, AND NOT ACCORDING TO CHRIST" -Paul, Colossians 2:8

Tonight, as many of you well-connected to the UNC-Chapel Hill Religious Studies department know, is the day of Dr. Ehrman's latest debate calendar. This time it will center on the question, "God and the Problem of Suffering." He's debating a guy from the Veritas Forum, a high-thinking Christian apologetics group headed by Ravi Zacharias, who is probably also very smart and well suited for this style of talking.

I've been to one other debate by Dr. Ehrman held at Southeastern Seminary loosely about the Da Vinci Code and its legitimacy. (Actually I've been to another when I took his class, but it was just him debating himself. For a few minutes he'd make a point, then put on a cowboy hat and overcoat and make an opposing point. Kinda funny, he looked just like a bearded Indiana Jones when he'd make counterpoints). Things like this really interested me in the past because it would basically validate my skepticisms or beliefs depending on the outcome of the debate. It was an easier way to think and process deep, confusing spiritual things.

But now, I really worry and pray against the "philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition" that will be stated so convincingly tonight. When I was an upperclassmen, I prayed that the freshmen in my small group Bible study group wouldn't even take his class, because intellectually, it wouldn't be a fair fight. An 18 year old with basic Case for Christ level knowledge can't stand against a guy who has written more books than most 18 year olds have read.

I think that apologetics training is great and necessary so that we can give a defense at all times like Peter says. I also believe the Gospel is rational and historical. Of course we can see easily how "philosophy and empty deceit" can describe Ehrman's position as contrary to Christ and God's word, but sometimes our own ideas of how to justify the Gospel are also just philosophy. We rely more on our God-philosophy, based in human traditions that we are just more familiar with, than we rely on God's presence in our hearts and lives ultimately making it according to Christ.

Tyler Jones from Vintage spoke Sunday about these Biblical issues and made the case that was so true in my life as an intellectually struggling Freshmen in Ehrman's class that on the road to Emmaus, Jesus says that believing the Scriptures is a matter of the mind, yes, AND ALSO THE HEART. If your heart is not engaged along with your mind in the text, then you cannot have faith from God, because He desires us to be wholehearted in this belief, not just on paper. And I agree and think that most people who struggle to accept the Bible as authentic or reliable have primarily obstructions in their hearts more than head knowledge that is too difficult to reconcile.

I'm about to go meet in Lenoir hopefully with some International students who are interested in philosophy or ethics and who might be stimulated to a relationship with God through thinking out realities of life and the ethical code written on all our hearts. Many Chinese especially have never thought through linearly the wisdom and folly of a lingering Buddhist/Agnostic worldview and there could really be some breakthroughs tonight in some hearts! Pray with me that some will come to the free debate in Memorial Hall (holding almost 2000 people and is sold out!). Also pray that none of us will be taken captive by anything but Christ's real presence in our hearts!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


One of the things I've learned about myself, living on my own, working a job with overly flexible schedules, its that I shouldn't watch or read mentally stimulating stuff after 10pm. Mainly because I can't sleep after it. I just go back and forth in my mind for a long time about why the author/director said what he was saying.

Tonight the guilty party was "Religulous," a documentary by Bill Maher about the promotion of "Doubtism." It's basically what I expected. I dont know many people who watch his show (seriously...does anyone order HBO just to watch his show? I hope not). In some stretches, he was good natured and likeable. In others he was a jerk, picking fights with truck drivers in intellectual battles, obviously able to make them look foolish (actually if not for the fact that they were really nice to him, despite their rough dispositions and backgrounds in gangs, etc).

Other expected things in there: Religion is fantastical, its intolerant, it will ultimately end an otherwise straight-pathed human race. Even something like his family history and experience in church was predictable (culturally Catholic/Jewish split family). He grew up making deals with God, hoping to gain personally even up until he was 40, and then finally gave up hoping there was a God.

Maher certainly is no Michael Moore in his persuasiveness, but of course the editing and the soundbites from the wackos on there were pretty entertaining. Especially from the guy in South America claiming to be the returned Jesus, yet who misunderstands that the 2nd coming isnt just being related to Jesus' bloodlines.

This movie keeps me up, not because it really caused any doubts in my mind and not because he hit me with something new that I hadn't already worked through. But the line that remains in my head is his line at the end, and really, his thesis of the film, that "Doubt is humble."

Humble?? HUMBLE?? At first I couldn't believe it. It made me want to mail him everything I have ever read on humanism, the Renaissance, secularism and the foolishness of Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and the millions of worshippers of these men who they groomed, trained, indoctrinated to follow suit and gain power. I wanted to show him that religious wackos arent the only ones who take advantage of people who have insufficiencies, to show him documentaries on Communism in China and Southeast Asia. How an anti-religous culture murdered millions of their own people.

But when he said the line about being humble, it really got me thinking. Clearly the reality is that when we refuse Jesus' plan and his Word, we show great arrogance. But I think this film shows an "out of the closet" version of what much of post-modern America believes. I'm not saying that I liked this movie or even respect it or that anyone should buy or support Maher. But it was a poignant reminder to me that our culture is so lost in doubt that some no longer wrestle with it, but now worship doubt. It's uber relativism worked out to a radical end.

I really wish more people could read Total Truth and The God Who Is There and How Shall We Then Live? Then we could see how "religion" isn't the only thing that changes our slants. That the Renaissance and humanism makes us want to be our own gods and to ignore mankind's failures. But I know it won't happen that way. That these high level books have to be made transferable by us who hope to see college campuses changed by the Gospel. Ultimately to see students faces unveiled before a God who is there, despite whatever humble doubt exists.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Few Good Men

Today it hit me again how unbalanced ministry can be. Sometimes everything goes right and you see tons of fruit. Sometimes it all falls apart. That is the balanced part surprisingly.

But with International Ministry it seems like its a little hard to find guys to be involved. I've been praying ever since our first leadership retreat with Bridges and seeing myself as the only guy in the room of about 20 who was younger and male. It seems to be a hard sell, since international ministry in the US is more on the "nurturing" side of things. Naturally that lends itself to more ladies being involved, wanting to get coffee, share feelings and experiences and going to aerobics classes with these foreign friends. I've really enjoyed it so far and its really not's just what may be a false perception.

No, you probably cant hang out in the same ways as you could if you did ministry and it might be a little harder to joke around in the same ways with them. But International students have things that the average UNC student don't. Like a work ethic (I'm comparing them to myself in college). And like a perspective outside of life in the States. So it ends up being great talking with these guys who have a ton to offer me as a guy whose job it is to minister to them!

This is meant to be a thinly veiled recruiting ploy to get some guys who may be secretly reading this to consider reaching out to some awesome international students and joining us with Bridges! Or if you are a girl and know a guy who spends too much time playing Guitar Hero and needs something to do...hit me up! We're just looking for a few good men...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Who is Jesus?

Tonight we are having our first International Undergrad Small Group in Cobb Dorm. I'm at the same time nervous and excited about it. Nervous because I haven't done anything quite like this in English in a long time and feel like I don't communicate very well sometimes. Excited because I get a chance to have a lot of fun with International students in a smaller setting and because I've seen the Lord use myself and others who aren't naturals produce ripe fruit, seemingly by accident.

When we were planning what to talk about the first three weeks, we thought that this week we would just try to make it supremely fun and talk about Jesus as the Son of God this week. But that is a big, heavy topic. The more I think about it, the more I think it's hard to grasp what that means unless you have lots of degrees from Bible schools or at least have a background of reading the Bible for years. Lots of people in history were considered a "son of god" ranging from Caesar to Herakles to Alexander (can't call him "the Great"...he was a mean, ruthless, selfish son of a...well you get the point). But they were ALL called this because it was a SELF-ASCRIBED title. People just went along with it to either suck up and leech off their great power and influence or because they were afraid of getting whacked by the centurian or the personal phalanx.

For Herakles (aka Hercules to the Romans), it was a fact of him being mad strong and people just assuming he was from Zeus. But you know that no one actually ever saw Zeus descend from Olympus and say, "Hey everyone, this is my boy. I like him a lot. So dont mess with him. If you do I'll put a lightning bolt in your skull." It was just figurative. We know this because a) its universally accepted that Greek gods were not that powerful b) didn't care about humans c) only used man to profit personally. I think Herakles liked all the attention and the babes that flocked to him (SEE Xena Warrior Princess on UPN for the evidence) so he just went along with the lie. Or maybe he was delusional and thought that he had a crazy dream and truly believed he was a son of a god. But no one else is recorded as a witness to that.

Not like the scene we see in the New Testament in the Gospel according to Mark. Unlike Greek and Roman Myths, the New Testament, although debated often, has universal acceptance among scholars who study it that Jesus was a real person, who existed from around 6 BC-27 AD as a Jewish man in Palestine. Even atheistic scholars would say that Jesus lived and breathed and had a big following of people that would later influence the whole world. More than anyone who has ever lived and breathed.

So when "a voice from Heaven" (Mk. 1:11) says, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" the implications are extensive. You don't see the jealousy of the Greek gods among each other and those who claim to be gods on earth. You don't see the politics of Caesar's similar personal claim. Just a God proclaiming before "the whole Judean countryside and ALL THE PEOPLE OF JERUSALEM" that this Jesus is valid and is endorsable as his own Son.

Now it could be possible that Mark just made that up like all the Greeks and Romans wanting to have some bones thrown their way by their egotistical ruler. But the fact that he lists so many other people as being present to see this tells me that this book would've been voided on credibility unless there actually were tons of people to see that event. (Side note: historians and scholars also know that John the Baptist existed at that time and was killed for following Jesus...even the non-Christian ones...If his baptism party in Galilee hadn't existed you gotta think people would've cried heresy). This is why Jesus' claim to be the Son of God is so unique.

Anyways, I hope that these things we talk about tonight really allow the students who come and me to better understand who Jesus is. I hope we can really connect on some things with each other as we talk about these things for about 10-15 minutes.
I recently saw that episode of "The Office" where Ryan the Temp helped office oddball and creep, Creed Bratton "create" a "blog" by simply opening up a Word document for him on his computer. The whole intent was so that the world would be spared from Creed's crazy/delusional/scary thoughts and blog posts. It made for a pretty comical scene until I realized something. Strangely it just donned on my that my brother had done the same thing to me years ago and that it was possible that my old blog, "Daniel's blog" may have never made it to the interwebs.

As I investigated further, I realized I had been duped and decided to actually start letting everyone else in on some things going on with my life, now that I have friends who are getting all married and moving away. Also since I have some friends on 2 different continents from my time in Asia, it might be a good way to stay in touch with them as well...well aside from calling them or emailing them directly.

Anyways, a word to those who dare read. Unfortunately I wont be posting any baby pictures unless they are someone else's baby or unless I decide to adopt. Which has always been a funny thought to me. What if I just adopted some 12 year old kid? How would society react? Would I be able to handle him beating me in video games? Would I try to dominate him in sports like I would with my brother back in the day? Would I be tempted to sell the rights of this strange adoption to a movie agency? (I think yes). But I digress...just know if you are looking for pictures of cute toddlers, this is not the blog for that.

What you can expect are some hard-hitting ministry updates, stories from around my house of 4 mid-twenties men all of whom are male models (ok, not really, but its in our 5 year plans), and maybe if I get emotional, some sort of inspirational stuff I steal from John Piper or his friends and can pawn off as my own thoughts. And maybe some embarassing pictures of me being taunted by my 12 year old adopted son after he beats me in Madden.

Thanks so much for those of you who pray for me! Thanks also to those who read this whole first post!