Where am I Going?

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. There will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” – Thomas Merton

Dream Apnea

I’ve had sleep apnea for years.

For those who don’t know: (If you already have an understanding, skip ahead to the “bold” section.) Sleep apnea keeps you from entering REM sleep (when dreaming occurs) and eventually causes heart problems. Someone with sleep apnea holds his/her breath while sleeping which causes a lack of oxygen to the brain. At church camp one year, my “friends” (thanks Throne Together) recorded me holding my breath for up to a minute. I went for years without dreaming ’cause I wasn’t really sleeping. I used to fall asleep at the strangest moments too. I walked around tired all the time since I wasn’t really resting at night.

Since our health insurance wouldn’t cover a sleep test or any treatment, I ignored it for over 5 years. Eventually a good friend gave me a CPAP machine to try. I’ve been using it for a year or so now and it has changed my life. The CPAP gives me a constant flow of oxygen which doesn’t allow me to hold my breath during sleep. In turn, it has allowed me to sleep well again and to actually enter into the deeper stages of sleep. I wake up and remember having dreams again.

OK – here’s my question. What else keeps us from dreaming?? (not actual sleep-dreams, but imagining-a-better-future-type dreams) Does your busy life allow you time to dream? Do you imagine what life could be like if. . . . ??? Do your fears keep you from dreaming?? Are you held back by something else? Do you believe in the person God made you to be? Is there someone else who holds you back or keeps you from dreaming?

Personally, I think we all need a steady flow of down-time to really dream. We have to be intentional about thinking/dreaming/imagining. Mike Ayers, my Biblical Leadership professor, describes it as “staring-out-the-window” time. This world will keep us crazy busy if we’re not intentionally seeking out “smell-the-roses” time.

I also think we’ve gotta have a healthy understanding of who we are in Christ. How can we dream God-sized dreams if we don’t think enough of ourselves or of God? What will it take for us to begin imagining a better future?

A machine helped me dream again. I wonder what other dreams I’ve missed out on??

My Second Marriage – An Ancient and Future Wedding

No one plans to have two weddings, but I do. No, I’m not threatening to leave Miranda (and by the way, that’d be the dumbest thing in the world for me to do.) I’m referring to the Wedding of the Lamb (Jesus) to His bride, the church. Although my wedding was amazing, I don’t think it’s gonna be anything compared to this wedding. Bridezillas have nothing on this one. It’s “THE” Wedding. Nothing can compare.

Yesterday, I taught a group of students about all this stuff by looking further at the cultural practices of Ancient Jewish Weddings. I learned the basics of the material from a guy named Dan Kimball who wrote “The Emerging Church” – www.vintagefaith.com. I did a little more studying on the topic and discovered some really cool things. Many of Jesus’ words fly right over our heads ’cause we don’t understand the wedding customs of His day. The connection between the ancient Jewish wedding and the time when Jesus will return (A Future Wedding) are significant. He (the Groom) will return to take the church (the Bride of Christ) as His own. Check out the process for getting married in Jesus’ day: (The bulleted sections refer to the Future Wedding of the Lamb when Jesus returns to take the church as his bride.)

1. Selection of the Bride – The first step in the process was when the father of the groom selected the bride. Young Jewish girls had little say in who they would marry and would dream about who would select them. The groom committed his love to the bride based solely on his father’s decision. The bride loved her groom simply because He had loved her first.

    • It’s good for us to remember that God chose us. Even in the midst of our sin against Him, He still loves us.

Romans 5:8 “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    • Of course it is out of our response to the love that He offers us that we are able to love Him.

1 Jn 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 – “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. . .

2. “Mohar” – The second step in the process is called the “mohar.” This is the price that was paid to the bride and her family. It represented the magnitude of how the groom valued her. The greater the price, the more value they had ascribed to her.

    • For us, we should remember that Jesus (the groom) paid the ultimate price for us with His own life. This is proof that we are incredibly valuable to God.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “You are not your own; You were bought with a price.

3. “Ketubah” – After paying the “mohar,” the groom would offer the bride a list of promises (called a ketubah) which he was committing to her for the life of their marriage. (like the vows we take in the modern wedding)

    • Jesus has also given us many promises. The Bible is full of them. Here’s a short list:

I will never leave you or forsake you.” – Deut 31:6

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matt 11:28

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” – John 6:47

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” – Gal 3:26

4. Gifts – The groom would give her gifts to remind her of his love while he was away. (see step 6) Today, we exchange rings as reminder of our love and commitment for one another.

    • Jesus gave us gifts too.

Romans 12:6 – “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.

    • These gifts come in the form of spiritual gifts like serving, administration, compassion, teaching, etc and also in the form of other people (the church) that He has brought into our lives. And of course the greatest gift He gave us is His Holy Spirit.

John 14:26 says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

5. Wine – Next, the groom would offer a cup of wine (Cup of Redemption) to his girl. If she accepted his offer, then she would drink of the cup without saying a word. This act ceremonially sealed the engagement before he left. (check step 6)

Mark 14:23-24 – “Then he [Jesus] took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them.

    • Did you realize that every time we receive communion, Jesus is proposing? Essentially, this is the picture that Jesus was giving the disciples that night. He’s going to leave for a while and so He is sealing the engagement.

6. Groom Leaves – He leaves to prepare the wedding chamber. Typically this would last about a year, but the groom could not decide when he was ready to come back for his bride. This decision was made by his father. Most grooms would typically want to rush through the preparations to “get on with” the honeymoon, so their fathers would decide when the chamber was ready.

    • Jesus has left us to prepare a place for us too. John 14:2-3 says,

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

    • Also check out Matthew 4:26. Jesus is speaking of the time that he’ll return and he says,

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

    • This sure sounds a lot like the tradition from the Jewish wedding to me.

This is not a “mikvah” but an ancient tub that I sat in at Masada. Although similar, a mikvah is typically much larger.

7. “Mikvah” – While the groom is away preparing a place, the bride is at home preparing herself. The “mikvah” was a ritual bath that the bride would take in order to set her apart “from the world” and “for her groom.” Symbolically, she was saying, “My old life is gone and the new one has come.”

    • Our baptism is our “mikvah.” It is the time when we decide to “set ourselves apart” for Christ. It is during this time that we are made “new” again.

2 Cor 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

    • In the same way that a modern bride is concerned about the way she will present herself on her wedding day, this time is important for us as believers. It’s the time that we are becoming holy, spotless, pure through the blood of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Ephesians 5:25-27 describes the goal of this mikvah saying,

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

8. Wedding March – When the day finally came, the groom would gather his friends and together they’d march into town blowing a “shofar” (like a trumpet) and making all kinds of noise to announce their arrival. The louder they were, the more excited and proud the groom was to be able to marry this girl. It was the bride’s job to be ready (to have her lamp trimmed) for when he came.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 – “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God.

Matthew 25:1-13 – It’s our (we are the bride) job to be ready for His arrival.

Rev 19:7 – “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.

9. Wedding Ceremony – In most cases a “chuppah” (canopy) was built for the ceremony to be performed under. It symbolized the “covering/blessing” of God on this union. The bride would receive a crown and the couple would drink another cup of wine. (Another custom which was added later is that this cup would then be broken as a symbol of the “bittersweetness” of the day – sweet for the couple, but bitter for their people whose temple had been destroyed.)

    • When Christ returns and gives us our crowns (James 1:12 & Rev 2:10), our union will be complete and we will be with Him forever. Also, remember that when Jesus was in the upper room enjoying the Last Supper, He drank from the first cup (that was the proposal “Cup of Redemption”) and then he said,

I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.

    • This was Jesus’ way of referring to this particular cup of wine found within the wedding ceremony. He was saying, I’m gonna leave you, but I’ll be back and we’ll drink again for the wedding ceremony. (It also interesting to note that the Passover meal normally required them to drink of the cup one more time. When Jesus skipped it, he was purposefully trying to help them see this larger “wedding” symbol instead of the regular Passover symbols.) As the cup is destroyed, we can remember that we will no longer need it for communion – we’re already communing with Him.

10. Wedding Feast – There was one final step in the wedding process. The party time! It usually lasted for about a week. The couple would consummate their marriage in a room with the best man standing guard as the guests partied outside. Wow!! Talk about pressure.

    • This is the time after we are joined with Christ forever and begin the eternal party with Him. Read Rev 19:6-9 and  check out who is invited to the wedding in Rev 3:20 – the normal/poor people.

Below is a chart I created to help put all of this together. The “Modern Wedding” section may have the pieces in a different order, but each part coincides with something from the Ancient Jewish Wedding too. (Click on it or download it to see it in full resolution.) Ultimately, the main lesson here is for our own future wedding with Jesus as the groom. Better get ready!!

 

4th Screen, Real Connections, and Community

Check out this video. I saw it on the Youth Specialties site and . . .well. . .in all honesty, I’m not sure what to think about it. It definitely makes me think though. That’s why I posted it here. Take a couple minutes to watch it, read my post below, and then respond. I’d love to know what you guys think.

 

I can pretty much agree with most of what the video is saying, but I’m not quite sure it’s the whole truth. I mean – Yes, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd screens have served to connect people to the world and even to each other to some degree. But they have also served to isolate people. And the 4th? Is it really promising that much freedom? It’s true that people can get their information wherever they are and that means they can be out with people and making REAL connections again, but what about the other side? For example: You’re out with your friends making REAL connections, but you keep getting text messages from other people. Are you truly present with your friends? or are you really somewhere else? Doesn’t this hinder REAL connections? And just because you’re out and about with people doesn’t mean you’re making REAL connections either. I’ve watched lots of students (I’m a youth minister) being completely isolated by their phones in the middle of a huge group of people.

In the end I guess this whole revolution is just another communication device. The church is just going to have to “man up” and find ways to do ministry within the cultural norms and forms of communication. I’m not sure what this revolution means to the world of ministry, but as a youth minister, I’m witnessing huge differences in the students of today compared to those even 5 years ago.

Rather than hiding in a bunker and pretending that nothing has changed, I think the church needs to discover how the 4th screen (texting, twitter, social networking, etc.) can be used to glorify God? How can the church use these new technologies to further His Kingdom? Or an even more elementary question – what is a REAL connection? What is community? Can a virtual community truly be a biblical community? What type of relationship/community is needed to honor God? What instruments/tools/technologies can help us to build those relationships/communities? Are these technologies appropriate for communicating the value/depth/glory of the Gospel?    Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts. What do you guys think?

My Beautiful Bride Today

Miranda was exceptionally beautiful to me today. I’m not sure what the deal was, but today she looked even more incredible than normally. Maybe it’s this “radiant glow” thing that people say happens with pregnant women. Maybe it was what she was wearing today or the attitude/outlook she had on life today. Maybe it was my outlook on life today. Maybe it was the way that God shined His light on her today or how all the planets aligned to cause a special gravitational pull which subtly pulled on me causing a heart palpitation within my chest cavity blah, blah, blah. Bottom line. . . . I don’t know what it was today – I just know that I’m so blessed. God has given me such an incredible gift in my bride. I’m so excited about our future together. It’s gonna be so cool to watch her as a mom to Kasen. I’m excited about the team that we’re going to be in raising him.

Our lives are about to change in huge ways once Kasen is born and I must admit that my excitement about the future also has a tiny little hint of sadness/fear about those changes too. I mean, I love my bride and the relationship that we have. I love that we can just get up and go to dinner or travel to Houston to do something fun. I love hanging out with her and cuddling in front of the TV for a quiet night at home together. I’m a little fearful that these days are almost over. Of course I’m excited about what’s coming and how we’re gonna be changed, but I’d be completely clueless to not recognize the beautiful thing we have now.

I thank You God for everything you’ve given me – for my bride, and these incredible early days or marriage, and for the amazing future You have in store for us with Kasen. It’s gonna be so good!!! I love You God!!!

Painting the Future

Hiro
Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to “paint” the future? That’s exactly what Isaac Mendez does. (He’s a character  from the TV show “Heroes.”) I believe that’s what a good spiritual leader does too. They imagine (or they are told by God about) a better future and paint/interpret those ideas so that others can see them and get on board to accomplish that goal.

Check this out.
The stages of a painter’s life are: (from The Leadership Challenege, Kouzes & Posner, pg 58-62)

1. Paint the exterior landscapes. (They follow other models.)

2. Paint the interior landscapes. (They seek to know themselves.)

3. Paint themselves.  (They express themselves in their own style.)

This just makes me excited, ’cause I see myself in stage 2 of this model. I’m learning more and more about who I am and how God has gifted me. I have been through some leadership and followed other people’s models, but now those models just seem inadequate. Everything seems to be pointing to the idea that I’m right on the edge of what might be the greatest ministry time of my life. It’s my prayer, that God will continue to reveal Himself to me regarding all of this. I’m excited about the future as I travel along by His side.

Prayer:

Lord, keep me humble and walking with to You. I love being with You. AMEN!

Here’s another idea that has me thinking the same way:
Henry and Richard Blackaby (Spiritual Leadership, pg 43-46) write about the stages of leadership development put forth by Robert Clinton in his work, The Making of a Leader. Here’s how it works:

1. Sovereign Foundations – God’s activity during formative years.
2. Inner Life Growth – Development of character and spiritual life.
3. Ministry Maturing – Early attempts at spiritual leadership.
4. Life Maturing – Learning to lead in their strengths. Connect character to leadership.
5. Convergence – Maximum effectiveness where ministry and life experience converge to a specific role. This is what the spiritual leader will be most remembered for – their greatest success.
6. Afterglow or Celebration – Celebrating and building upon work of convergence. Also a time for training up new leaders.

Wow! This stuff makes me really excited ’cause I feel like I can look at my life and say that I’m in step 4 – the Life Maturing stage.  (By the way doesn’t that stage sound alot like the “paint the interior landscape” stage 2 in the other model?) That means that I’ve still got Convergence ahead of me. That also means that the dreams I have about the future are going to come around right about the same time that I hit the “maximum effectiveness” stage of development. I could never have orchestrated all of this – it’s only by God’s hand and His intervention. That also means that He is intimately involved in preparing me for a future that will go beyond my imaginations.

I couldn’t imagine a better place to be. I have a genuine hope for my future.

Open Theology

Puppet_2
Open Theology (also called “Freewill Theism”) states that God does not
know the future. He changes His mind in response to our prayers. This idea
comes out of the “Freewill/Arminian” position which says that because
of our freewill, God cannot know the future. If He did, then we don’t really
have freewill. John Sanders describes the three main points:

(1)
God is Sovereign, but decided to create us  in such a way that we could experience a
reciprocal relationship with Him.

(2)
God made some of His decisions non-negotiable, but others are contingent upon man’s requests and actions. He truly responds to what man does. He knows the future as partly definite and partly indefinite.

(3)
God chooses to exercise general rather than meticulous providence. He doesn’t control everything that happens in a man’s life, but has flexible strategies for accomplishing His purposes.

 

They hold a high view of human freedom and even say that God will not violate our freedom.

 

They appeal to God’s testing of Abraham saying that God didn’t know if Abraham could be trusted with the covenant that He had intended for him. The verse actually says, “for now I know that you fear God.” (Gen 22:12)

 

Here’s what I think:

There are plenty of other verses which uphold God’s infinite knowledge. 1 Samuel 16:7 – God knows the heart. Psalm 139:1-2 – God knows all my ways, even the words I will speak. (That sounds like the future to me.) Anyway, considering these verses, we’ve got to either reinterpret them (and other which I have not mentioned) or reinterpret the Genesis passage. It seems more probable that the one should be reinterpreted than all the others. If you consider the book of James which interprets this Genesis passage, it becomes clear that the emphasis is on the fact the Abraham’s faith believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead. If the NT authors didn’t comment on God’s limited knowledge, why should our emphasis be any different? It seems pretty clear that James (Brother of Jesus) never imagined that God learned something that day, but more likely that Abraham did. Abraham knew his faith in new ways that day.

Here are some other thoughts regarding Open Theology:

How do you explain all the Scripture that describes God’s infinite understanding?

What about Jesus’ statement in John 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I Am.”?

What about prophecy?

Does God get surprised?

Does God get smarter as time goes on?

 

If God doesn’t know the future, then that must also mean that He is confined to the limits of time as man is. Doesn’t sound like much of a God to me – Like me, He’s imprisoned to time (which He supposedly created) like me. Like me, He doesn’t know the future. Like me, He gets surprised by other people’s actions.

I’m just not sure we have a god at all anymore. He seems a lot like me.

How does this make a difference for me?

Not at all – cause I can’t subscribe to this view. I will say that knowing the basics of these ideas will prepare me for discussions within the youth ministry that I work with. I feel like I should take some time in the future and study up a bit more on all of this so I can be more prepared. It seems like it might be an appealing theory for our culture that devalues God and uplifts man’s position. It’s probably a growing ideology that I should be ready to give an answer to.

 

(Info from “Does God Know Your Next Move?” by Chris Hall and John Sanders)

 

Heroes

06-05-04I read something today that was interesting. The article said, “A society’s heroes reveal it’s future.”

I wonder what it means that our society holds people like Britney Spears in high regard??? What kind of future will we have???

Who are your heroes? What does that say about your future?

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