Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Home Sweet ER

Well, we made it back from a great week in Canada, and I even got to bring home a nasty ankle sprain as a souvenir. I rolled over on it while playing basketball with the kids at camp Friday, got it x-rayed Sunday after arriving back in the US, and now I'm on crutches for a week or two. God was incredibly good to us while we were there - it was a bonding time for our group, a great time of bonding with the people of Pickering, and a fantastic experience of involvement in the lives of some great kids. It's nice to be back home to my own little one now, but I do miss my friends up north. People of the Sanctuary, thanks again for your great hospitality (and doubly so for putting up with my gimpy self the last day), your love for Christ, his church, and the world. Hope to see you all soon! God bless!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Over the Humpday

We're now officially more than halfway through our week of Ignition Sports Camp, and we're all feeling it. Those kids have run us in circles, and today was the toughest day yet. Tomorrow, rain threatens to cancel our day, but we've been told that either way Wednesday is always the toughest day for the kids and staff - Thursday and Friday see a change in the routine, which keeps the kids more engaged - and as a result, the staff more sane. Thankfully, temperatures have hovered around 70 with a nice breeze, so though we're sunburnt, we're not ready to fall over from heatstroke. We're back at the hotel relaxing and cleaning up now and preparing to head to dinner with some more soon-to-be-new-friends from the Sanctuary! Should be fun!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ready For Ignition

Today, we had our first day of Ignition Sports Camp with the kids of Pickering. It was exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. After a great dinner and time hanging out at the Collisions' (including a screening of Hazel Wars!), I'm back at the hotel and ready to crash for the night. So, I'll talk to you all tomorrow, and I'm really hoping this sore throat I've come down with tonight doesn't decide to stick around.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Don't Look Down

Ever wondered what it would be like to stand on a glass floor 1,300 feet in the air? It's kinda like this...

Heather snapped that picture this afternoon while we were up the CN Tower, the second-tallest freestanding structure in the world. Quite a view. It was a great day - we spent the morning worshiping with the people of The Sanctuary Pickering, and then spent the rest of the day in downtown Toronto taking in the sights. Tomorrow, the real fun begins as we have our first day of sports camp with the kids. It's going to be a great week!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

North of the Border

Well, after a 10-hour drive, me, Heather, and the rest of the Canada mission team from Hazelwood have arrived in Toronto. It's nice to be here and settled into our hotel room, and we're looking forward to a great week helping our friends at The Sanctuary Pickering with their summer sports camps for the kids of the community. It'll be nice to lend a helping hand and hopefully learn a few things about how we can reach our own community back home. First order of business, though? Sleep.

Friday, July 17, 2009

GoldenEye 64 - Live Action

If you're like me, and your high school memories are saturated with staying up all night with three friends playing GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64, then I'm fairly confident this live-action rendition of the game will completely crack you up.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sola5 Wednesday Recap - 7/15/09

This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.

This Saturday, Heather, myself, and six others from Hazelwood will be leaving for Pickering, Ontario to assist our sister church plant, The Sanctuary Pickering, with their summer kids’ sports camp. With missions on our brains, we talked last night about what I hope to be our new focus in the new school year – living missionally in our own lives and community. With a name like Sola5, we’ve put a lot of emphasis on reformation over the past three years, both the importance of the historical reformation and the need for constant personal reformation to bring ourselves more in line with the truth of God’s word. However, in the coming year, our goal at Sola5 is to turn our reformation into reformission – taking what we’ve learned and making an impact on those around us who need the gospel.

As an introduction to that task, we looked at Acts 1:1-11 last night, studying Jesus’ final words and actions before his ascension. As we thought about our task, we thought of our missional mentality like a journey so that we could look at the factors that will get us from where we are to where we want to be as individual. What’s the engine that drives us in our pursuit? It’s the gospel. In verses 1-3, notice how Jesus spends his time with the disciples after his resurrection – demonstrating to them that he is alive by various proofs and speaking to them about the kingdom of God. He’s giving them their message, showing and telling them about what his purpose was in coming into the world. Before they could go and fulfill the task he laid before them, they needed to understand what he had come to do. The same is true for us – before you can make an impact on those around you, you must first understand how the gospel bears on your life. It must become your driving force.

If the gospel is the engine for our reformission journey, the church is the vehicle that it drives. The disciples are still, after all Jesus has done, confused about the kingdom he’s come to build. They ask if its finally time to toss out the Romans, and Jesus brushes their inquiry aside. His kingdom, after all, is not of this world. He has called us out of the world to live as his body, empowered by his spirit – and that’s an identity we keep when we scatter throughout the week as well as when we’re together on Sundays. This brings us to our third factor – how do we communicate the gospel to those around us? Our culture is our avenue, it’s the road we’re traveling down. Jesus told the disciples they would be his witnesses. That word most likely calls to your mind a courtroom scenario. What does a trial witness do? He relates what he knows, what he has seen, heard and experienced, to the others in the court. That is our task as followers of Christ, and we relate to those around us through our shared culture. We’re all aware of our culture. If I were to ask you about your friends’ favorite songs, books, movies, causes, biggest pet peeves, etc., you could likely rattle off an extensive list. But when was the last time you thought about why your friends love or hate the things they do. What is it about reading Twilight or watching Lost or listening to Coldplay that triggers something inside them. What is it saying? What deep-seated emotions and beliefs to these things stir? If we can answer those questions, then we’ll begin to see crystal-clear ways to inject Christ into people’s lives. Get to know those around you, and you’ll have deeper opportunities for ministry into their lives.

In conclusion, though, where is this all going? What’s our destination? In verses 9-11, we see that it is eternal life with Christ. The last word that the disciples hear from the angels is that Jesus is returning just as he left. Their expectation and hope in Christ’s return is what drove them into the future. Can we say the same thing? I know that in my life, all too often I can’t. I become so weighed down with this world that I lose sight of my ultimate goal and destiny – to be with Christ. People around us need to see the reflection of our destination gleaming in our eyes if they’re going to have any desire to go with us. We need to grasp with more depth and vitality the glory of Christ and the amazing promise that we will one day stand in his presence and experience the purpose for which we were made by basking in that glory for all eternity. When we do, we’ll find that we’ll have an unshakable desire to live as reformissionaries in a lost and dying world.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's a Small World

I just learned yesterday that I went to elementary school with actress Maggie Grace of Lost fame. Crazy, huh? Heather and I just started watching season 4 of Lost, and I was looking up info on the cast to see what other films and shows they'd been in. When I got to her bio, I found we both attended Worthington Christian School in Worthington, Ohio, and she was a grade behind me. Small world.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Can't Wait For This Game

The best storytelling in videogames today (and better storytelling than many movies) continues next year with the arrival of Mass Effect 2. As a big fan of the first, I'm eagerly counting down.

Pray For Iraqi Christians

CNN reports that seven churches have been bombed in Iraq in the last three days. Pray for your brothers and sisters there to have perseverance in the face of persecution.

Friday, July 10, 2009

An Awesome Four Years

Yesterday, Heather and I celebrated four years of marriage. What an amazing thing it is to think about the blessing that God has given me in her. Guys, whether it's your anniversary or not, take time today to reflect on God's incredible grace as experienced through your wife. I love you, baby!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Gladness and the Risen Christ

"The Lord Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father. That should affect things down here...

When unbelievers get together to drink, or dance, or whatever, they do it to forget how miserable they are. But biblical Christians have a need to overflow, and should sing and dance and drink because they are full. When we look at the secularists who are the supposed experts in celebration, all we can see is that glazed eye druggie look, clothes that hang on the body, and hair every which way. Everybody looks like they are just back from an unsuccessful exorcism. These are the people who are leading the way in gladness? "No, thank you," we should say -- but only if we then know what to do.

The answer, as with so much else, begins with getting our theology straight. Christ was crucified under Pilate, buried, raised by His Father, and ascended into heaven. And that, as they say, makes all the difference." - Douglas Wilson

Mariah Carey Is a Calvinist

Don't believe me? See for yourself. This cracked me up.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Has Derek Webb Gone Too Far?

A couple months ago, I blogged that the recent hubbub about his latest album had me concerned that might be the case. Now that the pre-release of the album is out, I can certainly understand why the label was up in arms. Offensive language to make a convicting point isn't something new for Webb ("Wedding Dress," anyone?), but after listening to "What Matters More," the song in question from his new album, Stockholm Syndrome, I think this is certainly the furthest he's pushed the envelope yet. Have a listen yourself and give me your opinion - needlessly crass or powerfully provocative? Warning - the song does indeed contain profanity.

I want to think about this one for a while before I give my judgment.

Simply Amazing

I have never seen anything like this before. You simply have to see these shots to believe them. And yes, it's real.

HT: Vitamin Z

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Boldly Went Where I'd Never Gone Before, And I Liked It

Yes, geeks everywhere can go ahead and pick their jaws up off of the floor. Until last weekend, I had never in my life seen one bit of Star Trek. Not one of the movies. Not one episode of any of the TV shows. Sure, I had a pop-culture awareness of who Kirk, Spock, and the rest were, but that was about it. I've made my own trilogy of Star Wars spoofs, I could quote you every line from The Lord of the Rings, and the largest section on my bookshelf after theology books is my collection of Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks. My Star Trek naivete really is the one black mark on my geek resume. I took the first step to remedying that when a couple from church, Heather and I went to see J.J. Abram's Trek reboot after hearing a ton of positive buzz - and I can say that the buzz is quite well-deserved.

The movie follows the crew of the Enterprise as they're all young bucks just out of the Starfleet academy. The movie's villain, rogue Romulan captain Nero (Eric Bana), has traveled back through time to avenge the future destruction of his homeworld, for which he blames Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy in his aged version). The enterprise crew, including a feuding brash, rebellious Kirk (Chris Pine) and the calm, meticulous Spock (Zachary Quinto), must stop him from vengefully wiping out not only Vulcan, but Earth as well. Despite the talk of time travel and alternate-realities (which I'm beginning to think Abrams is obsessed with), the plot is easy to follow even for the uninitiated - neither Heather or I ever felt lost - and I'm told by my Trek-loving friends that it also serves as an ingenious way to launch a new franchise without stomping on Trek's long history and continuity.

Abrams' Trek continues the recent run of excellent reboots of aging film franchises, following in the footsteps of Batman Begins and Casino Royale. I absolutely loved both of those films, and Star Trek is worthy of mention right alongside them. While I've though for a while that Abrams is one of the best concept guys in the entertainment business (for evidence see Cloverfield and TV's Lost and Fringe), I've not yet been impressed with his work as a director (Mission: Impossible III). That changed in a big way with this movie. Abrams gives the film a brisk, exciting pace, a sense of humor that doesn't elicit eye-rolls, and tells his story in a way that alienates neither newcomers or old fans. The characters feel very human and are quite relatable, doubtlessly a big reason that this movie has appealed to the masses who are often turned off by the stoic nature of space opera. Much of the film's energy is due in large part to its stellar cast. Pine and Quinto are excellent together in the leads, Bana is suitably threatening as the villain, and their supporting cast gives a host of fine performances, with Karl Urban's Bones McCoy and Simon Pegg's Scotty especially endearing. This is about as good of a summer film as you'll find, and I can't wait to see where they take the sequels that are surely coming given the movie's fantastic box-office haul. Whether you're fluent in Klingon or a Trek-newbie like me, go catch this one before it finishes its theatrical run. I promise you won't be disappointed. We certainly weren't. - **** (out of 4)

Star Trek is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence and brief sexual content.

Start Planning For Next Year

Check out these good thoughts from Bob Kauflin on recognizing civil holidays (such as July 4th) in worship. Patriotic music in Christian worship has long bothered me (usually, I'll simply abstain from singing if I find myself in such a situation), and I think Kauflin strikes a good chord (no pun intended) here on how to approach intersections between the Christian calendar and the secular one.

HT: Vitamin Z

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sola5 Wednesday Recap - 7/1/09

This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.

After a very busy June, last night was our first regular Sola5 Bible study in nearly a month. It was great to be back with all my students again as we continued our summer question and answer series, “You Asked For It.” We looked at the question, “Why was Jesus never involved in a romantic relationship with a woman?” This is a question that has popped up more often over the last few years since the release of the book and movie The DaVinci Code. For those unfamiliar, the novel is about a professor who discovered the long-buried secret that Jesus actually married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her. Why does this bother Christians so much? After all, marriage is a gift from God, right? Genesis 2:24 holds it up as the most precious of all human relationships. Heck, an entire book of the Bible (Song of Solomon) is devoted to it! So why, then, did Jesus never pursue romance?

I tried to answer the question in two ways. The was to answer historically – why don’t we believe that Jesus ever married? Why do we find Dan Brown’s version of history so problematic. Well, quite simply, the Bible doesn’t say anything about Jesus getting married (or indeed entering a romantic relationship of any kind) or having a family. Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us everything there is to know about Jesus (in fact, John tells us that all the libraries in the world couldn’t hold the books required for that), so some might say that this is perhaps just a detail that the gospel writers left out. That hardly seems plausible, though. Wouldn’t you find it a little odd if you had a friend who you knew for years and they never mentioned the fact that they were married? That’s hardly a small detail. So, it would be equally as strange for the disciples to record Jesus life over 3+ years of ministry and never think to mention the fact that he was married with children.

The second aspect of the answer is to answer explanatorily – why didn’t Jesus pursue romance and marriage? On that front, the answer is a question of purpose. What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? Though he was fully human like all of us (including sexual desires), he was also fully God, meaning his purpose on the earth was different than any other human being who has ever lived. His purpose was to save us from our sin by the sacrifice of his death and the power of his resurrection (John 3:16-17, Colossians 1:19-20). His purpose was to demonstrate to us by his life what God is like (John 18:37, Colossians 1:15). So then, the question to ask is this – did romance and marriage serve the purpose for which Jesus came? The answer would seem to be no. Jesus' task of traveling Israel preaching the coming of the New Covenant and dying to usher that covenant in caused him to live a life of singleness - with many friends and followers, but no wife or children to commit himself to. This shouldn't serve to denegrate marriage and family, but to highlight the supremacy of Christ's calling. In fact, 1 Corinthians 7:25-35 tells us that as important as the marriage relationship is, it is subject to a higher calling – our calling as followers of Christ.

This brings us to the point of application. If Christ’s purpose on earth dictated what he did in his life – even when it comes to romance – then each of us must ask ourselves, “What is my purpose?” As Christians, we live to glorify God and to take his gospel to all people. That, then, is the filter that we need to pass our conception of dating, romance, and marriage through. Last night, I asked several questions to get my students thinking in this direction. First, why do you date? I would bet that most American teens get their concept of dating from the culture. I certainly did when I was in high school. However, one look at the divorce rate in this country should tell us that our culture’s view of romance isn’t exactly one worth emulating. Stop dating because it’s what your friends are doing and start asking yourself what you’re looking for. Are you dating to find a potential spouse? Is that something that you’re ready for at this stage of your life? If you’re not dating with marriage as the goal, then what is it you’re after - and is it something that is honoring to God? Secondly, who do you date? We have an explicit command in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 not to marry a non-Christian. If the purpose of your dating is to seek a spouse (and again, if it’s not, then what are you doing?), then it follows that you have no business dating an unbeliever. What sort of person are you looking for in a mate? All the good looks and all the personality in the world won’t mean a rip when you are an infinity apart on the most foundational aspect of human existence – your relationship to God. Thirdly, should you date? As I said earlier, we tend to be big cultural followers in this area. Have you ever stopped to ask whether the purpose that God has for your life is served by dating? Perhaps some, like Paul, will never marry in order to follow the calling God has placed on your life. Perhaps some will, like Peter, embark on a life of Christian ministry and balancing it with family life. Some will be called to singleness for a time in their lives to follow where God is leading, and some may meet their spouse in high school, and marry young, like Heather and I did. The point of it all is this – are you willing to submit your dating life and your search for a spouse to the wisdom of God’s word, or are you going to follow the lead of our culture which sprints headfirst into romantic or sexual behavior that is pointless at best and destructive at worst? Are you cultivating a biblical worldview, where what you know to be true about God and his word actually impacts the way you see the world and live your life? Wherever you’re at in life, take time this week to rethink the way you view romance and to pursue it (or not) to the glory of God.