Tuesday, December 11, 2007

e.s.a.u. thread two

Post comments, discussion points, and thoughts as you read through this book. From this thread our nightly discussion will be fashioned.

e.s.a.u. thread one

Post comments, discussion points, and thoughts as you read through this book. From this thread our nightly discussion will be fashioned.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

robinson crusoe - despair

After being castaway upon an uninhabited island Robinson finds himself in despair considering the hopelessness of his situation. Alone on a deserted island with no apparent escape in sight. The following excerpt is from chapter six...

"I had a dismal prospect of my condition, for as I was not cast away upon that island without being driven, as is said, by a violent storm quite out of the course of our intended voyage, and a great way, viz. some hundreds of leagues out of the ordinary course of the trade of mankind, I had great reason to consider it as a determination of heaven, that in this desolate place, and in this desolate manner I should end my life; the tears would run plentifully down my face when I made these reflections, and sometimes I would expostulate with my self, why providence should thus compleatly ruine its creatures, and render them so absolutely miserable, so without help abandon'd, so entirely depress'd, that it could hardly be rational to be thankful for such a life."

I find that Mr. Defoe's portrayal of someone lonely and in despair is very realistic. Robinson infers from his situation that he was driven to this island by God himself as some sort of punishment. He accuses God as to why He would "ruin" someone in such a manner. Miserable, abandoned, depressed Robinson lashes out at God for putting him in such a predicament.

Isn't that just like us? Don't we blame God for situations that we have caused? When things are going well we take the credit, but when things are not so good we quickly blame God, not ourselves for where we are. Ever been miserable? Ever felt abandoned? Ever been depressed? Who do we blame for our state? Typically others and often God. And if we are honest we can all admit that we have been "deserted" in our lives. And if we have then surely others have as well. Does God steer our ship into destruction leaving us wrecked? Or do we make the decisions that place us in despair then simply accuse God? Honestly we live in a world full of misery, abandonment and depression. Learning how to cope with these situations is a part of making our way through this life. Helping others as they traverse this life is part of our Christian life.

May we know with certainty that there is a God and He is able and willing to help us and sustain us and guide us through this life even if we accuse Him of our despair.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

robinson crusoe - repentance

I finished reading Robinson Crusoe a few weeks back and would like to share some of the ideas and thoughts that came out of reading this classic piece of literature. By the way, when I say I finished "reading" this book what I really mean is I finished "listening" to the mp3 version of this book which I downloaded for free from librivox.org. This is a very cool website where you can download a ton of audio books which are in the 'public domain' for free. There are some of the great classic books of literature available and you can even volunteer to be a reader.

The first chapter of Robinson Crusoe entitled "Robinson's Family—His Elopement from His Parents" begins with a dialog between Robinson and his father. Here Robinson's father tries to talk him out of 'going to sea' and leaving the family. He reasons that there are those in the world who have gone to sea and attained great fortunes and those who have gone to sea and become men of desperate fortunes and that the position in life where you can be the most satisfied is on neither extreme, but somewhere in the middle. Eventually and against his father's wishes Robinson left home for a life at sea. The decision to leave was one that he would never be able to get back and one often lamented throughout his life.

Chapter two entitled "First Adventures at Sea—Experience of a Maritime Life— Voyage to Guinea" describes Robinson's first adventure at sea which was not a good one.

"Never any young aventurer's misfortunes, I believe, began sooner, or continued longer than mine. the ship was no sooner gotten out of the humber, but the wind began to blow, and the winds' to rise in a most frightful manner; and as I had never been at sea before, I was most inexpressibly sick in body, and terrify'd in my mind: I began now seriously to reflect upon what I had done, and how justly I was overtaken by the judgment of heaven for my wicked leaving my father's house, and abandoning my duty; all the good counsel of my parents, my father's tears and my mother's entreaties came now fresh into my mind, and my conscience, which was not yet come to the pitch of hardness to which it has been since, reproach'd me with the contempt of advice, and the breach of my duty to god and my father."

Robinson found himself in a life and death situation where he vowed that if he could be saved from this predicament he would go directly back to his home and live there the rest of his days. Unfortunately this was not to be, for after another storm and a sunken ship Robinson has this discourse with himself.

"As to going home, shame opposed the best motions that offered to my thoughts; and it immediately occurr'd to me how I should be laugh'd at among the neighbours, and should be asham'd to see, not my father and mother only, but even every body else; from whence I have since often observed, how incongruous and irrational the common temper of mankind is, especially of youth, to that reason which ought to guide them in such cases, viz. That they are not asham'd to sin, and yet are asham'd to repent; not asham'd of the action for which they ought justly to be esteem'd fools, but are asham'd of the returning, which only can make them be esteem'd wise men."

And here is the lesson that is pulled from the first part of this book and so eloquently spoken by Daniel Defoe. Many times we are not ashamed to sin, but are ashamed to repent. We are not ashamed of the actions that are foolish, but are ashamed to admit that we have made a mistake. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." The creator of the universe who knows us better than we know ourselves is willing to forgive if we will admit our faults, yet we let pride keep us from repenting and changing our lives.

May we see that God loves us and is willing to forgive, if we are willing to repent.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

mexico 2007

Saturday, April 7, 2007 twelve of us from Avalon boarded an airplane at Norfolk International Airport and amidst snow showers took off; our destination, Mexico. At about 5:00 pm Central Time we touched the ground in Laredo, Texas. To our surprise it was freezing in south Texas. The team made a short visit to Wal-Mart to pick up a few last necessities and I went looking for a blanket. After a bite to eat we crossed the boarder into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. According to Wikipedia, the city of Nuevo Laredo is the northernmost city in the state of Tamaulipas, and lies at the extreme northwestern tip of its narrow strip of land along the Río Grande. The 2005 census population of the city was 348,387.

While the weather was unseasonably cool, the reception we received from our Mexican brothers and sisters was extremely warm. We spent the night with one of the local churches and attended an Easter sunrise service to celebrate the resurrection the next morning. The worship time was energetic and inspiring and two hours and in Spanish. Our team leader Rich Lemel from R.O.C. Ministries (http://www.bright-web.com/ROC/main.html) later told us that Mexican worship services always last two hours. We recognized a few hymns and shared communion and understood a few “Jesus Christo’s” during the sermon and all in all felt blessed to have the opportunity to worship God with our Mexican brothers and sisters. To our surprise the ladies of the congregation had prepared a meal for us to share following the service so we all experienced a real Mexican feast. We spent the rest of the day Sunday driving to our destination for the week, Monclova, located in the Mexican state of Coahuila.

We crossed part of the Sierra Madre Mountains and arrived in Monclova, population 198,819. (What a bumpy ride.) The church where we would be working for the week is located just outside the city of Monclova in a new neighborhood that was being developed for people to come to the area to find work. Now when I say developed, I don’t mean there were contractors paving roads and building houses, rather this colony consists of makeshift houses some with running water and some with indoor toilets, but mostly not. Our project for the week was to help put some of the finishing touches on a clinic that was built as a part of the church property to be an outreach to the community. This community which is very poor will be extremely blessed to have a medical facility so close and Avalon had a small part in making this a reality.

The rest of the week the team worked very hard to complete the many tasks that we were asked to accomplish. By the time we left, the clinic was very close to completion. There were only a few more projects that remained.

I was blown away by the Christians we met in Mexico; in particular the preachers and their families that we met were wonderful. I’ll tell one story. One day after we had finished working I was sitting on the porch of the preacher’s house (which, by the way, he and his wife had moved out of for the week so we could have a place to cook and eat, and where the ladies from our group could sleep) and the local preacher Miguel was talking to a man from the neighborhood. I do not speak much Spanish (“no mas concretó” is about all I learned) but, I could tell that Miguel was talking to the man about Jesus. It was beautiful. To hear the message of Jesus being told to this man was what it is all about. And I don’t mean that’s what this trip was all about, but that’s what this life is all about. “For God so loved the world… ”

Monday, July 9, 2007

camp rudolph worship video update

I am still working on posting the videos from camp rudolph last week. I am out of town in Kentucky with Middle School students - so I might be able to get it done this week, if not first part of next week.

Keep checking back. The video is pretty cool. Now I've got to figure out how to post it.

Look down a couple posts to see my top-ten reasons that soccer is not a sport.`

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

losing sight of God (part 2)

Don't you think that if we could really see God as He is that it would change everything? If you think about it our view of God is very confined by this world that we live in. We are human, God is divine. We are bound by time, God is eternal. We are dimensional, God is spiritual. We are held in place, God is everywhere. We have limited knowledge, God is all-knowing. We see and live the here and now, God dwells in the always. Everything that we are is at least influenced if not defined by the earthly context that we live in. It is really hard for us as humans, existing in flesh, within this carnal world to see and understand God who is spirit and dwells in a spiritual realm. But if we could - wouldn't that change everything? Or maybe, if we would - couldn't that change everything?

I don't think that we would sin as much. I think we would be more concerned with the things that God is concerned with. I don't think we would get as hung up on money and status and promotions and houses and all these earthly things. (all the things that we can't take with us when we leave this dimension) I think we would spend more time relating to people, all people. Not just those who are convenient or we're expected to care about. I think we would work harder to see to it that everyone gets a chance to hear about God. I think we would be nicer. I think there would be a number of things that wouldn't matter to us anymore. The right clothes, the right hairstyle, the right car, the right image, the right house on the right street, none of these would matter if we see them in contrast to the magnificence of God Almighty. I think we would see our existence here a lot differently. We would live with more purpose, more passion, more fortitude, and more conviction.

So what's the problem? Is our vision too impeded by the overwhelmingly human/earthly existence? Is it possible to really see God?

2 Corinthians 4:4 reads;

"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

I believe that this scripture contains not only the problem, but also the solution. I concede that it is difficult to see God in this earthly realm. Additionally God's adversary Satan has "blinded the minds of unbelievers." There is a real problem to overcome in this world, but there is also a real solution. Paul goes on to say, "so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." Unbelievers have a hard time seeing God in this place, and I am convinced that even Christians lose sight of who God is from time to time, but we need to look no further than the person of Jesus "who is the image of God." If we want to clear the fog from our view of the eternal God we have that opportunity; we must look at Jesus. If we want to see God, really see God in the context of this world, we must look into the eyes of Jesus. The more we know about Jesus, the more we know about God.

losing sight of God (part 1)

I have been working on formulating a thought for several years. (I am a little slow) I know that I haven't fully developed it and I certainly do not think I have any answers to the questions this thought brings about, but I do think it is something that is worth thinking about.

So here it is, I believe it is possible that the Church in our culture has lost sight of who God is. I believe the Church in America today sees God through a different lens than previous generations and differently than those in other cultures today. Is it possible that we have Americanized our view of God to the extent that what we see is fundamentally different than the God of the Bible? And what would be the result of not seeing God the way He really is? Statistics from a Barna Group study indicate that over the past ten years not one county in the United States has increased in church attendance. That's alarming. Are we worshipping the one true God, or have we shaped God into a comfortable form which doesn't mess up our lives? I'm not sure the answer to these questions, but I do know that this problem is not specific to us.

The Old Testament shows us many examples of those who should know God, but somehow lost sight of Him. Numbers 14 records the Israelites grumbling against God because of the reports they had gotten from the scouts who went over into the promised land and reported it to be a land full of fertile ground, a land that "flowed with milk and honey," but also people who were strong.

"That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, 'If only we had died in Egypt! Or in the desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?'"

These people should be acutely aware of God and who He is and what He is capable of, but somehow they lost sight of Him. Did they forget where they had come from? Did they forget that God promised to their ancestor Abraham that he and his descendants would be blessed? That Abraham had been given a son in his old age and that this son Issac was the father of Jacob and Esau? What about how Jacob had tricked Esau into giving up the blessing of his father? And how after Issac blessed him Jacob wrestled with God and God changed his name to Israel. Israel had twelve sons whose descendants later became the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. These are the same tribes who in Numbers 14 are grumbling against God. These sons of Israel sold one of the brothers to some merchants who in turn sold Joseph to Potipher an Egyptian. Had they forgotten that God blessed Joseph to the degree that he became ruler of all of Egypt, second only to Pharoah? And how years later after the rulers of Egypt had forgotten what Joseph had done for them they put the Israelites into slavery in Egypt. So God raised up a leader named Moses who confronted Pharoah and demanded he let the Israelites go. Had they forgotten the plagues God sent on Egypt? Had they forgotten the parting of the Red Sea and the victory God provided there againt the armies of Egypt? Could they have forgotten the way God led them through the wilderness? How God provided food everyday from nowhere? Could they not see the cloud during the day and the fire at night that went before them? After all this, here they stand on the banks of the Jordan River, looking over into the land that God had promised and they still doubt. They lost sight of Him. They only could see the present. They lost sight of their own history and didn't have enough faith to see their future. And are we any different?

Why do we struggle? Why do we question? Why can't we see things the way they really are?

We lose sight of God and who He is.

All powerful.
Ever present.
Knowing everything.
Creator of the universe.
Giver of life.
Full of grace.

Monday, January 15, 2007

top ten


10. It is possible to play an entire game and not have to touch the ball.

9. There is no playbook.

8. Everyone gets a trophy just for playing.

7. No huddles.

6. Game ends in a 2 – 2 tie and everyone is o.k. with it.

5. It is the same as ice hockey without the ice.

4. Game ends in a 0 – 0 tie and everyone calls it a great game.

3. Because they only show highlights on ESPN every four years.

2. There is no reason to run that much unless someone is chasing you.

1. Two words: Soccer Mom.

death road

A few nights ago Bonnie and I were watching a program on the Discovery Channel concerning “The World’s Most Dangerous Road.” This road known around the world as “The Death Road” is located in Bolivia, South America, winding through the Andean Mountains connecting the cities of La Paz and Coroico. Leaving La Paz, the world’s highest capital city at just under 4,000m above sea level, the road climbs up another 1000m into the mountains. It then plunges down through rainforest to the green plains and farm land some 3,200m below. The road was built by Paraguayan prisoners of war back in the 1930s. Many of them perished in the effort. Now it is mainly Bolivians who die on the road in their thousands. Every year it is estimated 200 to 300 people die on a stretch of road less than 50 miles long. In one year alone, 25 vehicles plunged off the road and into the ravine. That is one every two weeks. The roadside is littered with plain wooden crosses in remembrance of the people who perish each year. Cars, buses and bikes have all plummeted off the road whether through bad weather, bad driving or natural hazards such as waterfalls that propels vehicles down the side of the mountain. The Bolivian government has been working on a safer highway that would save many lives, but after millions of dollars and 20 years the end is still not in sight. “The Death Road” has become a world renowned attraction for the country of Bolivia. Some companies set up biking adventure tours for thrill seekers to come and ride “The Death Road.”

This road in Bolivia reminds me of another road that is known throughout the world as the “Via Dolorosa” which is Latin for “Way of Grief.” The “Via Dolorosa” is a street in old Jerusalem traditionally held to be the path that Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion. People from all over the world make their way to this street to see the place that our Savior walked, to possibly put their feet on the same stones that Jesus touched a couple thousand years ago on his way to “Golgotha.” The bible tells us that “Golgotha” means place of the skull and history tells us that this hill outside of Jerusalem is where many were crucified including Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus came to this place willingly, but he was not seeking a thrill. Jesus walked the “Way of Grief” because of love, because of mercy, because of me. After a night of false accusations and drummed up charges, Jesus, beaten, mocked and forced to carry his own cross made his way down the “Via Dolorosa.” While we could compare this road to “The Death Road” in Bolivia, I would rather think of it as “The Life Road.” It is true that at the end of this road was death for Jesus, but there was life for me. Like “The Death Road” there is a wooden cross on this road, but this cross is the cross of Calvary. Jesus death, this sacrifice opened another road for me and you. This road leads to life everlasting.

Thursday, January 4, 2007


A couple nights ago I took my daughters to their first high school basketball game. My girls are almost three, I have a buddy who coaches the varsity team at one of the local high schools and Bonnie needed a break, so I figured it was time. I loaded them in the old station wagon and headed for the gym. When we got there I had a terrible time finding a parking place. As we approached the ticket gate it was obvious that I was getting myself into something. The lobby to the gym where they were selling tickets was packed. There was a lot of confusion as if they weren't really expecting this many people either. Luckily I was pushing through the mob when my buddy's wife happened to show up and somehow she gets me through the crowd and the metal detector and into the gym. As we round the corner and look into the gym, I notice two things, the first quarter is mostly over, and there isn't a seat in the house. It's standing room only. So I followed Tara and her daughter (who is also three) and the five of us sat in the seats that her father-in-law had saved for her and her daughter.

So at least we have a seat and I finally look around a little to see what's happening. You know when you are in the middle of a situation where you are a little out of sorts and you are trying to figure out what to do, you get tunnel vision. Well I knew the place was full, but now that I was in a seat I realized that this place is FULL. It was like all these individuals had packed themselves into this place and become one entity. The crowd. The place was pulsing with humanity. And there is nothing more alive than a crowd, especially a crowd of mostly high schoolers. It was loud. It was hot. I could feel the humidity of breath and sweat. It was close. It was frenetic. It was my girls first basketball game. The entire first half they sat and watched. I thought any minute one of them would lose it and we would have to leave. But they watched the scene with eyes open. I wasn't sure what they thought of it until the next day Ella asked Bonnie, "Do you remember when we watched the boys chase the man with the whistle?" I never thought of basketball in those terms, but it has been a long time since I was three.

We make it through the first half and things seem to relax a little. The people around us got up and the deck got shuffled and we somehow got enough room that the girls could stand up and even eat a few Cheerios. The second half began with my buddy's team losing by five or six. I knew that his team was pretty good this year from an article I had read in the paper a few weeks back. What I didn't know is that this game was against one of the other top schools in the district from across town. This is why the place was packed. It had been a long time since I had been to a high school basketball game and it made it even more fun knowing that my friend was the coach right in the middle of the whole thing. The second half went back and forth and the crowd didn't back down at all. Really the crowd seemed to get worse. About mid-way through the fourth quarter I noticed the home team cheerleaders were out in the middle of the floor during a time-out directing a cheer to the opposing cheerleaders. I couldn't make out the words, but from the crowd's reaction they were taunting the opposing school. During the next time-out one of the visitor's cheerleaders began doing back hand springs down the length of the gym which was followed by three of the home team's cheerleaders doing the same on the other side of the gym to the delight of both schools spirited fans. I played basketball in high school so maybe I was just oblivious to what the cheerleaders did, but I don't remember this type of exchange, ever. Plus there was never a crowd at any of our games since we were pretty rotten. All this just adds to intensity of the crowd. The game went down to the wire with my buddy's team making a comeback in the last two minutes and winning the game.

The game ends. The home team wins. The fans are happy. We say our good-byes and thank-yous and exit the building. On the way back to the car one of the home team cheerleaders is explaining the game to her dad who had come to pick her up. I overheard her telling him the highlights of the game. She told him about how she and the other cheerleaders had done a certain cheer and how they had put the opposing team's cheerleaders in their place and the crowd went wild. I mean she was excited about the game. She literally bounded and jumped and cheered her way all the way to her car. That was the game she saw. You know everyone there saw the same game, but they each saw a different game. I saw my friend's team come from behind and win a significant game in the district. His wife saw her husband's team play well for their coach. The parents saw their sons win or lose as the case may be. And Ella saw a bunch of boys chasing the man with the whistle. It was the same game, but many different perspectives. To the cheerleader "the game" was between cheer leading squads. That was the most important thing that happened in there. Ask any player and they are probably clueless as to what happened between the cheering squads. I don't think it is wrong for us all to see it differently. Each of us has a little different reality.

I think the point of this story is this. We should be alright with other's reality. As a matter of fact, maybe we should take the time to notice and find out what those other realities are. Maybe we could make a bigger impact in the world if we could see what others see. The homeless. The poor. The brokenhearted. The outcasts. We all live in the same world. We all breathe the same air. But we don't all share the same reality.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

prove it

I was talking to a friend recently and we were discussing our devotion to God and the way we sometimes take advantage of God. It's incredible, here is God and He loves us unconditionally. The God who spoke into existence everything and He loves me. No strings attached, no rules, no expectations, He just loves me. The apostle Paul says it this way:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Sometimes we get hung up trying to convince God that He should love us, but the fact is no matter what we do, good or bad, God will still love us. So here's what I do, I take advantage of God. I do the things that oppose God or don't do the things that would please God knowing that His love for me will not change.

I'll try to put this in human terms. Let's say you are dating someone and they like you a lot and you like them. And let's say that the relationship continues to grow and eventually you and this person fall in love. You are so in love. Perhaps you even get married. And maybe you get to the point where that person loves you so much that even if you made some mistakes it wouldn't really matter, they would still continue to love you. So eventually you begin to realize that no matter what you did this person still loves you. Little by little you test that love. It is small things at first, but eventually you find yourself cheating on them. Here you are married and having an adulterous affair. It is awful. You would be taking advantage of the one who loves you so much. I am amazed to find out that there have been couples who have stayed together after such a situation. I even know of a family who stayed together after one of them had a child with someone else outside of their marriage. Isn't that what we do to God? We agree to start a relationship with Him and we continually realize how much he loves us. But eventually we get to the point where we know that He loves us unconditionally and we slowly take advantage of God. Maybe we never have an outright rebellion, but subtly we take advantage of God.

So what does this mean for my devotion to God? I want to do right. I want to reciprocate God's love. I want to stop taking advantage of God. In my marriage I choose everyday whether I will do the things to make my wife happy. I don't do those things to earn her love, I know she loves me. It is not to prove to her my love, she knows I love her. Really whether I demonstrate my love to my wife or not is mostly about whether I want to humble myself before her, and do the things that make her happy. Do I want to put her needs and wants before my own? When our relationship is clicking it is because we both work hard at serving each other. We are not trying to earn each other's love, really we are simply living out the love we have for each other. I don't devote myself to God because I am trying to earn God's love, or because I need to prove it, but I simply need to live out the love I have for Him.