At YWAM – Day 3

I am writing this on Thursday, simply because Wednesday was way too full to post.

Yesterday was another amazing day.  I left the base in the early afternoon, so it doesn’t really count as a full ‘day’ but it was full nonetheless.  My morning started out with reading the Bible and prayer, but then I got to my guitar and decided to play some worship.  I played through songs as I randomly flipped through my music book.  I was having a pretty good time in worship.

I used to worship like that on my own quite often, especially after I got back from my first missionary tour.  I would sing and play through songs that I knew, and suddenly as I hit upon some random song that struck me, the Holy Spirit of God would just kind of pour over me.  My friend Harold says “The Spirit gushes out like a fountain.”  I guess that is the best way to describe it.

As I was worshiping on Wednesday morning I hit on an old hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”  I have never had hymns mean all that much to me, really.  I didn’t grow up with them all that much.  The third stanza says,

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

I couldn’t finish that last line.  I was on my knees, tears streaming down my cheeks, suddenly hit with the power of God’s Spirit, and the fact that God would go to the cross for me, for what I’ve done, for all my rebellion.  It isn’t fair.  As God sprang out of me like a fountain, I wept out of joy, out of sorrow, out of repentance, out of thankfulness, all at once.  I hadn’t felt that in quite a while.

After all of that, I remembered Harold, and that he had called me a few weeks ago, and asked me to call a friend of his who had been doing inner-city missions work.  So, I decided to call him.  We talked for quite a while.  He told me that he and his wife had met Harold because Harold had opened a door for them, and they struck up a conversation.  He was from the Seattle area.  Harold had made it a point to keep in touch and to regularly pray for he and his wife.

He told me that recently he had been out in Idaho at a parade for some special occasion (maybe it was Thanksgiving) and he looked at the guy next to him, and unbelievably it happened to be Harold!  He then paused and said, “You know, out of all of the men who have ever been anything like a mentor to me in my life, Harold has got to be in the top 5.”

All because he happened to be caught in Harold’s tractor beam as he opened a door.

I want to be like Harold some day when I grow up.  Harold is in his 80’s.  Harold should by all accounts be kickin’ it at some Sun City somewhere.  Instead, he takes every day and every meeting as a chance to really make a difference in someone’s life.  I think Harold is in my top 5 too.  He is my hero.

I spent time saying goodbyes to the Thorstads, and looking around the YWAM base one last time.  I’ll be back here, I prophesied.

I hope that no one misunderstands my purpose in writing this.  It could seem like I’m being really self-indulgent here, writing everything about myself and my week, like some Twittiot (my word) telling the world about his mid-afternoon snack.  That really isn’t my heart here at all.  I knew I would have some incredible experiences this week, and I want to chronicle it all for me, if no one else.  But maybe my experiences will find some way of blessing someone else.  In 1 Corinthians chapter 1, Paul mentions that God has chosen the weak and fooling things/people of this world in order that we could not boast in ourselves, but in God alone.  I have written this short blog series as a point to say, “I am one of those weak and foolish people.”  It is Jesus who this series is about.  It is He who made my week noteworthy.  My attempts to even describe it are largely in vain, but I would shame Him if I didn’t try my best.


And a little fun from Tuesday:

At YWAM -Day 3

Today was a crazy full day, and fortunately I got enough sleep to survive it.  Now it wasn’t bad, it was amazing, but it was full.

The morning started out with me rolling around for 45 minutes simply because I could sleep in.  When I finally got some coffee going I started reading the Bible.  I have been really ruminating over Jesus statement in the gospels, and Paul’s reiteration in 1 Corinthians that communion symbolizes “a new covenant in my [Jesus] blood.”  In John chapter 6, Jesus says that his disciples are to drink his blood, and if they don’t they have no life in him.

But in Genesis, God commands man to not drink blood.  I really spent time thinking over this, and praying over it.  I was going to teach over the implications of a new covenant in Christ’s blood in view of the Abrahamic Covenant.  I needed to fully understand the implications of what Jesus was saying here.  I resolved that God would have to work it out with me through the day, as He often does stuff.

I then read through a little of Othodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.  He points out how the universe has a real order to it, but enough disorder to really make any reliance on the universal order a ridiculous pursuit.  He gives an illustration of how the human body has symmetry, with two arms and legs, and even a two-lobed brain.  But the body does not contain symmetry in all its organs (like the heart).  This has its point in that Christianity matches the sensed order of the world, but is just peculiar enough to match its idiosyncrasies.  Unfortunately, I am not as eloquent as Chesterton and am not doing his point justice.  I shall not bore you further with direct quotes.  But all of this stuck with me.

After this, I spent some time in worship alone in my room.  I hit on some songs that God really used to touch my heart.  Then I was ready for my lunch appointment.

I spoke twice today, to a group of Junior High students in school where I talked about Jesus new covenant, and to a youth group on the YWAM base.  There I spoke about how God wants them to orient their identity and their base of knowledge in Him.  I used 1 Corinthians 2 as my passage.  God has been really speaking to me through that this week.  It is going to be one of my theme verses in 2009.

Later tonight they had a worship service that they do annually called “Dwell.”  I attended and really felt that power of God.  God was really working in me there, as He has pretty dramatically this week.  It was kind of open mic, and one guy got pretty Pentacostal-ly, which I have less and less patience for.  If God is real and really moving, and there can be no doubt in a place like that He is, then there is no need to hype Him up.  He doesn’t need a “hype-man”.  But that didn’t take away from what God was doing for me too much.

I went forward for prayer, and a guy immediately came up and prayed for me in an incredible way.  I have never met him.  I never will see him again.  It didn’t matter.  After I left, I walked past a guy I’ve never met, and he shook my hand put a hand on my shoulder and smiled, and asked me how I was doing.  Chesterton came flooding back.  “These are weird people,” I thought.  And they are.  People don’t share these experiences with strangers.  People don’t put their hands on random strangers’ shoulders and smile either.  But then again, that is the right kind of weirdness that the world is crying out for.  We are a peculiar people, us Christians.  Normal is nothing I want.  I’d rather share these moments with strangers than be stoically stuck, looking cool.

Now I’m in my room for the last time.  I’m leaving tomorrow.  I’m thinking about my half-week, and eating Slim Jims.  Since I disconnected my fire alarm (long story—it doesn’t work—I’ll reconnect tomorrow), I thought about using this kerosene lamp that sits on the little writing desk, under the faded old still life desk picture, the type that seems to be in every older Christian place of prayer.  The kerosene seemed to be still good.  I had to jury-rig it though (pictures below), and it never did seem to function completely well.  I finally put it out, just to be on the safe side.

I’m buying an old writing desk, a faded still life picture, and a kerosene lamp soon, I’ve decided.  Every Christian needs one.  We are, after all, weird people.

At YWAM

I am spending part of this week at Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Tyler, Texas. I was invited by The Thorstad family, who moved here to work with YWAM from our church. I am going to be blogging (both text and video) about my experience. As always, I blog for me, and any of you who’d like to come along are welcome to. 🙂

Yesterday was awesome. I got to spend some great time with Dean and Cecilia (and their girls) both hanging out and talking about things related to our relationships, both with people and with God. It was a great time.

But just as great was the worship service last night. Dr. Lee spoke. He is a Korean who is the Vice President at Mongolia University in (you guessed it) Mongolia.

This soft spoken man told many stories that were very powerful. One in particular told of how he was really seeking the Lord on what to do about a situation. He heard a sound like a terrible groaning and weeping. He said, “God, you are too great and powerful to weep, why would you do this?” (He said this in a raised accusatory fashion)

He heard the Lord’s answer, “Weep with me.” That was his answer. That is all God wanted him to do. Weep. If he could get the Lord’s heart for these people and their brokenness, then he would understand. It was very powerful to me.

The whole thing was really about following the will of God. He asked the question, which was very impacting to me, “Is there anything in your life which seems bigger than the will of God?” Hmmm. He also talked about how the American Church seems so fat and happy, and yet, we are often missing the true will of God. He told about a church in Indonesia that is praying 24/7 (literally) for revival in the American Church.

I was really left with the feeling that we (myself included) miss the will of God so often. We don’t see Him do powerful things because we are not truly looking, not truly seeking.

Here is some video from the day

The Free Information Age -part 2

In a previous post, I discussed the beginning of what I have dubbed the Free Information Age.  This post was not meant as simply a parenthetical comment to the current zeitgeist, but as an introduction to a discussion of both the cultural waters that the Church must swim in, and a means of strategy for how the Church can carry its message and navigate in this new economy of communication and ideas.

There was a time in which many would accept a bull or ecclesiastical pronouncement with an assumption of infallibility.  Those days are gone.  The Church is mourning this, and that is natural.  But that is mostly because it is natural to prefer blind submission.  The Catholic church didn’t like Martin Luther’s criticism of its theology and practices, in the same way that the Church currently clings to its old position of assumed inerrancy.

Some since of assumed credibility is actually important.  No two parties can truly dialogue if one party questions the validity of every position the other takes.  But should the Church actually fear shouldering the burden of proof?  Let me illustrate.

I remember as a child getting into the argument over “My dad can beat-up your dad.”  This argument was never solved, and never tested.  As a child, I was certain that my step-father was much stronger than anyone else’s, but I secretly knew that there was a possibility that he wasn’t, and the other boy wondered the same.

But what if my father had been Mike Tyson (the 80’s version)?  In that case, I would never have backed down.  The other boy might, but I would be safe in knowing that my position was indisputably secure.

In a similar way, Christians must know that Jesus is who He says He is.  They know that His claims are indisputable.  We have nothing to fear in marketplace of ideas.  We don’t need to defenders of God to the world.  As His claims are tested, He will be shown authentic.

One of the reasons that Christianity has difficulty in this is that our rhetoric is often louder than our actions.  Jesus was clear in that we are to be people who are known by the love that we share, joy, peace, patience, etc.  These are all actions, not words.  Our actions are to be explained by rhetoric when necessary.  In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, we are to always “speak softly but carry a big stick.”

If skepticism of information can cause us to do this more, then it will bring us back to the type of Christianity that we should practice, instead of the rhetorically-driven example of the political Church.  -Ryan

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The Gratitude Project

The Gratitude Project

The Gratitude Project is an attempt to shake loose the bonds of a consumer-driven, entitled life, and become a more thankful and centered person.  During the next 365 days I will be intentionally transforming myself (with lots of help) by finding new ways each day to be less self-centered and thankful.  Each month I am going to take on a bigger project to challenge myself.  I’ll be blogging about it the whole way.

Day 10

One thing about thankfulness: One might think that it would make you more aware of yourself than ever, and in a way it does.  But even more than that, it makes you more aware of others.  One quickly tires of thinking about the stuff there is to be thankful for, and then it isn’t a short hop until you’re thinking about the people in your life who matter a lot more than the “stuff.”  Once you are focused on being thankful for people, you start finding yourself trying on a whole lot of proverbial moccasins.  Sometimes, that gets sticky.  Some peoples moccasins are filled with stuff that hurts your feet.

I wrote a thank you card today to my manager at the store.  I feel really badly for her with the upcoming changes that are happening at our little business (I can’t say much more now).  It is pretty sad that for many of my co-workers there, that store is a gigantic part of their life, and now all of that is about to change.  In some ways I empathize with them.  But it is also sometimes a kick in the butt that we need in order to make changes that might be good for us in the long run.

I have found that one side effect of trying to be more thankful toward people is that I have more natural empathy toward them.  I am not really naturally that empathetic a person.  Although, I really debate back and forth on that.  On the one hand, I tend to be more of a “lift yourself up by your bootstraps” thinker.  I try not to be too much like that, but it is always in the background.  But on the other hand, if someone tells me that I have hurt them, or that they are upset about something (even if it has nothing to do with me) I will think about it continually in the back of my mind.

I know several of my teens are having sexual identity issues.  I hate that.  I hate that they are in a world that has made sexuality such an in-your-face issue, and yet more confusing than ever.  I also hate the fact that God has somehow been invited out of the dialogue.  It must seem like I am digressing, but after a conversation tonight with one of them, that is all I can think about.  I don’t know if “The Gratitude Project” has made me more empathetic this way, or just made me more aware of being this way.  I am confusing even myself now.

In other news, I’m really mulling over what to do about my monthly project for September.  I have an idea, but I don’t know if it will work, and I don’t want to jinx myself.

The Fall and Rise of Barbarism Part 7

This is part 7 of a multi-part series.  Read part 1 here.

Barbarian

Barbarian

The Effect on Faith

Exactly what to expect for America itself in this future, is very difficult to say. Possibilities include a weakened America existing in its same form but having less world influence, to America’s basic destruction by both outside, and internal fighting, or America existing more as a pre-Civil War loose collection of states. There is no way to predict what the American future will look like at this time.

But that doesn’t really answer what will happen to the American and world Christian outlook. Christianity does not rely on Americanism, of course. But America does powerfully affect the world Christian community. While the growth of the Christian faith is epicentered in both African and Asia, with secularization and Islamification being more prevalent in the West, America is still the center of the financial, resource, and influence world of faith.

The loss of America’s influence will certainly have a huge affect on the Christian world. But how this will work itself out in time is not estimable at this time. Certainly, there will be destabilization in the Christian community. This will most like work itself out to mean that there will be no Capital for Christianity. It might also end in increased persecution around the world, as there will be no powerhouse to protect Christianity’s interests.

However, history tells us that persecution is good for Christianity, as it causes the Christian community to invest fully in their faith, to make Christianity less a culture, and ends in enormous numerical growth. As Christians, we don’t have to worry about the future of the Church. We know what happens in the end. We don’t know all that will happen between then and now, and we certainly know it won’t always be easy.

But that doesn’t really answer what will happen to the American and world Christian outlook.  Christianity does not rely on Americanism, of course.  But America does powerfully affect the world Christian community.  While the growth of the Christian faith is epicentered in both African and Asia, with secularization and Islamification being more prevalent in the West, America is still the center of the financial, resource, and influence world of faith.

The loss of America’s influence will certainly have a huge affect on the Christian world.  But how this will work itself out in time is not estimable at this time.  Certainly, there will be destabilization in the Christian community.  This will most like work itself out to mean that there will be no Capital for Christianity.  It might also end in increased persecution around the world, as there will be no powerhouse to protect Christianity’s interests.

However, history tells us that persecution is good for Christianity, as it causes the Christian community to invest fully in their faith, to make Christianity less a culture, and ends in enormous numerical growth.  As Christians, we don’t have to worry about the future of the Church.  We know what happens in the end.  We don’t know all that will happen between then and now, and we certainly know it won’t always be easy. -Ryan

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The Fall and Rise of Barbarism Part 6

This is part six of a multi-part series.  Read part 1 here.  Read subsequent posts here.

Barbarian

Barbarian

The Fall of Giants

We have gone past a point in America where we can turn this clock back.  Many experts believe that the American century is over, and the next century most certainly won’t be a repeat.  I believe that the evidence backs this up, both historically and in terms of current events.  This doesn’t mean we will fall into the sea.  It does mean that things will be different.  A look at history should shed light on what may be to come.

When the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Britain, and The Soviet Union fell they left differing decrees of chaos in their wake.  The latter empires left lesser degrees of chaos, but their empires were also dovetailed with another stabilizing empire (in both cases the United States).  The Romans were unique in that there was no other competing empire to really challenge their existence, similar to the situation that the United States faces today, although certainly the European Union (itself a powder keg) Russia, and nations like Canada and Australia are stabilizing.

The Roman empire didn’t just end.  It fractured, as its fringes sought their own independence and regional power.  The competing states model that followed drained the regional competing countries of all internal resources, as they invested in war and outside competition.  Far more resources were expended in competing for resources than were ever gained by those resources.  The result was what we know call the “Dark Ages.”

During this time, the one rising competing empire was the Muslim Caliphate leading to the Ottoman Empire.  The rapid expansion of the Muslims into the carcass of the Roman Empire was almost without challenge.  When Europe finally realized that they needed to respond, it led to the Church controlled Middle Ages, and ridiculous Church corruption and pollution by the world.  It was hundreds of years before the Roman norms of indoor plumbing, rights for middle class, and secure resources where even imagined again.

As America loses its stature in the world, this does not have to echo the fall of the Roman Empire.  The European Union could provide stability in the absence of America’s influence.  Most other countries would likely lack the resources to be capable of this.  However, Europe has its own massive battles to fight.  Europe is in sharp decline, at least as the Europe that has existed for modern history.  They are facing another Muslim invasion, but this time it’s a more peaceful one.  Within 10 years several European countries will be majority Muslim, and almost all of Europe’s non-Muslim population in irreversible decline.

The religious issue in this regard is almost secondary.  The Muslim populations in these countries are not melding into society as other immigrants do.  They bring their own ideas of governance, Sharia law, etc.  This will certainly lead to serious conflict, as can be evidenced already beginning in France over the last 5 years.  Non-Muslim Europeans will either allow themselves to accept Dhimmi status under Muslim controlled governments, or they will rise up.  These conflicts will make it difficult for Europe to be much of a stabilizing force for the world. -Ryan

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The Fall and Rise of Barbarism Part 5

This is part 5 of a multi-part series.  Read part 1 here.  Read subsequent posts here.

Barbarian

Barbarian

The Emotional American Stanza

There is another cycle at work within America that we need to be aware of.  Just as revivals in the early 1900’s brought about the Pharisee-ism of the early 20’s, which led to crime in the 30’s, we are in a part of our own cycle now.  The Bush years seemed to be a revival without revival, and a triumph of moral legalism (at least as far as the mainstream media and far left would have us believe).  The public responded with a “Yes we can believe in change.”  But now crime is seriously on the rise and healthy society markers are on the decline.

Of course, forces completely outside of human control, or at least strategic planning, could change things in a heartbeat.  But today the decline is possibly spinning out of control.  This is also the first time in modern America where our moral compass has no North.

Think about it for a second: The state of California (and they are not alone in this) has increasingly been restricting any and all tobacco use.  This is not a bad thing, really.  But at the same time, the state has been rapidly relaxing marijuana laws.  There are now cities where it is legal to smoke pot on your porch, but a Marlboro will get you a hefty fine.

Our states are slowly allowing marriage between homosexual partners and whole denominations are allowing actively homosexual ministers, while calling the homosexual “lifestyle” immoral can get you publically censored and censured.  On television, “Oh, God” has become the most frequently used phrase, but “I love Jesus” is never used unless it is somehow a joke.  Cartoons of Mohamed are self-censored from newspapers…the same newspapers that write blistering articles pitting Christian leaders as being ignorant or even evil for their faith.  -Ryan

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