Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
For some of you it might surprise you that I have not even mentioned Left Behind since I started this blog (and some of you might even be glad - you know who you are). But I recently came to this realization, and thought that it was about time I wrote a review about one of my favorite series of all time.
Now the first question you may ask me about this series is if I agree with everything that is presented in these 15 books. My answer to you would be yes and no. I would answer yes because I believe that they do a fairly good job of giving readers their own personal interpretation of Scripture. I would answer no because the Scripture they are trying to interpret is vague. They could be very close to the correct interpretation in some ways but wrong in others. No one truly knows what "earth's last days" will be like. We can only make our best predictions about the mysterious prophecies from Daniel and Revelation. But I do feel that Jenkins and LaHaye did a good job in writing those ideas into a fictional account. I think that some people forget that these books are truly fiction. They take this series as Scripture, and that is something I have tried to refrain from in reading these books. I believe that it is a fictional account of Biblical prophecy, but it is still a good fictional story.
So what is it about this series that makes it so good? The action never stops! The series begins with Ray Steele on an airplane with his flight attendant Hattie when the Rapture occurs. Chloe Steele is at college, and she later realizes that her mother and brother are gone. Buck Williams is a young journalist who gets wrapped up in the political aspects of the Rapture. He soon meets up with Nicolae Carpathia (the Antichrist) and realizes the extent of Nicolae's powers. Through it all they meet up with Bruce Barnes and discover the truth. These four, Ray, Chloe, Buck, and Bruce, create the Tribulation Force and go on the offensive to spread the Gospel to all who are willing to hear. Events continue to unfold, and things only get worse. Bruce is the first to die through the chaos, and the Tribulation Force continues to grow, especially with the help of Tsion Ben-Judah. In the end, Ray survives through it all, the only one of the original four.
These are 15 action packed books, filled with cliff hangers. Do not get comfortable with anything, because the story is constantly changing. You will encounter many humorous scenes along the way, but there are also many upsetting scenes (like when a favorite character dies). I remember reading Armageddon and getting really mad because of a bad decision by one of the characters. I put the book down and came back to it later. It is these various aspects that make it such a great series.
So if you have always thought that this is a "bad" series, then I encourage you to change your mind. Give these books a chance, and if nothing else, read it for the entertainment. You may not agree with the authors' interpretation of Scripture. But remember that it is their opinion on a very vague topic. It is OK to disagree, but that does not make this a "bad" series. I have always enjoyed the Left Behind series and always will. If you have not read them before, go out and get book 1.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
This afternoon, we went to visit the newest addition to our family. One of my cousins had a baby girl last week, and we went to see them this afternoon. On our way home, we decided to stop at this fish place close by to grab a bite to eat (and it was really good fish). Well while we were sitting there, the restaurant played country music the entire time. Now I used to listen to country music when I was a kid. In fact, it has been 4-5 years since I stopped listening to it. I hear a few songs every now and then, but my radio does not stay on country stations like it once did. But despite the fact that I have not heard many of these songs for years, the words came back to me immediately. Who knows how many times I had heard these songs prior to today. But it made me once again realize how big our minds are. They can pull things back to our memory from years ago, and that is what mine did today.
So what conviction did this bring to the front of my mind?
It made me realize (again) that our minds can learn and store anything, whether it be songs, movies, or text. When we constantly feed something into our mind, it sticks. Then, when you encounter that object or idea days, months, or years later, your mind remembers it.
So this made me realize that I must get back to Scripture memory. I was working on this back when I started my blog. In fact, one of my first few posts was about the importance of memorizing Scripture. I had started on the book of Philippians after finishing 2 Timothy. I was doing fairly well with the first chapter, but then finals came. Afterwards, I reviewed some and got it back in my mind. But as soon as work started up, it once again fell to the wayside. Then VBS crept up, and now Kids Kamp is on the horizon. I can easily call all these excuses (and maybe "good" excuses), but I know better. The fact is, I forgot to continue, and now I am behind where I had intended to be at this time.
It is funny how something as simple as hearing old songs can bring conviction to the heart. Now I once again have that desire to memorize the Word. So I plan to start again. With the way that the mind works, I may still remember what I had worked on. I will see tomorrow when I start studying Philippians 1 again.
Now I pass this challenge on to you. I have asked this once before, and I ask it again. Do you memorize God's Word? If not, I encourage you to start. We should always "hide His Word in our hearts." I do not present you with anything that I am not thinking through or trying to put into practice. This is an area in my life that I feel needs to be strengthened again. So please join me in memorizing God's Word (whatever section you would like). Just find a passage you enjoy and put it to heart.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
What a fun week this has been, and I hate to see it come to an end tomorrow. These past 4 days, I have been working with 11-14 1st graders at Vacation Bible School. It has been great to see these kids grasping God's Word and understanding the different stories. The first day was a bit shaky, but since then we have had nothing but fun in our class. Sadly, it all comes to an end tomorrow for the kids, but I think that they will remember their days on Outrigger Island for quite a while. The songs are so powerful and meaningful, and they are also catchy. The lessons have been great as we have toured the island by surfboards, helicopters, sailboats, scuba gear, and hiking trips. LifeWay did a great job with this year's theme. May we all never forget to live God's unshakable truth!
Other than VBS, I have also continued to work with my kids at Christian Wee Learn. And this week has been a great week of review. Since we have VBS in the morning, I am not giving my kids any new information, such as new verses or passages. Instead, we are working on what we already have and are continuing to work with the books of the Bible. I feel like many of them are starting to grasp this better. In fact, the 2nd-5th grade kids are already through Titus. But I was so happy today when one of them came up to me and said, "Mr. Matt, I know all 66 books of the Bible." I was like, "alright then let me hear it." He stood there and told me them all, Genesis to Revelation. He then quoted our 6 memory verses and 5 key passage references. It is exciting to see these kids progress daily. My goal is to have all the older kids through Revelation by the end of next week. But pray for the younger ones who are almost to the end of the Old Testament. Although we still have disciplinary problems (some major ones) the kids are getting better, and this week has been better than last week.
One prayer request I ask for you to pray for are these kids. I was talking to Jessica tonight about their salvation, and we feel there are many that are now beginning to question what it means to be a Christian. VBS (along with our daily Bible study) seems to be opening up new doors for these kids, and we feel that some (although they may not fully understand it all) are considering what it means to be a Christian. I feel that it is time to start talking with these kids one-on-one and see where they stand. God is beginning to move in their lives, and it is exciting to see Him work. So pleas pray that He will continue to reveal Himself to these kids.
And Kids Kamp is about a week away now. That is exciting as well. I am ready to see what God is going to do during those 3 days. A lot has been happening recently, and my schedule has been packed. But through it all, I have had lots of fun. Summer has been exciting!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
This is the conclusion of my 4-part series about "Living in the Light." Over the past week we have talked about how to conquer those "spiritual highs" that we face in life. Whether it be kids who have just completed VBS, youth who have come back from camp, or adults after a revival or Sunday service, we are to always follow God in life. We have seen the importance of not sinning, and why we should love both God and our neighbors. But today, we will wrap it all up in the idea of following God.
Luke 9:23 says it best - "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
This verse is pretty straight forward. We must deny ourselves and choose to follow Him. This ties right in with everything we have talked about recently. We have to choose to put ourselves to the side. We cannot focus on pleasing us all day everyday. Instead, we have to look to God, see what He would have us do, and pursue Him. We follow in His footsteps and and live in the light.
Again, this is pretty simplistic. There is not much more I can say about this. We have to make a decision to follow Christ daily. And this includes a desire to stop sinning. Along with that we have to love others and love God. What I want to leave with you at the end of this blog series is this: To live in the light, we must follow God. Everything I have mentioned this past week all ties back into this one idea of following God.
So as you go about your daily life, make the decision to live for God. It is a choice that we have to make each morning. Just like this post is very repetitive in some places, our lives will be in a sense repetitive (only in a good way). Each day we can start over, choosing to live for Christ that day. If we make that decision each morning, God can guide us in living in the light all day long.
This is my final post about this book, I promise. But I started and finished this book today. It was the first time that I was actually able to sit down and read it. For me this was a really quick, but hard, read. I read through the stories quickly because some of them I had either heard from others or had experienced many of the same emotions. I knew where these students and professors were coming from and could relate to them so well. I have drawn away from the tornado in recent weeks. I think I have finally gotten to the point where I do not think about it everyday. It is still on my mind quite often, but not as much as it had been. Well now I am beginning to go back to that night. Reading this book today brought back many of those emotions. Things that I had since buried and forgotten found their way back into my mind. February 5 does not seem that long ago any more.
I encourage you to read this book. Some of you may have heard my story already, others of you may not have. If you have not, it is posted on facebook under my notes. If you have, it is not as dramatic as some of these, but like the book says, all of our stories are intertwined. You cannot stop with just reading one person's story. You have to hear many to see the big picture of what God did that night. For instance, my roommate Joe was in Watters Commons that night, and I have heard his story. Many of the people he was with that night are in this book telling their stories. So now I have a better understanding of what the last few moment were like in our Commons building. The more I read, the more I see God's power over us. I am still amazed at how God protected us. I am still amazed at His power.
God is truly amazing. He still does miracles today. He still watches out for His people. He is still sovereign. We could have all died that night. But God chose for us to live. He protected us when He did not have to. After seeing campus that night and the days that followed I, along with everyone else, still wonder how we all made it out alive. The only, only, answer to that question is God. There is no other explanation!
God in the Whirlwind is a powerful testimony to God's providential care over His children. Please try and find this book and see God's amazing power.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Continuing from where I last left off, I have a question. How can we show people in this world God's love if we do not know it ourselves? We have to make sure that we have experienced the love that God has for us. Now despite what we do, God still loves us. We are His creation, and He longs to be our Savior. But we must return the affection to our Lord. We cannot express the love of God to others if we do not love Him. The command John gives us in these verses is to love God and not love the world (the ways of the world). If we do this, we can live in the light.
So what do I mean by not loving the world? Yesterday, I said that it was important to love others and show them the love of God. But today I am saying do not love the world. Is this contradiction? Does John contradict himself? No. Instead, it is the exact opposite. Yes, we are to love our neighbors and those around us. But that does that mean that we should love the ways of the world. We cannot fall into the sins of those around us. In that sense, we cannot love the world. If we do, we will fall back into the entrapment of sin, and we said the first day that we must not sin.
Once again, we can see how these are all starting to connect. God first loved us. As a result, He died for our sins. We must now be careful not to sin while loving God. We can show God our love by not sinning. This shows that we are willing to sacrifice the old habits of our life for Him. By knowing the love that God has for us, we can show it to others. We can know and give that love to everyone around us.
The challenge I have for you today is to check yourself. Do you truly love God? Are you thankful for all that He did for you (dying for your sins)? Do your actions show that you love God? And can people around you tell that you love God? Do you show them the love of God? Think about these questions, and be sure that you are living in the light and are not being entrapped by darkness.
If we can truly say that we are loving God, loving people, and commit not to sin, then we are ready for the fourth and final step in living in the light. Next time, I will discuss the idea of following God. Part 4 will pull all of this together.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Not only is it important to refrain from sinning in our lives, but we must also effect the lives of those around us. It is great that we get closer to God with our own personal life, but the problem becomes that we sometimes focus too much on ourselves and not enough on others.
One problem that we must stay away from is becoming too self-centered. First off, this will draw us further away from God instead of closer to Him. But also, it will push others away from God as well. They will see us as having a "holier than thou" attitude and will draw away from us. So we must show them God's love through our lives.
This is really a simple concept, but it is one that we seem to forget. Jesus gave us the greatest commandment(s) in Mark 12. He first commanded us to love God, but then He told us to love our neighbors as well. We will talk about loving God next time, but for right now focus on thinking about how you treat those around you.
Here are some practical ideas. When you are at your job, how do you treat your coworkers? Do you go beyond your duties to help them? What about the strangers you randomly meet everyday? Can they tell that you stand for God? Every aspect of our life should reflect that we stand for God, and that includes the idea that others can see that in us.
So please see how these connect. It is very important to refrain from sin, but we must also love those around us and show them God's love as well. Next time we will look at loving God.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
Through this chapter, I find 4 main steps that we should take if we want to "Live in the Light." This is the first step, and it seems fairly simple. In fact, it is not anything new. If you have been in church, then you have probably heard this over and over. God commands us not to sin. But how easy is it for us to refrain from sinning? Impossible! We know that. We are human, imperfect, and born sinners. We know that we will never be perfect this side of heaven. But that does not mean that we go on everyday sinning just because. We cannot use the idea that we are imperfect as an excuse to sin.
Look at the beginning of verse 1. John tells us that if we are going to live in the light of Christ, we should not sin. But he then recognizes the fact that we are imperfect. He uses the word but, and he provides the answer for that sin. The answer is simply Jesus. He died for those sins so that He could provide a way for us to come back to Him.
Finally, in verse 3 we see that we can truly know Jesus in our lives if we "keep His commandments." So let's review quickly. We are sinners, and we are not perfect. We are called to refrain from sinning, but we will end up doing it anyways. We have seen that we cannot use that as an excuse to keep on sinning. Instead, we must continue to look to Christ, who died for those sins, and keep the commands that He has given us. He has provided a way for us if we just turn and look to Him.
Now how does this tie into our idea of "Spiritual Highs?" Last time we looked at the idea of how we hear a good sermon or go on a good trip and really turn to and live for Christ. But the next day we seem to fall away fast. We get entangled by the world and neglect to live for Christ in the real world. If we want to keep that life in Christ that we experience on these "Spiritual Highs," then we must begin by not sinning. We must truly rely on Christ each day and not let sin run our lives. Christ should be the true Master that we turn to each day.
Next time we will look at the idea of loving those around us as being a way of living in the Light.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Well one reason may be that it is a way for their parents to get rid of them for a week. But I do not think that that is the main reason. I believe that a lot of it has to do with the atmosphere of Vacation Bible School. First off, it is summer break, and the kids are always excited to be out of school. But more than that, churches always have fun with this activity. Through the morning worship to the extreme decorations, the whole atmosphere is exciting and inviting. It is a great way to draw kids into the church.
Anytime you have something fun at church, that is also kid-friendly, they will come running. And that is what VBS accomplishes. But why have this one week of excitement and then have 51 weeks of the same ol' schedule? Sadly, many churches fall into the trap of "spiritual highs." Now I am not trying to speak badly of any churches use of VBS because I believe that it is a very important week, and I know that many kids come to know Christ through this activity. That is awesome! I pray that many kids will come to know Him this summer as well. And it is also a great way to get kids involved in church, which is needed today. But the problem that arises is that many times we all find those moments of "spiritual highs" and yet we fall away soon after.
For instance, I experienced this growing up in church. Not only did this happen with VBS, but also with camps and retreats. Those times were some of the best times of my life, but the hardest part was going home. The sad truth is that we cannot live camp life at home because we have other responsibilities once we return. But we should still integrate those spiritual aspects of our camp life into our real life. Although it is no longer camp, we still have a responsibility to grow in and serve God.
Now for adults. When we hear powerful sermons or messages, we too should learn to apply those truths to our everyday life. For adults, it is not as much of a camp experience as it is a Sunday routine. We go to church on Sunday but forget everything we were told somewhere between Sunday night and Monday morning. This happens all of the time, and we have all done it. So realize that it is not just the VBS kids or the youth group campers that experience "spiritual highs." It is also us adults who attend church regularly.
But what you are probably wondering now is how do we overcome this problem? What are some steps that we can take to live out our faith in life? Well that is what I will get to next time. I've been working on my Kids Kamp sermons and the second one ties into this idea. I have entitled it "Living in the Light." Over the next few days we will look at 1 John 2 and see how we can live for God everyday of the week and not just on Sunday.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I accidentally ran across these books because Chad was telling me of them this past week. He then bought them, and I have been reading them this week.
This book, Kingdom's Dawn, begins a 6-part series that will take you to a new land filled with knights and warriors. Only those well trained in sword fighting can survive, and the rest just might end up as a slave. The story begins with a young man by the name of Leinad who finds that he is not just a farmer's boy. The King of Arrethtrae has much more in store for him. Then, when his world comes crashing down around him, he begins to step into a new role in life where he must take charge and discover his true destiny.
This series is a parallel to many biblical stories. You will be reading along and suddenly realize that one of the characters seems to be exactly like Abraham, or Joseph, or Moses, or Daniel, etc. The books take you from Genesis to Revelation, retelling many biblical accounts in a medieval fashion. You may think this to be rather odd, and I can agree in some ways. I found myself asking "Why?" a lot as I was reading along. I thought, "He could have done without making that connection." But despite all of that, I kept reading the books. The connections really are creative and well done. I am amazed at how he developed so many connections throughout this series.
The books are rather short as well. If you have read The Chronicles of Narnia then you have an idea of how short these books are. They are about the same length as C. S. Lewis's fantasy novels. I am finishing up the 4th of these today, and will begin the 5th later tonight.
So do I recommend these books to you? Yes. If you are a fan of fantasy novels, or medieval works, I think you will enjoy the Kingdom Series. It is really easy to read, and really easy to get hooked. So if you are looking for a quick read, pick up Kingdom's Dawn, I think you will enjoy it.
Vacation was great. We played many games of putt-putt (where I won the majority of them - not trying to be too cocky :) ). We also took a 5-mile hike in the mountains. We came up on Abram Falls, which was a really nice waterfall. It was nice to get out and experience nature in that way. We were also able to meet up with one of my roommates, Joe (the one who had the broken bone). What a great vacation it was, and Monday I can get back into the routine of life.
Well I also have many praises:
- Joe is walking! Although he is still in the cast, he is now walking without crutches.
- Union looks great as well. We came through Jackson today to check it out, and now all 14 dorms have a roof, and the majority of them are bricked. Also, columns, rails, and staircases have been added to many of them.
- I am done with my Kids Kamp sermons. I finished up my last one today, and all I have to do now is type that last one up on the computer (which I did not have this week), and make any revisions I see.
There is a quick catch-up of what has been going on this week. I also read 4 books this week, and part of another, so I have more books to write some reviews on. After all, this is my "bookshelf." I will also share with you some things I have been thinking over recently in the coming days. Furthermore, I may even post those sermons on here once I get them completely done. So expect more posts now that I am back at home. I will try to stay busy writing.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Well I don't guess it will be "shut down," but there will be no new posts from now until Saturday. We leave tomorrow morning for east Tennessee, and we will be gone all week. I am glad that I can finally take a break. Summer has been a break, but if you read my last post, I am still busy. So this will be a good, relaxing week.
Anyways, wish I could keep you updated throughout the week, but I can't. But with all this free time, surely I can read another book. And hopefully, that will give me some more ideas for the blog. Have a good week.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Kids Kamp is a month away. I have started on my sermons for that trip this week, and will be working through the first half of 1 John during the month. I pray that God will guide me in the right direction, showing me what He wants me to speak on during that trip.
I am also staying busy at work. We have worked our way through 4 memory verses and will begin our 4th key passage tomorrow. Many of the kids have already learned the books of the Bible up through Song of Solomon. I told them that they are 1/3 of the way there, and they seem to be enjoying it. There are plenty of fun games that are keeping them busy with learning this stuff. Work is getting better as well. Although we still have our rough days, they are generally better now. The kids have more respect for us, and we are getting to know all of them better. But there is still work to be done, and I know that they will eventually calm down some.
But despite all of this, I have not been to Union since the end of the semester. And now I am beginning to miss it. Summer is great, and I have had a great time already. But I want to get back on campus in many ways. I want to see everyone again. However, the semester does not start for another 3 months. So I am going to enjoy summer, because it will not last forever.
By the way, God in the Whirlwind was released this past week. Stop by LifeWay if you get the chance and pick it up. Proceeds go towards the Union University Disaster Relief Fund. Although I have not yet read it (I am waiting on my free copy), I know that it is going to be a powerful book. There are some great testimonies of what God did on the night of February 5.
Well that is about all that is going on around here.
Monday, June 2, 2008
This topic came back to me today at work while I was looking over our study for tomorrow. I will be teaching the kids the importance of worship and praise. We began that discussion today in Exodus 12, showing how the Israelites made it out of Egypt. I explained how they had prayed to God (asking); they wanted deliverance from Egypt. But they also thanked God (praising) as they made it out of Egypt and eventually into the promised land. Tomorrow we are going to look at how the book of Psalms is a praise book to God in many ways.
So let me ask you once more: do you praise God more or ask more of Him? And depending on your answer, is that the right thing to do? I would say yes. No matter how you answer the 1st question, the 2nd question can be answered yes. But, there must be a balance. Think of it this way. At Christmas, the selfish side of us may want to receive, receive, receive. We want more and more gifts so that we can have the things that we want. The selfish side finds it hard to give. But there should be a balance at Christmas as Christians. We should want to give, give, give to others, but at the same time we may also receive things from them. One thing we receive is the joy of giving. And there is nothing wrong with receiving a gift.
Now think about Christmas and consider this: do you give to God daily or do you constantly want to receive more from Him? It is not a bad thing to receive God's blessings. Do not get me wrong here. But at the same time, we must be in a spirit of giving, a spirit of praising. Never neglect to thank God for those blessings.
Through all of this rambling, what is my point? It is simple. God loves us and wants to bless His children. He gave us the ultimate gift through Jesus, and continues to give us blessings daily. We should continue to ask of Him. If there are burdens in our lives, it is alright to go to God with those requests. But try not to find yourself caught in the attitude of asking and receiving. Give back to God and thank Him for those things that He has done for you on a daily basis. Praise God for His blessings; praise God for what He may teach you during those hard times that might come up in your life.
Everyday... praise God!