Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

Well as September begins, trouble seems to be brewing. Hurricane Gustav is set to begin to make its landfall tomorrow on the 1st. The experts are saying that it will make landfall late tomorrow or early on Tuesday. Keep the people who live on the Gulf in your prayers. This almost seems like we have traveled back 3 years into the past and are just now facing Hurricane Katrina. Although this storm has taken a different path than Katrina, it is headed for New Orleans now. Many have been evacuated over the past few days, but despite the fact that they are safe they must be thinking about their homes and towns. Whole cities could be destroyed by this storm, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, except pray. Pray that this storm is not as destructive as all the experts are saying. Pray that it weakens within the next 24 hours. Hopefully the experts will be wrong, and I am sure that they feel the same way.

Also, remember that there are more storms coming and more that could develop. Hanna is still out there, and its future is unknown at the time. It will likely hit the U.S. later this week, but a lot could change between now and then. Pray that this storm will turn back out into the Atlantic and not harm our shores.

And there could be more out in the Atlantic forming as well. Plus, hurricane season is far from over. The good news is that this year has not been as bad as 2005. But Gustav could be devastating nonetheless. So pray for the storm, pray for the people, and pray for God's control over this entire situation. He will watch over those people if they will come to Him for help in their time of need.

Matt

Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer is Sadly Over


What a summer this has been! From the constant preparation for work, to Kids Kamp, to VBS, I have been busy all summer long. But I would not trade anything for what God has done and what God has taught me this summer. He has been with me through it all, giving me the patience and the energy to make it through all the various struggles and stress that popped up along the way. Above is a group picture that we took this summer. All but 1 of those kids were fairly consistent this summer. And many of them were with us every day learning new stories, memory verses, and key passages.

Each kid made an impression on me in various ways. There were those that I could always depend on for anything that needed to be done. Many of them were also the ones that always memorized the newest information immediately. Then were those who were a struggle in both the area of learning the information and in the area of discipline. But by the end of the summer, they all impacted me in different ways. Today was my last day of work (no more summer program or after school). I already miss the kids. A few of our summer kids stayed with us for after school, so I got a few more weeks with them. But now even they are gone, or I guess it is because now I am gone.
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I really hate to see summer go, although I have been looking forward to September since May. I am even more excited now that the semester is only a week away. For the first time in my life I tried to rush summer away. I was so excited to return to campus that I found myself wishing it would come quicker. But that made summer only go by slower. And now that I am at the end, I am thankful that summer drug on slowly. This was one of the best summers ever! And I pray and hope that the semester will only be a continuation of this amazing summer.

If you have wondered about Union construction, I can gladly say that it is now complete! All 14 buildings are completed and almost furnished. 1 more load of furniture comes in early next week, and those rooms will be ready for the start of the semester. Also, the commons plans have been changed. A 15th dorm is currently in the works, and after it is completed, they will construct 1 Commons for all 15 dorms. This will be the 16th building to finish out the 4 quads.



Hopefully you can read the letters on this picture. This was taken just a couple of weeks ago. Now you would be able to see some landscape work. But the quads have been named (as of this week). Quad A is where the 15th dorm is under construction. It will be known as Ayers. Quad B is below that, and will be known as Hurt. Hurt was the name of the women's complex pre-tornado. So that name has resurfaced for one of the women's quads. Quad C is beside that, and will be known as Watters. Watters was the name of the men's complex pre-tornado. I lived in that complex, and my new dorm sits on top of where my old dorm once stood (Deusner). Quad D is above my quad, and will be known as Grace. This quad will one day contain the new complex's Commons.

I will no more as the semester gets underway. But that is the latest news from Union. I cannot wait until I can step on to campus and look around at the new buildings. Dorm names should be coming within the next 2 weeks, probably after we arrive on campus. I will let you know about all of that when the time comes.

As you can tell, life has been busy. But it is once again time to take another turn and venture out into something new. As my second half of college begins, I will be heading off to a "New" Union. Things will forever be different, but I am excited about what the future holds. Once school starts, I probably will not blog every day like I have been doing for most of the summer. But then again, I may find the time. I will just have to see when the time comes.

Matt

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tropical Troubles, Election Speeches, and Football

The country is busy, and every American is probably sitting in front of a TV right now. Between the fears of what the 2 tropical storms will bring over the next few days, the anticipation of Obama's speech and McCain's VP choice, and the excitement that comes with college football, we are a country of TV junkies tonight. But is that all a bad thing?

First off, hurricane season 2008 is in full force. After having 2 really easy years in '06 and '07, '08 is beginning to shape up like the horrible '05 season. Thankfully, we are only up to the letter 'H' in hurricane names. In '05 we were already at 'K' with Katrina. That is the good news. The bad news is that Gustav and Hannah are in the Atlantic Ocean charging toward America. Of course the scariest aspect of any tropical storm is that of death. Gustav has already killed several in some of the islands. And there is a great possibility that more could die in the days to come. But for those of us who do not live on the coasts, we are dealing with the fear of higher gas prices. Gas is already on the rise in America. The barrel cost is holding in the $113-118 range. But the price at the pump is steadily increasing. Keep the people along the gulf in your prayers. The next 7 days are very uncertain for them. Who knows what will come of Gustav and Hannah. It would be great if they would just break apart and not near our coasts. But whatever the result is, pray that they can stay safe.

Tonight also marks the night of Obama's first speech as the Democratic nominee. He was officially announced as the nominee last night, and tonight he is accepting that nomination request. This is a crucial speech for Obama. We will be able to see how united the Democratic party is at this point. But if that was not enough for the political scene tonight, it has also been hinted that McCain might announce his running mate tonight. Now he has denied those requests, and does not want the news to leak until after Obama's speech. But knowing the media they will probably figure it out early and spoil the news. So if you are a political junkie, tonight is the night for you to be glued to the news.

But most importantly (for me anyways) is that college football has started up! NC State and South Carolina are currently playing in the season opener. It is still in the first quarter, and no one has scored yet. But it is exciting to be back to football. The NFL will be starting up next week, and it will finally begin to feel like Fall.

Matt

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

# 3 Calling Out of Psalm 54:2

Psalm 54:2

O God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.

Does God hear us when we cry out to Him? Will God answer our prayers? I think many times we wonder if God is really listening; if He really does care about our troubles and the daily stress that crops up in our lives. I know I have felt this way before when troubling times came my way. It is almost a natural instinct to feel this way, but why is that?

I think one reason is that we do not fully rely on God. We seem to think that we can handle life's situations using our own strength. We forget that we have the most powerful weapon only a prayer away. But when those hard times come, we do not have time for prayer. We think we should take action immediately, and sadly God is left out.

But this was not true for David. When those hard times came, Davide relied on God. David was fearing for His life at this point. Saul had found out where David was and still sought to kill him. So what did David do in this troubling time? Well he did not rely on his own strength. Instead He called out to God and prayed for help. He filled God in on the situation (even though God knew exactly what was going on). He had that close relationship with the Lord and trusted Him enough to tell Him all his troubles. He expected God to intervene and help Him. And that is exactly what God did.

God will do the same for us today. He is still only a prayer away, and He wants to help us through those tough situations as well. Now the problem we face is that we do not always like God's solutions. He may guide us in His direction, but because it is not our will we sometimes do not take His advice. When we trust on God, we have to give Him 100% of our attention and 100% of our trust. We cannot even keep 0.000001% (you get the idea) of trust in ourselves because we have no power when compared to the Almighty One.

But it does not stop with trust in God. We know that God will help us when we fully rely on Him. We know that He will help in the way that He sees best. But even when we get this part right, we neglect to thank Him for all that He does for us. David offered a sacrifice up to the Lord out of thanksgiving. He did not forget to thank the Lord for His daily provisions.

And neither should we. True we sometimes struggle with fully trusting God. But there are those times that we expect Him to help us through life. We do depend on Him, and we find ourselves trusting Him like we should. But the question that remains is, "How much do you thank Him?" I told my kids this summer that there are 2 types of prayer: praising and asking. We tend to do more of the asking and less of the praising when it should be the other way around. Because of all He has done for us (specifically dying on the cross) our lives should be filled with praise to God. So my challenge today is to think about your praying habits:

1. Do you truly depend on God?

2. Do you find yourself praising God or asking of God more? Neither are bad, and neither are wrong. I just feel that we get it backwards sometimes.

Matt

Monday, August 25, 2008

London 2012

I cannot believe that the Beijing Olympics have come to an end. For the past 16 days, I have probably watched close to 72 hours of the games. Every night I sat in front of the TV watching our athletes compete in a variety of sports. In the end America and China showed out. They were the 2 leading countries crossing over the 100 medal mark during these games. Here are the final results:


I guess it is a good thing that the games have now come to an end. I will no longer be sitting in front of the TV for 4-5 hours every night, and that is a positive. But it is sad that the Olympics are now over. TV was actually good, and we did not have to worry about the normal junk that they normally put on. But nevertheless, all good things must come to an end.

The good news is that the Winter Games of 2010 are not that far away. In approximately a year and a half, those games will be on for over 2 weeks. Once again, we will all have the chance to be lazy as we sit in front of the TV night after night. Then in 2012, the Summer Games will move on to London. We may even have the chance to see some of the big names from these Beijing games make another appearance. Will Phelps return? What about May-Treaner and Walsh? And what will our gymnastics team do, such as Shawn Johnson and Jonathon Horton? There are many who could come back to the Olympics once more. But at the same time, these big names might decide to end their Olympic careers on a high note. We will have to wait and see what the next 4 years bring.

Matt

Whatever You're Doing (Something Heavenly)

This is a group that I have heard various songs from in the past. The only time I hear one of their songs is when I am listening to the radio or they appear on one of the WOW CD's. But recently I have been hearing this song on the radio, and for the longest I could not figure out who it was that was singing. I finally heard them tell that it was Sanctus Real, and now I may just end up buying one of their CD's (or at least this one song).

This song is another one of those songs that seems to define part of my life. I was one of those people who ran for many years from God. I did not run from His call for salvation, but I did run from His plan for my life. And although I can now see how everything led to where I am today, I do not really know why I really ran so much. I have not been able to nail down that one reason, but I think it was that I was just stubborn. But I am sure there was more to it than that. Fear probably played a big role in it as well.

But I just ran across this song not that long ago, and reminded me of some of the things that I have been through. It is one of those messages that I wish I had of heard during that time in my life. However, I feel that I would have just brushed it off as well. Still, there is a powerful message in these lyrics:

It’s time for healing, time to move on,
it’s time to fix what’s been broken too long
Time to make right what has been wrong;
it’s time to find my way to where I belong

There’s a wave that’s crashing over me, and all I can do is surrender

Whatever You’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos, but somehow there’s peace
And it’s hard surrender to what I can’t see,
but I’m giving in to something heavenly

Time for a milestone, time to begin again, re-evaluate who I really am
Am I doing everything to follow Your will or just climbing aimlessly over these hills?

So show me what it is You want from me
I give everything – I surrender

Whatever You’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos, but somehow there’s peace
And it’s hard surrender to what I can’t see,
but I’m giving in to something heavenly

Time to face up, clean this old house
Time to breathe in and let everything out that I’ve wanted to say for so many years
Time to release all my held back tears

Whatever You’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos, but I believe …

You’re up to something bigger than me
Larger than life, something heavenly
Whatever You’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos, but now I can see
This is something bigger than me
Larger than life
Something heavenly

In so many aspects of life, not just my call to the ministry, we can feel like something crazy is going on inside of us. There seems to be something going on that we cannot pinpoint, and we know that God is at work. That is probably where the fear comes in. God is directing us toward some new avenue in life or some new mission, and through the chaos of the "call" fear crops in around us. But what we miss so many times is that although God is at work, He does not work in a chaotic way. Instead, He provides a peace to help us along the way. He wants to work through us.

What I really like about this song is the progression it shows of our life. At first it shows that fear that I just talked about. But in the last few lines it shows our recognition of God's work. More so than ever, we eventually realize that God is up to something. It is at that point that we decide it would be a good idea to get involved. Many times God has to break us (like He did me in many ways). Then we finally come to the realization that God is trying to do "something big."

The final step is the reaction to God's call. We not only recognize that God is working, but we begin to do something about it. Once God grabs our attention, we can begin to fulfill some of His plans that He has for us. Through His strength and guidance, we can do "something big" because He is there with us.

This is just another look at a recent song. Listen to music, and see what you learn. God can use many different things in life to teach us lessons. For me, music plays a big role in my life. It is positive, encouraging, and a great reminder for me in life.

Matt

Sunday, August 24, 2008

An Almost Expected Twist

I am still having computer problems and do not know what it is or when it will be fixed. But oddly enough, our desktop is working and our laptops are not. So I am at my old desktop computer typing right now. Hopefully I can keep this updated through this old computer until our internet straightens up around here.

So here is the next addition to Ted Dekker's fantasy world. Remember, I am leading up to his newest book Sinner, which comes out September 2. But for now, let's look at Saint.

I really cannot say much about this book without giving away some of the major surprises and twists. But let me just say that this book is a great continuation off of Showdown. It takes place in our world, just like Showdown does. And most importantly, there is a great "showdown" between 2 of the characters at the end of the book. Another great villain is introduced, which leads to more and more questions for this web of books that Dekker created.

The big twist for this book takes place right in the middle, and I must say that in some ways I almost expected it. I knew that it was considered to be a "sequel" of Showdown. But by the first several chapters of the novel, I really began wondering how it was connected. So I had this idea of what Dekker was about to throw our way. But I did not know how he was going to do it. So although this has been the closest that I have ever been to figuring Dekker out prior to the twist, I still failed at nailing down his major twists. And that is the way that it should be, because the Dekker twist is what makes Dekker books so good.

But if you read this book, I think you will be pleased with the plot. It is very engaging and fun to read. There is plenty of action and mystery weaved throughout the story. And as I said before, there is a great "showdown" at the end of the book. I hate that I cannot tell you much more, but I do not want to ruin all the fun of reading this book. There is so much excitement and so many questions and answers that arise in this book. I am guessing that it is all in preparation for the third book of this part of the story. Remember that this series involves 3 different sets of books along with 2 "stand alone" novels that weave in as well. But it is a much needed addition to the story. So pick up Showdown and Saint. Dive Deep! Get ready for Sinner!

Matt

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Computer Problems

I have been meaning to post something on here since Wednesday, but our internet has been acting up ever since then. I cannot sign into many websites, including blogger. I have found another computer and have a quick minute to post, so I am just letting you know that the internet is messed up at home. I have not given up on the blog, and when things get back to normal, I will get back to posting. I just do not know when that will be.

Matt

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wanna Trip?

Wow I am really slacking on Book Reviews. This is my "bookshelf," but lately I have drifted from that theme. I guess I have gotten involved in some of the newer aspects of the blog that I drifted from the books. But that section is back, and hopefully I will remember to be a little more consistent.

So I am taking it back a few years. Ted Dekker is known for his crazy twists and amazing plots. This book provides it all, but not in the way you would expect. Many authors, including Dekker, are good at providing a stand alone novel with an amazing twist. And this book provides any wandering reader with that very thing. It can be read alone, and a reader would not miss anything. I fell that they would be satisfied with the story. But this story is not by itself. Dekker has written many of these books as stand alones, but they are all ultimately part of a bigger story.
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Black, Red, and White were known as the Circle Trilogy. They left many unanswered questions. Dekker was providing his readers with a much bigger story. Showdown was the first novel written after the Trilogy that tied directly back in. It took place in our world and not the fantasy world of the Trilogy. But anyone who has read the Trilogy would immediately recognize some of the events, characters, and objects. It begins answering a few questions, but it ultimately opens the door for much bigger ones. These answers are explored in other novels such as Saint, Skin, House, and The Lost Books Series.
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But Showdown introduces 2 pivotal characters that become pivotal later on. The most notorious of all of Dekker's villains is Black. He roams about Paradise, Colorado stirring up problems. He is mysterious in every way, and no one ever knows where or who he is. And no one can ever guess what he is up to. From his mysterious entrance into Paradise to his even more mysterious departure, Black does not allow readers to figure him out.
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But Black is just part of the story. There is so much more to explore in the small town of Paradise. The monastery plays another pivotal role in the novel (and in stories later on). But the story really begins here, in Showdown.
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Although these books can be read in a variety of owners, I feel that it is best to read them in publishing order. That gives readers the sudden surprises and connections that they would miss if they read them in any different order. It is similar to reading Narnia. If one read The Magician's Nephew first, they would miss out on the revelations revealed in it. It is so much richer if read after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I feel that this is how Dekker's novels are too.
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So if you have never read Showdown, pick it up quickly. I will be writing about Saint ("Book 2") later on this week. And then on September 2, the next installment of this twisting series will be released, Sinner.
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Matt

Monday, August 18, 2008

Videos for the Kids #4

Here is another one of the videos from the summer. This time we are looking at Philippians 4:13. Tucker was another one of my amazing kids from the summer. He nailed everything! Anytime there was new information, he would jump on it immediately. I could always count on him being one of the first ones to learn the new information. But he was not just learning head knowledge, he also knew what these various verses meant.

This is Tucker quoting Philippians 4:13:

video

This really makes me miss the good times from the summer. I enjoyed every minute of working with these kids. We had fun with our various stories and games. I pray that they all have an amazing school year!

Matt

Sunday, August 17, 2008

#2 Keeping Up with Leviticus 22:31

Leviticus 22:31

So you shall keep my commandments and do them; I am the Lord.

When we looked at Deuteronomy 6:5, we focused in on the importance of loving the Lord. That was the central point of the verse. But from that idea of love came so much more. Once we grasp the idea of love, our life and actions must reflect it. Two ways that we can do that is by learning from our past and leading others to the things that we have learned. But today, we are going to look at another result of this idea of love.

If we are going to tell others that we are loving God, then we must have the actions to prove it. God commands us to keep His laws (or commandments), this verse shows that. And if we neglect to follow His laws, then we are showing that we do not truly love Him. By breaking His commands, we show that we are not committed to His ways. We also hint that we may not trust God as much as we say we do. We may feel that He will not or cannot do all that He says He can. Disobedience paints an ugly picture in our lives. People would expect to see this beautiful drawing where God has covered our life with His love and mercy. But instead, they see where we have gone over that painting with blacks and grays. They see the mistakes we have made and the cover ups that we have created.

Once again, I feel that this call to love and obey is fairly simple and straightforward. But truthfully, it can be one of the hardest things in life. I feel that it all boils down to one central problem, ourself. First off, we feel overwhelmed by the amount of commands that we are given. Look through the Books of Law, and you will be confronted with hundreds or thousands of commands. This chapter in Leviticus has several itself. Because we feel overwhelmed, we then began realizing that we cannot do this alone. We get this idea that it is utterly impossible to fully obey God. So many people quit immediately. They do not see the point. But then there are those who want to follow God daily. They desire to obey His commands and focus completely on not failing. Instead of looking to God for guidance in this daunting task, they try to do it on their own strength. The results are that they fail, and with the failure comes disappointment.

Both of these examples are extremes. We cannot give up and quit because we feel that we could never keep all of God's commands. But at the same time, we cannot become so focused on this task that we end up leaving God out of it. Instead, we have to go to God with this. He is the one who wants us to be obedient. But He does not give us a command, walk away, and just watch our attempts at obedience. Instead, He reaches out to us, and when we accept His gift of salvation, He remains with us as we learn what it means to live a holy life. He helps us along the way, and we are never left alone. We must go to Him, putting our trust in Him.

So love God, and show your love by obeying His commands. He is the Lord, and the only one worth serving.

Matt

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Going for 8 Tonight

What is it that keeps so many Americans glued to the TV? Well I guess the answer can vary depending on the person. But for the past 8 days, the answer has been the same for 70 million+ Americans. The Olympics have been extremely popular in the States this year. We have all been sitting in front of the TV cheering on our fellow Americans. Whether it is Phelps in the pool or Nastia in the gym, we anxiously await for the results each and every night.


The Olympics have been amazing this year! Although we still trail China in the number of gold medals that we have earned, we are still leading in the overall medal count. One of the most amazing aspects of the current medal count is that Phelps has earned (or helped earn) almost half of the gold. He is currently at 7, and he goes for #8 tonight.


Here is a quick look at the current medal count:

So tune in about 9:30 tonight and be sure that you catch this possible record breaking performance. He has broken 6 world records, raced in 16 races, he is the all-time medal leader of any Olympian, and he is the all-time gold medal leader of any Olympian. If he wins this final race tonight, he will be the all-time gold medal leader of an Olympian within a set of Olympic games. The current record is 7, which he now holds with Spitz (from the 70s). But he has a chance to even break that record tonight!

But these Olympic games are not only about Phelps (although that is what most of are focusing on the most). We cannot forget the gymnastic teams that will be going for gold in their individual events over the course of the next few days. Also, track and field opened up last night. So there will be countless other opportunities to win some of those events. Finally, volleyball will continue to play over the next few days, and we are right on track to collect some golds from those events as well.

If you have not yet gotten involved in the Beijing Olympics, then start tuning in. It has already been an exciting time, but there is still more to come.

Matt

Thursday, August 14, 2008

2 More Weeks

I cannot believe that summer is almost over. Here I am near the end of my summer break, and I have no idea where it went. I went into summer hoping that it would go by quickly. I did not want to wish summer away, but I have been anxious about getting to the "New" Union. So at the beginning of the summer, I wanted it to speed up some. Well here I am at the end, and like always I wish it would slow down a little. But at the same time, I am ready for the end of work.

In 2 weeks, my job will come to an end. I will sadly have to say good-bye to the last of the kids. I pray now that they have a great school year. It has started off so well for so many of them. I am glad that they are all enjoying their new year and their new teachers. Now that we will soon be leaving them, I pray that it continues to go well.

But still, the fact that there are only 2 weeks left in summer boggles my mind. Yet I am still looking forward to what is to come. With the end of one segment of life brings the beginning of another. A new semester is on the rise, and I cannot wait to get back. Furniture has been moved in, they have been working on that some more this week. Students are moving back to campus. I know that the soccer teams are already back, and RAs will be going back in about a week. Things are being put into motion now. Fall 2008 will begin soon.

I do not normally address my readers directly. But I really do hope and pray that your summers have been amazing as well! Many of you will be starting a new semester soon (if you have not already). Look to this new segment of life with hope. Dream big, and refer back to my post called "Something Big." If you let Him, God will do something amazing in your life this next semester. Stay close to Him, and let this new era of your life be amazing.

Matt

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

#1 A Look Back at Deuteronomy 6:5

"A Look Back" is a new series for my blog that will be posted under Biblical Reflections. This will be a 9 part series that focuses on the memory verses I learned with the kids this summer. I will take each verse, look at its context, and comment on the passage. This is a great opportunity for myself to study look back at this amazing summer! I hope you enjoy some of these reflections.

Deuteronomy 6:5

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

It seems like such a long time ago when I first began teaching this verse to the kids. Summer is over, but this verse still rings through my mind. We had some of the after school students quoting it this afternoon. There is so much that one could draw from it by just looking at this one verse. However, I am looking at the greater context of chapter 6.
  1. Learning from the Past - I am sure that many of you know the story, but if not I will briefly catch you up. The Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians. But through the Lord's leadership in Moses, they were brought out of Egypt and began moving toward the Promised Land. They never made it to the land under Moses' leadership, but they were prepared for what awaited them. This is known as the "Greatest Commandment," and this is where God wanted them to turn their focus completely on Him. He reminded them of what was in their past, encouraging them to focus on Him as the future unfolded. We cannot dwell on past events, but we must continuously remember God's miracles and guidance through past events. Also, we must always learn from the mistakes that we had made in the past.
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  2. Loving the Lord - The central focus of the verse itself is love. By focusing only on the verse, one is immediately drawn to the command to love. It seems so simple, but it can be so hard to fulfill. What does it mean to love the Lord? Any and every aspect of life should be centered around Him! No matter what it is you think, do, say, etc., it should always be focused on Him, out of love. But how many times do we fail?
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  3. Leading Others - By learning from the past, and by learning to love, we have a great opportunity to lead others to the Lord. Verses 7-9 show the fruits that come from this great command. They show when and how to love the Lord. But they also encourage us to teach these things to others. We are commanded to "teach them diligently to our children." For the Israelites, they needed to pass on God's miracles and provisions to the newer generations. Their children needed to hear the stories of God's great power. But this applies also to us. God still provides for His children, and it is our responsibility to tell others what He has done for us as well.

The command is simple enough; love the Lord. But it is so hard to carry out. We have to remember where we have been, looking to see what God did in the past. And we have to share those miracles and even life lessons with our children, leading them in the way of the Lord. But above all, we have to love the Lord. It all begins with love. Without love, we will not be appreciative of the lessons we learn in life. Without love, we will not see the miracles God daily provides. Without love, we will not care to share God with others. It all boils down to love.

Matt

Monday, August 11, 2008

Harry Potter



This 7 book series was an amazing read. I began reading this series when I was in 7th grade. Now, 8 years later, the series is over. Well it actually ended last summer. I truly enjoyed reading these books over the past 8 years. I know there was a lot of controversy over who should read these books, or if anyone should read them. But I honestly never saw a problem with someone reading Harry Potter. To me they were always a fun fiction series. They contained all the elements of a good story. The only thing was that it was set in a magical school with wizards.

I guess I can see where so many people were coming from in regards to these books. I understand that they might have been afraid of the negative impact that the books could have had on their children. But if that is the case, Harry Potter is not the only books that should be banned for children. There are countless others that parents would have to keep out of their children's reach. So I do not think that there was a very strong argument against Harry Potter. Even so, I would suggest that children should probably be in upper elementary or middle school before they ever cracked the pages of these books. I say this for 2 reasons. One, there are elements to the story that parents could have great concern over. So this would allow the children to be a bit more mature before they read the books. Two, for the child to get a good grasp on the story, they would need to be older. There are many fictional elements to any story that kids do not begin understanding until they grow up. But I do not believe that these books should be banned from children.

But what did I think of the books? I enjoyed them! They had all the elements of a good story. The plot was always convincing. One has to understand that it is a fictional story, and that these events are not real but from the author's own imagination. But even if it is a made up world, it is made up well. A reader can begin to feel as if they are actually a part of Hogwarts. The school comes to life through the words on the pages. This is due mostly to the events that occur throughout the 7 novels. There is quite a bit of action. Every story seems to be centered around a new mission for Harry and his friends. There are always surprises and well-crafted plot twists to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. These books are not easy to put down. Rowling keeps her readers guessing all the way to the end of the series. Also, it contains emotions that we all deal with every day. There are love stories and stories of death weaved through and through. It is a fantasy world, but at the same time they do not live in a Utopia. There were real life challenges that constantly hit the main characters' lives.

There is so much more to these stories than what I was able to mention in this brief post. But to mention them would give away parts of the story (for those of you who have sadly missed out on reading these books). However, let me say this. One of the best suspenseful story lines of this series (if not the best), is the character of Snape. Those of you have read them know what I am talking about. I have read many books in my lifetime, and I have read through many plot twists. I have had authors fool with my mind over and over again. But when I think of the best story lines with plot twists I am always drawn to 2 main stories:
  1. Harry Potter and the character of Snape
  2. Ted Dekker's Thr3e

Those are the two that I always think of, and if you notice Harry Potter is one of the 2. So I definitely encourage you to read these books if you never have. You will truly enjoy this good read.

Matt

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Videos for the Kids #3

I am currently having problems posting the 3rd video of the kids reciting their books. I had intended on posting the one with all the kids (K-5th) rather than the 2nd-5th graders. I will continue to work on that and see if I can get the video uploaded. But until then, I will just continue with some of our other videos from the summer.

As I have mentioned before, the kids were asked to memorize 9 separate verses this summer. Many of them were able to complete this task. They have instilled God's Word into their hearts all summer long. Before they left for school, I wanted to record them saying their favorite memory verse from the summer.

Many of these kids would write their favorite verse on every craft that we did. When I asked for volunteers to quote verses, each kid had their favorite that they would always recite. After timing them on their books, some even tried to see how fast they could say their verses. Now I was not pushing them to do verses with speed, but it did show me that they were dedicated to knowing those verses perfectly! They would practice hard to say some of the verses as fast as possible. It was good to see them working hard on memorizing Scripture.

So on Wednesday, I took volunteers into a separate room. There, I recorded them reciting whatever verse they wanted to say. I knew exactly what some of them would do, and I wanted to capture those moments forever. In the future when I hear Psalm 19:14 or Proverbs 8:33, I will always think of those kids.

So here is one of those videos. This is Phillip quoting Psalm 19:14:

video

He was one of those who loved to say verses fast (as you can tell), well really just Psalm 19:14. So I told him that he could say it fast while I was recording as long as he slowed it down a little bit afterwards.

Matt

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Videos for the Kids #2

Alright here is the second video from the summer. It is much like the first, except that it was taken two days later with a somewhat different group of kids. Their goal was to always see how fast they could say the books of the Bible. They were slower on this day, but I think that was because they had a much larger audience.

Books of the Bible 2

video

The fastest time of the summer (not recorded) was 41.90 seconds.

Matt

Videos for the Kids #1

This is a collection of videos I took during our last week of summer at work. Many of these kids have gone back to school and no longer come to us after school. Our after school program is much different now that about half of the kids we had all summer long do not attend. But I wanted to post these videos so that any of our kids could view them.

Books of the Bible 1

video

Well I have this 1 loaded and ready, but cannot seem to get a second to load correctly. So look for future posts with videos. I will probably post 1 video at a time until I get them all on here.

Matt

The Olympics Have Begun

I don't know how many of you stayed up last night watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics, but I did. That was the most spectacular opening ceremony that I have ever seen. I have always thought of it being boring because countries just march in and there is not that much action. But there is still something special about it, despite the boringness of the event. It is all about pride for you country, and it is fun to watch the USA team march in.

The Chinese did it right this year with the 8 different runners inside the stadium leading up to the man running around the perimeter of the room in the air. Then when he lit the torch, that was just amazing!

The Olympics will be on for 16 days! I will be watching anything and everything that I have time for. I have been up watching it this morning since it began. In the last few hours, I have seen the American Women's Volleyball Team defeat the Japanese. Also, 3 American women have swept the medals in Women's Fencing. Cycling was on just a few minutes ago, and right now I am watching what they call "sculls." It looks like kayaking to me. I am now patiently awaiting Michael Phelps first race, which is scheduled for sometime this afternoon.

I hope you are enjoying the Olympics as well. Find your sport, there are plenty to choose from. The swimming, volleyball, and gymnastics promise to be good this go around. Remember that the summer games only come around every 4 years. Do not miss it this go around or you will have to wait until 2012 when they head to England!

Matt

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Start of a New Year

Well the kids started school today. What a sad day it was for Jessica and I. Some of them did not come back today because they are participating in other after school programs. I pray that these kids will have an amazing school year. I told many of them yesterday that by going back to school, they have an opportunity to tell others the things that they have learned this summer. I encouraged them to continue to practice all the verses and books they learned.

Also, we had a specific situation occur yesterday that I do not want to spell out on here. Let me just say that something was either misplaced or stolen yesterday. We know no details on this situation other than this specific object is missing. We are still trying to put the pieces together and figure out what might have happened and how we can solve this problem. Just pray that this lost item is found.

Finally, I have several friends that are beginning to make the move back to Jackson ready to start a new semester. RAs will be moving in soon along with some of the sports teams. Please pray for safe travel as they begin moving back into the new dorms. It seems as if the dorms should be ready, furniture was being moved in earlier this week. I pray for a great start to a new semester, and I especially pray for the safe travel of all those who have to go back to campus early.

Matt

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Six Months Later

Wow... I noticed today that it has now been six months since the tornado. Here I am typing right around 7:02. Time flies way too fast. Six months later, and students and faculty were moving the new dorm furniture into the new dorms today. They will all soon be fully furnished. That is so exciting. I would never have imagined that these dorms would be up and ready for us six months ago when I was taking shelter in a dorm that was falling around me. But now, everything is new and ready. Time really does fly.

But summer has gone by almost too fast. I have been excited about the end of the summer, mainly because I am ready to get back to the "new" Union. But I never thought I would dread work ending like I have this week. It has been a hard summer in that the kids have pushed me to new limits. I have had to be somewhat mean some days. I yelled a lot and made a lot of kids sit in time out. But despite all of this, I did connect with several kids. You always end up having your favorites, and of course I had mine.

Tomorrow is the sad last day of the summer program at Christian Wee Learn. We are having a big party tomorrow. There will be pizza, video games (for the guys), and spa stuff (for the girls). It is going to be a day of fun. Then, as the kids leave, we have to say goodbye. Some will be with us after school on Thursday, but many will not. And sadly I have to say goodbye to Phillip. I hope none of the other kids noticed, but I let Phillip help out a lot today. When I needed an extra pair of hands, Phillip was always there. He got to do a lot today that others did not. That may have been a little wrong, but I knew that I did not have much time with him. He is not ready to leave, and we are not ready to let go tomorrow.

So yea, time flies! Here we are in August, and Weakley County Schools are heading back to school. Work changes after tomorrow, and I will have to begin working with a new group of students. We will be playing with them in the afternoons and helping out with homework. It will not be the same, but it should be fun. And then as the month comes to a close, I will be preparing to head back to Union.

Matt

Monday, August 4, 2008

Something Big


I feel like this section of the blog was a long time coming. There are so many songs out there that mean a lot to me. They have touched me in some way at various times of my life. Even when I hear them months or years later, they bring back those emotions and feelings. I am reminded of where I was at that point in my life. And then they continue to reveal new things to me. God can sometimes use a simple song to draw us back to Him.

This past semester, I bought John Waller's debut album. All 10 songs are amazing, and they all have their own message. Some of the more well known songs off of this album are "The Blessing" and "Still Calls me Son." Those are 2 of my favorites, but the song that has had the biggest impact on my life is "Something Big."
..
During my years in the youth group I had 2 youth ministers that always encouraged us to expect God to show up in life. Michael taught me to pray that God would do something big in my life prior to each new segment of life. It was a practice that I took hold of, and I saw God working through me in new and amazing ways. When John came my senior year, he began to encourage us to look to the end of those segments, see where we wanted to be at the end, and to work towards that goal. When I entered college, this became a common practice before each new semester and each break. I continued to see God working in truly amazing ways.
..
This past spring, God showed up once more, through the tornado. Needless to say, that was never what I was expecting when I prayed that prayer. But God had plans, and He was ready to do something big once again. Just a couple months after the tornado I heard this song, and it was perfect because it fit right in with what I had always been taught:
..
I wanna see something I've not seen
Something so big
I wanna be a part of something great
Greater than me
..
It's time to dream big dreams
To see Your vision
Become reality
‘Cause it’s for You, by You, those who
Love You wanna do
..
Something so big
It’s destined to fail without You, Lord
It’s gonna fail without You, Lord
Something so great
It takes a miracle to do
We, Your children
Wanna do something big for You
..
We, yes, we are gonna sing a brand new song
Something so strong
We will be the sound that wakes the dawn
Something so loud
..
It’s time for breaking through
‘Cause there are no limits
For he who holds the truth
When it’s for You, and by You, and those who
Love You wanna do
..
Something bigger, something greater
For the glory of Your splendor
Something bigger, something greater
Tell the story of Your wondrous love
Your wondrous love
Those who love you wanna do
..
As long as we live, let us do something so big for You
..
There is so much I could pull out of this song, but for the sake of the length of this post, I will not. Let me just say that this is an amazing song. One of my favorite parts is where it says that anything we do on our own is destined to fail without God's guidance. We cannot expect these amazing miracles in life when we depend on our own strength rather than God's. But when we rely on His strength, we should always be prepared for God to do something big in our life. It may not always seem "big," and we may not even understand what God was doing at the time. But as time goes by we will eventually see how God worked through every situation of life.
..
My charge for you today is to expect God to do great things in you life. He has a purpose for you, and He wants you to be willing and opened up to Him. If you are watching and waiting, God will do something big, just be ready!
..
Matt

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Football Kicks Off Tonight

Tonight is the "first" game of the NFL football season. The Colts will be up against the Redskins tonight, and this can only mean that the Fall is almost here. I probably will not be able to watch the game tonight, but despite the fact I am excited that football is finally on its way.

I will be following the Packers as always, despite all the craziness that we have seen leading up the season this year. Who knows what will happen with Favre. Today it has all changed yet again. They are now reporting that he will be back with the Packers. But will he be on the bench or on the field if he ends up on the team again? These questions are still unanswered, and the coming weeks will reveal Greenbay's fate. Hopefully it can be a good season for my team. I have followed them my whole life, through the super bowl and through the down years. I do have high hopes for the season.


What about the Vols? This is year is a fresh start for the team. With a new quarterback and a new coach on staff, no one really knows what is ahead for this team. This could easily be a flop year, but it could also be a very productive year. Right now no one knows. I have high hopes for the Vols as well. I think that the change of pace can propel them to many wins throughout the season. Hopefully we can even sneak up on a few teams.

Fall is all about football! Last Fall was a great year for both the NCAA and the NFL. There were plenty of surprises, twists, and close ball games. I look forward to much of the same as the 2008 football seasons kick off within the coming weeks.

Matt

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Learning to Press On

About a week and a half ago, I shared this short devotion with the Wednesday night crowd at our church.

2 Corinthians 4:1-9;16

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies... So we do not lose heart.

I first assured them all that this devotion could apply to anyone's life and anyone's situation. But to give them an example, I drew off of a personal experience. I carried them back to the night of February 5th, a night that much of 2008 revolves around for me. I took them through my thoughts and fears, my steps and plans, and the process I had to go through to recover. That night affected me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It could have been a night where I let go of so much. I could have rejected all that I believe in, but instead I chose to look to God for guidance immediately. I depended on Him for strength, and I was able to press on only because of Him.

Looking at this passage, we can see that hard times can easily bring us down. Whether we are being bogged down by illness (of a family member or ourself), financial difficulties, disputes between friends and family, natural disasters, or anything else, we could easily become depressed or decide to just give up. But Paul encourages us to press on. We can know who our God is and what He is capable of. We can look to Him for guidance and depend on His strength and will. We may be afflicted with a hard circumstance in life, but we will not be crushed. We could be perplexed as to why this is happening to us, but with God we will not be driven to despair. He can give us hope. He truly is the answer to those hard times, to those difficulties of life. We must remember that just because we are His children does not mean that we are protected from affliction. We are still human, and we will still suffer in this world. The difference between us and the rest of the world is that our hope is grounded in God.

So looking at this, there are 3 things we need to see so that "we will not lose heart."
  1. Be changed - It all starts with salvation. We must first know who Jesus is and what He did for us on the cross.
    ..
  2. Be convinced - We must be convinced that He will always be there for us. He is our Savior and Lord, and we cannot find the faith to believe that He will never "leave us nor forsake us," then we struggle to find that hope. He will be there for us, but we have to remember to look to Him for the guidance that He is providing.
    ..
  3. Be committed - This involves a life changing to always follow Him no matter the cost. If we are changed and convinced, we must also be committed to follow Him when those hard times arrive. He should be the first one we go to when struggles come and we feel helpless.

I say all of this to encourage you to look to Jesus with whatever it is you may be struggling with right now. I do not know the needs of your life, but we all face difficulties at one point or another. Remember that God is waiting for you to look to Him. He wants to help and knows the best way to help you. So do not lose heart; set your heart on God.

Matt