Tuesday, December 30, 2008
January - Began with a New Year Party at the house in the midst of my long break from school. I was at home most of the month waiting for a new semester with new roommates.
February - A new semester began with new roommates and new friends. We played crazy games around campus enjoying our first weekend back at Union. But the fun came to a standstill on the 5th when the tornado destroyed part of campus. The rest of the month was mostly spent at home, waiting to go back to school. On the 19th, we returned, and I lived in a hotel for the next few months.
March - A cancelled GO Trip led to a spring break at home, which was a great rest from a stressful, hard, long semester that had only barely begun. But summer began looking brighter when I received a phone call to work at Christian Wee Learn for the summer. This was a welcomed phone call since I was no longer going to be able to work at Centrifuge at Union.
April - The semester continued, and this blog was born. It became a place for me to keep friends updated, talk about books that I had read, and vent about whatever popped into my head.
May - The semester finally ended, and campus was looking much better! Dorms were popping up everywhere, but it was time to go home and put an end to a hard semester. Then work began, and I began wondering if summer was going to be fun after all.
June - Work became much better as the kids began listening somewhat better. They were soaking in the material much faster than I ever expected, and I was growing attached to every single one of them. But even in the midst of fun, I was missing Union.
July - Kids Kamp kicked the month off, and it was a great time away from the daily activities at work. But it was also a time of work as I co-pastored for those 3 days. But summer was beginning to end, and the kids were about to head to school.
August - The summer program ended with a huge party day. I was so impressed with the kids and could not believe that they had accomplished so much in such little time. As they went back to school, I really longed to head back as well, but summer was not yet over. I continued to work with them in the afternoons.
September - A new semester finally began, at a "new" Union. Things looked completely different, and it was great to reconnect with friends. We were all excited to begin a new semester on a campus that was still in the process of rebuilding. But we could not walk on the sod.
October - The semester continued along as we saw more work being done all around us. The buildings were complete, all minor repairs were being wrapped up, and little things to help campus look better began popping up (such as lampposts).
November - Campus went through homecoming, and old alumni came to see what the new Union looked like with the new dorms. Another semester was ending, as the election came to an end as well.
December - The economic crisis seemed to grab everyone's attention as the semester ended. But the excitement of Christmas took place over all fears of the world around us. Then the semester ended and we all returned home for a great Christmas with friends and family.
Now here I sit wondering how 2009 will begin. Will there be another life altering event take place that will shake the very foundation of my world again? Or will 2009 begin like some of the more normal years of my life? I have plans for what I see in 2009, but will they be fulfilled or changed like last year? We never can know the future, but when it comes we have to work with what we get.
I hope that I am able to participate in my mission trip this year as well as setting up a summer job that will not be changed. I hope that I have a normal semester in the spring, unlike the previous 2. I hope that I can have a normal, peaceful year. But I realize that in an instance, that could all change. I cannot become comfortable with my life, because the unexpected could come.
Make your plans for the New Year. Set your goals. It is a good thing to set goals in life and work towards completing them. But while you are setting goals for the new era of your life, remember that your goals may not be God's plan. Be willing to change those goals if the need arises. Be willing to conform to God's will and not your own. You may have great plans (like I thought I did in 2008), but I can guarantee you that if God changes those plans, His plans are greater. I experienced that first hand in 2008, and it will be a year that I will not soon forget.
Monday, December 29, 2008
You may remember the Aramis Black series that I spoke of many months ago. Well this book is the latest from the mind of Eric Wilson. He has now begun the Jerusalem Undead Trilogy, and Field of Blood is the first in this series. In this story, fiction collides with history and archaeology. Wilson visited Romania and Israel, did his research, and produced a very well written story.
Now if you do not like vampire books, then you may want to stray away from this one, but then again it might be a good experience for you. After all, it is only fiction.
But anyways, the story begins with Judas' suicide. And then in this fictional story, his blood seeps into the ground below him and the Undead are "born." A family of demons, known as the Collectors, are in a way awakened by his blood, and 2000 years later, they are released from their tombs. Now the Collectors roam the world tracking down the Nistarim, those who have been marked by Jesus' blood.
Now I am sure this talk of Judas' and Jesus' blood having some crazy impacts on people may sound crazy to you, but remember that this is fiction. However, it is a clever story. The Collectors are "doubly dead" and the Nistarim are "doubly alive" or immortal. And they are pitted against one another throughout this story. As always, I do not want to ruin the story for you. So I have provided you with the background of the two forces that battle in this story. But know that Gina (Regina) is what I would consider the main character of the story who finds herself in the midst of this spiritual battle. Follow Gina as she tries to protect the Nistarim and discover the secrets about her past with her as she is confronted with the truth.
Like I said, if you do not particularly care for the idea of vampires, you may not like this book. You could always give it a chance and see what you think. But there are some graphic vampire scenes in the book. I did enjoy this book and would recommend it as a good read.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Jesus Calling by 33 Miles
What do you see when you look at your world today
Is it so full of clutter that you feel like you’re going insane
And you can’t fight back cause you’re just too afraid
and it seems like the clouds in your sky don’t wanna change
You see there’s always another story, another side to every coin,
And how you see your circumstance is all about a choice
When you see the rushing wind , feel the pouring rain
hear the thunder now as the clouds roll in
and you’re blinded by the lightning
do you also hear that still, small voice saying
It’s okay, you’re not alone, you may be scared to death,
But I won’t let you go
You may think the sky above is falling
But can you hear Jesus calling
What do you see when you look at your world today
Do you see a glimmer of hope, or has it all turned to gray
Well start by counting your blessings one by one
Oh and I’m sure right there, you’ll start to see the sun
You see there’s always another story, another side to every coin
And how you see your circumstance is all about a choice
Because the darker the night, the brighter He can shine
This seems to apply to the world today. It seems to be gray skies of gloom and doom. Whenever you turn on the news, it seems like there is only bad news and not many "glimmers of hope." With all of this depressing news, it would be easy to get down every day never finding happiness in any aspect of life. But is that what you want your life to be, days, weeks, and years filled with depression? Because it does not have to be that way. True, life is hard, and times are tough right now. And just because you choose to have hoped does not necessarily mean that those hard times will suddenly disappear. But it will give you a new perspective on those hard times. Instead of looking at the hard times and dwelling so much on the negativity, which causes you to be depressed all day every day, you can try finding those "glimmers of hope."
As this song mentions, there is always another side to the coin, another story, and a choice to make when these hard times come. The chorus of this song is great! When we see and feel all these hard times in and around us, we must remember that we have something or someONE that can help. That is the message of this song, and it applies so well to the news of today.
I do not want you to think that I am saying that being a Christian is the cure to the problems in your life, because that is sadly not true. Hard times will continue to come. But the secret to your problems is the way that you choose to deal with them. So as we continue to go through these hard times in our country, be sure that you do not forget that Jesus is there with you through it all. It may be hard now, but you can look on to a brighter day, a day that is coming, even if it is not in this life.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
But on the giving side, I was able to give my dad some "retro" television antiques from a neat store at OpryLand. We gave him a yellow submarine mug and an Andy Griffith photo of Barney. As for my mom, we gave her a Union rug that LifeWay was selling during the fall.
The gifts were great, but as I have gotten older, they no longer have as much significance as they once did. It is now more fun to shop and try to find neat gifts for others. But more than that, it is just fun to hang out with some family members that we only see a few times a year. We had a great time Christmas Eve night at my uncle's house and stayed there late into the night. Then on Christmas, we spent all morning at my Grandparents' house. It truly was a great Christmas.
I hope you had a great time as well. I hope that the time spent with your family was wonderful and fun. Now, as we enter back into life and the daily routine, try not to feel so run down. Keep the joy that comes with Christmas with you into the New Year. I pray for a safe 2009.
Here are a few pictures from our Christmas stops. I will have to find the one from Christmas morning later:
The 4 of us Christmas Eve Morning
Henry Christmas (Mom's Brothers)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The past 2 days at Christian Wee Learn, we looked at the story of 2 young cousins. John and Jesus were born just months apart from each other, and their parents did not know what would become of their lives years later. They knew that these 2 babies were special and were born with a purpose, but they did not know that it would one day lead to brutal deaths for each one. But prior to those tragic days, their lives were filled with many great moments of teaching, preaching, and miracles (for Jesus).
When looking at the story about their births in Matthew and Luke, it seems like so many things could have gone wrong at any given moment. For instance, the angels came to many different people delivering messages to set these plans into motion. Because of the faith of these people, these babies were born and brought up for a specific purpose. And yet problems still arose. Herod tried to kill young children, hoping that Jesus would meet His death as a young baby. But once again, Joseph's trust in God's direction led the family to Egypt, saving Jesus' life for the time being. The story about these 2 children ends with their early childhood and does not pick up again until we find John in the wilderness preparing the way for Jesus, his cousin. From there we get the Gospels, the story of Jesus' life and His sacrifice for us, the ultimate gift in life.
But what would have happened if things had fallen apart in this story? What if Jesus had never been born? Would Christmas be what we know it as today? Or would this Christmas season just be another part of the year for everyone? We can never know the answers to these questions. What could have happened is never known, only what happens. But knowing that the odds were stacked against Jesus and John as kids should add a little more emphasis on the Christmas story. We would not be opening gifts with families and eating nice Christmas dinners if this story had been drastically different.
So in the midst of the chaos of travel, gifts, and food, take a minute to reflect once more on the Christmas story. Read through the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke. Thank God for His gift of Jesus, in the form of a baby, and for the sacrifice He made for us. Do not let this Christmas season pass without focusing on the One who gave it to us in the first place, Jesus.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I do have homework in Greek. That is the thing about a 2 semester course. If I do not study during this break, I will lose much of what I have learned during the semester. So I am going to have to read through the chapters and review vocab while I am at home, but that won't be too bad. Other than that I plan on kicking back and reading a lot. This is always a good time to catch up on reading.
I feel like the blog has been slow for the past few weeks. Most of that is due to the fact that I was finishing up the semester. I did not have as much time to sit and write these past few weeks as I normally do. But now that I have a lot of time on my hands again, I should be able to find plenty of things to write about. I am hoping to get a lot of books for Christmas. If that be the case, then I will have many new books to discuss on here. Also, I am wanting to begin a new series after Christmas, I just have not figured out what that is going to be yet. But look for something new either late this month or at the start of the new year.
I hope that there is a lot more to come on here. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tomorrow marks the end of the semester, and I will take my last final in my class on Hebrews. For part of our final, we were asked to write about a way that Hebrews has affected our lives. So I began thinking about the book as a whole. What is one of the general messages of this book? It took me a while to narrow it down to one lesson I have learned, because there really are so many throughout this book. But I decided to take the approach of looking at the book as a whole. And what I discovered is a common problem among most Christians, a problem that we probably all face at one point or another.
Is your faith just head knowledge? Or is there a much deeper relationship present?
Many times we learn so much about the Bible that we store the information in our head for future use but never apply it to our daily lives. We learn about who God is and what He has done for us, but then we go about our daily lives as if we had never been taught the first thing about God. This problem can arise when reading through the book of Hebrews. The first 10 chapters of the book is filled with knowledge about God. The author makes amazing connections back into the Old Testament, and he lays out what Jesus did on the cross for His readers. He compares Jesus to the angels, elevates Jesus as our High Priest, describes Jesus position at the right hand of the father, and explains the differences between the Old and New Covenants. With so much information, one could easily just learn about God without actually getting to know God.
But just as our lives should not end with knowledge, the book of Hebrews does not end with a discussion of Christ. Instead, the author continues in the last 3 chapters by providing his readers with many examples of those who have lived out the faith. He then connects in to Jesus, as our ultimate example (see my posts on "Running the Race"). This is where the application comes in. Through chapters 12 and 13, the author lays out practical applications for our lives. He gives us ways in which we can incorporate these teachings into our walk with Christ. The faith does not end with knowledge, it extends into action and application.
So listen to what the author of Hebrews says, and consider what your life is like right now. You may have already learned this lesson in your life. You may already understand the importance of applying Scripture to life and not only learning about it. But you may be in a tough spot right now. I hope this is an encouragement to you to think about how you can apply Scripture into your daily life. Just remember that the Bible should not only be head knowledge.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Snow and ice are typically the main weather problems during winter, and this year it seems like much of the country is being hit by it earlier than normal. In fact New Orleans received quite a bit of snow just last week. And now tonight West Tennessee is about to be hit with a snow and ice storm, although we do not know how bad it is going to be yet. I guess we should be thankful that it is snow and not something worse, but those of us at Union are frustrated that some of our finals are being postponed due to this weather system.
No matter how much fun it is to play in the snow, it can always be bad for those who have to travel in it. Pray for safety and keep everyone in mind as we see these type of systems continue to pass through the country over the next couple of months.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder
'Til it was a battle cry
I'll come back
When you call me
No need to say goodbye
Just because everything's changing
Doesn't mean it's never been this way before
All you can do is try to know who your friends are
As you head off to the war
Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light
You'll come back when it's over
No need to say goodbye
You'll come back when it's over
No need to say goodbye
Now we're back to the beginning
It's just a feeling and no one knows yet
But just because they can't feel it too
Doesn't mean that you have to forget
Let your memories grow stronger and stronger
'Til they're before your eyes
You'll come back
When they call you
No need to say goodbye
You'll come back
When they call you
No need to say goodbye
I loved this song when I heard it for the first time in the theater. It seemed to fit the movie perfectly. And now that I have seen the movie several times since and read these lyrics, I think it is a perfect fit for Lucy at the end of this book/movie. Lucy is leaving Narnia for the second time, hoping again that she will one day return. Aslan almost assures her that she will be needed again, and she feels like she will be making a third visit to Narnia. Through this song, it seems like Aslan telling her to wait for his call, and then she will be able to return. What a powerful message if Aslan is related to God! Wait on God's timing in life.
The song then talks about change. With Lucy returning to England, life will once again change, returning back to her normal life in England. But change can be good, even if things are hard. The song suggests some hard times (war). The series was set in and after WWII, so again the song seems to tie in well with the book. The part about looking to a star seems off if considering Christianity, but it does allude to the light. Jesus is the light, and this could be seen as Aslan encouraging Lucy to look to the light as she goes through her next stage of life.
Finally, there is an encouragement to hold on to the feelings of Narnia. Those around Lucy and her siblings will not know how they feel about Narnia. They do not know what Narnia is or how it has affected these children. But that does not mean that the children have to forget their memories. Aslan encourages them to hold on to the memories of Narnia, not forgetting the lessons that they have learned. Also, this seems to connect with Susan, who at the beginning of the movie was letting go of her Narnia feelings (not in the book from what I recall). But later in the series (book form), Susan does forget about Narnia as she gets caught up in worldly affairs. Lucy is encouraged to hold on to those memories as she awaits for her call back to Narnia.
I really like this song. It seems to have been written in light of the Narnia series, but it may not have. If it wasn't, then there are a lot of connections that can be made regardless. Just like this song, The Chronicles of Narnia have a lot of lessons that we can learn. The children that travel to Narnia go for a purpose. Not only do they help those in need in Narnia, but they are taught various lessons themselves. And once they have learned all that they can, they are sent back to their own world to put those lessons into practice. May we take the lessons that we hear from God and put them into practice in our life, just as these children have.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This was my final textbook of the semester, and I just finished reading it last night. In the class I have been taking on Christian History, we have discussed the history of Christianity, stretching from the time immediately following the Apostles up through most of the 1900s with a glimpse into the present. This book, The Next Christendom, moves past the idea of history. Instead of looking primarily at the past, it stretches into the future and looks to see what Christianity might look like in 2050.
The book begins with some history, looking at how Europeans spread Christianity across the world, including America. But the book does not center around European and American Christianity. Instead, it focuses on Latin and Southern America, Africa, and Asia. Christianity has flourished in these regions over the past several years, and it is still continuing to spread. According to Jenkins, the author of this book, the "next Christendom" will be located in the southern hemisphere in areas such as these. He bases his predictions off of current statistics and provides readers with a look at what Christianity will look like in these regions in the coming years. Such statistics predict a vast spread of Christianity, moving the majority of Christians to these southern countries rather than Europe and America (where Christianity is centered now). From there, he speaks of what the future holds for these countries and how they will one day be reaching into Europe, spreading Christianity anew in those lands.
Do I agree with all Jenkins says in this book? Yes and No. I agree that there seems to be a shift in where Christianity is being centered. Even today we are seeing a secularization in Europe primarily but also in America. And in the southern hemisphere, Christianity is spreading like wildfire. I do not disagree with Jenkins' assessments on the spread of Christianity.
What I question is what Jenkins considers to be Christian. For instance, he states that he includes anyone who claims to be a "Christian" in these statistics. It does not matter how off their theology may be, if they claim to be affiliated with Christianity, then they are included. As a result, Mormons are even placed in this group. He does leave Mormons out at times, but on several occasions they are included in his statistics. So if Jenkins' idea of a Christian is covering too vast a range of people, then are the statistics skewed? In some ways, I would think so. It may be true that Christianity is spreading drastically in these regions but maybe not to the degree that Jenkins states. With skewed statistics, maybe his judgment of the future is a little off base.
However, I do think a day is coming when we will find the center of Christianity in some of these regions (unless a great revival occurs in the Northern Hemisphere). That is my other problem with the book. There almost seems to be no hope. Although I do not believe that Jenkins reads this as fact, I do wonder where he stands on this issue. Is this the absolute future that we will one day see, or is this just a possibility of what could happen? Are we going to sit around and let Christianity die in Europe and America, or are we going to attempt to prevent the secularization of these areas? I am glad that Jenkins pointed this shift out to Christians. It should give us reason to stand up and press on, holding on to what we have. But I do not think that this book should be read with the idea that there is no hope for our country.
Read this book if you get the chance, but do not be depressed at the end. Do not let it paint a picture of hopelessness in your mind. Instead, take this very possible future and use it as motivation to spread God's word in our own lands as well. Our country can still have a spiritual awakening.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those
with whom he is pleased!"
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Have you read the Christmas story yet this Christmas season? I thought it was appropriate to post it on here for someone to read. If yo have not sat down and read this yet, read back through this familiar story. I think many times we gloss over the details and forget what really happened on the night of Jesus' birth. We have heard the story for years, and it becomes easy to go through the yearly motions of reading the story for tradition's sake and never focusing in on learning something new about Christ's birth.
We looked at this passage Sunday at West Jackson for this very reason. It seemed almost too simple for a college Sunday School lesson, but once we began discussing the story, we all discovered small details that we had never paid much attention to in the past. Have you ever thought of Mary's condition as she was riding the donkey? She was right at the point of birth, and yet she was traveling on a stubborn animal. Think of her determination to get to Bethlehem for the census.
And think about the shepherds' faith in believing the angel and then traveling to the manger. Afterwards they praised God and gave Him the glory for this birth. For the shepherd's, this was "breaking news." They did not grow up hearing the "Christmas story." When Jesus was born, they spent the night praising God. Have we let the story become so old in our lives that we find ourselves not giving God glory for His gift? This Christmas season, read back through this account, as well as the one in the opening chapters of Matthew. Search the Word and see if there are some details that you have overlooked. Seek God, and allow Him to teach you something new this year. Don't treat this just like a traditional story that you must read every year. Instead, read this Scripture as God's Word written to us, for us. Jesus is more than a story!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
No, you cannot click to look inside. Sorry, this image is from amazon.com, but you can go there to order it.
This has been another one of my textbooks for this semester, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read a good summary about the History of Christianity. It is great when you actually enjoy your textbooks in school.
Most people, unless you are a history major or minor in college, do not particularly care to read a book with a bunch of dates and facts. But for me, this is not an ordinary history book. Of course, those elements are present in this book, but for a history book, I found it quite easy to read. From the first chapter I was impressed with this book. I never got bored with all the details that the author presented about each period of history. Many times my mind shuts down when reading pages and pages of historical texts. But this one was different, and I think that part of it is due to its almost story-like read. Now it is not exactly written like a fiction book or a story, but it is kind of close. My point is that I think it would be an easy read for most people, especially if you enjoy history.
Also, the author does not focus on one specific movement. He takes into consideration all view of Christianity from the end of the 1st Century to the present day. He shows how the early church dealt with various heresies, how and why the Reformation began, and what denominations have formed over the past two to three hundred years. He explains each movement and comments on the various leaders who started the movement and were the major influences on the movement.
But if you are not into reading 450 pages of history, you can even pull out specific chapters. Pick up wherever you would like in history, and you will not be too lost. Of course, you will miss out on some of the background, but I feel like you would still be able to get a good understanding of what was going on in that particular era. So I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the history of Christianity better. If you have ever wondered how we got to this point today, pick up this book and see where it all started. I hope you find this a good read.
Friday, December 5, 2008
For me, these late nights are only a week away. Next week is our last week of classes at Union. The following week will be finals week. So next Friday night, I will be sitting in my room looking through notebooks filled with notes as I begin to compile all of my information for the tests.
So finals are coming soon. But the great thing about finals week is that you can finally see the light at the end. The end finally seems close, and another semester will be complete. So my 5th semester at Union University will soon be over.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I do not know about you, but I know that I can easily find myself stressed out if I am not paying attention. Different situations will begin popping up in my life, deadlines will arise, and before I know it, I am running frantic trying to get everything done. It normally leads to long days and short nights. I find myself missing out on sleep, and I am always exhausted. So is it worth it to be stressed?
Not only does the Bible warn us about worry, our bodies let us know when we have too much going on in our lives. I am not saying that it is wrong to busy in life. However, it seems that the busier life gets, the more stressed we become. They normally go hand in hand.
We are all going through difficult times right now with the economy. That is affecting every American, and even many around the world. But my guess is that the economy is not the only stressful situation in your life. More than likely, you have other struggles such as sickness, bad work environment, heavy workloads, or bad relationships. When all these hit you at once, life seems like it is too much to handle.
So how should you handle the stress in your life? Well first of all, I would encourage to try to prevent stressful situations by not making your life too busy. But if stress has crept up into your life, go to God. He can give you comfort and a clear head to help you work your way through the stress.
I am on the brink of finals, and I can see stress on the horizon. My goal is to kill the stress before it arrives. If I prepare now for my tests, then I will not be as overwhelmed come finals week. Planning can also help you in your quest to kill stress. So be careful. I understand that life is hard, and that stress is almost inevitable. But as Christians, we know the one who can cut out the stress in our lives. Give it to God.