Saturday, February 28, 2009
As for the weather, what can I say except that it has been crazy. 2009 has been colder than 2008 so far, but we still have had storms. Watching the weather today, I noticed that Alabama, Georgia, and Florida have had tornadoes. But thankfully, 2009 has not produced as many tornadoes as 2008 had by the end of February.
And today, we have the complete opposite weather, snow! Looking outside right now, there is at least 2-3 inches down. But this is not unusual. Actually, this is what winter in West Tennessee should be. Many times, this type of weather will extend into the beginning of April. So it is really nice to see some snow outside tonight. Snow may cause some problems, such as power outages and wrecks. But in my opinion, it is far less dangerous than severe weather. So bring on the snow!
I ran out of S's to talk about for today. There is a lot going on in our country and in the world. in some ways, things seem to be spiraling out of control. But I have learned not to worry as much about the events around us. Worry will not solve any of our problems, so why even waste our time? But it is always useful to stay informed about the things going on in the world, and this is just my view on some of the current situations in the country today.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
And He said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it..."
The Road to Total Commitment
1. Denial of Self - v23a - The first thing that Jesus requires is a denial of self. We must get off of this kick that life is all about us and that we are all that matters. We are not the most important person in the world, and as Christians we should be focusing in on Him anyways. But even if we have this attitude, many times we want people to notice our service. We find ourselves serving God in various ways, and then we expect people to acknowledge our accomplishments, wanting to take in all the praise. In reality, He is the only one that deserves the praise and glory. So we must first get rid of the self, and this happens in two ways.
a. Losing Life (self-centered) - v24 - Instead of seeing this as a salvation verse (which I believe it is), I think we can also view it in light of verse 23. We must first lose our self-centered life style.
b. Gaining Life (God-centered) - v24 - And by giving up that self-centered lifestyle, we gain a new life that is centered on God. No longer do we look on our accomplishments and receive the praise. Instead, we give that praise to Him.
2. Daily Commitment - v23b - The second step in a life of total commitment is a daily commitment to follow Him. This does not happen over night, and we cannot decide to follow Him this minute and expect it to be an easy task. We will stumble and fall. We are going to mess up at times. But that is why Jesus told us to take up our cross daily. It must be something that we desire to do on a daily basis, no matter how hard it gets to follow God. Think of the imagery Jesus uses here, "take up your cross." Now think of what that meant for Jesus when he took the cross up to Golgotha. He was weak, tired, beaten, and hurting. The cross was heavy and rough. And Jesus went up hill. Was that an easy task? No! And yet, that is what He requires of us each day. It won't be easy, but the good news is that we have Him to help us along the way. But this can never be done if we are still focused on our self.
3. Desiring God - v23c - So this brings me to my last point for today. If our focus does not shift to a complete desire for God, then commitment will never be a reality. He must become the focus in our life. And if you think about it, this should be the first step. As you can see, we are back to point number 1; focusing on God produces a life where we lose the focus on our selves.
The neat thing about Luke 9:23 is that Jesus gives us three steps on how to live, but this is not a step-by-step process. Instead, it is a process where all three things must be working in our lives at the same time. If we ever want to get to a point in our lives where we are totally committed, we must make it a daily commitment to deny ourselves and desire God.
I will pick up from here next time, as we look at the risk that is involved when we decide to live life in this way and what the results are of such a life.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The story is about Humphry, but he is not introduced for quite some time. The Bramble family travels around England, on "vacation." Each member of the family has their own problems that they must learn to deal with, and in many ways Humphry steps in later on to help resolve some of those issues. But Humphry is only a servant, a man who is not worth anything in the eyes of the upper class. So how can he impact decisions made by the Bramble family? His presence, his work ethic, and his attitude on life are the ways that Humphry makes a name for himself, and everyone takes notice. In the end, it all pays off for Humphry in a surprise that many readers would never see coming.
So why did I not like a story that had twists and turns (a feature I typically enjoy)? The first reason is the fact that this is considered an "epistolary novel." That means that the story is a series of letters. But to complicate matters, the letters come from 5 different members of the Bramble family. So readers get snapshots of these events from multiple perspectives, and at times I do not feel like the letters flow smoothly. Furthermore, some of the characters like to ramble about topics that do not relate to the story. And at other times they spend so much time describing the scenery that I got lost in the reading.
There is action at various times, and the plot (what little there is) is interesting. The storyline grabbed my attention from start to finish. But with the sudden breaks and long rambles and description sections, I tended to lose focus. I could not stay excited and interested in the story as a whole, and therefore I did not really enjoy Humphry Clinker. I would not say that the book should never be read because there were many good features to this novel. But if asked if I would recommend Humphry Clinker to someone else, I would have to say no.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
So what has the first few weeks of Spring 2009 been like? Homework! I have found myself reading more than ever before. Between two classes, I will read 9 novels this semester! And I have already finished 1 of them. Also, I am in the middle of preparing for a big paper in another one of my classes, which consumed most of my weekend. And finally, Greek is taking more time out of my schedule this semester. It is gradually getting harder, and I am having to put more time into studying this go around.
As for Union, this is finally a normal semester. We started on time, and in May we will complete a full length semester (with no accelerated schedules). That is something we have not done since the Fall of '07. So it will be nice to take this semester at a normal pace again. Our commons is being built now, and the groundwork is being completed. So hopefully, they will remain on schedule to have that completed sometime in the Fall. And one of the more exciting parts of this time of year is basketball. Our men's team is currently number 7, and with just 2 games to go, we are looking forward to the tournaments. But the women are still number 1 (for 23 weeks running). Hopefully, they can pave the way to another championship!
As for the blog, here is what you can expect:
- A look at Humphry Clinker, the novel that I just finished for one of my classes.
- More news on NASCAR, as the 2009 season continues.
- Updates on the GO Trip, which begins in a little more than a month.
- A continuation of the Pastoral Epistles series.
But I must be honest, with some other Bible studies that popped up at the beginning of the semester, I had to put my study of 1 Timothy to the side for a little while. I prepared for a sermon, which I gave last Wednesday, and now I am in the middle of a new study for our GO Trip. So hopefully there will be more from 1 Timothy in the days and weeks to come.
I am going to try to stay consistent with my posts again. I did not mean to wait so long to post this go around, but life gets busy sometimes. Look for more new posts from me in the near future.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
They had their practice sessions and qualifying (with the Duals) leading up to the big race today. And today's race started the 2009 season well. It was shortened by rain, but the drivers were able to complete 151 of the 200 laps. All the great aspects of Daytona were present today. There was great passing, the draft worked well, there were penalties (which is common in every race), and the "Big One" happened near the end of the race.
And the 2009 season has begun with controversy as well. Who caused the big wreck this year? Some will say Dale Jr. while others will point fingers to Brian Vickers. They were both involved, and no one will ever know who was truly responsible, but when it was over, 10+ cars were damaged. This changed the race, and with rain on the way, even more drivers raced harder. They took big risks when passing, and more wrecks occurred as a result. It became crucial each lap to gain the lead, and that is just what Matt Kenseth did prior to the final caution. During that caution, the rain came. When NASCAR saw that the rain was there to stay, and that they would not be able to get the track died until late into the night, they decided to call the race. So this year, Matt Kenseth is the Daytona 500 champion!
Jeff Gordon had a good start to the season. He had a dominant car, but through the serious of wrecks, he was shuffled backwards. If there had been one last restart, he would have probably surged to the front. But he did not have the opportunity to show his dominant car again, and he ended up finishing 13th. Jeff stands 12th in points, and with 25 races to go until the Chase, Jeff needs to remain consistent, win races, and work hard. I expect to see the 24 car in the chase for the cup come September.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
For 3 days, we will do various acts of service on campus. What this will consist of we do not know yet know. But in some way we are going to reach out to the students on campus, showing them the love of Christ through small acts of kindness. And we will also be introducing them to the BCM, a place where they can learn more about Christ and a place where they can get involved.
On one day we are going to serve the Christian students associated with the BCM. We plan on doing some type of service project at the house where they meet or the church where they meet. We are also going to assist them in their Tuesday night worship session for the week.
There will probably be a few more things that we will be involved with during the week, one of which is connecting with the students, making relationships. We want to encourage them to continue to work hard on their campus, and in many ways they will probably encourage us as well.
Pray for the students we will be ministering to while we are in Kansas. Ask God to open their hearts even now. Pray for our team that we will work hard as we prepare for this trip. Pray that our hearts will be focused on them over these next few weeks. Pray that God will show up during our week at Fort Hays State. To Him be all the glory.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Along with those changes, many drivers and sponsors have been swapped around as well. Starting with Hendrick, Mark Martin joins the ranks as Casey Mears heads over to RCR, giving them 4 cars. Also, Tony Stewart left Gibbs Racing after 10 years and formed his own team, pulling Ryan Newman with him. This allowed Joey Lagano, an 18 year old, to fill the spot at Gibbs Racing. Richard Petty's team went under financially, but Gillett-Evernham Motorsports pulled him in and joined forces, keeping the Petty name in NASCAR. And with all of these changes, NASCAR is still going.
So what does 2009 hold? After the manufacture dual at the Bud Shootout Saturday night, 2009 looks exciting. And Daytona is right around the corner. The Gatorade Duals are Thursday afternoon, and the 500 is Sunday. And early projections say that Jimmie Johnson will not win the championship this year. Instead, they predict Carl Edwards to be on top come November. But that is all speculation. There are 43+ drivers, 36 races, and 10 months of racing to go. And no one will know who the champion will be until that final lap at Homestead, Miami.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
This is a very short passage, but it wraps up the first half of 1 Timothy. The book of 1 Timothy can easily be divided into two main sections: the "positives" (chapters 1-3) and the "negatives" (chapters 4-6). And this passage serves as a good transition into chapter 4.
But even if this passage is short, its message is powerful. Paul begins by telling the church that they are the pillar and buttress of truth. A pillar and buttress were structural support systems. If you think of a temple from the ancient world, you may think of one of the temples with pillars surrounding all four sides. If it were not for those pillars evenly distributing the weight around the building, the building would not be able to stand. So it seems as if Paul is calling each member of the church (each Christian) a pillar, holding up the truth. When one of us falters, people take notice. The church takes a hit and does not appear as strong to the outside world. We must be careful in life and make sure that we stand for Christ, supporting each other and ultimately supporting the truth of the Gospel.
Chapter 3 then ends with a very concise summary of the Gospel. What is it that Christians are to hold up before others? I feel like sometimes we forget what the Gospel is. We get so wrapped up in life that we forget the basics. Here, Paul gives the basics of the Gospel as a reminder. And we would do well to pay attention to it.
So from these 3 short verses, I gain 2 main ideas. First, as Christians we have to support each other, keeping each other accountable for our actions. If a brother is stumbling, we should encourage them and try to lift them back up. The world is watching, waiting for one of us to fall. And if that happens, our reputation will be hurt. But not only should we help each other and hold up the Gospel, we must also know what this Gospel is. So secondly, we must return to the basics of the Gospel and remember what it is that Jesus did for us. Furthermore, we must remember His command to proclaim His message to the world. The world may be watching and waiting for us to mess up, but we can reach out to those people and show them the truth. It is our responsibility to spread His word, and we cannot falter from that command. As the church we must be involved in witnessing and encouragement.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
It all started about 30 minutes before the storm. I was prepared to go to the commons to ride out the storm. I went there to ask Joe Ball, my roommate, to see if that was a good idea. He told me to go to the room below ours and ride it out there. So I went back to my room and met another roommate, Kyle Odom there. We went downstairs when the sirens went off. Jason Evans, a friend back at home, kept texting me keeping me updated. At first I thought he was joking because the storm had been moving directly north. I did not see how the storm would turn that sharply. But I could tell that he was serious and we eventually headed to the bathroom. There were 9 of us in the bathroom. Not long after we got the door shut, we heard the tornado, our ears popped, and it was over. I remember asking Kyle, “Everything is gone isn’t it?” He just replied “Yes, I think so.” I called my mom and let her know that I was ok. Then we went into survival mode and tried to find a place of safety.
So we headed out to another building, not really sure where the best place was. We had no idea what buildings were and weren’t damaged. I saw a lot of people heading toward the PAC, so that is where we went. Once we got inside, we saw Kyle’s girlfriend Brooke, and her roommate Abigail. Eventually a bunch of others found us, including Matt Turner, another of my roommates, and Paul Morris. We all banded together and stood by each other’s side through the night. It was a miracle when my Dad called me in the PAC. That building does not allow any cell phone services to have signal. So it was a miracle that we got service. I talked to him for a few minutes, and then our group headed to an interior classroom (the Map Room). We worked together getting desks moved to smaller rooms leaving the bigger rooms for us to take refuge in. We stayed there for quite a while and received word that faculty and staff would take us to their homes. So we headed for the chapel to get picked up.
But the sirens began again and we had to go back to a classroom. We stayed there maybe another hour. I remember that somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 we were all in the hall, now just seven of us, trying to find somewhere else to go. Our group included Joe Ball, Matt Turner, Kyle Odom, Paul Morris, Michael Grubb, Amanda (she was with Michael), and myself. Joe was trying to find us a place to go but could not get his cell phone to work. We were told to go to the guard station, but when we got there the police did not know we were coming. So we were clueless at that point. They were trying to get buses for us, but had no such luck at the time. Probably 200 students were standing in the grass lot by the guard station with no place to go. Michael began making calls, and he contacted Opie from Calvary Baptist Church. We were still pretty shook up at this point. We had no place to go and it was raining. What really got us was when the wind started blowing really hard again. We knew we could not wait on buses to get campus. Michael said Opie was on his way, so we just started running. We headed to Stein Mart, where Opie was going to meet us.
We ran down Walker Road, in the rain, and met some policemen on the way who led us to a red tent in front of Stein Mart and Petco. We had to check in there for the third time. Then we ran to the bus trying not to fall as we ran through the big puddles. Once we got on the bus, Opie headed back to Union to see if we could get any other students to go with us. No one else was at that grassy lot, so we turned around and went back to Stein Mart. They would not let us take any other students, so we headed to Calvary Baptist.
We arrived at Calvary at about 10:00. We went over each other’s stories and tried to figure out what exactly happened at what time. I called many people and many others called me. Around midnight, all the storms were gone and we could feel the temperatures dropping. We all realized that no more storms were coming and rejoiced because of the cool weather. About 2:30 I may have finally fallen asleep. I woke up shortly after 7:00, and Opie started trying to find us some food. All I had had since 5:00 the previous night was half a coke. But it has been hard to eat since then. We got a little to eat that morning, and then my parents arrived.
12 hours after the tornado hit, I was up and ready to go. So everyone knows the story after this. They would not let us on campus due to FEMA and other reasons. They are helping us take care of our cars and possessions. The important thing is that we are all alive. Out of around 1200 students who were on campus, only 51 were injured. Now only 2 are at the hospitable expecting to make it. And the biggest miracle of all is that no one was killed. God was in control Tuesday night! He watched over us and gave us the peace to get us through the whole thing. Something I have since realized is this: We have always joked about living in the “Union Bubble.” But now, God gave us the REAL Union Bubble. Maybe our possessions were destroyed, but our lives were saved. We were protected by God’s Union Bubble. Praise God!
We were clueless about what would happen next at this point. Remember, I wrote the above 2 days after the storm. But in the weeks that followed, Union began developing an accelerated class schedule that allowed us to finish the semester on time. They also designed new dorms, and began construction. Today, all 15 new dorms are up and in use. The commons, which will complete the new quads, is under construction as well. Union is back. It may look a lot different, but we are back and still serving God.
One more amazing part of this story is the fact that I was in the process of applying for Centrifuge (the support staff here at Union). The tornado cancelled the Union Centrifuge last summer, leaving me out of a job. But I got a call from Mrs. Leatha to work at Christian Wee Learn a few weeks after the storm. If it had not been for the tornado, I may not have had the opportunity to work with those kids last summer. And I would have missed out on a lot.
I do not know why we had to go through the storm. And it is sometimes easy to question things in life. But nothing but positives have come out of this last year. People have come to know Christ, His message has been proclaimed, we have seen His work through our rebuilding, and we have seen His protection of His children. In some ways I wish it had never happened and we could go back to the way life once was. But in so many other ways I would not trade anything for what God has taught me over this last year. Today is a day of celebration for the protection God gave us last year. Tonight we are having times of celebration on and off campus, praising God for all that He has done.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Through His ministry we see the importance of witnessing and discipleship. As a Christian we should be involved in both, but sometimes we get so caught up in one that we neglect the other. And I feel that many times discipleship is left out in our lives and maybe even in our churches.
This weekend helped me see the importance of discipleship. So I ask you to think about your spiritual life. Did you have a person that mentored or discipled you? Was there a person who invested in your life, teaching you God's Word or living the Christian life before you? And if so, what have you done since? Do you in turn invest in the lives of others? Are there people in your life that you can pour into and teach them what it means to live the Christian life?
I think we can all point to people who had an influence in our lives. But I wonder if we can then point to people that we are investing in. If you cannot think of such a person, then I encourage you to think of someone who may look up to you. Or if you are involved in a certain ministry in your church, think of someone who might be a great help in that ministry in the future. Begin investing in that person's life. That, is discipleship.
Continue to witness and spread God's Word because it is our calling. But do not neglect to disciple others. You may never know what type of influence you will have on their life. But what if they take what you have taught them and seek out someone else? And what if that person continues the process? Pretty soon, there will be a network of believers who are connecting with one another for accountability, support, teaching, and service work. What impact could we all have on the world if we connected closer to believers? Only God knows the things that He could accomplish through us. Discipleship is important. I encourage you to seek out those who you could disciple in the faith.
One last thought. When you do find such a person, it helps you in your walk as well. Knowing that there is someone looking to you for some sort of guidance can help keep you on the right track.
Monday, February 2, 2009
I want to know You
I want to hear Your voice
I want to know You more
I want to touch You
I want to see Your face
I want to know You more
Todd Agnew was the worship leader this weekend. And during our first session he began breaking this song apart to give us a look at the meaning behind the words. So lets start with "I want to hear Your voice." Do you really want to hear His voice? We would hope that we would say yes, but think about the consequences. What if you really heard His voice? What if He spoke powerfully to you and told you specifically what He wanted you to do. I think you would feel compelled to obey. I know I would. But that would be an extremely dramatic experience. Are we at the point in our lives where we would be willing to do what He said without question and without pause? That, I do not know.
Then Todd spoke on "I want to see Your face." Have you ever read about the burning bush? Moses was not allowed to see God's face, even though he asked if he could. God only allowed him to see His back. And God told Moses that by seeing His face, he would die. So when we sing this line, you are basically asking for death. God has never allowed a human to see His face. What a powerful image this line provides. But if we truly desired to see His face, that would be a mark of a dedicated life to God.
Finally, Todd looked at "I want to touch You." Again, return to the Old Testament. When David was helping return the Ark of the Covenant, a man reached out to catch the Ark, which was about to fall to the ground. God struck him dead immediately. In the New Testament, a woman reached out to touch Jesus for healing. She was only able to grab His clothes, and she was healed immediately. But think about it, she touched something that was touching Him. She did not even touch His skin. When we say that we want to touch Him, think about the consequences.
Todd joked around saying that 2 of these 6 lines are actually asking God to kill us. But I thought about it in a different way. Romans 12:1-2 talks about our lives being living sacrifices. Well how can we live and be a sacrifice at the same time? I think the answer has to do with the flesh and the spirit. We die to ourselves, our flesh. And if you think of this song in those terms, it takes on a different, but powerful meaning. Maybe the "asking for death" mentioned in this song could refer to dying to our flesh so that our spirit would be evident in our lives. The bottom line is that we should be that committed to Christ. No matter what this song actually means, or what it means to you, I think that it calls for a life of commitment. We must be committed to God. Our lives cannot just be words, thoughts, or ideas. There must be a lifestyle that backs up our beliefs.