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Random streams of consciousness…

So another few weeks have come and gone. What happened?

For me…a lot.

My first seminary class has been disposed of and I ended it with an “A”. For a guy working 70 hours a week, getting that “A” is an immense source of pride.

I’ve never been known for taking the easy way out of things. A lot of has to do with I’ve seen so many people harmed by getting things handed to them. They work hard but they do not have to struggle. I’ve learned struggling leads to growth and appreciation. The question becomes, when is struggling all the time healthy?

Right now, I’m tired. I’m tired of having to work so hard with very little payoff. I’m tired of never being able to do things that interest me.

Last night was hard for me. Sunday and Monday I had the joy to spend some time being “Uncle Trace” to my two cousins Anna Rhea and Leah, 11 and 8 respectively. Anna particularly looks up to me and I was glad to spend some one-0n-one time driving around with her and going to Wal-Mart and things that are such.

The problem, I’ve been so busy that I didn’t have any energy. I was so tired that I moved slowly and it was hard to put together coherent things to ask her about. Instead of being the cool older cousin who wanted to jump in the pool and have fun, I was the tired old guy who laid by the pool and watched.

Their older brothers Luke and Josh, 15 and 13, came late Monday before I had to come back home. I had barely an hour to see them and I didn’t have the energy to talk to them much or spend much more time than play a game of cards with them before I had to drive back home to do school work.

Last night I couldn’t sleep because I know I might have let them down because I couldn’t be me. I was so tired that I went through the motions. For me, that’s unacceptable. I see them once, maybe twice a year if I’m lucky. To not be on my “A” game, makes me sad.

Being so busy makes me wonder, is this all worth it?

Prayers for right now:
God to open a door to ONE full-time job that’ll let me continue to pay my bills and pay cash for my seminary tuition. Not being able to enjoy my time with those kids has bummed me out and I don’t want to turn around 5 years from now and have regrets.

Sorry to be so melancholy. It was not my intention to whine nor am I looking for sympathy. One of my biggest downfalls is my inability to be transparent. As one friend puts it, “all my cards are very close to my chest and rarely does anyone see me play them.”

I think it’s time to show parts of my hand a bit more now….I’m tired of feeling this way…..

1st step to recovery today….figure out when I can go see my cousins and spend meaningful time with them, rested and alert.

The Un-Ending Pursuit

I haven’t been blogging all that much but I want all of you to know I am very flattered and humbled that so many of you would bother reading what I have to say. I feel because you all do keep track of this blog, that I should make it a point to try and update it more often. So here’s an attempt at that…..

Life is always in a state of flux. Rarely are we ever still and complacent.

What I mean by this is that even when God has us in a state of what we call “stuckness”, there is immense growth and preparation taking place. We only have to step back and open our eyes and see it.

There’s not been a lot of movement in terms of job opportunities for me. I’m very happy with my current community and my day job pays well, but it is by no means what I want to do for the next 5 years, much less the rest of my life.

As I’ve stated previously, I’ve started seminary and am moving towards what I feel the calling is God has placed on my heart. My desire to see people engage in a true relationship with Him and each other is becoming brighter. Providing a solid theological backdrop is the current step.

It’s amazing to see that to truly live a full life in Christ, there must be an un-ending pursuit to know Him and discover what His heart was, is, and always will be. The mind and heart of Christ is a simple idea wrapped in very complex terms. The radical nature of what He said changed the world. Something I have learned in school (which should be obvious but in reality, isn’t all that obvious if you don’t dig beneath the surface) is that  the early Church in the 1st century had such a zealousness to spread the Good News that they had people dedicated to just copying the books and letters that eventually made up the New Testament Canon. These scribes would literally spend years making copies so that ALL of God’s people could have copies of the word.

Until this point, the Old Testament Canon had been limited primarily to the priests in the synagogue. For the first time, people had direct access to the scripture.

What’s further amazing is that the Bible survived years and years and years in a handwritten form until the invention of the printing press centuries later.

I write all of this because the un-ending pursuit of the heart of God is presented within the pages of a book we take for granted so often. It is full of wisdom, love, and how we should live our lives. Not just to “win” others to Jesus but to bring them in to fellowship with the Creator of the Universe.

To close, there is a man that I will always be thankful for despite the journey he is on now. He once said to me  “if you immerse yourself in the scriptures, it will pour out of you.”

I pray that all of you would continue this un-ending pursuit of the heart of God and that the love and wisdom of the scriptures would pour out of you. Feed yourself, find a community of believers to do life with, and ultimately learn to love others with the heart of Christ.

 

So a new adventure begins…

A new step in my life began two weeks ago. I officially started my journey to what God has next for me. I started seminary.

It was not a decision that was easy for me. For one, I’m paying for this one. Secondly, I’m already working 70 hours a week. How am I going to fit school in with a crazy schedule like that?

Well, quite easily actually.

The last two weeks I’ve already written close to 2000 words in assignments, taken a quiz, and started writing a bible study on John from the New Testament. What are my grades so far? A 95 on the quiz and a 97 on my papers.

Not too shabby.

I’ve learned a lot in the past two weeks. We’ve been concentrating on the political background of the Jewish culture and the influence of Hellenism (the spread of Roman/Greek culture) on it. What I’ve learned has given  me tremendous background for the stage of influence Jesus could have in that time period. There are already light bulbs clicking on concerning what I’ve studied.

What does it mean? Pray I’ll keep up the consistency with my school work. Pray I’ll stick with it. Pray my other two jobs won’t suffer because I have school work to do 4 days out of the week to keep up.

Master’s in Theology….here I come…

Things I Love Thursday

So my friend Lindsay (read her list here) had a blog idea that I read and am now copying. A rare un-orginial post this is but I once read that real artists starve and the smart ones steal….or something along those lines.

Things I love….

  • Listening to vinyl records. There’s nothing like sliding a record out of its sleeve, slipping it on a turntable, lying down on the floor (even my hardwood floors!), closing your eyes, and getting lost in the warm, soothing tones.
  • Flickerstick. The band of choice that comes up when I need something to get my day moving. Put on “Smile” from Welcoming Home the Astronauts or “Sorry, Wrong Trajectory” from Causing a Catastrophe and tell me it doesn’t get you ready to rock either.
  • Books. I love how books feel and smell. There’s nothing quite like picking up a new book, thumbing through the pages quickly and getting a whiff of ink and paper before exploring the story or knowledge inside.
  • Being a quasi-pastor. I say quasi because I don’t have the title but do many pastoral things in my church and as of next week am officially on my way to a Master’s in Theology. Woot! It also helps that I love my community I serve in, Element3 Church.
  • My friends. There’s nothing quite like a fun night at the Trio’s house for beverages, Call of Duty, games like “Things”, running charades, and laughs.
  • The movie Rudy. I swear. I don’t cry hardly ever. My grandmother died and I never even got choked up. I guess it comes with being an Armstrong. However, every time I watch Rudy, I cry at the end. Maybe its because I always feel like that underdog being held back and just looking for a chance to prove he can be good too. That heart and guts can get you somewhere if you’re patient and hang in there. The part where he gets in the game and makes the final tackle with his family crying and they carry him off the field, I cry every time and stay messed up for a good hour afterwards.
  • Country Fried Steak. I know it’s bad for me but you know what, it’s delicious. Smother it in Sawmill gravy and I’ll slap a grandma to eat it.
  • Non-Starbucks coffee shops. I love the Redeye (shameless plug) and I’ve really learned to love Grass Roots in Thomasville. There’s something about walking in and being hit with the aroma of brewing coffee. The ability to sit down and work or read a book while enjoying a cup of joe. It’s a little slice of heaven.
  • My iPod. I use this object more than anything. With a busy schedule like mine, being able to download podcasts and stay updated on what’s going on in the world is essential.
  • Snoopy. I love the Peanuts Gang but especially Snoopy. I have close to 30 something Snoopys in my apartment. Seriously. Always there, waiting for a hug. I know that’s lame but there’s just something about Snoopy.
  • Classic Disney Animated Movies. Throw in Pinocchio or Bambi and I’m a happy guy.
  • Going to the Greenway and lying by the water. When I have a free day (usually only Saturday), I go here and relax for a while. Enjoying the weather, the view, and the way the grass feels between my toes.
  • My family. I don’t see them enough. We talk on the phone a lot and we make do. Without them, through the good and the bad, I wouldn’t be here so I will always love and be grateful for them.

There are many more but today, I’m very thankful for these…..

Why Hate?

Today is a day that makes me question why I do what I do.

I serve a wonderful community of people but watching this message of hate on several fronts today is saddening.

Are we better off Osama is not on this earth? Probably.

Am I glad that people DIRECTLY affected by 9/11 have closure? Definitely.

Do I applaud our military for doing their job well with no civilian casualties? HECK YES!!

But look at your Twitter and Facebook feeds today….

People are openly celebrating death. People filled the streets of DC and NYC last night celebrating the death of a man.

I’ve also seen people direct hate at people/entities that are not Osama bin Laden.

People are making fun of Republicans and former President Bush because Obama killed Osama rather than him.

People are mocking Fox News and indirectly the people that work there.

People are using the death of Osama as justification for why their own ideology is correct.

I was flipping through tv last night and I saw Fox News treating the event like Christmas. I saw CNN use it as a way to enforce the war agenda. I don’t know how NBC or CBS  spun it but no one watches them anyway (I kid I kid).

Essentially, the death of one man is bringing to the forefront the true feelings in the hearts of many (some even people I know) and it makes me hurt.

Because if all these people are so filled with prideful hate….what’s the point?

Love conquers all. Set your mind on things of heaven and not of earth.

Infighting Within The Church: The Two Sides of the Coin

I know I’m fashionably late to this blog. Anyone who blogs and reads either Rob Bell or John Piper has jumped into this conversation a month ago and promptly forgotten about it.

I however have not.

Let me start by clearly stating this blog is not intended to support or demean either man or their ministry. It’s strictly commentary on the situation surrounding these two real or imagined.

Rob Bell recently released a book called “Love Wins” that talks about the realities of heaven and hell and what he considers to be inaccurate earthly views that have become the common belief of the Big C Church pertaining to these two subjects. I have read the book and did not find it to be nearly as controversial as others. The reason being that if you have read N.T. Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope”, you’ve read a more scholarly attempt at writing about the same subject and nothing in “Love Wins” will surprise you.

Shocking? Not so much…

So why is John Piper tweeting dismissively about Rob Bell’s book and character?

Here’s what it comes down to. N.T. Wright  is considered one of the best theologians in the world and his books are full of deep thoughts and explanations all backed up with scholarly references or specific interpretations of the Bible.  Rob Bell is a modern guy at an innovative church in Michigan who is already at the center of debate in many church culture circles. So who will make bigger waves writing about misconceptions on heaven and hell? Rob Bell or N.T. Wright?

Most people would pick Rob Bell (as would I) because he’s a much more well known target already at the center of controversy.

Here’s a fun fact, N.T. Wright and John Piper have had their scholarly disagreements aired publicly with the difference being Piper has chosen to respond with blog posts and books countering many of N.T. Wright’s arguments concerning the meaning of Justification as written by Paul in the New Testament. Why? Because it’s harder to create a stir with someone as well respected as N.T. Wright in the theological community.

Rob Bell is the easy target, N.T. Wright is not.

So what’s the point? What’s right or wrong with the recent public spat?

One side of the coin….

Public debate about theology is good for the Body of Christ because it forces us to study the Word, discuss it, defend it, and live it. It also presents opportunity for people that have never heard these thoughts or processes to receive new information and digest it and take part in the conversation as well.
The other side of the coin…

When it goes beyond debate to arguing, name calling, and overall mean spirited comments, it makes the Big C Church look like a bunch of buffoons who attack each other over theological differences.

John Piper is very relevant to public conversation on the Spirit of God. His writing about the glory of God and it’s importance in our lives affected me deeply as a young twenty something. I can point to “Don’t Waste Your Life” as one of the books that helped me see the importance of God’s glory and evangelism in my walk.

What’s sad about the current situation is by ripping Rob Bell and doing so very publicly, he has turned off a large portion of the Big C Church that NEED to read and hear what he says about the Glory of God and its importance.

These statements have also caused arguments amongst the Body, and this practice is what bothers me most.

What good is it doing to rip each other’s theology apart? Why is it funny that websites have been created to sell “Team Bell” and “Team Piper” shirts? To me, it’s not funny. It’s sad.

God is not being glorified and genuine conversation about thoughts arising in scripture get lost in the commentary.

The night before Jesus died, He prayed in the garden that:

“For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17: 19-21)

He prayed we would be sanctified in truth and that we would all be One. Why? So that the world may believe that Jesus was sent by God?

So…how does this infighting help bind us together as one so the world may believe that Jesus was sent by God?

Simple…it doesn’t.

The Gates…(immediate thoughts I’m pondering)

So today I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m blogging less than an hour after hearing E3’s Lead Pastor, Mark McNees, give a talk about the gates of hell.

Seriously…

It was in relation to the passage in Matthew concerning Jesus asking His followers “Who do you say that I am?” in chapter 16. The interesting part is Simon Peter responds by saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. This is the first recorded declaration that Peter makes concerning just who Jesus is.

Jesus responds by saying that on this Rock I will build my church.

It’s a statement that I’ve read many times but missed the point of until this morning. Mark explained that the area where they were conversing was a place where there was a pagan church for the god of fertility. Furthermore, the pagan church was built into a cliff where there was a crack and it was believed in that area that it was the gates of hell. That all the demons, misfortune, etc. came from this place.

Jesus is referring to two things by saying that on this Rock I will build my church.

1. The Greek translations says petros (which means small stone) and it infers that Peter, the disciples, etc. will be the foundation of the Church.

2. (These are my thoughts here) I also think Jesus is communicating that on that very spot where men worshiped a false god of fertility and it was believed the gates of hell opened, he would build His Church.

The more I think about it this morning, the symbolism is building in my mind and heart. In the very heart of darkness, the most undesirable of places, Christ was establishing His church.

So where does that leave us?

Are we taking the light of Jesus and establishing the foundation of His church where the hearts of darkness have temporarily overcome? Are we going into areas where the undesirables live?

Are we too safe?

As a very new project is coming on the horizon in the coming weeks, I will keep asking these questions.

The big question I have now is…..are we becoming the foundation?