Wednesday, October 31, 2007
It is said by some that Peter holds the keys to heaven. As you approach the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter is there standing guard, he is like the bouncer for Heaven. He will interview you to see what you have done with your life, “Were you a good person?” He will also check to see if your name is recorded into the Book of Life which will grant you admission into Heaven. Now I am not a big advocate of this type of theology. But let us assume that we need to have references to get “in,” who would be on your reference list?
Some of the problems of recommendation letters are they puff us up. We can create an extensive list with numerous references. These references can be the big hitters of the faith: Christian writers and musicians, success pastors, world leaders and other recognizable names. But is that what gets us into heaven?
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3 that what is written on our hearts matters to God, nothing else. In the Old Testament the Law was written on stone and men could not live up the standard. Because of this death was the result. Christ’s covenant with us becomes a heart matter, it is something we are and what we are becoming. And because of this covenant we have life. We do not need to prove ourselves through letters, but rather we are recognized by our heart.
What is written on your heart?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death
is one who deceives a neighbor
and says, "I was only joking!"
Wow what a powerful proverb. This proverb speaks of threatening someone with weapons that can hurt and then when countered say, “I was only kidding.”
The tongue is a compared to a flaming arrow that can penetrate deep. And if you are shooting your mouth off, you must be a madman!
So a madman is shooting flaming arrows at his neighbors, his friend and probably at his family. Why? Many times it is survival.
When we are caught in our deceitful ways we are quick to respond that it was just a joke. But who is left laughing?
James 3:8 … no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
When I was little I would get up early on New Year’s Day and watch the Rose Parade. I also remember watch the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving and watching those large inflatable balloon characters like Under Dog. There was also the Santa Claus Lane Parade which always ended with Santa waving to the kids. You knew Christmas was just around the corner.
I also remember times of national pride when individuals that had accomplished greatness were celebrated in a ticker tape parade in New York. When the crew from Apollo 11 returned from the first moon walk there was a ticker tape parade. It was as if they had returned from battle victorious.
Paul uses the idea of a victory parade in 2 Corinthians 2:14. I am sure it was common in Paul’s day, and because of his travels throughout the kingdom of Rome, to see or hear about the return of the victorious Roman armies. Leading the entry would be the commanders or generals of the army followed by their supporters. Behind the leaders would be the spoils taken from the fallen cities followed by the fallen king or ruler of the land conquered. If there were a stock market and sky scrappers there would have been a ticker tape parade.
As we battle to do life we discover that we are weak. We attempt to live lives separated from God and make it on our own. We also discover that because of our weaknesses we are sinful. Left to our own devices we would lose the battle, we need someone to save us. Christ wins that battle and we willingly surrender and become His slaves. And as Christ leads in the triumphal parade in His Kingdom we become the spoils of that victory.
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Dealing with the scandal we discipline the sinner. Sometimes the punishment is banishment. Sometimes the punishment is being ostracized. The punishment can be severe and it can be less harsh. Each individual takes their punishment differently. A harsh punishment can be less severe to one and extremely painful for another.
But when the punishment is met forgiveness should be given. When repentance is demonstrated forgiveness should be given. But forgiveness is hard!
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22
While I was reading 2 Corinthians I read about a situation that Paul was helping the church of Corinth through. He told them not just to forgive the unnamed sinner but to comfort and love him. To come alongside that man and support him.
Christ died on a cross paying the price for our sins. He did the time. Through this process our sins are forgiven. Denying someone forgiveness is denial of the cross. Is the scheme of Satan that Paul warns us of?
2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11 I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent--not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
One of the most important character traits of anyone in ministry or business is integrity. I have told students that the word integrity comes from the Latin word “integra” where we also get the word integer. I love math! Integers are whole numbers, negative or positive and zero. Notice there are no fractions. There is a sense of wholeness or completion. The Latin word integra means whole and complete.
As we consider what that means as a Christian consider that I am completely or wholly a Christian. I am not a half Christian. What does that look like we when evaluate our lives? Are we a follower of Jesus just on Wednesday and Sunday? If so, does that make me a 2/7th Christian? How do I live completely, everyday for Christ?
My desire is to be speak in a way that is clearly understood. I do not want to be misunderstood. May my yes always be yes and may I never be swayed by worldly things.
2 Corinthians 1: 15-22 Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, "Yes, yes" and "No, no"?
But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
While in the bathroom I was looking into the urinal and noticed that the toliet was very clean. The urinal was equipped with a clean red strainer. While I was looking at the strainer I noticed something that struck me as very funny. You know, I have seen this type of urinal strainer many times in the past but never noticed this until today.
How many men can honestly say that they do not do drugs because they read the urinal strainer?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
I do know that it has been hard on me and Monica. We worry about the future.
Now the hardships I am facing are not life threatening. Being released from a job is not terminal. But I understand it is a hardship and I am unable to fix it myself. Through this experience godly men and women have rallied behind me and given me some great advice. One piece of advice has been to gather a team of pray warriors and allow them to give to God.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
I am looking forward to seeing how God uses the prayers of so many. I am encouraged that so many have positively responded back to me that they are honored to pray for me and Monica.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
2 Corinthian 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
Throughout these first verses I am reading over and over again the word comfort. In contrast are the words troubles, sufferings and distressed.
We face times in our lives when things occur that discourage us. Being discouraged takes the wind out of our sails. Times discouragement can knock us flat on our butts. When I face these times I do not want to do anything. I am not happy. I tend to moan and groan about my situation to anyone that will listen. I become unhappy.
What gets me out my funk? Encouragement. To have someone come along side and help me and to cheer me up. The Greek word for comfort is paraklesis which means to come alongside. The Latin word for comfort is cum-fortis, which means with strength.
As I am facing my times of trouble, those times when I feel alone and discouraged I know that I am not by myself. As I face times of testing, tribulation and trouble I know I have help. And when I am feeling my weakest I know that I can be strengthened.
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I decided to start the day for those of you that read this blog with something a little more lighter. Thanks Chris Campbell for sending me this!
Nothing is going to jump out at you - this is a real puzzle and yes, there is a man in the picture.
Doctors (I do not know which doctors) have concluded that if you find the man in the coffee beans in 3 seconds, your right half of your brain is better developed than most people. If you find the man between 3 seconds and 1 minute, your right half of the brain is developed normally. If you find the man between 1 minute and 3 minutes, then the right half of your brain is functioning slowly and you need to eat more protein. If you have not found the man after 3 minutes, the advice is to look for more of this type of exercise to make that part of the brain stronger!!!
Tell me how you did!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Continuing through the book, Mother Teresa: Come be my Light, we see a deeply religious being living through a dark time of isolation in her ministry. Prior to being a servant to the poorest of the poor Mother Teresa heard Jesus say to her to, “Come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor. Come be my light.” But after the ministry to the poor started Mother Teresa was herself in a time of darkness: isolated and separated from the felt presence of Jesus.
With regard to the feeling of loneliness, of abandonment, of not being wanted, of the darkness of the soul, it is a state well known by spiritual writers and directors of conscience. This is willed by God in order to attach us to Him alone, an antidote to our external activities, and also, like any temptation, a way of keeping us humble in the midst of applauses, publicity, praises, appreciation, etc. and success. To feel we are nothing, that we can do nothing is the realization of a fact. We know it, we say it, some feel it.
When I walk through the slums or enter dark holes—there Our Lord is always really present.
As for myself—there is but one desire—to love God as He has never been loved—with deep personal love.—In my heart there seems to be no other thing but He—no other love but His: the streets, Kalighat, slums, & Sisters have been places where He lives His own life of love to the full.
Mother Teresa’s desire was to satiate, satisfy the thirst of Jesus on the Cross: to bring souls to God and God to souls, despite her dark isolation.
Yesterday was good. I got to enjoy the company of two of my former high school students. We meet after school at Starbucks and watched a small dog drink a green tea frappuccino. Afterwards we headed to BJ’s and enjoyed a couple Pazookis together, on the TV screen was American Gladiator!
I dropped them off at 5 and then headed to Corona High to watch a little volleyball, to watch another former student play. I saw a couple more former students at the game and around campus, it was great getting hugs from them and hearing that they missed me. The game was close, Corona always gives Santiago a tough time. But the girls did ok, I am not sure what the final scores were or who actually won.
The day ended with our weekly Tuesday Pizza Night. We have not gathered as a group for two weeks since I was out of town those past Tuesdays. It was great seeing everyone, a couple more high school students came by. I do not think any of them really understand what strength the group brings to me each week.
So my tank is full again and I am ready to get busy!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Today the passages I read through are:
1 Timothy 1:1-20
The Proverbs passage is great!
Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house—
too much of you, and you will be hated.
I guess it was good that we left Amanda and Jonny's home and did over stay our welcome!
Saturday, October 13, 2007
We went to see the Federal Building that was the target of the Oklahoma City bombing. It was a sad reminder of man’s ability to inflict violence and death on so many, including many children. I will post some pictures later.
Wednesday night the town paper came out. We raced to get a copy and read about the news of Lincoln County. Oklahoma is celebrating their 100 anniversary of statehood.
Yesterday I drove to the town of Perry to visit with some pastors and talk about churches and ministry positions. The town is old, and dying. I took some cool pictures on my cell phone that I will post later.
Last night we enjoyed a real farm cooked fried chicken dinner, with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, rolls and pecan pie. Yummy! We drove by the high school football stadium on the way home. It was truly a Friday Night Lights, the entire town was at the game, unfortunately Chandler High School lost. I am sure the town will be grumbling about this loss today.
Today we are going to a parade in downtown Chandler, it should be a blast. The theme of the parade is the land run of 1889. I will post some pictures. It should be like the Placentia and Yorba Linda parades.
Tomorrow we are going to church. Afterwards we head to grandma’s for brunch with the family and then to see the property on quads.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Thirst is that physical characteristic that each of have when our bodies cry out for fluids, especially water. Being thirsty can be a painful reminder that we are missing something. We have to replenish our intake of water to survive. Without water we die.
According to Mother Teresa, Jesus was thirsty for us. Jesus’ pain in being thirsty is a desire for us to be a part of Him.
Jesus wants me to tell you again…how much is the love He has for each of you—beyond all what you can imagine…Not only does He love you, even more He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He love you always, even when you don’t feel worthy…
For me it is so clear—everything in Missionaries of Charity (MC) exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of every MC chapel, they are not from [the] past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it?...Why doe Jesus “I thirst”? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words—…“I thirst”? is something much deeper than just Jesus saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.
Jesus died on the cross and experienced the desperate needs of the poor everywhere. Jesus died alone. Jesus died feeling hated. Jesus died broken in spirit and in body. Jesus died thirsty. Not a thirst for water but a thirst for love, charity and sacrifice. Mother Teresa and the Sisters lived this out in their four vows of Absolute Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Charity for the poor seeking to quench the thirst of Jesus.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Imagine for 30 years God quits speaking to you. Prior to these empty thirty years God has spoken clearly about your call and purpose in life, but now loneliness. Imagine doing a job for your entire life and never asking for recognition. Imagine that you even ask that every letter you have written be destroyed. Imagine that the world knows you and recognizes your work but you wish not to be acknowledged.
I must admit, although most of you probably have figured this out, but I have an addiction. It may be hard for you to understand that a youth pastor is addicted to anything, but I am. My addiction may need severe intervention to overcome, I know that I cannot do it alone, it will take help from my friends, family and medical doctors.
I just started reading a book on the life of Mother Teresa (Mother Teresa: Come be my light: the private writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”). I have only read the introduction but I am already amazed at this wonderful woman’s life. Here is a woman that knew her call from God was to serve the poorest of the poor. Here was a woman that heard and knew God’s voice. But in 1961 she no longer heard Him.
With the grasp of her spiritual directors, she progressively came to grasp that her painful inner experience was an essential part of living out her mission. It was a sharing in the Passion of Christ on the Cross—with a particular thirst of Jesus as the mystery of His longing for the love and salvation of every human person. Eventually she recognized her mysterious sufferings as an imprint of Christ’s Passion on her soul. She was living the mystery of Calvary—the Calvary of Jesus and the Calvary of the poor.
I need intervention. Unlike Mother Teresa, I live for the recognition and the fame and the glory. In my life I need to be surrounded by people and need to feel that people love me. It is my addiction. I have overcome so many other addictions, but this one lingers. It may sound like nothing but consider the difference: Mother Teresa lived for God, Rick Ellis lives for self. Who would you like to be?
Mother Teresa wrote many letters and she did not want them to be used for her glory. Her life was lived out for God, not for herself. The letters and ultimately the books that would follow would focus on her and not the glory that was deserved of God. In one of her letters she expressed that the writers focus on the poor.
I am perfectly happy and grateful to God for what He gives—I [would] rather be and remain poor with Jesus and His poor.—I prefer to beg and struggle with little—let him write about “the work” and our poor and struggling people.—help me to pay for the schooling of our poor children and give the clever ones a chance in life.
I am only His instrument—why so much about me—when the work is all His. I hold no claim to it. It was given to me…
I have a long way to go to overcome my addiction. I pray that in the days, months and years to come I would deny more of myself.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
According to research by The Barna Group the Christian image has shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people. This study also shows that those outside Christianity are less likely to view evangelicals favorably because of negative views of Christianity.
Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) - representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%), has good values and principles (76%), is friendly (71%), and is a faith they respect (55%).
Another view is that the church is anti-homosexual. The feeling is that Christians are so opposed to homosexuality that they demonstrate excessive contempt and an unloving attitude towards gay and lesbians.
This study also recognized that many young Christians hold these same views of Christianity. Maybe this is why we see many college students willing to leave what they once held dearly. To these Christians homosexuality is viewed as the biggest of sins. The study recognized that young people in the church and out had similar views of Christianity.
So as we tap into how Christianity is viewed I ask our older generation to evaluate ourselves. How do we view the issues that young people are concerned with? How are we communicating our values to young people? How are we embracing their values? Should we communicate those values? How well are we listening to young people? Do we really know what they are dealing with?
According to the study, older generations more easily dismiss the criticism of those who are outsiders," Kinnaman said. "But we discovered that young leaders and young Christians are more aware of and concerned about the views of outsiders, because they are more likely to interact closely with such people. Their life is more deeply affected by the negative image of Christianity. For them, what Christianity looks like from an outsider’s perspective has greater relevance, because outsiders are more likely to be schoolmates, colleagues, and friends."
I would love to hear your views. Read the blog before this one and listen to what this young person is saying. What are you hearing?
Friday, October 05, 2007
I think I’m done with a lot of bull****....
So I'm thinking that I don't really want to follow the church anymore... I don't necessarily agree with what they have to say, pretty much at all. I want to clarify that I'm not pissed off right now, I'm actually in a pretty tranquil state of mind and just feel like sharing my thoughts.
I don't agree with what I have been taught for what is right and wrong necessarily... Everyone says that there is such thing as a conscience and use that as a crutch but to me it seems that it's just something that is in our subconscious that speaks to us about what we have been socially conditioned to. Try to tell me other wise, I would love to hear it, seriously.
"I like your Christ, but not your Christians." - Ghandi. I think I agree.
"Today, there are a total of 30,000 different religious views worldwide, out of those, FIVE THOUSAND of them are differing/bickering sects of Christianity. If that doesn't sound ridiculous to you, I don't know what should. The fact of the matter is, that when religion is taken too seriously, it **** EVERYTHING. It causes war, hatred, terror, ignorance, close-mindedness, and the inability for those under its spell to live their lives to the full extent. Most religions come with a built in story to instill fear in the hearts and minds of those who follow it. (i.e. YOUR GOING TO HELL YOU SINNER! WORSHIP ME! OR SPEND ETERNITY IN THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH!)"
I don't know if I like that necessarily either...
I pretty much think that not really anybody knows what the fuck they are talking about...
"There are alot of good things about 99% of the religions out there and most of them have nothing to do with the actual religion. The support and help that the community can give a person who is down on their luck or the shoulder's to cry on that some people just don't have without them. Religions are just like Fraternities or Secret societies or even the birthday club at Baskin Robbins. They all provide benefits of being part of something larger than yourself. And most importantly, a sense of belonging and helping another person."
I think the worst part about it though is that half or more of the people in the church don't even really think about these things. They don't see other perspectives and it makes me wonder a lot of things....
I'm doing my own thing, and im pretty happy and excited right now.
P.S. (I'm not saying I don't believe in Jesus)
I just don't believe in bull**** teachings anymore
And I still have TONS of respect for some people who have had an influence on my life (most of you know who you are, some might not), just because your a Christian doesn't make me not respect you, if thats what you got out of this
GL on your individual journeys my friends
Tomorrow I am going to talk about an article written at Barna.com: A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity. I encourage to read through this article. A great book to read is They Love Jesus but not the Church by Dan Kimball.
Tomorrow night I am going to my high school reunion. I have been out of high school for 30 years! It was so long ago. I am sure that some would look back at the 70’s as a time of innocence too. But like the 50’s when Leave it to Beaver was on TV, it was not as innocent as we might like to think. We were involved in much of the same sin issues our students in high school face today.
There are many that love the past. If the had their way they would be still living in the past. Some were the jocks or the cheerleaders in high school and those were their glory days (great Bruce Springsteen song!). For some those days were the highlights of their life. Nothing great has happened since high school. They might not even have something to look forward to.
We cannot live our lives in the past. We have moved on, forward if you will and the past is past. Nothing we can do will ever change the past. We do have control of our todays and we can be involved in our tomorrows, but what about our yesterdays?
Is today only a reflection of our yesterday?
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Many of the kids from camp ran over and gave me an incredible hug. It was great feeling their appreciation and love for me. It kind of makes this place a second home and I know that it will be just as much fun tonight with the high school students.
The evening ended with some quality time with Dom, the high school pastor and his wife Cala over desert. We got to talk about ministry and life and how to train up and recruit leaders. It is amazing to me that parents want the best for their kids but sometimes fall short. Are we as parents willing to get involved with the spiritual formation of our own kids?
We have kids involved in sports, sometimes multiple sports at one time. We push for great grades, anything less will not get you into a good college. We allow our kids to be involved in any other activity that they are excited about: band, dance, motorcycle riding, etc. All these things are great. But are we as parents spending quality time with our kids? Do we sit and just talk? Do we have dinner around a table and spend time together as a family? Do we talk about the Bible, God, Jesus and our relationship with Him to our kids? If so, how frequently?
Deuteronomy 6: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
If you are following the shema, the verse above, doing all those other things are great. If you are following the shema youth group becomes unnecessary, except to gather with a group of brothers and sisters in the Lord. You do not need youth pastors if you are following the shema, the parent becomes the pastor.
In the days of Jesus there was no separation of spiritual life and work life, or school life, or sports life, or home life. It was all connected. Spiritual life was connected with every aspect of the daily coming and goings of the family. Your spiritual life dictated how you conducted business and how you raised your family.
Thankfully for a large group of youth pastors, parents are not following the shema. Thankfully for a large group of youth pastors, parents are not allowing their spiritual life to exist with their “regular” life. So for a large group of youth pastors we have job security and late night conversations about doing ministry will continue.