Your Life in 30 Seconds

Have you ever had an elevator conversation? They are really short and end when you get to your floor. While writing a dissertation or thesis, students are encouraged to have a prepared elevator conversation to share with anyone who is willing to listen. It is called an elevator conversation because you should be able to share your thoughts within 20-30 seconds. Kinda crazy, many dissertations are 200 pages or longer. How in the world can you share those thoughts in 20 seconds? Simply put: you can’t. However, you can whet the appetite for more.

It can be annoying when you ask a PhD student what they are studying and they fumble for words because they don’t know how to describe it. The best students are passionate about the subject and have learned how to present their material concisely in 20 seconds so that people will be craving more. Now I ask, should Christians be prepared to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in 20 seconds? If so, what are the major points that you would want to share?

I often have people ask me what I am doing with my life, and I often answer it totally truthfully in 30 seconds – it looks something like this:

“I am working towards reconciling the Church; Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians. All of these major Christian groups believe in the Holy Trinity; the full humanity and divinity of Christ; his actual life, death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven; and salvation through grace by faith in Jesus Christ alone. The Lord Jesus taught us to pray that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in heaven we are perfectly united, so I pray for this to happen on earth as well. In John 17, Jesus prays that we be one even as he and the Father are one. The ministry of reconciliation was on Jesus’ heart as well as mine.”

This is the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. He is reconciling us with himself and with each other and he is the only one who can make it happen. My identity is wrapped up in being a child of God; therefore, all of my actions flow out of that identity and I can answer questions like this without fear. My answer about my life did not concern my career or my thesis topic. I believe that the Good News of Christ is best shared with people when we are totally honest. People ask questions all the time, are you willing to answer honestly the next time? There is no reason to be afraid of people and what they will think of you. It is really hard to share your heart in 30 seconds, but it is totally doable and incredible!

If you had 30 seconds to describe what you are doing with your life, what would you say?

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Why so much suffering?

What is pain? What is suffering? What is evil?

Personally, I have experienced a lot of pain. In high school I was a nihilist – nothing had purpose. Sure I was an intellectual, but hidden behind that was a huge amount of depression, isolation, and perversion. Upon entering college, I was crushed as the girl I was engaged to ripped my heart out by cheating on me…not a very “fun” experience! Have you ever cried yourself to sleep every night for weeks on end, crying out to a God you don’t know!? Meanwhile, at the math department, the students I tutored invited me to Church. I finally caved in after a few weeks, and during the worship service, I lifted my hands in the air realizing that God loved me. The worship pastor helped bring me into the presence of God. Later that year I was baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, by the head pastor and realized how forgiving God is.

…one year later, it was discovered that the pastor’s daughter was being molested by the worship pastor and two weeks later it was also discovered that the head pastor was also molesting his daughter. This poor 15 year old girl had been molested since age 9 by the two most “spiritual men” she had ever known.

Where was God in the midst of that?

It was these two men that personally helped me come to know God – where was God? For me, I had no doubts that God was there the entire time and my faith only solidified all the more. I had experienced large amounts of pain before I became a believer and seeing more pain now only made me realize all the more that God was there all the more and that He was gracious. Not once did I waver in my faith. I stood strong and went to the authorities to turn these two men in, even when the denominational head threatened me to be quiet.

This is a horrific story and it is true. And there are many other stories like this concerning people you speak to on a daily basis. So where is God? If God is Good and if God is Powerful, why does He allow all of this evil to exist? For many, this logic has destroyed their faith in God. Perhaps we are to self-absorbed and asking the wrong questions. When Adam & Eve ate the fruit, they knew the consequences! They brought the pain and suffering upon themselves. God is just to allow this suffering. But there is more to the story: God became a man, being born of Mary, living and preaching the Gospel, crucified on the Cross, was raised from the dead, conquered death and corruption, and ascended into Heaven. If we follow Christ, we too must die! How many times are we told to endure, to take up our cross and daily die, to count suffering as joy, we can only enter the process of salvation by partaking of the sufferings of Christ! Not only is God just to allow suffering, God is gracious to allow us to partake in His sufferings! We are perfected through suffering with Christ.

I am sorry if you feel as though I have minimized the pain you have personally experienced, this is not my goal. I hope to encourage you in your journey. There will be pain, it is simply a matter of how you face your pain. Will you despise it or will you embrace it. And when you see others in pain, will you ignore it or enter into their pain with them. I hope you will embrace it and enter into the pain of others, following the perfect example of Christ.

Who are you?

Activity is a function of identity. What I do is a function of who I am. Not the other way around. Who I am is not a function of what I do! Proposing to my wife was a function of me being a man in love with this woman. My action flowed out of who I was.

When a person truly understands their identity, the action flows out of that person effortlessly. And the person who is truly comfortable in their identity does not have to prove who they are, so they are not ashamed or disappointed when their actions fail other people’s standards. They truly understand who they are.

It would be great for the Bride of Christ to realize who she is, but this is not something we can force upon her. She does not understand fully who she is because she does not fully know her lover, the One who defines her identity. Someday she will know him fully, even as she is fully known by him.

We cannot force the Bride to do certain tasks. What we can do is respond to the love of God, and he is the one who initiates such activities.

Some readers may be thinking, “This is ridiculous! You are taking away all of our responsibilities and this will make us apathetic!” And I would respond like so: Yes, this paradigm would eliminate all responsibilities. But check this out, have you ever observed a man and woman in love. The man totally takes initiative and the woman will respond to whatever his leading may be! If we, as the Bride, would do this more often, much more would be accomplished than not. Psalm 46.10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” We strive all too often, it needs to stop. This is when we will begin to know God.

Do you know who you are? Have your New Year resolutions flowed out of your identity or are you trying to force something which will never happen?

Whitefield presenting the Bride to the Bridegroom

George Whitefield was born December 16, 1714. My how the times have changed! Yet, the same Gospel he preached still remains true. He was a revivalist preacher with a voice that could be heard by anyone! He often preached an open air sermon to crowds gathering between 20,000 and 30,000 people. That is why I find it most fitting to quote one of his sermons on his birthday:

 

All hail, (I must again repeat it) thou Lamb’s bride! For thou art all glorious within, and comely, through the comeliness thy heavenly bridegroom hath put upon thee. Thy garment is indeed of wrought gold; and, ere long, the King shall bring thee forth with a raiment of needle-work, and present thee blameless before his Father, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. In the mean while, well shall it be with you, and happy shall you be, who are married to Jesus Christ: for all that Christ has, is yours. “He is made of God to you, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal redemption.” “Whether Paul, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.” All his attributes are engaged for your preservation, and all things shall work together for your good, who love God, and, by being thus married to the Lord Jesus, give an evident proof that you are called according to his purpose. What say you? When you meditate on these things, are you not frequently ready to cry out, What shall we render unto the Lord for all these mercies, which, of his free unmerited grace, he hath been pleased to bestow upon us? For, though you are dead to the law, as a covenant of works, yet you are alive to the law as a rule of life, and are in, or under the law (for either expression seems to denote the same thing) to your glorious husband, Jesus Christ.

Moreover, it is required of wives, that they not only love and reverence their

Whitefield stood on this while he preached.

husbands, but that they also love and respect their husband’s friends. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall not only reverence the bridegroom, but we shall also love and honor the bridegroom’s friends. “By this, shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.” “By this we know, (says the beloved disciple) that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren.” Observe, the brethren, indefinitely; of whatever denomination. And this love must be “without dissimulation, and with a pure heart fervently.” This was the case of the primitive Christians. They were all of one heart, and of one mind. It was said of them (O that it could be said of us!) “See how these Christians love one another!” They were of the same spirit as a good woman of Scotland was, who, when she saw a great multitude, as is customary in the country, coming from various parts to receive the blessed sacrament, saluted them with a “Come in, ye blessed of the Lord, I have an house that will hold an hundred of you, and a heart that will hold ten thousand.” Let us go and do likewise.

“I have espoused you (saysSt. Paul) as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ.” O that you may say, We will go with the man; then will I bow my head, as Abraham’s servant did, and go with joy and tell my Master, that he has not left his poor servant destitute this day: then shall I rejoice in your felicity. For I know, my Master will take you into the banqueting-house of his ordinances, and his banner over you shall be love. That this may be the happy case of you all, may the glorious God grant, for the sake of Jesus his dearly beloved Son, the glorious bridegroom of his church, to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and for evermore. Amen, and Amen.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so

The genius and theologian, Karl Barth, was asked if he could summarize his Church Dogmatics. He pondered momentarily, then began singing the child’s song: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Can you picture it? Church Dogmatics is 6 million words long, and he summarized it by singing “Jesus loves me,” that is profound. How I long and pray for all of us to truly see the simplicity of the Gospel. Barth (May 10, 1886 – December 10, 1968) contributed so much to theology, and had he been a Catholic or Orthodox Christian, there is no doubt they would already have given him the title of a Saint. He is a blessing to the Church and I thank God for this man, today may we remember this man after God’s own heart. The following is taken for Church Dogmatics:

The first statement, namely, that Christ is in the Christian, has the further meaning that Christ speaks, acts and rules ­and this is the grace of His calling of this man ­ as the Lord of his thinking, speech and action. He takes possession of his free human heart. He rules and controls in the obedience of his free reason (2 Cor. 10:5). As a divine person it is very possible for Him to do this in the unrestricted sovereignty proper to Himself and yet in such a way that there can be no question whatever of any competition between His person and that of the Christian, whether in the attempt of the latter to control His person, or conversely in its suppression or extinction by His person. It is very possible for Him to do it in such a way that the human person of the Christian is validated and honoured in full and genuine freedom, in the freedom of the obedient children of God. That Christ is in the Christian means, then, that as the Mediator between God and man He does not exist merely for Himself and to that extent concentrically, but that in His prophetic work, in the calling of His disciples and Christians, with no self-surrender but in supreme expression of Himself, He also exists eccentrically, i.e., in and with the realisation of the existence of these men, as the ruling principle of the history lived by them in their own freedom.

The second statement, namely, that the Christian is in Christ, has not only the local but also the higher meaning that his own thinking, speech and action has its ruling and determinative principle ­ and herein it is the work of his gratitude corresponding to grace ­ in the speech, action and rule of Christ. His free human heart and reason and acts are orientated on Him, i.e., on agreement with His being and action. In the power of the Word of God which calls him, and therefore in the power of the Holy Spirit, this orientation is his only possibility, already in process of realisation. Again, there is no rivalry between the human person and the divine. There is thus no danger that the former will be overwhelmed by the latter. There is no danger that it will necessarily be destroyed by it and perish. Rather, the human person, experiencing the power of the divine, and unreservedly subject to it, will necessarily recognise and honour it again and again in its sovereignty, finding itself established as a human person and set in truly human and the freest possible movement in orientation on it. That the Christian is in Christ means mutatis mutandis for him, too, that as one who is called by the one Mediator between God and man in the exercise of His prophetic office he cannot exist for himself and to that extent concentrically, but that, without detriment to his humanity, awakened rather to genuine humanity, he also exists eccentrically, in and with the realisation of his own existence, being received and adopted as an integral element in the life and history of Christ.

This, then, is the Christian’s unio cum Christo. We recall that in this high view and doctrine we are not presenting a climax of Christian experience and development in face of which the anxious question might well be raised whether we have reached the point, or will ever do so, where in respect of our own Christianity we can sincerely say: “Christ in me, and I in Christ.” On the contrary, we are presenting the last and most exact formulation of what makes us Christians whatever our development or experience. We have seen that Paul particularly in the New Testament does not think of restricting his insight in this regard to himself and a few other Christians of higher rank, but that as he speaks of himself he also speaks of the generality of Christians, not excluding the very doubtful Christians of Galatia and Corinth and not excluding the doubtful nature of their Christianity. If, as we have attempted in concentric circles, we think through what it means that the goal of vocation, and therefore of Christianity as divine sonship, is always attachment to Christ, coordination and fellowship with Him, discipleship, appropriation to Him with the corresponding expropriation, life of and by the Holy Spirit, then we are infallibly led at last to the point which we have now reached and described, namely, that a man becomes and is a Christian as he unites himself with Christ and Christ with him. And we remember that from the purely material standpoint this is the starting-point for everything else which is to be thought and said concerning what makes the Christian a Christian.

(Church Dogmatics; Vol. IV, Part 3.2, “The Doctrine of Reconciliation.” Edinburgh: T & T Clark. 1988)

Welcome Home

This song is to me, the hope of going to heaven to be with my Lord Jesus Christ. I look forward to that day and being welcomed home!

You must watch this Climbing Video, the song starts 1:20min into the video and goes perfectly with the climb: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdHlyjM_8_E

Welcome Home By Radical Face

Sleep don’t visit, so I choke on sun

And the days blur into one

And the backs of my eyes hum with things I’ve never done

Sheets are swaying from an old clothesline

Like a row of captured ghosts over old dead grass

Was never much but we made the most

Welcome home

Ships are launching from my chest

Some have names but most do not

If you find one, please let me know what piece I’ve lost

Heal the scars from off my back

I don’t need them anymore

You can throw them out or keep them in your mason jars

I’ve come home

All my nightmares escaped my head

Bar the door, please don’t let them in

You were never supposed to leave

Now my head’s splitting at the seams

And I don’t know if I can

Here, beneath my lungs, I feel your thumbs press into my skin again

“Comfort, give comfort to my people”

2nd Sunday of Advent: Scripture Readings: Isaiah 40; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3; Mark 1

Reading: Is 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.
Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Reading: 2 Pt 3:8-14

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,”
but he is patient with you,
not wishing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar
and the elements will be dissolved by fire,
and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way,
what sort of persons ought you to be,
conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames
and the elements melted by fire.
But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

Gospel: Mk 1:1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

St Augustine on Sustainability

Did you know that Saint Augustine was into sustainability? He was green before it was in style.

“…Grow green again, grow grain again, grow ripe again…”

St Augustine of Hippo (ca. November 13, 354 – August 28, 430) did everything he could to maintain a reconciled and unified Church. He was constantly urging Christians to follow the One True Catholic and Apostolic Church. Part of his teachings which I find most encouraging are centered around, what do we do with “bad members” in our Churches? The following is an excerpt from Sermon 223:

Don’t be surprised, either, at how many bad Christians there are, who fill the church, who communicate at the altar, who loudly praise the bishop or priest when he preaches about good morals…They can be with us in the Church of this time; but in that Church which will come into being after the resurrection, they will be unable to be gathered in with the saints.

The Church of this time, you see, is compared to a threshing-floor, having on it grain mixed with chaff, having bad members mixed with good; after the judgment it will have all good members, without any bad ones….as the gospel states, “He will have a winnowing fan in his hand, and will cleanse his threshing-floor; and he will gather his wheat together into the granary, while the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3.17).

You older faithful, you listen to what I am saying. Any of you who are grain, rejoice with trembling, and stay where you are, and don’t leave the threshing-floor. Don’t attempt on your own judgment, to shake yourselves free, as it were, from the chaff; because if you separate yourself from the chaff, you won’t be able to stay on the threshing-floor. And when that one comes who distinguishes infallibly between grain and chaff, he won’t carry up to the granary anything he doesn’t find on the threshing-floor. So it will be no good at that time for grains to boast about the ears of wheat they came from, if they have left the threshing-floor. That granary will be filled and closed. Anything left outside will be gutted by fire.

So then, dearly beloved, if you are good, you must put up with the bad; if you are bad, you must imitate the good. The fact is, on this threshing-floor grains can degenerate into chaff, and again grains can be resurrected from chaff. This sort of thing happens everyday, my dear brothers and sisters; this life is full of both painful and pleasant surprises. Every day people who seemed to be good fall away and perish; and again, ones who seemed to be bad are converted and live. “God, you see, does not desire the death of the wicked, but only that they may turn back and live” (Ezekiel 18.23).

Listen to me, grains; listen to me, those of you who are what I desire you to be. Don’t let the mixture of husks depress you; they won’t be with you forever. How much, anyway, is the pile of husks that is covering us? Thank God, it’s very light. We only have to be grains, and however big it is, it won’t crush us. “God, after all, is faithful, and he will not permit us to be tempted or tried beyond our capacity, but with the trial will also provide a way out, so that we can endure” (1 Corinthians 10.13).

Let the husks listen to me too; wherever they are, let them listen. I hope there aren’t any here; but let me address them all the same, in case there are perhaps some here. So listen to me, you husks; though if you do listen, you won’t be husks anymore. So listen. Let God’s patience stand you in good stead. Let your association with the grains, and their advice and admonitions, make you too into grains. You are not denied the showers of God’s word; don’t let God’s field in you be barren. So, grow green again, grow grain again, grow ripe again. The one who sowed you, after all, wished to find full ears of corn, not empty husks.

I thank the Lord for Saint Augustine, he has helped propel so many followers of Christ forward in their journey along The Way. I pray as he did, that the Church would be unified, reconciled, and welcoming. As I said earlier, Augustine was truly into sustainability: he did not want to throw people away, and he saw that God is able to renew them in a better re-creation. I hope these words give you encouragement. I would love to hear any and all thoughts. Happy Birthday, St Augustine!

Praying with St Leo the Great

[Pope St. Leo the Great (ca. 391 – November 10, 461) helped identify Christ as One Divine person with two complete natures, human and divine; one of his letters, Leo’s Tome, was strongly influential at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. He also met Attila the Hun in 452 and helped ward off his invasion of Italy. And he officially became recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1754. The Church is truly indebted to this servant of God]

This is listed as Sermon 1 and was preached on the day of Ordination. This is very much a prayer and an encouragement to the church to pray.

Let my mouth speak the praise of the Lord, and my breath and spirit, my flesh and tongue bless His holy Name. For it is a sign, not of a modest, but an ungrateful mind, to keep silence on the kindnesses of God: and it is very meet to begin our duty as consecrated pontiff with the sacrifices of the Lord’s praise. Because in our humility the Lord has been mindful of us and has blessed us: because He alone has done great wonders for me, so that your holy affection for me reckoned me present, though my long journey had forced me to be absent. Therefore I give and always shall give thanks to our God for all the things with which He has recompensed me. Your favorable opinion also I acknowledge publicly, paying you the thanks I owe, and thus showing that I understand how much respect, love and fidelity your affectionate zeal could expend on me who long with a shepherd’s anxiety for the safety of your souls, who have passed so conscientious a judgment on me, with absolutely no deserts of mine to guide you.

I entreat you, therefore, by the mercies of the Lord, aid with your prayers him whom you have sought out by your solicitations that both the Spirit of grace may abide in me and that your judgment may not change. May He who inspired you with such unanimity of purpose, vouch safe to us all in common the blessing of peace: so that all the days of my life being ready for the service of Almighty God, and for my duties towards you, I may with confidence entreat the Lord: Holy Father, keep in Your name those whom You have given me (John 17:11): and while you ever go on unto salvation, may my soul magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46), and in the retribution of the judgment to come may the account of my priesthood so be rendered to the just Judge that through your good deeds you may be my joy and my crown, who by your good will have given an earnest testimony to me in this present life.

By the grace of God, may our Church leaders have this heart of humility and may we pray this way for the them.