Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Recent Post on the Village Seven Blog:

From July 2, 2010
Beneath the Wrapper

I used to love getting chocolate covered golden coins at festive occasions. For a child, this delicious candy has two major draws. First, it resembles golden coins, which means it is "lost treasure" that promises adventures galore. More importantly, it has tasty chocolate just below the surface. In some ways, people are like these chocolate coins. We have a shiny exterior we want everyone to see. This is shallow and functions as a way to fool people into thinking we are something that we are not. Below the surface is our true nature, and like those chocolate coins, peeling back the outer later can be extremely difficult.

Communities at Village Seven are one vehicle God is using to slowly reveal the inner layer of our people. As we read God's word, worship, pray and fellowship together, walls that have been built to keep others out begin to come down. This is certainly no easy process. Our communities have endured conflict, heartache, and pain over the years. In spite of this, God has been faithful, and as the Gospel penetrates us, we are able to be real with one another. As a result, people begin to truly love one another in a deep, personal way.

Catalyst, our newest community, has begun this slow process. Less than a year old, it has been a privilege for me to watch this group of singles in their twenties share live life together and be refreshed by the word. At times, things seem to be moving at a snail's pace and relationships shallow. But I am encouraged as I hear them share about their experiences, needs, and how the Gospel has been impacting them. My prayer is that God will continue to grow this community and all of the others at Village Seven into places where the Gospel has stripped away those outer layers and God's people act as the salt and light of the world.

Recent Post on the Village Seven Blog:

From June 25th, 2010
Body Builders

Philippians 1:21-26 (NAS): "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. And convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again."

I had to make a very difficult phone call this week. My grandmother is dying of cancer and as she nears the end of her journey, she is struggling with understanding how our earthly journey ends and our eternal one begins. After praying about what I should say and reading through some of my books on grief, I turned to the only thing I know as the solution: the Bible. One of the verses I read to her before praying with her over the phone was Philippians 1:21-26. I explained that Paul, while desiring to remain to be with the church he loved and was called to build up, also desired to be with Christ in eternity. For someone facing death, it is important to remember that this life is temporary and that we should be ready and even eager to "depart and be with Christ."

Conversely, for those of us who are called to remain on this earth for a while, we should also be eager to continue on building up the body of believers we have been called to live with. This means that at Village Seven, we have each been called to use the gifts God has given us and use them for the sake of others. We do this not to be puffed up with pride in a job well done, but so their confidence may abound "in Christ Jesus" as they continue in their "progress and joy in the faith." By understanding this double-sided coin, we see that being "body-builders" shapes us into people who are eager for eternity but also eager to prepare others for this eternity!

Being in a community at Village Seven has built me up in this way. Whether it is through corporate praise and worship, growing in knowledge and depth of insight, praying with others, or enjoying fellowship by breaking bread together or hiking the incline, God has strengthened my faith and joy. I want to encourage you to join a community if you have not found one; to be built up with others and do building yourself. If you have a community already, I pray you would think about those you know that are not plugged-in and are missing out on this body-building. Encourage them to join a community or pass on their information to a staff member. My prayer is that Village Seven and her communities continue to be a place where God is glorified and his people are built up daily.

Recent Post on the Village Seven Blog:

From June 18th, 2010
Christianity: Living the Supersaturated Life

Supersaturation: "To cause (a chemical solution) to be more highly concentrated than is normally possible under given conditions of temperature and pressure."

In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Willy tells the children: "Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple." Mrs. Teevee, a teacher, replies: "That's 105 percent!"While Willy Wonka is a fictional character and may be certifiably crazy, we too defy the impossible when we tell others we expect 110% from them or that they should go above and beyond their potential. These expressions seem to be mathematically impossible, but we use them because we understand they are really saying: "You can do better." "Your schedule may be crazy, but you can fit more into it." "You may have missed the last two pitches, but you can hit this one." "You have studied for an hour and feel like your brain is full, but you can do another 15 minutes."

I believe we put these concepts into practice when it comes to ministry at Village Seven Presbyterian Church. In young adult ministry, I tend to work with adults who have extremely hectic schedules. One of my leaders has a military career, a long distance relationship, friendships, leadership responsibilities, graduate school, and outdoor activities to pack into his schedule. Another leader stayed up three days for a political rally as a volunteer and then came to Sunday school because he had made a commitment to do so. I do not even want to think about the schedules our pastors have every week, because I know each of them has more to do than can be humanly done.

This is where life in the body of believers is different from life outside of the body. At Village Seven, we have something that allows us to keep going, to push our boundaries, and to keep giving and serving even when our limits are reached: the Gospel. We live for something greater. While we were sinners Jesus Christ died for us, has brought us into relationship with God, and empowers us with the Holy Spirit to do the work the Father has planned for our lives. It may seem impossible to fulfill the calling we have been given, but with God, we are able.

This is one of the reasons I love working at Village Seven. I get to see God using his weak and limited people to do incredible things. He empowers, sustains, and grows us through difficult times to accomplish his will. When I see the "supersaturation" of the leaders in my communities, I cannot help but praise God for the great work he is doing. Therefore, we must take heart and trust that God is in control and that regardless of the problems we face in life, he will enable us. Praise Him!

Monday, March 22, 2010

My recent post on the new Village Seven blog:

Catalyst Defies Statistics!

The statistics are against churchgoing young adults in America. These "twenty-somethings" who are seeking to build community with each other and the church at large are having a difficult time.

Churches are struggling to provide ministries that meet the felt and real needs of these men and women; as a result, many of them have built their own communities outside of the church. The church must make an effort to reclaim this generation with and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This means providing opportunities to build real community for believers in the church, believers who have left the church to seek their own community, and those who are unsaved and need Christ.

At Village Seven, Catalyst was launched to provide a place for twenty-somethings to gather and fellowship, study God's word, and build real community together. As the staff member who oversees this growing community, I have been impressed with the dedication and passion of this group. The first study had 18 attending, and the numbers have stayed consistent in the last two months. I am excited to see how God will continue to draw His people together. Please pray for this young community and feel free to encourage twenty-singles you may know that are unconnected to give Catalyst a try.

Catalyst is currently studying Philippians. My prayer for this group echoes the Apostle Paul's in 1:6: "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hedgehog's Dilemma Contextualized:

The picture for this post is taken from Neon Genesis Evangelion, a Japanese show about a young boy struggling with the hedgehog's dilemma (see below for details on this phenomenon). Shinji Ikari, a young teen, is the perfect candidate for psycho-analysis. He lost his mom at an early age, his father blames and despises him, and no one gives him the affirmation he desires. As a result, he fears getting too close to people to avoid being further injured and out of fear of injuring himself.

Without giving too much away, the series ends with Shinji acheiving self-actualization. The final two episodes of the series leave the action element of the show unresolved, while instead focusing on Shinji's consciousness. In a moment of triumph, he realizes that he is "loved," and his personal understanding of who he is sets him free.

Shinji's experience is nothing new. In fact, one needs only to flip through the channels, pop in a movie, read a few blogs, or read a book to see Shinji's struggle everywhere. People are hurting in a broken and painful world. You will also see the solution Shinji discovered all around you: Self-actualization. By realizing the full potential of you, accepting yourself and lacking prejudice, you can break-free of the problems plaguing you.

Regardless of your personal take on self-actualization (or defenition, as they vary), a Christian must look at culture's response to the hedgehog's dilemma and find it lacking. The ultimate answer is for man to save himself through himself. One blogger wrote "If you think (decide) you are unhappy, you’ll always be right. If you think (decide) you are happy, you’ll always be right." This is a hopeless task.

Ecclesiastes teaches this clearly. Man saving man is vanity, meaningless, chasing after the wind. Self-esteem is impossible to satisfy. Instead, Christians must find their joy and hope in Christ-esteem. Unless we are filled by the grace and peace of Jesus Christ, how can any of our problems truly be solved? Apart from the love and patience of a Father who will never abandon, a marriage that will never be broken, and a house that will always be filled with joy, how can man find satisfaction?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hedgehog's Dilemma Explained:

The hedgehog's dilemma, also called the porcupine's dilemma, has been used by psychologists to describe intimacy problems in humans. To put it simply, because we are like hedgehogs, with prickly spines, intimacy can only lead to pain. The closer we get, the more we poke each other. As a result, as much as you are I might crave a close reciprocal relationship, we must keep our distance to avoid pain.

While it can often take extreme cases like physical abuse for the dilemma to manifest itself in an obvious way, each of us have a tendency to avoid relationships because of the potential pain. If I invest in the lives of those around me, I will get hurt. This is the reality of the broken world in which we live. Even a spouse, best friend, or family member can cause us pain, whether it is intentional or not.

As Christians, we are called to pursue relationships whether they hurt or not. We are called to make disciples of all nations, to love our neighbor, and to serve the "least" of those among us. The hedgehog's dilemma can be very real and painful for some people, but it is no excuse for us. We recognize that God restores relationships and brings healing. We know the joy of the Lord is our strength. Therefore we should boldly develop relationships with friends, family and even strangers, speaking the truth in love.

I realize this is easier said than done, but one of the first steps must be identifying our "dilemmas" and crushing them with the truth of God's word so He can enable us to truly love our neighbors.

What is your dilemma?

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Live Strong or Die Well?"

I was asked to write an article for the student paper at Colorado Springs Christian High School last year. Over the course of that school year, three of our students (Freshmen and Sophmores) lost a parent to cancer. The bracelets, pictured above, were made by me and the Bible study I lead to remember to pray for these families. Below is the article I wrote:

In 2004, the Lance Armstrong Foundation paired with Nike to produce the well-known “live strong” wristband. The band, symbolizing the fight against cancer, was instantly popular and inspired so many people there were bidding wars on EBay due to shortages. Even today, over four years later, these yellow wristbands are still found everywhere.

As I was thinking about these wristbands, I was struck by a strange thought. “What message are these wristbands sending?” Or, in other words, what worldview is represented by these two simple words? The answer is not difficult to find. The battle against cancer is, indeed, a fight. It is about clinging to life with every breath; instead of giving in, those struggling against impossible odds are to live life for all it’s worth before it is too late in hopes of attaining the greatest meaning possible.

In the meantime, money will be raised and research will be done to help prolong the lives of those with cancer. The goal is that one day cancer will be defeated and living strong will be even easier. As a result, human life will be extended and mankind will have conquered one more enemy.

While the battle against cancer is a worthy one and the idea of living strong is certainly not wrong, I have been wondering how the Christian worldview should fit with the idea of living strong. We are certainly called to run the race well, fight the good fight, and live passionate lives loving God and our neighbors while we are here on this earth. But there is something that should set us apart and give us a different perspective than others.

We have hope that cannot be understood apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While we are to live strong and use the opportunities God has given us, we are also to die well. We should be like the Apostle Paul, torn between living for Christ and yet yearning to be with Him (Phil 1:21-23). For us, death holds no sting (1 Cor. 15:55) but instead is our gain.

This is something most of us have been told over and over, but have never really stopped to meditate on. We have great promises from the one who cannot lie that this life, full of evil, sickness, sin and death, is not the end. Instead we look forward to eternity without pain, sorrow and suffering. This means that we should not only live strong but also be sure of what we believe.

Are we just playing make-believe or do we truly trust that God is good and true to His Word? Whether cancer is defeated or not, do you intend to die well, putting you hope in the one who saves? I do not know what this year will bring for each one of the students and faculty at CSCS, but I know that God is faithful and I pray each of you will rest in Him.

(Thanks MacKenzie)