Friday, December 19, 2008

A good reminder

Even for us in youth ministry...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Best of 2008

Time magazine has their Best of Everything.

So in the spirit of "Best Of's" Here is my Best of 2008!

Best Hope Youth Picture (Group):

Best Hope Youth Picture (Guys Only):
St. Augustine Day 048

Best Hope Youth Picture (Girls Only):

October2 027

Best Albums of 2008
1. Rebel - Lecrae
2. The Showdown - Back breaker
3. House of Heroes - The End is not the End
4. Anberlin - New Surrender
5. Chris Tomlin -Hello Love
6. Underoath - Lost in the Sound of Seperation
7. The Classic Crime - The Silver Cord
8. I Am Terrified - EP
9. relientk - The Bird and Bee Sides
10. Passion: God of This City

10 Best Movies of 2008 (that I have seen):

1. The Dark Knight
2. Iron Man
3. No Country for Old Men
4. Leatherheads
5. There Will Be Blood
6. Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
7. Kung Fu Panda
8. The Incredible Hulk
9. Gone Baby Gone
10. Be Kind Rewind

Best Books (I read) of 2008:
Vintage Jesus
Ministry Mutiny
Do Hard Things
Young Restless and Reformed
Why We're Not Emergent by Two Guys Who Should Be
The Cross and Christian Ministry
The Irresistible Revolution
Call to Spiritual Reformation

Best YouTube videos I watched:

BBQ Song:

Done for now...

Merry Christmas, Andy!

Monday, December 15, 2008

to iphone or not to iphone

So I may have the means to get an i phone for Christmas. The problem that I have is that I am torn about it. I will use it, and it is superior. But, I just don't know if I "want" one or "need" one. Any one have any thoughts?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Guest Blogging

For those of you (5 peeps) who actually read my blog, I am guest spotting over at my friend Clint Clifton's blog Dirty Clint. I share a delightful story about Clint and his crazy antics.

Clint Clifton is a friend and brother who inspires me every time I talk with him. He makes me laugh and challenges my low expectations and cynicism. Go check it out and you too might find that you enjoy following the exploits and adventures of Dirty Clint.


A nod to Zach over at Take Your Vitamin Z for calling my attention to...
Timmy Brister

At a time when our attention is unnecessarily drawn the continual division over nonessentials in the SBC, I would like to remind us all of what our brothers and sisters are facing around the world, for instance, like in Orissa, India. They don’t wake up to find what the next comment or blogpost has to say; they wake up to discover who lost their lives for the sake of Christ.

Where 300 villages have been pillaged and plundered, 70,000 Christians have been left homeless, many of them forced to live in the jungles.

4,000 homes have been destroyed.

3,000 people are missing and 77 people have been burned or hacked to death.

450 churches have been burned to the ground.

One Christian worker who was attacked by a mob while praying, said, “It’s like a never-ending nightmare . . . we’re living in constant fear of more attacks.”

The violence in Orissa, according to Voice of the Martyrs, is due to the increasing number of Indians converting to Christianity.

At a time when those of us who either write or read blogs, I felt that it is necessary to call us back to Christianity 1.0 where there’s a cross to carry and a price to pay far greater than anyting we have known in front of a computer screen. Let us pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, and by their lives, determine to have a right perspective about the gospel, the church, and the kingdom of God where the weight of glory conforms our character and characterizes our conduct as we seek to follow Christ.


I just watched this powerful short film. It is well worth your time.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

What I wanted to say Sunday (Part One)

Preaching was very difficult for me on Sunday. Preaching from Isaiah 6 is one of my favorite texts. It practically preaches itself. The text was not my issue. I love that text. I wanted to encourage our people to catch the vision of a Holy God. However, my aim was to lead our people to turn from legalism and run from being anti-nomians. I really muddled through it though. I chased some rabbits and did not honor my intent. I really desired to show how much we need the grace of God in light of a Holy God. The same God in Isaiah chapter 6 that the prophet sees and proclaims, "Woe is me!" is the same God that came in the flesh and atones for our sin to make us the righteousness of God. My aim was to encourage our people to walk away with a High view of God and a realistic view of themselves, as sinners saved by grace.

I really struggled with being fearful of men this week. I disguised it to myself as wanting to serve our people. But the truth is that my pride of wanting to impress this week put my preaching into shackles. I was humbled this week by my inability to really connect my points and thoughts. I just did not feel confident in my presentation.

Somethings I really wanted to say...

Jonathan Edwards, In his Resolution #8 said,
Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody has been as vile as I, as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities and failings as others; and I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself and prove only an occasion of confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30

Jesus was talking to his disciples and told them how to keep from being arrogant self righteous jerks:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.'But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Jesus contrasted the Pharisee who believed himself to be righteous with the tax collector (read sinner, despised) who humbled himself before the One who could take him out, God. How many times do we look down our noses as Christians and thank God that we are no "like" other men. Last time I checked we ALL fall short. We all fall short of the glory of God. Even though I am justified by faith through grace, I have to wake up every day and preach the Gospel to myself. I have to be what I am. In other words, I am righteous in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21 - For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God)and therefore I have to remind myself that if Christ is my atonement and I am in right standing with the Creator because of the cross of Christ then I have to live in that identity. (Colossians 2:6-15)

Legalism is like thumbing or noses at God. A friend of mine told me that when he was a kid he wanted to help his dad carry in the groceries. He would pick up the heavy bags and because of his pride he would struggle all the way into the house. He would spill the cans out of the bag instead of asking or letting his dad help him. This is us! It's not going to change our Father's love for us if we do or don't do His requirements. But our pride causes us to think that we can do it all on our own. Does God delight in those who obey His laws and keep His commandments? You bet. But we have to know that it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to yield and do good works that we are able to anything. Jesus even says that apart from Him we can do nothing. The deeds we do on our own apart from being compelled by love for Him - are filthy, bloody tampons. Gross. But true. When we do things for His glory and from His power we display the great grace of God. When we realize His great mercy on us, the rebels, the enemies of God we acknowledge our inability to do anything good apart from the vine we are given the grace to accomplish his purposes in our life.
Therefore we should also not abuse grace. "May we go on sinning so that grace may abound?" Hell no! (That is the emphatic greek) One of my favorite authors on grace and the disciplines, Jerry Bridges, writes in Transforming Grace, "Those that abuse God's grace for the sake of worldliness has never bore witness to the awesome splendor and majesty that is found in the death of Jesus on the Cross. Grace is never cheap. It is absolutely free to us, but infinitely expensive to God...Anyone who is prone to use grace as a license for irresponsible, sinful behavior, surely does not appreciate the infinite price God paid to give us His grace." When God ceases to be our treasure we are easily inticed by the world and her charms. Consider the famous C.S. Lewis quote:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Or John Piper's admonition;

When you become so blind that the maker of galaxies and ruler of nations and knower of all mysteries and lover of our souls becomes boring (emphasis mine), then only one thing is left - the love of the world. For the heart is always restless. It must have its treasure: if not in heaven, then on earth.
Do we love the world, more than we love Jesus? Do we believe Him when He says, "If you love me you will keep my commandments."? His commandments or yoke is not burdensome. They are light. Delight in Him! Love God! Love Others! However, our pride and the love of self is always there isn't it? Evil is right there with me, as Paul would say. We have a great enemy alive inside of us - Indwelling sin. However we must be reminded that we are now the house of the Holy Spirit and He is fighting on our behalf. Then the external enemies supply the internal enemies with weapons. The world and Satan are constantly bonbarding us with temptation and inclinations to sin - to dishonor our beloved King. How do we fight this enemy? With pea shooter regulations, as Dr. Piper calls them? No, we cling to the promise that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. And that when we are the branches and abide in Jesus, He gives us fruit. He enables us to do great things! We must fight along side of our King as well. We must fight! We must kill sin. We must mortify temptation.

“Never let us reckon that our work in contending against sin, in crucifying, mortifying, and subduing of it, is at an end. The place of its habitation is unsearchable; and when we may think that we have thoroughly won the field, there is still some reserve remaining that we saw not, that we knew not of. Many conquerors have been ruined by their carelessness after a victory, and many have been spiritually wounded after great successes against this enemy…There is no way for us to pursue sin in its unsearchable habitation but by being endless in our pursuit.” - John Owen

Look to the cross, and hate your sin, for sin nailed your Well Beloved to the tree. Look up to the cross, and you will kill sin, for the strength of Jesus' love will make you strong to put down your tendencies to sin. - C.H. Spurgeon

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. Romans 6:11-13

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Burned Out District

There have been several blogs and commentaries regarding the "Lakeland Revival". Last May we were at a graduation ceremony for a Christian home school co-op when one of the graduates exclaimed that we needed to wake up and see God at work and that "there was a revival going on in Florida". I am always skeptical when it comes to charismatic "big tent" revival deals. SO, I was skeptical of the "outpouring" in Florida. Within the last week or so the leader of the meetings has come forward and announced that he is separated from his wife. Regardless of his beliefs in the miracle "business", he needs our prayer, he needed it before this but never the less it is never good when families break up.

There has been an article posted on Charisma magazine's site about the fall out of this guy's abrupt pronouncement. The article includes a hearty look at the discernment of charismatics and the embracing of this "revival" in particular. There are several telling statements. One thing that Andy pointed out to me and just kinda made me frustrated was this:
They sensed something amiss when he wore a T-shirt with a skeleton on it. They wondered why a man of God would cover himself with tattoos.
I find it appalling that this guy is called into question about bones and tattoos, but not terrible theology. There are other really sound arguments that J. Lee Grady makes in his post, however to quote that people had a problem with Bentley because of his tattoos and clothing choices is just sad. The comments are nestled in a larger paragraph that explains how people were reacting to Bentley's statements regarding angelic visitations and tackling people during prayer. I mean, the dude is wacky and so was a lot of what was going on in Florida at the "revival". But why is it that Christians (in particular) have this aversion to people with tattoos and the fashionable sense of skulls and skeletons? I realize that some people's hang ups are do to the stereotyping of people with tattoos being criminals or pirates (when was the last time you saw a real pirate, and Johnny Depp doesn't count). I know godly men who have tattoos. And I know that they love Jesus and are being used by Him to reach others and to glorify Himself with their lives.

John Piper has a great post on his blog about testing revival with doctrine.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Young Men

One of my duties that I delight in here (at Hope) is I get to disciple young men. Our Guys small group: D-Group, has started back with it's intimacy and intensity. For forty minutes or so these young men have to listen to me rant about something. Last year we dove head long into Biblical Manhood and studied Christian world view. Last night we began a survey of Colossians. We did a run through of chapter one. I emphasized the Gospel that changes lives and produces fruit (Col. 1:4-6), our need for a Savior (v 21) and the truths that Jesus was and is God and that He is the hope of Glory. (vs. 15-20 ; 27). Another truth that stood out was Paul's declaration that through the preaching of the Gospel we fill up what is lacking in Christ's affliction (v 24), namely the proclamation of this Gospel. Passing it on to others, the Good News or the Gospel reaches it's full meaning in the preaching of it. Jesus' death by itself is sufficent and lacking nothing for the salvation of man, however how will anyone ever trust in this sacrifice if they never hear about it? (Romans 10:13-15)

Well, young and older men need to be challenged with proclaiming the Gospel. And even though I agree with Francis of Assisi, that we need to "preach the Gospel and sometimes use words", I am confident that unless we use words that our friends and our enemies will not trust in this great gospel of grace.

"But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." 1 Peter 3:14-16

So prepare yourself by reading this post at the Re:surgence 5 Dangers for Young Men

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We have gone to a Dog.

Kimberly and I just got a dog. He is a yellow lab named Buck. It's short for Buckeye. He was left at someone's house and they already have two yellow labs. So, we heard from a friend that he needed a home. I hope that he likes his new family. We have to get him to the vet and make sure he has all of his shots and everything soon. Here is a photo of him:

Sermon thoughts

If you haven't listened to my ranting, er preaching from last Sunday and you care to, than you can hear it here. Scroll down and you'll be able to stream it. You may comment or critique it as well, on this blog post if you want.

Also, Moody's Devotion from Monday was on the same passage and is a really good perspective. Some of my friends pointed that out to me on Monday. Check it out here.

I plan on posting some of my thoughts and research that I gathered for the message that I wasn't able to use. I really stink at parring down my info - and I go off on little tangents that I am not sure are always helpful.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Feeling Perplexed

There are a lot of things swirling around in my brain. Theology, music, injustice, poverty, wealth, Jubilee, wealthy actors and politicians preaching to us about ending poverty when they could sell a couple of houses or cars and make a huge dent in poverty, the church being accused of not being the church (which I think is true in some aspects, but I am tired of hearing all the complaints and just want to see the beauty of the church being the church), "Christian Family Fun" nights that have nothing to do with living out the Gospel in our neighborhoods, how much time is wasted in my day, the art of trying to be in the now and not always thinking about what is next but planning on what is right around the corner, liberal theologians that everybody listens to, Shane Claiborne, professional Christians, the King of Kings, and my lovely wife.

And some wonder why my blog takes so long to be updated. Bret Favre needs to hang it up and not play for the Vikings.

I get to preach Sunday which makes me nervous. There is so much to be said, so much that I want to say. I like when people like me, and so I like when people like my sermons. I want people to be changed (I know that this is the work of Holy Spirit - God). I desire for them to not just file it away as another nice talk. I desire God's voice to be heard through the Scriptures. I desire this in our youth ministry. I think however, that I am too serious for some of our youth. I believe some of them want to have fun in our gathering times. Which, I am not the fun Nazi - I just want the time i spend with them to have eternal significance, even if we are playing kick ball. Some would say, lighten up, man. Others would say, if you don't preach truth then who will? I do not want to entertain youth. I desire to make disciples. I think that can be done in a fun and inspirational way, don't get me wrong. It is a balancing act, this "ministry" thing. I mean, I wonder whether my job is really biblically justifiable. If I am a pastor who works with a certain demographic within our congregation and also fulfilling a pastoral role in other ways than, I am cool with that. But to be a "youth minister/director" than I am not sure I am the right man for the job. I mean, that I want people to encounter Jesus, not fads or me or opinions or the funniest videos or ugg...

I have a hard time living out Christ on my own. I need others to help me along. I need the Scriptures to encourage and exhort and discipline and correct and cut and tear and heal and smash and stab and destroy and alarm and disarm and shut my mouth and put words in my mouth and love and cause me to move. I suck at being a professional Christian. I suck at saying the "right" things and playing politics. I am horrible at making sure I connect to everyone. I think that peace is a good thing, but believe that peace will only come when the Prince of Peace reigns on the earth. I will love my neighbor and my enemy but I will trust that God is not letting the righteous be put to shame. I don't look good in public. I am hairy. There are holes in my actions and motives. There is hope.

Jesus is my righteousness. Jesus is my good. Jesus is working in and through me. Jesus is the hope of Glory. Jesus. My God, My Savior, My Jesus.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

God loves the sojourner

17For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:17-19

God loves the sojourner. God loves the immigrant. Remember that we are immigrants in this land. Our home is a far off country. A country that is inhabited by the praise of the Saints and illuminated by the Glory and Splendor of our God. And yet there are many Christians who rally and protest against the immigrants in our country. What if, as believers of this Great Lord of lords, we welcomed and found ways to help the immigrant? What if we offered guidance on how to become a citizen? What if we fought the cause of the fatherless and the widow in our own neighborhoods? What if?

I have heard several calls for mission trips to Mexico. The question I have is what are we doing about the people who are here at our back doors?

As we are about to celebrate our country's birthday let us remember the plaque on Lady Liberty;

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

I want to be the kind of person that welcomes all people. Believing that I am a sojourner in a foreign land, I must see and treat others as if we are a part of that far off country. No matter how different they may seem or how similar they are. I cannot neglect hospitality where ever I find myself available to be hospitable. That means being present in my mind with those I am listening to. Loving them by simply listening. Could I do this? Is it possible to just listen?

The problem is that I am not good at this sometimes. I find myself not in the moment usually. I seem to always be thinking about the next thing. Whether it is thinking about lunch when someone is talking to me at church. Or thinking about how I can answer them when I am in a deep conversation. Then there are times that I just do not offer space. I think, I have to keep a conversation going. Like it is my obligation to keep talking. It seems silly, but I guess I am not a fan of awkward silence. I think that is because I am not always confident with myself. Pride. I need to repent of my pride.

Pride is another reason we don't welcome the foreigner into our lives, let alone our homes. The pride that feeds the fear that this person might take "our" time or "our" things. What if we viewed our things and our time as REALLY Jesus'? Then the Lord of lords could do with us whatever He liked. Then the pride burns away and gives way to humility - which draws us into the heart of God and causes us to see things and people His way. Perhaps, this is what God truly wants from us. Maybe this is living "missional". And if this is missional and biblical then we need to ask ourselves, how do we do this in our everyday ordinary lives. We have to kill the routine and come out of our caves and risk getting hurt, even killed. Let's not fear those who could take our lives. Let us fear the one who holds our souls.

Let us hope that this awesome and mighty God will stir in us a heart and a desire to be obedient and be kind to the foreigner in our midsts.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday Quotes on Thankfulness

I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.

- Matthew Henry

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jacksonville Mission Project Final Dispatch

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

The past week we have had serious discussions regarding poverty, injustice, social action, racial reconciliation and God's Word. The fact of the matter is that God's Word, over 2,000 times speaks of God being concerned or wanting us to be concerned about these matters. I believe that we came to Jacksonville to serve and we learned that sometimes the best way to serve is to be present. We carried with us the expectation of Christ and we saw Jesus everywhere here.

The final day of being "on mission" was a beach.

Literally we went to the beach. Some might ask how this has been "suffering for Jesus" or doing missions. Well, we were educated this week that living missional isn't always about fixing up houses, or construction projects. We now think of how we can love people where they are and meet their needs by getting to know them and playing or just being with them. Hanging out with each other helped us discover that we are a lot alike. We all need a Saviour's grace and the Father's love. At the cross their is no Jew or Gentile, white or black, urban or suburban, rich or poor, we are all found needing the Gospel which is the power of salvation.

Our final day of decompression, Saturday, was the most difficult. Some of us were grumpy from a lack of rest, while others were just plain selfish. We all concluded that the day we spent on ourselves was the hardest day to get along and love one another. However, it was capped off by a hip-hop show from Reach Life Ministries.

The 1-1- Six clique was Gospel saturated in their flows and hooks. And it even got a few of us white folks dancing and bobbing our heads. The Gospel was presented clearly and culturally infused as they laid down Biblical truth in a culturally relevant form.

We are ready to make our journey back home, with more stories to share, hearts that are full, heads that are eager to learn more. God is sovereign and merciful and this is just the beginning. We hope that you will challenge us to not go back to sleep and we hope to challenge you to join in as we continue Jesus' mission for our lives.

Thank you for praying for us. We have many stories to share. See you soon Hope Church!

Mission Project: Jacksonville Day Four

Guest Blogger Michael Hays:

For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 'Why have we fasted' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers…Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter?

-Isaiah 58:2-3, 6-7a

Today we had the opportunity to participate in that true kind of fasting—a purposeful decision to serve others with Christ's love. This morning our personal devotions centered on the essence of pure fasting. It is not merely an abstinence program coupled with prayer; it must also be accompanied by action. Reading from the 58th chapter of Isaiah revealed several things: the Israelites fasted with great sorrow and humbleness, yet God rejected their pleas because they still hung onto injustices that unfairly benefited themselves. Further verses expound of what God expects of the penitent seeker of His heart. Many speak of freeing the oppressed and assisting the poor. This proved to be an excellent source of contemplation as we engaged in the day's first tasks.

The main order of business this morning was to finish the cleanup efforts along the block, and corner of 24th and Pearl. After dividing into several work crews, our group set out to "Do Work".

Much of the remaining work was to restore the curbs to a respectable appearance, made difficult by years' worth of overhanging grass. Furthermore, sediment had accumulated along the curb and in the entrances to several driveways. A great many bags of dirt and grass were scraped and shoveled from sidewalks and the gutters. Another main work area was a nearby firehouse that 2nd Mile Ministry uses to host their youth group. A large pile of leaves had to be shoveled up and the yard needed to be cut.

This was made difficult because the lawnmower has apparently gone to the big lawn in the sky (probable cause: a mix up resulted in a gas/oil mixture being mistakenly placed in it). This, however, was not too daunting of a task for one Brian Metz, wielder of a weed whacker. Sheer manliness soon devoured the offending stalks of grass, relegating them to the ground in submission. The heat was still an issue of concern, but was combated with water and sunscreen. The fatigue that had been building over the course of the mission project was also a limiter on productivity, but, once again, the group pulled through to complete the task at hand by lunchtime. It was encouraging to see the stark improvement in the cleanliness of the neighborhood from when we first arrived. Sidewalks and yards overgrown with weeds and trash have been replaced with defined edges and trimmed grass. And far more importantly, our efforts today have hopefully opened doors for 2nd Mile to more effectively reach the residents of this neighborhood.

The completion of the cleanup project was certainly a cause for much rejoicing amongst the ranks of our team. Yet that victory's sweet taste was soon rivaled by the sweet taste of watermelon for lunch (God definitely had something going when He created watermelon). Though post-lunch drowsiness was an inescapable consequence of hard work and a good meal, we were still able participate in more passionate worship and further discussion of racial and poverty issues.

Evanda (aka Jolly) shared some of his testimony with the group, telling of his upbringing in the 'hood in New Orleans. While he underwent many struggles and temptations, he found the Lord through the ministry of Castle Rock Church. This is the same church that members of our youth group and many others partnered with in 2006 to help get the area back on its feet in the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was encouraging to hear about how the influence of his older brothers (one is now youth pastor at Castle Rock) and the church helped expose him to the changing power of Christ's forgiveness and love. He said that the original reason he got exposed to the ministry at Castle Rock is because they hosted basketball games in a court adjacent to the building. This helped put some of our previous activities on this mission project into perspective. While playing games like football and basketball, or hanging out at the pool may seem pointless or even lazy, God could very well use those opportunities to begin to draw people from this neighborhood towards Himself.

Later, in the evening, we gathered alongside the local youth group for their weekly Bible study at the fire station. We once again engaged in heated basketball games prior to the actual meeting. Brian delivered a message from the story of Jesus and the blind man, culminating in a summation of the salvation story. The time afterwards soon took a drastic turn downhill when a peripheral member of their youth group began getting too violent. Though this somewhat shocked us to have to leave so early, it ended up bringing up some pertinent issues. Brian called a meeting to debrief and discuss our ministry and its impact so far. This was a good time for people to share a bit of what God has been doing in each of our lives. A member of 2nd mile's youth group took the opportunity to pour out pent up emotions of hopelessness from the seemingly unbreakable hold that sin has over his friends and the community as a whole. The Lord gave us this opportunity to encourage our brother in the faith and hopefully spur him on towards further good works through our Savior. It was clear that he has a real heart for those without Christ, particularly one of his good friends—the one who had disrupted the bible study earlier in the evening. We were able to pray over our brother, and would like to request prayer from you for him and this community. Many strongholds exist, yet they are but smoke and dust compared to the healing power that is found in the blood of Christ. May His name continue to be proclaimed in Jacksonville, long after our time here has come to an end.

On a note that warrants much rejoicing, an eleven year old girl named Mikeasha came to the Lord today. She has many miles to travel in her faith, but she has taken that first and most vital step of trust. Praise God!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mission Project: Jacksonville Day Two

Guest Blogger: Kimberly Metz

Well, it's the end of our 2nd day here. It was an eventful day. We got up early to eat breakfast and then headed out to clean up the neighborhood. The girls and I were on garbage duty and the boys were on lawn duty. The boy's weed-whacked, mowed and cleaned up the yard(s) around the house we are staying in. They worked and sweated for hours. We (the girls) went to a park that was close by to clean up. Then we started walking down the road to pick up trash. We met a lady yesterday who told us about some trash around her house that she wanted us to pick up, so we went there. That was quite an adventure! It included used cat litter, dirty diapers, thousands of maggots, large red ants eating those maggots, spiders, roaches, and one loan cricket. Gross! But the girls were real troopers. They dug in (literally) and we got the job done. What I have seen over and over with these teenagers is that all we have to do is give them an opportunity to serve or work and they just run with it. I am so impressed with them. I can say that because it has nothing to do with me, it is who they are. We had free time tonight and the girls and I went to Wal-Mart (of course). The boys played Frisbee in the street (it's okay, they do that here) and spades. After the girls got back from Wal-Mart, we walked through the neighborhood with some of the kids we met yesterday. I thought of when we arrived on Sunday, and this place seemed so foreign and scary. Now, there are faces that are familiar, street names we recognize, and have already begun to love it! Jessie ended up getting her hair braided by one of the girls from the neighborhood, and Bekah fed ice cream to a little 2 year old boy who wouldn't say a word, but had amazing eyes and could light up the room with his smile when we tickled him. He fell asleep in Jamie's arms who didn't want him to go home. What a great day. God is at work here. How 'bout them Celtics!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mission Project: Jacksonville Day One

You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha... *thunk*

The other classic blunder is to think that writing a blog at 11 PM, after a day of hot sun and sports with the neighborhood kids is an easy task. The truth is that I fell asleep waiting for the pictures to upload on Flickr last night. So don't try to write in bed when you are tired either.

Yesterday saw the arrival of our super tall friend Zach. He finally made it to J-ville after flying from Birmingham. We were all excited to greet Zach. He only missed a small amount of our activities. Monday morning greeted us with cereal and a devotion on Ezekiel 16. The passage challenges us to truly love God and to not play the whore who gives herself, or pays men to be with her. In this passage one cannot help to be convicted about our lack of pure love toward our Saviour.

"We went to the pool and talked to kids, you know like, when they were all cool, like you know Jeremiah and then, totally we went swimming at the pool and then random kids came up and dunked us while chicken fighting with, you know like, us and then we like we walked home and after that more stuff like you know sitting around so that we had to go to like you know this huge park where we like played football and they are like really passionate about football, like you know that one guy Sammy, who you know was like you know playing tackle, hardcore but like it was really cool and they were really passing to the white kids and like stuff with the girls like playing happy hands and like dancing."

The Above paragraph was quoted verbatim by Andrew Murphy, who seems to be really, like, euphoric about his experience thus far.

Seriously, folks, Monday was acclimation day as we kept our schedule full of "fun" things that introduced us to some of the neighborhood kids. The purpose of this of course was for us to begin the implementation of the intentional relationship building that is integral to our ministry here on 24th street. We are living in a house that is viewed almost like a community house, in that the youth in the community come and visit at their leisure. The boundaries, which all of the community youth seem to not only know, but respect and follow willingly, are knocking and asking for permission to use or do things in the house. This provides our hosts opportunities to share Christ in community and to be a safe place on the block. In the early afternoon, we had the opportunity to meet our neighbors in the friendly confines of the public swimming pool. We proved to be great "tall" bases for young kids to chicken fight in the water. Needless to say some of us left the pool a bit on the water logged side. So after swimming for only forty-five minutes we headed back to the house. The walk is a mere few blocks and with all of us sticking together we look rather out of place. A large group of white kids in the middle of the 'hood certainly raises the attention of people (more on that later).

Miss Ruth, our leader here in Jacksonville, has been leading us in thought provoking discussion on race, poverty, and justice. Our first discussion dealt with understanding how what we value (relationships, things, etc.) is a good indicator of our social class. We generally exhibited the desires of middle class society (no surprise). However, Kimberly and I, tested positive for poverty instincts (youth pastors usually do). Intrinsically what we value, how we spend or use our money, how we view education, and even how we project our future plans is ripe with our social class. Our environment plays a key role in our perceived attitude toward a host of social responses. Things we take for granted in our social demographic, often are unthinkable of in poverty level demographics. Not to mention the racial divide that perpetuates differentiated social strata. More on that later.

After lunch we walked a few more blocks to a playground/park that is adjacent to the NFL youth center. It's the brightest building in the neighborhood, functioning as a Boys and Girls Club. We showed up at the playground's basketball court with a bag of various sports balls. Some of us took to the basketball court, while others started a game of kickball in the adjacent yard. Some of our guys started up a game of football that was quickly joined by some of the most passionate athletes that would have put the Clardy's heart for Alabama football to the test. The basketball court became like a honey comb of excitement as guys came out of nowhere to put their pride on the line in an extremely intense competition of epic proportions. We learned very quickly that even some lanky white guys can hold their own against some of the best ballers any of us had ever witnessed (or at least the best talkers). They became more inviting as we gained their respect by hustling and playing with fervor. After several full court games we all were ready to head back to the house to take showers and have some dinner. We were joined by several of the neighborhood youth, who enjoyed our conversation and the lasagna (mostly the lasagna).

As bed time approached it was met with great anticipation and silent rejoicing as we all soon fell fast asleep.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mission Dispatch: Travel Day

They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We have barred the gates but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes, drums... drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow moves in the dark. We cannot get out... they are coming.

Actually, we are all smiles and laughter as travel day went splendidly. We are bananas for each other as there was a plethora of games, conversation and naps along the way. Oddly enough the young men were the first to ask for a bathroom break as Andrew Murphy requested the first stoppage in travel. This of course offered us the serendipitous opportunity for our first kidnapped Martin Luther photo op.

There would be many more bathroom breaks, many more. We stopped in the sprawling berg of Albany, GA for some hot Firehouse Subs (R) and yet another hostage photo op courtesy of Jasmine.

A few more "potty" breaks later and we were in Florida cozying up to "Big AL" and waiting in line for cheap gas that we did not receive because they were running out. This of course was at the same exit as $3 books! Which we all had to peruse. There were 40 billion of the same book for 99 cents (I exaggerate about the number because we all know the largest book store is in Dale Anton's third favorite state Wisconsin). Many books were to be had as well as another "potty" break however some of us found the book store more rewarding than others.

We are finally at the house in Jacksonville, where our hosts have been affectionate and hospitable. We met Ruth, Evander and Sammy (who is pulling for the Lakers in tonights Finals), and had a meal with them (*singing: Sloppy Joes, Slop-Slop-Sloppy Joes!). We hope to meet more people in the community in next few days. Ruth went over the rules and gave us the skinny on all of the things that are happening here in the neighborhood. All of us are extremely excited about the adventure that awaits us. But now it is time for everyone to lay their heads down for sleepy time. Good Night and Go Celtics!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

But Seriously Folks

Buying a House

Kimberly and I are closing on our house on Monday. And as I sit here stealing a few moments at my Mom's restaurant in Tennessee, while she handles some business, I am thinking about how huge this really is. It is really about the Lord. Yahweh - you know the Creator, the Sustainer, the Provider, the King of Kings. Abba, Father - my daddy and yet Awesome God of the universe - has made this possible. Two years ago when we left our dreams in Boston, and once again stepped out of the boat to see how to walk on the water, we would have never dreamed of being in a stable environment, at a loving church serving Him by serving students. There is this surreal sense that this is too good to be true. We struggled with the idea of purchasing a house (it's not a home quite yet). One reason, is that we didn't know if we could afford it. Another is that we weren't sure if owning a house was the best decision given our vulnerability to moving. However, the truth is that no one can afford a house, it's just something you either pay someone else to live in their dwelling or you actually put your money where you may get something in return. It's kinda risky, but it's good risky. As for moving, I don't think that is going to happen for a long time. We like Huntsville/Madison. We like her people. We love our church. Things are beginning to settle in and fit for us.
So, we are about to begin making payments on a big responsibility. But for me and for Kimberly we have come to realize that God is blessing us with an opportunity to be hospitable and to show the love of Christ. We believe that this house gives us the flexibility to become missionaries in our neighborhood. By being good neighbors and by inviting others to enjoy the blessing. It's almost become a cliche' but we are being blessed to be a blessing. This is really what God's heart is for His people. God has been in covenant with His people to spread His blessing through out the earth. (Genesis 17) But being the Christian Hedonist that I am, I believe that God, who is my joy and my treasure is solely the motivator of my true happiness (blessing). 'Bless' in the Greek means to give a good word, it's what we derive our English word 'eulogy' from which means literally "good word". So when someone gives an eulogy they are giving a good word about a person. Which is interesting in the sense that we then are being given a "good word" when God blesses us. He speaks to us a good word - perhaps that good word is the gospel. I mean if everything is to be seen through the lens of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, then this house (blessing) was purchased at the cross of Christ. It's good, namely because God's gift of His Son is good. So I treasure not my house most supremely, I treasure Jesus and His cross supremely. Out of that flows my gratitude for a house. St. Augustine said, "He loves thee too little who loves anything together with thee which he loves not for thy sake." So in order to love my house I love it in loving God more by using it to love God more by loving others.

Pray for my Mom, she is making some tough decisions. I am trying to help her through them.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Yo Joe!

Yeah this makes me excited. It could be great or it could really be a HUGE let down. The pictures of Snake Eyes look spot on.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

thoughts on the resurrection and "the scene"

Thanks for frequenting my blog - the two of you (I know if I would only write more). I have been meaning to write about a great many things, one being how I felt when I saw the new Indiana Jones movie trailer (AH-MAZE-ZING). But, maybe that is better for some other post.

On the Resurrection
I have been thinking about the Resurrection - it being the evening before Easter (the Sunday when we celebrate the blessed resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ). A news woman said that this is a very religious time for the Christian calendar. I found it odd, in my Christian mind, that she said it this way. I suppose for those outside of the Faith, this is just another day. No different than say some day in August. For us, though we celebrate the hope of one day we too shall join our King in the resurrection of the dead, and those in Christ shall rise. The resurrection is still hotly debated, however. I saw briefly a "History" Channel documentary on "the real Jesus", (they like to run these around this time of the year). They throw out these sweeping statements like, "scholars are now saying that Jesus may never this or that..." Or they say, "new evidence let's us uncover the real meaning of the Gospels." The best to me is that they always want to claim the Gospels were written 40+ years after the death and resurrection. Which most scholars who are worth their weight will tell us that the Gospels were written down no more than 10 years after the events took place. Plus you have Paul's writings. I find my faith strengthened around this time of the year. And it never comes from a "History" Channel documentary.

About the Scene

I helped with a "show" tonight. Punk and hardcore screamo bands mixing it up at Insanity Skate Park. I am not really into the "scene" (the music/lifestyle scene). I mean I don't dress like a scene kid. My hair isn't long and styled girlish. I respect some aspects of the scene. It really is a longing for community. Community that is substantial to some because there is shared experience. But to be honest some aspects of the hardcore music scene and even the Christian hardcore scene is left wanting.
Tonight when some of the brothers shared their love for Jesus, some - if not most - were out right mocking, not just them but the name of Jesus. Saying to one another in a sing song preacherly tone "JEE-ZUS!" On one hand I was upset and on the other I was excited. Upset, because young men and women were mocking the Lord that some of them profess at times of convenience. Excited because lost sinners were hearing the name of Jesus. Even though they were talking over the lead singers and being all showy in their disdain for "shout outs" to Jesus, they cannot come to the judgment and ask "why didn't my friends tell me about JESUS?"

The scene is very much an ego driven thing. And when you have bands who actually get that there is only one name that is to receive glory, honor and praise - there is going to be push back. It's interesting to me as a youth pastor to see young men in their late teens, early twenties who are traveling in a band and start out as "sold out" Christians, and then because of "road woes" leave their faith. With no Christian community besides the guys that you travel, eat, play, sleep, fight and hope for shows with there can be a vacuum that forms in their discipleship. It's understandable, but sad. This is another reason I get passionate about the local church and our involvement there in. I mean, some Christians starve themselves from being in the body of Christ. No fellowship, accountability (which is not a bad word), and no corporate worship tends to shrivel up the life of the fruit that we are to bear. I have had friends who have been in bands and this is the thing that most of them struggle with. They tend to become either inflated (ego) or they become jaded and give up. I wonder how the church is caring for these Road Warriors. Are we using them for their product? Consuming them and making them quasi-rock stars or are we caring for them and calling them to abide in Jesus? For the scene kids that crave belonging - look to Jesus.

The scene is not lacking in shepherds - it's just too bad that it's not always the Good Shepherd.

I guess what I am feeling about these young people is like what Jesus felt in His last week when came into Jerusalem and he saw the people who were like sheep without a shepherd and he wept. So for the scene kids and "rock stars" - I weep. For those guys and gals who are out there "standing firm" - my hope is that they will stay strong and encouraged in the faith. May Jesus make Himself known.