Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dreaming Big in 2010!

I love celebrating the New Year- I have ever since I was a little kid. The chance to reflect on the past year, the prospect of new beginnings, and the potential of the coming year all come together to create a very unique and special time of the year. As a Jesus-lover, I think that the celebration of the New Year can be a very powerful time in the believer's life.

The normal way to express this would be to talk about the various sins that you would like to conquer through Christ's grace this next year or the various spiritual disciplines that you would like to put on this next year. Both of these things are great and life-giving- even possibly life-changing! But what I want to challenge you with this morning is a simple exhortation for the new year: Dream Big!

Let your imagination run completely wild with what God might accomplish in and through you during this next year! If there is one thing we can learn from our sacred Scriptures, it is that God seemingly relishes the chance to flex his muscles and display his glory beyond our wildest dreams. So I am dreaming. And I am dreaming big. I am dreaming about a new year with an unimaginable closeness to Christ. I am dreaming about a year in which Christ works in a ridiculously powerful way through Fc3. I am dreaming about a larger speaking ministry which would allow Christ to reach more people through me.

What have you been afraid to imagine? Are you dreaming big for 2010? Comment and share!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

10 Things That Increase My Love for Christ: #6- Praying with Friends

In case you have forgotten the premise of this series- I am unpacking 10 of the things that historically stir up my affections for Jesus. I’ve talked so far about music, sermons, ministry, books, and even sleeping- but today I want to talk about a communal act that almost always increases the amount of joy I have in Christ: praying with dear friends.


I first experienced the power of corporate (2+) prayer when I was a new Christian in high school and would pray in the mornings with a teacher/mentor of mine, Tony Slate. Up until that point, my few attempts at praying throughout my life had always been individually- but there is something deep and stirring that occurs when you approach the throne of God with a loved brother or sister in Christ.


Not only am I personally benefited by the act of praying with a friend, but I have found that it is an incredibly effective community-builder. Deep relationships and committed friendships often have hours of prayer in the foundation. My encouragement to you: Pray with your family or friends this week! Seek Christ together- the journey will be richer and more fulfilling!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

I'm back and better than ever!!

Hey friends!

Like Zechariah after the angle Gabriel sealed his mouth shut- I have had some time away from this blog to gather my thoughts, focus on Fc3 stuff, and finish a tough semester. But, I am back- and plan on finishing my series about the 10 things that increase my love for Christ!

Also coming in the future- some thoughts on my future sermon series at Fc3! Pictures of my awesome new apartment! Exciting plans for the summer (exotic traveling!!)!!!

Thanks for waiting for me. Love you all, my readers.

Mike

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

10 Things That Increase My Love for Christ: #5- Memoirs & Biographies

I am a book worm- I love reading. I am also a super fast reader and can somehow read one or two hundred pages a day and still retain a good portion of what I read. By far one of my favorite genres of literature is the “Memoir & Biography” category of books. I love reading about adventures, hardships, the lives of men and women who love Christ, and even the lives of men and women who don’t love Christ.


I will highlight three that I have recently read and enjoyed oh so much. The first is called “Churched” and is written by Matthew Paul Turner. Churched is Turner’s attempt to recount his childhood growing up in and out of fundamentalist Christianity. It is extremely funny and a great read. The second is one I just finished reading entitled “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls- a heartbreaking and warming tale of her childhood growing up in a dysfunctional family and with crazy (literally) parents. The third, one of the best books I have ever read, is entitled “Beautiful Boy” by David Scheff- a gripping narrative of his son’s struggle with a meth addiction and the havoc it caused in his family. One of the highest compliments I can give a book is by saying that some point in the book made me cry- I cried multiple times throughout Beautiful Boy.


There is something about reading stories of life, the good and bad, that stirs up my heart to follow Christ with everything I have. It makes me realize that we are all a little (or a lot!) dysfunctional and should nevertheless be pursuing a worthy story. Do you like Memoirs and Biographies? Any good ones you’d recommend??


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Untold Cost

In many ways, I feel that preaching/teaching regularly is very similar to being an artist. You are constantly expressing yourself, being transparent and vulnerable (if you are doing it right), and letting others enjoy just a snapshot of hours and hours of your work behind the scenes. In another sense, artists are typically defined by their music and career in much the same way that being a preacher is someone you are more than something you do.


Isaac Slade, the front man for The Fray, expressed his thoughts on the life of an artist in an interview for “Fair Fight”- a documentary included in some versions of their latest album. His words have proven very true in my own life and my heart resonates with them completely.


“You set out to do something- weigh the risks, how much it is going to cost, and what it is going to require of you. If that is something you can afford then you go for it. At the beginning of this, I guessed what it was going to be like, how hard it would be, and I thought it would be worth it and ran after it. It has cost a lot more than I thought it would- personally, relationally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. It is way more draining than anyone ever told me it would be. I definitely get the sense that those people in visible situations that are far more famous than us are extremely lonely people. Most people do not have any idea what it costs- your constant transparency and vulnerability to people you’ve never met. All that to say, it is worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hard Choices

Four years ago, during my senior year of high school, I started attending a Bible Study on Sunday nights that was led by my senior ‘Worldview and Apologetics’ teacher. This Bible Study was not like other ones- we went straight through Scripture and seemingly tackled every issue that the text raised, afraid of no hard truths. I loved it and went regularly for over two years while Chris, the leader, slowly trained me to lead it without him.


By the time I became the Youth Pastor at First Colony Christian Church (January of ’08) I was leading the group by myself, though we still met at Chris’ house. I named the group “Collide”- a place where Scripture, honesty, and fun meet and collide with each other. Over the years we have studied the book of Revelation, Acts (the longest study ever), Luke, Romans (2x), Hebrews, and even Ezekiel.


When I was promoted to Pastor at Fc3 and my good friend Adam was made Youth Pastor, I began training him in much the same way that Chris did to me. A little less than a year later, I have now completely removed myself from the group. This past Sunday was my last Sunday, for two reasons: 1) I am way overcommitted with other obligations and 2) Adam is ready to lead the group by himself.


Many of my favorite memories over the past few years come from my time spent at Collide, every Sunday night from 6-8. I have also seen God do so many cool things in my own life and the life of the youth that attend. I have invested lots of time and prayer into many of these youth and it is, and will be, hard to step back. But, sometimes we have to make hard choices in order to be able to fully commit ourselves to what God has entrusted to us. Made any hard decisions lately? Do you need to make any?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poetic Thursday

I am a big fan of poetry, particularly when it is so wonderfully couched in appropriate music. Here is one of my all-time favorite poems (songs) by the great band The Fray off their recent self-titled album.

Happiness

Happiness is just outside my window
Would it crash blowing 80-miles an hour?
Or is happiness a little more like knocking
On your door, and you just let it in?

Happiness feels a lot like sorrow
Let it be, you can’t make it come or go
But you are gone- not for good but for now
Gone for now feels a lot like gone for good

Happiness is a firecracker sitting on my headboard
Happiness was never mine to hold
Careful child, light the fuse and get away
‘Cause happiness throws a shower of sparks

Happiness damn near destroys you
Breaks your faith to pieces on the floor
So you tell yourself, that’s enough for now
Happiness has a violent roar

Happiness is like the old man told me
Look for it, but you’ll never find it all
Let it go, live your life and leave it
Then one day, wake up
and she’ll be home
Home, home, home

You can find a great live version of it on Youtube here. Enjoy!

Thoughts??

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

10 Things That Increase My Love for Christ: #4- Responsible Sleeping

I have a natural bent towards procrastination and laziness. I am told that this comes from a combination of intelligence and ADHD, but I think there is a spiritual component as well. If I am not careful, I easily start to waste my life and the time that has been given to me for the work of the Kingdom, which is why I try to be very deliberate about my sleeping patterns and habits.


When I make a habit of going to bed early (before midnight) and getting up early (before or around 8) I find that I utilize my entire day much more effectively and Christ-like. I am not sure what it is exactly, but it even increases my desire and ability to seek, pursue, and love Christ.


So, even though responsible sleeping is not something that most would consider a moral issue, I have found it to be very influential in my Christian walk.


How do you handle sleeping? Is there another example from your life of something that does not seem like a moral issue but is influential to your relationship with Christ?

Friday, October 23, 2009

10 Things That Increase My Love for Christ: #3- Good Sermons

I started listening to sermons on my Ipod about 4 years ago and began with a guy named Paul Washer. That’s right, I liked Paul Washer before it was the “cool Christian thing” to like! Paul is an older gentleman with a feisty spirit and absolutely no fear of saying what he means.


I was then introduced to Matt Chandler at Focus (a Christian conference for college students). He absolutely blew me away and I began listening to everything I could find of him. In fact, it was hearing Chandler that made me see how effective speaking and preaching can be and desire to have God use me in that same way. For a good period of time, I would go on nightly bike rides around my neighborhood and listen to Chandler’s ‘Ecclesiastes’ series.


Chandler is still my favorite speaker by far, and I podcast him weekly. I’ll still listen to Washer occasionally, though not often and every now and then I will listen to Driscoll or Piper or Keller though not often as well. The only other person I podcast weekly other than Chandler is my good friend Jason Hess, over at Southway Community Church. Jason is a good friend and just as good of a preacher.


What I consider a good sermon, and worth my time, is a message that is biblical, exegetical, and engaging.


For those interested, my sermons are available online here or you can podcast them in Itunes (search ‘First Colony Christian Church’) and I have heard that there are a consistent few that habitually podcast me.. which is weird beyond description. You can also find Chandler’s stuff here and Jason's stuff here.


Do you listen to sermons? Why? When/Where? Who are your regulars?? Please comment and share!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

10 Things That Increase My Love for Christ: #2- Preaching/Teaching

Let me throw three facts your way.


1- I failed Speech class in high school.

2- I have historically struggled with anxiety.

3- I make a living as a public speaker.


Yes, it is odd and strange and largely unexplainable but God has seen it right to call me to preach and teach His Scriptures to His people. I get to exercise this calling at First Colony Christian Church almost every Sunday as well as local schools and youth events around Texas.


Preaching is one of my favorite things to do, for many reasons: It is incredibly energizing for my spirit (while taking a toll on my physical energy) and it is incredibly rewarding to watch God work through His Scriptures. The call to preach is also a guarantee of constant conviction- there is no way to engage the Scriptures without be convicted like crazy of your own sin.


I have found that when Christians exercise the gifts and callings God has given them- they find a surreal amount of joy and closeness to Him. What has God called you to? What are some ministry activities that increase your love for Jesus?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10 Things That Increase My Love for Christ: #1- Passionate Music

Music has had a large impact on my life. Growing up, I was a rap fan and yes, I will publicly admit that Eminem was indeed my favorite rapper. I did, however, have to listen to him “underground” as my parents did not approve in any way, shape, or form of his music. When Christ found me during the summer of ’05, my music tastes did not change much beyond switching to mostly Christian rap (John Reuben, KJ-52, Manafest, Lecrae, and a little Thousand Foot Krutch). It wasn’t until I started playing bass in our church’s praise band that I developed a taste for other forms of music.

As I learned about music through playing it- I became less captured by hip-hop and more moved by rock music, typically very hard rock music. What I have found over the years is that I very much appreciate music that has passion. Whether that passion is found in the music itself, found in the vocals, or found in the lyrics- there is something about it that stirs up my heart and mind.

And indeed, as this series is all about, it stirs up my heart and mind towards Christ. Whether it is Christian in nature and/or lyrics or not, music with a passion- with an angst- stirs me up deeply to live and to live for Jesus. I think it has to do with reminding me that life is worth living, that there is something to strive and work for- and as a Christian I believe firmly that goal, the prize, is Jesus.


Here are some bands (Christian and not Christian- which, btw- I think is an awful label for music) that increase my love for Christ:


Blindside

Incubus

Lovedrug

Dave Matthews Band

30 Seconds to Mars

The Fray

David Crowder*Band

OneRepublic

Taking Back Sunday

Killswitch Engage

Notice that only one of those bands is unanimously labeled Christian, while many have some sort of Christian background, or affiliation, and some are not Christian at all. Also notice the different genres represented: metal, hard rock, folk, piano driven rock, indie.


How does music influence you? What types of music increases your love for Jesus? What are your favorite bands right now? Please comment and share!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Great Start to the Week!

First off, let me apologize for being so bad at following through on my promised blogs! The past two weeks have been rough for me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But God is good, and I am recovering and feeling less overwhelmed each day! =) Once I recognized that I was a little too extended, I found someone to preach for me this coming Sunday and will spend the week catching up on other (much needed) stuff and resting/seeking Christ.

This week started off on a very good note! Our two services at Fc3 went well, despite a somewhat low attendance due to sickness and travel. My fantasy football team won again- putting me at 4-1 and in sole possession of first place! Yes! (If you know how competitive I am you understand the seriousness of that praise... haha) And then today I found out that I won an online contest that I had forgotten I even entered!! I never win things, so this was really cool!

My favorite preacher, Matt Chandler, did a video teaching series on the book of Philippians through an organization called The Hub- and I was chosen to receive a free boxed set copy of the teachings! You can see me listed on the winner announcement site, as well as mentioned in the video blog, here.

Anyway, it is a great start to what will hopefully be an even better week full of Christ. This week I will start my "10 Things That Increase My Love for Christ" series, so be on the lookout for that!

Much love,
Mike

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Blog Series: 10 Things That Increase My Love for Christ

My favorite preacher, Matt Chandler, often says that the Christian life can be simplified into the commands to do whatever stirs your affections for Christ and avoid whatever robs you of your affections for Christ. He gets this idea from Piper, who gets it from Jonathan Edwards, and on and on all the way back to (I believe) the New Testament and Old Testament. The idea is that Christians should be living very intentional lives and should pay attention to how their actions and habits affect their love for Jesus.


This advice has had a large impact on my walk with Christ and my joy found in him. For the next few weeks, I will be doing a blog series on 10 of the things that increase my love for Christ. I hope you will learn something about me, be challenged and convicted, and be spurred on to deeper intimacy and joy in your own walk with Christ.


Coming tomorrow: #1- Passionate Music

Saturday, September 26, 2009

God The Source of All Good

Here is one of my favorite prayers from a treasured book I own entitled "The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions."

God The Source of All Good

O Lord God, Who inhabitest eternity,
The heavens declare they glroy,
The earth they riches,
The universe is thy temple;
They presence fills immensity,
Yet thou has of thy pleasure created life, and communicated happiness;
Thou has made me what I am, and given me what I have;
In thee I live and move and have my being;
Thy providence has set the bounds of my habitation,
and wisely administers all my affairs.
I thank thee for thy riches to me in Jesus,
for the unclouded revelation of him in Thy Word,
where I behold his person, character, grace, glory,
humiliation, sufferings, death, and resurrection;
Give me to feel a need of his continual saviourhood,
and cry with Job, 'I am vile,'
with Peter, 'I preish,'
with the publican, 'Be merciful to me, a sinner.'
Subdue in me the love of sin,
Let me know the need of renovation as well as of forgiveness,
in order to serve and enjoy thee forever.
I come to thee in the all-prevailing name of Jesus,
with nothing of my own to please,
no works, no worthiness, no promises.
I am often straying,
often knowingly opposing thy authority,
often abusing thy goodness;
Much of my guilt arises from my religious privileges,
my low estimation of them,
my failure to use them to my advantage,
But I am not careless of thy favour or regardless of thy glory;
Impress me deeply with a sense of thine omnipresence,
that thou art about my path, my ways, my lying down, my end.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fc3: The Launch, 1 John, and Baptisms

So, I know that many of you who read my blog but are unable to attend my church (Fc3 - www.fcccdoc.org) have been wondering how our “Launch” went on the 9/13... It was so awesome!! When I got hired on as Pastor last January, we were getting on average 35-40 people a Sunday- on the 13th we had over 90 people across two services!! I am not one to lust after numbers, but it was definitely exciting to have our building full and to have so many people present to worship with us and hear the Gospel.

Yesterday, Fc3 started what will be for us a long series on the book of 1 John- a series that I am ridiculously excited about! We started it by talking about koinonia (fellowship) with each other and God- and the resulting joy (1:1-4). This next week we will be digging into the topic of sin, the Christian (and non-Christian) approaches and struggles with it, and Christ’s beautiful cross.

On October 4th we will be baptizing a few of our people!!! Being privileged to participate in baptisms is something that is indescribably energizing and encouraging to me. It is so awesome to see and hear about what God is doing in and among us! I say this here often, but if you are looking for a church home you definitely need to come and check us out!! As the fall is officially underway and the kids are back in school, we are striving into the future at about 50-55 people and have big hopes to grow (numerically and spiritually) and reach out in love to those around us in the name of Jesus.

Coming Next- - One of my favorite prayers out of my beloved Puritan Prayer book “The Valley of Vision.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

Aristotle, Emotions, and Discipleship

Aristotle, in his “Nicomachean Ethics” (1104b), states (roughly) that “we ought to have been brought up in a particular way from our very youth, as Plato says, so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; for this is the right education.” C.S. Lewis, in “The Abolition of Man,” interprets this to teach that “the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.” The basic thought is that education, or the training up of a youth, consists primarily in teaching the young one to like that which he should like and hate that which he should hate.

This plays itself out in almost every home with a child under the age of 3. When a child is torturing the family dog, the parents (through tone of voice and possible physical action) emphatically try to communicate to the child that they should feel bad about what they are doing. When a child is being sweet and gentle to the family baby, the parents (again through tone of voice and body language and possibly rewards) try to communicate that the child should feel good about what they are doing. The goal in all of this is to develop “correct emotions” in the heart of a child/youth as they grow up. As another example, the reaction to the direct disobedience of a child is one of disappointment and anger, while the reaction to obedience is one of happiness and reward.

It intrigues me to think about this view of teaching/training alongside the thought/command of discipleship. In many ways, I see discipleship and Christian maturity as a teaching and growing into “correct emotions.” Whereas my fallen heart would rejoice in evil and shy away from good, I am slowly being transformed into a person that correctly hates evil and rejoices in good. Thus, one of the main goals of sermons, community, and prayer would be to develop in our people a heart that rejoices in justice, beauty, grace, and forgiveness- as well as hearts that cringe at arrogance and injustice.

What are your thoughts? Please comment and share!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Bible translation do you use?

It’s a simple question: What translation of Scripture do you prefer to read and/or work out of? I am a huge proponent of the ESV- and when I am not working in the original languages I feel most at home there. I am also partial to the very helpful notes that the NET bible provides on the syntax issues of the Hebrew/Greek. I am fairly confident with my grasp of the different translations as I am a Hebrew-Greek student, grew up on the NIV, was a manager at Lifeway (HCSB), preached out of the NASB (shortly), and have been preaching/teaching/reading/working out of the ESV for almost a year now.

I found the following “translation guide” extremely funny:

HCSB - For Lifeway store buying Southern Baptists
NIV - For complementarian evangelicals
TNIV - For egalitarians
NASB - For those who want straight Bible, forget the English
Amplified - For those with no idea what a translation is but know that if you try enough words one of them will hit pay dirt

(I laughed particularly hard at the NASB and Amplified ones... haha).

So, let me know, what translation do you read out of, work out of (if there is a difference), and why?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A confession and a love...

Confession Time: This week was rough on me- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I entered into 19 hours of school juggling multiple projects for the church and with a few too many meetings planned. When I am tired, I get frustrated and faithless. I withdraw from those around me and from Jesus. As with anyone who is overcommitted and struggling, I began asking the question “Why am I doing this?” Why am I a pastor at 21 years of age? Why am I in school, taking this many classes, with these majors? Why am I so poor? haha

I was reminded yesterday and today why I do what I do. Because I love it. Because even during times where it seems like too much- Christ uses it to enrich and grow me. As I was polishing off tomorrows sermon on Serving Selflessly (with a Camp Barnabas shout out)- I was reminded of my passion for preaching and Christ’s incredible gift to let me do it for a living.

I have a long way to go to be who I want to be (who I AM in Christ), a long way to go in my love and patience for people, a long way to go in my faith and character in Christ- but I know that He is working through me and will see it to completion. I love it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What I've Been Up To..

Sorry I have been such a lazy blogger lately!  I wanted to give you all a quick update and let you guys know that I will finish my “Favorite Quotes From Jesus” series soon as well as start up a new series.  Things have been crazy here at Fc3 as we approach The Launch and my next few days are packed with exciting things!


This evening I am going over to Katy to hang out with Spencer, my autistic friend from Camp Barnabas.  =)  This weekend (Friday night and Saturday morning) I will be speaking at a local church’s Back-to-School Bash which I am very excited about.  Please pray that God shows up in a big way.  After the “bash” I will be heading to the wedding of our college pastor, Michelle!  That will be very fun!  Then Sunday I get a break from preaching as my Hebrew and Greek teacher, Jamie Johns, will be preaching for us at Fc3 (10:45).  


I would appreciate your prayers and I look forward to getting back into the swing of things blogging-wise after this weekend!  


Love you all!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My 5 Favorite Quotes from Jesus: #3 Matthew 13:31-33

"The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches...  The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."

This quote is found on the lips of Jesus in Matthew 13:31-33 (as well as in Luke 13 and a similar statement in Mark 4) and is an amazing picture of the kingdom and it’s inevitable fruition.  I actually did a 21 page paper on these statements with an emphasis on the eschatological views of Jesus, but I will not bore you all with that kind of commentary.

Simply put, one of the reasons I love these parables is the encouragement and confidence they give me as I seek to participate in Jesus’ kingdom building.  There are many who view the world as going to “hell in a handbasket” and I have the exact opposite view.  Sure, there are many serious problems with our world (third world debt, sex slavery, etc) but I believe the Church was given a mission and will be seen through to the success of that mission.  

The gospel continues to bear remarkable fruit all over the world in places such as China and Africa.  The Chinese underground church is a remarkable example of the exponential growth of the kingdom at work.  What do these verses mean for our society and culture?  What do these verses mean for our churches?  What do these verses mean for our individual lives?


Monday, July 27, 2009

My Time in El Salvador

Last Saturday, a group of 11 individuals from First Colony Christian Church set out on a mission trip to El Salvador.  Our mission: to build a well and provide clean water in the name of Jesus.  The community we would be spending our week with was a small village called “Santa Rosa” which consisted of just the most wonderful people ever.  I will spare the technical drilling details, but we did successfully get a well built and set up!!!  We had many obstacles along the way (such as hitting a rock for almost 2 days) but were able to persevere with teamwork, excellent leadership, and God’s blessing.

I’ll briefly share two of my favorite memories from the trip.  First, the time spent playing with the children and interacting with their parents was easily the most rewarding part of the trip.  By the second or third day, all the kids were calling me “heffe” (“boss” in spanish... =).. ) and we had so much fun playing different games like soccer, tag, keep-away, and more.  The picture below is of me and my favorite amigo, William (“Big Will!”).  



Another one of my favorite memories from the trip was at the well dedication service on Friday.  We had an opportunity to address the entire village and I spoke on the behalf of our group and the rest of our church family back in Sugar Land.  I expressed that we loved the village and saw our work as a small part of the Kingdom of Jesus growing.  I also expressed that we genuinely felt as though each and every one of them was a part of our family.  After the service, an El Salvadorian dad came up to me and firmly shook my hand and said “Gracias.”  I returned the smile, handshake, and expression but he would not let go of my hand.  He then made eye contact with me and said, “de mi corazon” which means “from my heart.”  It was very touching to receive that heartfelt sentiment from one of the members of the community.

God taught me so much on the trip and there were of course many other great memories and inside jokes.  Somehow, I ended up being frisked at the airport on the way there (that will be another blog post), among other things.  Have you ever been on a mission trip?  Where?  What was your favorite part?  Please comment and share!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Off to El Salvador!!

Dear faithful readers,

I leave tomorrow morning with a group from my church to go to El Salvador with the hopes of drilling a well and providing clean water to a village that desperately needs it.  We are going with Living Water International and will be gone until late Saturday night.  I covet your prayers over our group and our trip and I will be sure and let you all know how it went!

When I get back I will finish up the series on my favorite sayings of Jesus as well as start up a new series.  If you have any ideas for posts and/or series; or just anything you would like to read my thoughts about- let me know!  I will be glad to cater my posts to your interests!

Until next week- stay strong in Christ!

Mike

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My 5 Favorite Quotes from Jesus: #2 Luke 15:4-7

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.  Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.  Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”


This story is easily my favorite story EVER.  Not just favorite parable, favorite passage of Scripture, but favorite story.  I like it more than I like the Bourne series, the 30 Days of Night movie, or any other story I have ever heard/seen.


There are many reasons I love this story.  One is the intense, one-way pursuit of that which is lost.  I understand salvation to be Christ chasing after us and finding us.  Another thing I love about the story is his response to his finding of that which is lost.  He (in joy!) puts in on his shoulders and carries it home.  A farmer once told me that when you find a lost sheep, you break its legs so that it cannot run away again, and then sling it over your neck and carry it back to the flock.  What a cool picture of Christ’s pursuit, rescue, and even loving discipline.  Lastly, I love the brutal attack against self-righteousness that Jesus throws in at the end of the parable.  I am reminded that God wants honesty and humbleness and a dependency on the Cross from us, his little lost (kind of dumb) sheep.


I’ll be preaching on this story on August 2nd and am really excited about it!  What are your thoughts?  What is your favorite parable from the lips of Jesus? 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Book Reviews: #5- "Comeback Churches" by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson


As a young and mostly un-trained new pastor, I am always looking for good pieces of advice or “nuggets” of wisdom on how to faithfully lead a church.  I have also been chosen by God to lead a small church that is (hopefully) on our way up.  We average anywhere from 45-65 people a Sunday and are hoping that this number grows over the next couple of years as we reach out to Sugar Land and see more life-change and Jesus-worship happening.  I am by no means turning into a “church growth fanatic”, as I still despise Pastors who lust after numbers, but I have recognized that for us to be faithful as a church we must be constantly reaching out and bringing in new people, baptizing others, and leading community change.  


I kept seeing this book recommended or referred to, so I put it on my summer reading list.  It was a great decision and definitely worth my time.  It is a research-driven book, so it won’t keep your attention like a novel or story; but it was filled with great truths, ideas, and encouragements.  A few things that I digested from my time spent in this work- the art of creating and casting a vision, the art of giving away ministry to others, the art of seeking excellence during services, and the art of praying long and hard for life-change.  


I also learned a few things from seeing how some of the other 300 churches did things during their “comeback”- and gleaned a few ideas that we will be implementing in the next few months.  If you are a church leader or someone deeply invested in the well-being of a small and struggling church, this book is worth your time.  If you don’t have a church home or don’t know Jesus- come check us out at Fc3 (www.fcccdoc.org).  We are young, welcoming, and we want to know Jesus in a real way.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nothing Too Small

This past Sunday I made a point in my sermon that I wanted to unpack some more here on the blog.  Thursday I will continue my series on Jesus’ sayings, but for now please enjoy these thoughts and let me know what you think!


One of my favorite promises of Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 15:58 at the very end of the most majestic argument for the Resurrection that I have ever read.  Paul ends it all by saying that we should be immovable and steadfast and that we should know that in the Lord our work and labor is not in vain.  I understand this to be teaching that all acts, big or small, seen or unseen, that are undertaken for God’s glory will be used by Jesus for his Kingdom project.


I had a life-changing experience a couple weeks ago at Camp Barnabas, TX, a summer camp for kids with special needs (I blogged about the experience here).  I spent hours that week swinging on the front porch of our cabin with my little autistic buddy.  We would just swing and swing and look out at the sunset, trees, grass, and animals.  It was easily my favorite part of camp- not because of the scenery, the relaxation, or the escape from the heat, but because every five minutes my little friend would look over at me and give me a huge smile.  To understand how much this melted my heart, you should know that he is not a huge smiler (He is uber-content, just doesn’t show much emotion).  


Because of 1 Corinthians 15:58, I am very confident that the time spent swinging will be made eternal and used by Jesus for his new creation.  I feel that those moments are just as Christ-centered and God-glorifying as any sermon I have ever preached or any Bible Study I have ever led.  I love the fact that nothing is too small to be received and used by our Savior.


I want to close with this quote from my favorite author, N.T. Wright.  Please enjoy and let me know your thoughts:


“Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world- all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.  That is the logic of the mission of God.” 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My 5 Favorite Quotes From Jesus: #1 Mark 2:17b

"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

For the next couple of weeks, along with my reviews of books I have read recently I will be doing a series titled "My 5 Favorite Quotes from Jesus" where I will list, in no particular order, 5 of my favorite things that Jesus said (and was recorded in Scripture).

This morning's quote comes from Mark 2:17 and is given in the context of a dinner party.  The scribes and Pharisees started mumbling to the disciples about the.. um, questionable (at best) guests reclining with Jesus.  He answers them with this haunting phrase.

I love this quote so much for many reasons.  One is there is a bit of sarcasm here since Jesus is fully aware that the "righteous" in question (the scribes and Pharisees) are not indeed righteous (as is part of the point).  Another reason is because I am a sick person.  It's true.  I am broken.  There are so many things that misfire in me and over and over again I fall- only to hear Jesus whisper these words into my soul.  He came for me.  Not for a future version of me.  Not for a holier, more mature me.  He came for me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Camp Redcloud!!

Hey guys!

So I just got back from a week spent in Colorado with some youth from Collide (our Sunday night high school bible study).  We were at a camp called "Redcloud" that is located right near Lake City.  It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been!

While we were there we did some crazy things that I cannot believe we managed to accomplish.  The first day we did some low ropes activities followed by a grueling high ropes course. The second day we went rock climbing, and ALL of us got to the top of a 75 foot rock!  The third day was easily the hardest, as we did a "peak hike."  We climbed all the way to the top of a 14,000+ ft. mountain (we were the first group to summit all summer!!)  It was so physically and mentally exhausting but also very rewarding.  The view from the top was indescribable.  It didn't really sink in how far we had climbed until we looked back on our way down.  Then the last day we did some white water rafting, which proved to be a blast and a half.  Through it all we learned a lot about God, his glory in creation, and about teamwork.

Coming Up- More book reviews, plus a new blog series I will be starting tomorrow entitled "My 5 favorite quotes from Jesus."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Week with Autism!!

Hey guys!  I got back Wednesday evening from my week at camp.  Let me tell you, it was sooo amazing.  God showed me and taught me and loved on me so much during this week.  First a little about the camp, it is called Camp Barnabas, Texas and is a smaller sister camp of the larger Camp Barnabas, Missouri. Anyway, it is a camp for kids with special needs (mainly down syndrome and a wide variety of Autistic disorders) where they can come be a normal kid for a week while their parents get a break.

I love camps (see my post on Sky Ranch) and have wanted to work at a special needs camp for a little over a year so I was excited when I saw that they accept counselors for only one week and that going last week would fit my busy schedule this summer.  My camper was an 8 year old boy named Spencer who had autism.  He was non-verbal, which meant he rarely used words (I learned a lot of signs, haha).  He was such a joy!  He had to have been one of the most content people I have ever met in life.  A few of his favorite things: turning light-switches on and off, flushing the toilet, splashing in the pool, watching and playing the drums, and swinging on the porch with me.

Spencer seemed to see all things for the first time and was always overwhelmed with awe and wonder at the beauty and complexity of everything around him.  In many ways I felt like he was able to see and observe the world much more than "normal" people are.

I learned many things at camp, including but not limited to: 1)A love for kids with special needs and their families, 2)a confidence in dealing with Autistic kids, 3)God further revealed himself, his love, patience, and the Cross to me.  I will be back next summer- and hope to take a good group with me so we can experience more of God's grace and participate more fully in his deeply life-giving Kingdom-building work.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Heading Off to Camp...


Hello friends!
I am just about to take off to go serve 6 days at a camp for kids with special needs.  I would appreciate all of your prayers and thoughts while I am gone!  I will obviously not be blogging, or checking my email/phone/facebook/twitter..  I plan on blogging about my experience at camp next Thursday or Friday.

In the meantime, I hope you all continue seeking Christ, working for His Kingdom, and abiding in him richly!  

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer Book Reviews: #4- "A Wolf at the Table"- Augusten Burroughs

I love memoirs.  They are by and far my favorite genre of literature.  Recently I read a great one called “Beautiful Boy” about a dad and his meth-addicted son.  It was heartbreaking.  But sobering.  And in a real way that infuses life into my heart.


I recently read one called “A Wolf at the Table” by Augusten Burroughs.  It is a memoir about his relationship with his distant and (somewhat) abusive father.  The work is a riveting read- Augusten is a master story teller with an uncanny ability to infuse humor into even the most tragic situations.  He also has a keen eye to the realities undergirding childish thought and evaluations of situations and relationships.


If you like memoirs, this one is worth your time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Book Reviews: #3 - "Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision"- N.T. Wright

I respect John Piper.  I do.  Seriously.  That being said, I found his effort in “The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright” extremely lacking and disappointing.  It appeared to me as though Piper were trying to enter the academic world and tackle head on one of the loftiest theological issues circling the globe right now, and not only that, but tried to tackle possibly the greatest theological mind alive (in my opinion), N.T. Wright.  It was an attempt that failed.


Piper’s work was an exegetical and theological mess.  For instance, he declared that God’s righteousness is his utmost concern for his own glory.  Here is a tragic case of eisegesis on a meta-narrative level - one that fails to deal with the text and the train of thought present in Paul’s writings.  I think N.T. Wright does a fine job summarizing an argument that I have been following along in pieces since “What Saint Paul Really Said” and should help clear the table for future discussions.  


It is a very heavy read, however.  And I mean heavy.  It is not quite one of his academic books (see ‘Resurrection and the Son of God’) but it is well above a popular reading level.  I also appreciated Wright’s work on the biblical emphasis on the believer’s unity with Christ’ death and resurrection (Romans 6; Col. 3) as opposed to a medieval imagining of the believers unity with some sort of active obedience or treasury of merits.


If you are following along the whole “Pauline Perspectives” debate- get this book.  If you want to start following it, get this book.  If you read Piper’s book- get this book.  It is another great read from my favorite author, Sir N.T. Wright.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Transform Ministries

I recently became a 'communicator' for a non-profit ministry called Transform Ministries.  The organization is headed up by Casey Cease, who is an amazing guy and talented speaker.  Joining their team of communicators should help me increase my speaking opportunities and allow me to throw down some Jesus on even more people than I am now.  I feel very blessed to have been invited into partnership with Transform for the work of the Gospel!

If you haven't seen it, check out www.mikeskinner.org.  This is my page over at the Transform website.  Also- if you or your ministry needs a speaker, please talk to me!!  Whether it is a D-Now, a camp, a retreat, a See You at the Pole, school event, or another similar event- I would love to speak at it!!  Also, please tell your friends and ministry contacts about my new ministry and maybe direct them over to my website.  I appreciate it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Summer Book Reviews: #2- "To Own a Dragon"- Donald Miller

Donald Miller’s “To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing up without a Father” is an excellent conversation partner.  He stays true to form with a gritty and honest style of writing that makes for a personal and memorable read.  I don’t always agree with his theology, however I do always find myself enjoying his work.

The book is about Donald’s journey to manhood and the growing up that he does with the help of an older man.  Miller, an expert in the genre of memoir, writes in such a way that illuminates his past actions and motives and gives the reader fresh insight into their own past.  I did grow up with a father and have had many men step into my life in important ways- yet I can still identify with many of the feelings Miller expresses in the book.

If you enjoy a good story, some laughter, and an honest discussion of problems- this book is for you.  I still think that “Searching For God Knows What” is Miller’s best effort to date, but this one is definitely worth a read.


Currently Reading: “Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision”- N.T. Wright ; it is amazing.  Be looking for that review soon.  Also, “Story Saturday” will start this Saturday.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Summer Book Reviews: #1- "Confessions of a Reformission Rev"

I recently finished Mark Driscoll’s book, “Confessions of a Reformissional Rev.”  The subtitle is “hard lessons from an emerging missional church.”  It was a good read that captured my attention, gave me ideas, and gave me a look into Driscoll’s past and heart.  The book is basically a fly-by story of the founding and progress of Mars Hill Church in Seattle from a small group meeting into one of the largest, fastest growing, and most influential churches in America.

Driscoll characteristically writes with a gritty honesty that is much appreciated on my end.  He is very open about struggles and mistakes that he and his staff made in the hopes that others will be able to avoid the same shortcomings.  He makes some very interesting arguments for ‘big church’- though I am not sure he convinced me.  One of the coolest things I took from the book was the fact that pastors should love the people who aren’t yet at their church as much as the people who are already at their church.  I guess sometimes I feel guilty for caring so much about people I don’t know, so it was nice to know that it is allowed, even expected of a faithful pastor.  

While I don’t agree with everything he says or stands for, I do see Driscoll as a leader and a pioneer of our generation’s turn at preaching the Gospel.  “Confessions” is an excellent read and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

10 Things that have Changed My Life: #10- My Little Brother

With this post, my ’10 Things that have Changed My Life’ series comes to an end.  The last life changing item I would like to discuss with you all is: my little brother.


My little brother’s name is Brandon and he was born when I was 12 years old and in sixth grade.  His birth and existence have changed my life in so many ways I cannot even begin to fully describe them all.  His birth had two immediate impacts on my life.  The first was that I went from being the baby of the family to the middle child.  The attention from my parents that I was used to was all of a sudden transferred to my adorable little brother.  This led to some behavior problems in my life.  My grades that semester plummeted (I got my first ‘F’) and I started getting in a lot of trouble.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but looking back I can see that this monumental change in my life greatly disturbed my peace of mind.  However, I do not look back at his birth in a negative light because of the second way that it impacted my life.


The birth of my brother created in me a love so deep and powerful that I had never imagined could be.  Just by virtue of his existence, I knew that I loved him more than anything else and that I would gladly die for him in an instant.  I had never felt this before.  The joy of seeing him grow up and being a part of his life- from learning how to crawl, to walk, to going to school- has eternally shaped my heart.

I know it is probably difficult for him to have a brother who is a Pastor- but I hope and pray that I will continue to be a blessing for him and a source of life.


I hope you enjoyed my 10 Life-Changing things series!!  Have any ideas for a new series??  I am reading about a book per week- so I am thinking about posting book reviews and my thoughts/reactions to them - so that will be about once per week.  I’m also thinking about doing something like “Story Saturdays” with a short story from my past or week.  Any other thoughts or ideas?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

10 Things that have Changed My Life: #9- Basketball

“Basketball was my first love” - a sentence it seems I utter often when trying to describe myself.  For whatever reason, the sport of basketball has captured my heart from a very early age.  I can remember watching the Rockets (my favorite team!) and the Bulls battle it out constantly in the ‘90s.  I can also remember my first basketball team (the New Territory Suns) and my first basketball game (I air-balled the first shot I ever took).  I have always loved talking about, thinking about, watching, and playing basketball.


Basketball has changed my life in many ways.  One way is that it most assuredly kept me out of (even more) trouble by giving me something to be busied with.  Who knows what kind of mess I could have made without such a time consuming hobby?  Another way that it changed my life is that it taught me the art of discipline and self control.  I would schedule out training sessions, dates, times, work-outs, and rigorously follow them in order to be the best that I could.  As a kid, I kept a few journals that I would constantly jot down new plays or ideas on.  At one point, I had well over 300 different plays.


Perhaps the largest way that basketball has changed my life has been the therapeutic effect it has had on me.  During the hardest times in my life, basketball has constantly been there for me.  During my junior year and my struggle with panic disorder, one of the few places where I could forget it all was in my driveway shooting baskets.  During panic attacks, my greatest and most effective strategy to calm down was to think about the Rockets and my favorite player, Steve Francis.

While there are other sports I appreciate and enjoy, basketball will forever be my favorite.  It has, without a doubt, changed my life.


Have any sports changed your life?  How?  Please comment and share! 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

10 Things that have Changed My Life: #8- Reading

Hey friends.  The '10 Things that have Changed My Life' series is coming to a close!  Be looking forward to my last two entries- I have some pretty awesome (old school) pictures to go along with them! =)
 
Number 8 on my list of life-changing things is the art, the craft, the skill... of reading.  Yes, I am a book nerd and a big believer in the power of the written word and the ability to read.  Reading has changed my life in so many ways that it is not even possible to list them.  Reading has : been part of the process of Christ finding me, created in me a love and ability to learn, been therapeutic in difficult times, developed my vocabulary and mind, developed my writing and speaking skills, etc and etc.  The list could go on.  A few of my favorite authors: N.T. Wright, Eugene Peterson, Donald Miller, Matthew Paul Turner, Peter Clement, David Scheff, and more.  Has reading been as meaningful for you?  Comment and share!  Who are your favorite authors?  Favorite Genres?

Also, do you have any ideas about a new series of posts?  Things y'all would like me to write about?  I like to do (and read) posts that are interesting and give you insight into the author's life..  Gimme some ideas!

Mike

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Summer Plans

I want to take a break from my '10 Things that have Changed My Life' series and ask you all a question.

This summer I will be trying my hardest to be as productive as I can for the kingdom.  I will be doing alot of preaching, some writing, some traveling (3 trips!), and hopefully a lot of exercising!  I also have set a goal to read 12 books (roughly one per week I am in town).  I have a short list, but wanted your opinions/advice/suggestions on a good book to read.  It does not have to be christian and/or theological.

Here is the list I have so far (in no order):
Confessions of a Ref. Rev- Mark Driscoll
To Own a Dragon- Donald Miller
Justification: God's plan and Paul's vision- NT Wright
Comeback Churches- Ed Stetzer
Provocative Faith- Matthew Paul Turner
The Life of Pi- Yann Martel
A Random Memoir at the bookstore
A Random Medical thriller at the bookstore

That means I need 4 more books!  What should I read?  Please comment and make suggestions- with the reason why I should read it.  Again, it does not have to be Christian.  The only rule is it canNOT be Twilight! haha

Also- I am looking to preach/speak all over the place this summer.  If your group or church needs a speaker- talk to me about booking.  I cannot miss Sundays because of church obligations but I am willing to travel anywhere during the week to serve you.  

Looking forward to your suggestions,
Mike

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Holy Struggle - 5/3/09

Hey friends.  This is a summary of the notes of a sermon I gave on 5/3/09.  Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to record it.  

This sermon, titled "A Holy Struggle," was the third part of our 'Missional Living' series.  This series is our attempt to search the scriptures and find out how we can live and breathe for God's glory and the advancement of the Gospel.  This week we were answering the question of how we can be faithful missionaries even though we still struggle with sin.

We started in 1 John 1:8- and set the scene with John's declaration that even Christians still have sin in their life.  Once we agreed with that fact, we decided there must be a righteous or, even, holy, way to struggle with sin.  Now, there is NOT a right way to sin, but there is a right way to STRUGGLE with sin.  If we struggle with our sin wrongly, it has the ability to derail all of our attempts to evangelize.  So how can we struggle with our sin in a holy way?

4 Points:

1) It is NOT o.k. to struggle with sin unrepentantly - Hebrews 10:26-27
- we looked at the story of Hosea, and the call to feel the weight of our sin and have godly grief over it

2) It is NOT o.k. to struggle with sin passively- Romans 8:12-13
- true repentance leads to action.  Paul commands us to actively put our sin to death.  Not to sit back and hope it goes away.  This could be getting accountability, counseling, waking up early, etc.

3) It is NOT o.k. to struggle with sin alone- James 5:16
- commonly overlooked- the christian call to confess to each other; sin is like mildew- it festers in the darkness.  The new testament community was one of honesty and openness

4) It is NOT o.k. to struggle with sin without hope- 1 John 1:9; Romans 6:14
- we have the promise of forgiveness for all of our sins, and the promise of victory over time.

I concluded by saying that when we struggle with sin in these biblical ways- it can enable us to evangelize more effectively.  We are no longer paralyzed when someone who we are sharing with brings up our sins- because we can explain to them our sorrow over that sin and all the things that we are doing to put it to death.

Temptation and sin are HUGE parts of all of our lives.  We must struggle with it in a godly way that would further the kingdom.

Love much,
Mike

Thursday, April 30, 2009

10 Things that have Changed My Life: #7- Calvinism

I am reformed in theology.  Most who know me know this.  For that reason, I almost did not include this in my list of 10 things that have changed my life.  It has also become kind of a fad among Christians in college, which makes me less incline to be public about it.  But alas, I must.

I am a 7-pointer (yes..  I am that hardcore) and a firm believer in Calvinism.  I will even admit this, it is hard for me to understand the Gospel outside of the lens of Calvinism.  It is one of those ideas that when you finally accept it, you start seeing it everywhere and wonder how you could have ever missed it.  My conversion story (blasphemy?) is simple: shortly after I became a Christian, as a senior in high school, I was exposed to the doctrinal system of Calvinism and quickly understood it as truth.

Just like most recent converts to Calvinism, I became a super enthusiastic hyper-Calvinist for a while- but eventually settled down.  I try my best not to make it into or use it as a system or paradigm for doctrine, but instead in a doxological way- which I think is closer to Paul and Augustine.  

Nevertheless, Calvinism thoroughly influences my preaching, prayer, ministry, and joy.  No other doctrine has opened up the glory of the Cross or been such a warm blanket to my soul at dark times.  Hello, my name is Mike.  I am a Calvinist.


Monday, April 27, 2009

10 Things that have Changed My Life: #6- Matt Chandler

My absolute favorite preacher, Chandler is the lead/teaching pastor at The Village Church near Dallas, TX.  I first heard him speak three years ago at a college conference called Focus.  He absolutely tore it up.  I started downloading his sermons and began listening to them religiously (no pun intended..).

Chandler has impacted my life in three different ways.  First, his ability to teach and communicate ignited a similar desire in my own heart.  Through his ministry, I was awakened to the reality of what can happen because of dynamic preaching.

Second, the actual content of his teaching has impacted my walk with Christ in what is probably an immeasurable degree.  He preaches the scriptures in an engaging and clear way- always showing Jesus in the text.

Lastly, much of my own leadership style and philosophy of ministry comes directly from how Chandler does things and how the Village is operated.  I never want to copy- but I am definitely taking the good things that he does and trying my best to reproduce them in Sugar Land in my particular context with my particular skills.

If you haven’t heard him speak, stop what you are doing and go download one of his sermons.  Seriously.  http://hv.thevillagechurch.net/


Who is your favorite preacher/speaker?  How have they impacted you?

Monday, April 20, 2009

10 Things that have Changed My Life: #5- Jesus and the Victory of God

I am an avid reader.  It is one of the ways that I worship best.  Having said that, there are a handful of books that have completely rocked my world and one of them is this hefty tome penned by N.T. Wright.  Jesus and the Victory of God is the second book in Wright’s seminal undertaking- his Christian Origins and the Question of God series.  This book is not for the faint of heart and has undoubtedly changed my life for multiple reasons.




One reason is that it was practically the first theological book I ever read.  As a senior in high school my theology teacher gave me this book to read when I began to show an interest in theology.  I would come to him daily with questions about scripture and doctrine, and one day I came to him asking about Mark 13.  He handed me this book and said that the answer was inside.  =)  Wanting to prove myself, I quickly began reading and was soon absolutely consumed.  I can remember working through that book with every free second of my life for about three weeks.  During lunch, between classes (and I confess, sometimes during), after school, at night.  The world that I found inside Wright’s work- a world of honesty and real scholarship- was the world that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in.  I had found a calling.



Not only was my love for theology solidified by reading JVOG, but the things I learned about Jesus shook the foundation of my faith and my understanding of the Gospels.  I finally began to understand eschatology, the kingdom, and some of the more difficult and troubling passages of the gospels.  Two things I got from the book continue to shape my thinking, prayers, and ministry.  1- That Jesus was fully man.  We tend to overemphasize his ‘God-ness’, to the point that he becomes a super hero and some pieces of the gospels make no sense.  2- That Jesus was a theologian.  Although not trained, he studied the scriptures and found a vocation and plan for the kingdom.  More specifically, Jesus’ use of Isaiah and Daniel and his uniting of them into his own purpose.


Have you ever read anything that will have an eternal impact on your life and those around you?  Please comment and share!

Monday, April 13, 2009

10 Things that have Changed My Life: #4- Xanax

The summer before my junior year in high school I developed a crippling, mysterious illness that would change my life forever.  It started out with recurring panic attacks which soon led to a full blown panic disorder accompanied by agoraphobia.  I thought I was going crazy (I guess I kinda did, actually).

While the medical search was on to figure out what was causing this, my family physician prescribed the anti-anxiety drug Xanax to help me get through the debilitating fear that had captured my life.  Xanax became my lifeline.  My key to a normal life again.  I could not be awake without being on it and I most definitely couldn’t leave the house without being on it.  I was a “clock watcher”- always watching the clock to make sure I was still under the influ... err, protection of my miracle drug.  As I developed a tolerance of the drug, I was forced to take more and more, many times to the ignorance of my parents or doctors.  The depression followed soon after.

I shy away from the term “drug addict” for a few different reasons.  For one, I was a blue-collar participant.  All my drugs were legal and out of a prescription bottle.  Also, while I do believe I was addicted to it, and had to take other drugs, have counseling, and work at getting off of it- I never went through many of the lifelong struggles that drug addicts often face.  Christ’s grace found me before that, praise Him.

So how did Xanax change my life?  Well, it led me to the cross.  It buckled my prideful knees until I was forced to die to myself and find a glorious life in Christ.  To this day, when I am frustrated, depressed, or anxious, the temptation of finding some Xanax to fix everything pops up in my mind; but I fight the temptations with prayer and remembrance of the depression and afflictions of the drug and also the long hard work I undertook to be free of it.  These little temptations help me always stay focused on the cross and to never let my pride swell up to what it once was before life, and God, shattered it that summer and the following year.