Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In Mount Carmel for the Summer

I’m now in Mount Carmel, Illinois where I am working with the local church as their summer youth intern. Mount Carmel is a small town with a population of about 8000 people. The church has about 160 people attend on Sunday mornings for worship and there are a lot of young people who come regularly. I have a lot planned to do with the youth group here for the summer that I’m really excited about; such as, Bible studies during the week, service projects, community outreach, camp and more. The church here has been extremely loving and welcoming. I am really excited to see all that God will be doing here this summer.

While I’m here I’m still going to doing my studies with Sunset through correspondence. I will actually be starting my new class in about a week. I will be finishing the rest of my courses at Sunset this way while I am here and while I attend college after the summer.

Here a few links to videos that I uploaded on facebook of some of things that have been doing here in Mount Carmel so far. One of them is a tour of my office and the other two are from the welcome-fellowship-meal that the church had for me this past Sunday. I’m not sure if you can view these or not without being a member of facebook. Let me know if you can’t, and I’ll try to get them up online some other way. You can view the videos by just clicking on the flowing links:

My Office

Fellowship meal 1

Fellowship Meal 2

-Please remember to keep me and the church here in your prayers while we are serving the Lord here in Mount Carmel.

Friday, April 11, 2008

How I Met Chuck

Here is an old Xanga entry about how God introduced me to my friend Chuck. I wanted to share this story with you because since we’ve met I’ve seen God at work in our relationship.

February, 4th 2007

A little over a week ago I met a man named Chuck.

I was on my home from my small group when I saw someone sitting at the bus stop smoking. I said hello to the person and asked them how they were doing. He responded and said that he was fine. I then asked him if he was out for a smoke or if he was waiting for the bus. You see, it was about 8:30 pm and the buses in Lubbock stop running at around seven. He said he was waiting for the bus so I told him how I thought it wasn’t going to come because of the time. He had a hard time believing that the bus didn’t run anymore, saying that he takes it all of the time. I offered to let him use my phone if there was someone he needed to call for a ride, or to tell that he can no longer make it to meet them anymore. But he had a phone he said. He asked me if I had a car. I told how I didn’t but how my friend (Thomas) does and if he needs to make his appointment I could probably barrow it to take him wherever it was that he needed to go. He said how he would really appreciate it.

I soon returned in Thomas’ car. When Chuck got up it was easy to tell that he was in bad physical condition. His steps were slow and shaky. You could tell that it took a lot of his strength and energy to merely walk. Noticing all of this I hurried over to help him get into the car. I had to help him buckle his seat belt because he could reach it himself.

Our destination was a café downtown. On the way there Chuck told me a little about himself. He said that he’s in his seventies and had recently suffered a stroke which has been very hard on him. He’s lived in Lubbock for quite a while but was from Connecticut where three of his four children live. The other lives here in Lubbock, but Chuck said that he never really sees him, and how he doesn’t want to bother him. Chuck’s stories were sad. But he seemed excited about going to this café’. Several times he made mention of the time; whether it was morning or evening. I didn’t understand for quite awhile why he kept talking about what time of day it was. I thought that he was talking to himself, about if he was supposed to meet the person at night or in the morning. So I asked him if this woman he was going to see was going to be there all night. He said no. So that made me a little confused. Then as we got closer his question finally made sense to me. (I think because I finally could tell that it was a question). You see, Chuck didn’t know if it was morning or night. He was sitting out in the cold waiting for the bus because he thought that it was the morning! That’s why he was so surprised that I said that the bus was not coming anymore. He catches the bus just about every day to go eat his breakfast at this same café.

Now knowing that he was asking me a question and that he was looking for an answer I told him that it was nighttime. Chuck didn’t think that the place would be open anymore since it was now about 9 pm. But we were almost there so we drove by to see. It was closed. I told him that I could just take him back, and that it was no problem. He said he felt bad for taking my night away. But I was glad to do it! I told him how I was enjoying the drive.

When we got back to our apartments he invited me over to his place for a coke. We spent awhile just talking, mainly Chuck telling me more about himself. After awhile I had to tell him that I needed get going. But I gave him my phone number and told him he could call me if he ever needed any help with anything. Chuck’s condition really worries me and he doesn’t really have anyone around to help. He said that he really liked me and appreciated me helping him. I told him that I would try and stop by and see him every so often.

I’ve been by twice since then. And plan on going by in a few hours.

Please keep Chuck in your prayers. He grew up Catholic but isn’t religious. After we get back from Mexico (I’m going to Mexico City later today by the way) I’m going to see if he’s interested in studying the Bible with me.

I pray that Chuck can learn how great the love of Christ is.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Hard Time Sleeping

Last night had a hard time sleeping. My head was killing me and my eyes were full of tears.

I ate breakfast yesterday with my friend Chuck. I met Chuck over a year ago and ever since then I have hoped (and I mean desperately hoped) that he would come to God. Leaving the McDonald's where I had shared my morning with him began to cry. I was driving down a major road in Lubbock unable to hold back the tears. Not until my late-night-headache did I understand, or realize, why I had wept that morning and a number of other times just like it after leaving a visit with Chuck. It’s because of helplessness. Fear of failure. It was because, to be honest, I don’t see Chuck ever calling Jesus Christ his Savior, and kills me.

Last night I think that I finally understood Paul’s words when he said, “ I am innocent of everyone’s blood.” Earlier in the book of Acts he yells basically the same statement at a group of Jews after they had time and time again rejected the gospel saying: “Your blood is on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:6) I think that Paul probably made that statement with eyes full of tears and a shortness of breath. I know it wasn’t easy for him to say. The thing with me is that I often don’t feel the same way. I feel guilty, like I should have done more. Like there was something that I could’ve said, or showed to the person. The truth is however, it’s all in God’s hands and it has nothing to do with my abilities.

The following is a story of a when I felt this unbearable pain. The pain that comes when you’ve poured yourself out to someone but know that they are still heading down a road leading them straight to Hell. I want to be able do something. Anything! So I pray. I pray as hard as I can for opportunity, for other Christians to enter their lives. And I live! I live the life that Christ has called us to live hoping that some may observe something good because of what they see may give glory to God on the day of His visitation.

Tuesday- November 21, 2006

Tonight I was reading a book in a Hastings store. While reading a guy on his cell phone sat down near by me. His conversation was distracting, and made it near impossible for me to concentrate. Trying not to make a big deal out of things I simply moved to another part of the store and continued my reading.

A short time after, I arrived in my new seat among the New Age section. I saw a young girl browsing the area. She appeared to be just a little bit younger than me. She was looking at books on astrology, dream-interpreting -etc. and at items like tarot cards and other things used in practicing these forms of magic.

Seeing her there distracted me. It made me sad to see her searching through those books.

“What was she looking for?” I asked myself.

“How much of that does she believe in and practice?” I wondered.

After praying and building up the courage, I decided that I would go and talk to her.

I told her that I saw her looking for something and asked her what she was looking for. With insecurity, she told me she didn’t really know. I then asked her if she practiced some of the things that she had been looking at. She answered yes.

“Have you done this for a long time? … Or um, how did you start practicing these New Age things?” I asked her.

“This lady I met told me about it. She’s kind of like a mentor to me.” she replied.

I’m not sure what I said after that. But it didn’t seem to me like she really wanted to talk to me about it. So I thanked her for her time and returned to my seat.

When I sat back down I couldn’t help but feel that I had failed.

Failed to tell her what I thought about all that New Ageism.

Failed to tell her how dangerous those things are.

Failed to her that there are other things out there.

Failed to tell her about God and His amazing Son.

This feeling of failure brought me back into prayer. I prayed for more courage and wisdom and to be given the right words to speak. And then I returned.

She had moved around the corning, still searching for something. Upon finding her I started up with the questions again. For some reason it seemed like asking questions would be a good start.

“Do you believe in spirits?” I asked.

“Yes.” she answered.

“Well then, do you believe in God?” Was my second question.

“No.” She said, “But I do believe in a Higher Power.”

For the most part, she answered those questions just as I thought she would. They were kind of silly question to ask someone looking at books on how to communicate with spirits. But I needed to start somewhere.

“Have you ever read much of the Bible?” I then asked her.

“No.”, she answered.

“Would you mind if I show something out of the Bible then?”

“No I wouldn’t.” she replied.

We then walk over to the Bible section of the store. I grabbed two matching Bibles for us and we had a seat. I had already thought of one passage that I would show her before I approached her, from Acts chapter 17 when Paul was in Athens.

I read aloud as she followed along. I wanted her to see that the people that Paul was teaching were also into New Ageism. And how Paul proclaimed God to them, who they worshiped in ignorance. I did the best I could to explain the passage to her in it’s context. It took a little time, because she said that she had never really read the Bible so I did a quick catch-up so she would be able to understand.

After we had read through the passage she still remained very silent. She came off as someone very confused about life to me, as someone uncertain about the world around her, as someone uncertain of herself.

I sat there for a second.

She was looking though the Bible in her hands.

“Is it okay if I show you another story in the Bible?” I asked.

I think she just nodded yes.

We read together Acts 19:11-20. Before we started I first called my friend Brandon Price and asked him where the story I was looking for was. I couldn’t find it in the illustrated Bible we were using. And I thought that the phone conversation could buy me some more time to gather my words, while giving her time to think.

In the passage we read, one demon possessed man beats seven men until they are left bleeding naked. These men were Jewish exorcists and tried to cast out evil spirits by saying: “I command you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches!” Their attempt to use the name of Jesus (and Paul’s, even though it doesn’t appear they even believe in Jesus, they certainly weren’t very knowledgeable of Him) failed miserably. The Bible says, “…the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded.” Everyone in town of Ephesus where they were heard about what happened. “Then fear fell on all of them, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.” Then in response to it all many who became believers confessed of what they had been practicing. The Bible then says that many who had practiced magic gathered their books (50,000 silver pieces worth) and burned them publicly.

I don’t know what I thought was going to happen after we read that second passage. But what did happen was nothing. She just continued to look at the Bible with her same down cast face.

I think I asked her if she had any questions. But she didn’t. So I told her again how I thought what she was practicing was unwise. But she still didn’t say anything. She seemed so sad and lost just sitting there thinking, never really making eye contact with me.

I told her a little more about the Bible (She seemed to like the one in her hands). I offered to buy her one. But she said, “She won’t let me take one home.”

“Who is ‘she’?” I asked.

“The lady I live with.”

“Is she the same one who has got you into New Ageism?” I asked.

“Yes.” she said.

When this subject came up it seemed like we were finally going to be able to talk. It was obvious that something was bothering her, and now it finally came out. I asked her more about her situation. She told me that she had nowhere else to go except with this woman. She told me that her parents didn’t want her. (It was around this point that I could tell that they were lovers).

I could tell how unhappy she was in this situation. I asked her if she could leave this woman and go somewhere else. I offered her help. I told her that I could find her somewhere to stay until she could get off on her own without this lady. But she said that it would be too hard, too much trouble. And how she didn’t think that she was in any danger.

Before I could try and find out more about her parents and what was wrong she said, “It’s almost ten. I have to go.”

“To her?” I asked.

Once again, I believe she just nodded with a downcast look on her face as she put down the Bible and got up.

“It was nice to meet you.” She said, as she walked off not facing me.

I sat there for a moment.

Filled with sadness, I left the store to go cry and pray for this girl who had been so tricked by the devils lies.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Powerful Prayer of Christ

Today has been a good day. It’s my second day back in Lubbock after spending a week in Tulsa with my girlfriend Michelle. It hasn’t been easy getting back into my “school groove” after my two week long break. Yesterday felt like a Monday. You know, the kind of day where everything just seems to be going wrong and somehow even though it didn’t start of well, it gets worse! That was my yesterday. Now today. Today was good. My morning coffee was great, the sky was blue and beautiful and the air was fresh, crisp and full of the aroma of the Spring. Today I was able to give my day over to God, whereas yesterday I wasn’t.

I like to start my days out in prayer. To pray that God takes control of my day, that His will is done in my life. The prayer I pray goes like this:

My Father in heaven,

Your name be honored as holy.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

As we forgive us our debtors.

And do not bring us into temptation,

But deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power

And the glory for ever.

- Amen.

The Jews in Jesus time prayed a similar prayer called the Kaddish. The Kaddish was all about the glorification of God and calling on Him to reign in ones life. It was liturgical prayer. Liturgy is repeated; it’s recited regularly, kind of how our school children say the Pledge of Allegiance every day at school. When you say it often and mean it, the prayer becomes something very real. It moves past being mere spoken words, or wishes to a far off being –to becoming a part of our lives. Something real -among us in the here and now. And that’s what the prayer Christ gave us is all about. Jesus took the prayer that was popular at the time, asking God to reign in our lives, right here on Earth. And Jesus threw in the mission to love others, as well, when he added the line “forgive us our sins as we also forgive everyone in debt to us.” The prayer is the mode, the rhythm and driving force of our lives lived out to God in service of others, making the Kingdom of God soothing, fresh, alive and very real for us throughout our day.

This is a powerful prayer that Christ gave us as a model for life. It is the Greatest Command put into prayer form. May we daily pray such a prayer. May we pray prayers like it, asking God for His will to be done in our lives. For His Kingdom to rule our worlds. May we ask for His help with the simple things. Pray that we keep our focus on Him, and avoid the tricks that Satan throws our way. That we shine like Christ in this dark world, loving others with a love that holds nothing back. That we remember all that God has done for us and is constantly doing on our behalf. So that each day, we may take hold of the life that God has given us. Let us always pray the powerful prayer of Christ.