Thursday, November 18, 2010

Alternative Christmas

This year the youth group I work with will be adding a Christian alternative spin to our Christmas party! Unfortunately much of the holidays have become self-centered. Focusing on having more and more stuff, making ourselves happy, and receiving rather than giving. So this year we want to set ourselves apart from the rest of the world in the way we celebrate Christmas and will focus on embodying Christ's Spirit of love, joy, peace, giving, selflessness and self-sacrifice. How will we do this? By doing a "Buy Nothing Gift Exchange"! Rather than spending $5 dollars on gifts for our gift exchange we aren't going to spend anything! And instead we’ll use the money that we would have spent on ourselves, to bless someone who actually needs a loving gift this Christmas.

Here is how it works:

Everyone will bring gifts that they have either: (1) hand crafted themselves, (2) have recreated (like a glass jar that is recreated it into an awesome lamp!), or (3) items that they already own but no longer use and want to pass on to someone else (like a book you have already read, or a movie you never watch).

Each person attending the party will also bring $5 to contribute towards giving a gift to someone in need. We will choose either a child who otherwise wouldn't have much of a Christmas, or a missionary (who often doesn't get Christmas bonuses like most), to give our gift to.

It is that easy! Now you know how to throw your own Alternative Christmas party in your community.

Let us boldly embrace Christ likeness over the holidays, and make Him rather than ourselves the center and focus of all we do!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finally, a christian band I can get into!

So I just rediscovered this band called Gungor. I say "rediscover" because I had heard their song "White Man" before but never really looked into the masterminds behind the music. But now that I have --they seem totally legit! I'm looking forward to listening to them more because to be honest I really don't care for that many "Christian" bands out there anymore but these guys have a sound that I can get into. They seem to have a very diverse style. At times they remind me of bands like, Sufjan Stevens, Mumford and Sons, and even Fanfarlo. You should check them out!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Eternal Kingdom: Eschatology and the Kingdom Part 2

In the second year of king Nebuchadnessar's reign he had a dream that deeply troubled him. So he gathers together all of Babylons wise men to have his dream interpreted. This means he rounds up all of the diviners, priest, mediums, sorcerers and the nations astronomers to find out what his dream meant. Now, here's the catch. The King wouldn't tell them the dream! He wanted them to not only interpret the dream, but to first tell them what the dream was! The nations so called "wise men" explain that this an impossible task and no one has ever asked of such an undertaking. So king Nebuchadnessar decides to have all of the nations wise men executed. I guess he figured it was time to downsize and reformat his whole operation. 

Stick with me, we're getting to the good part. 

The executioners are sent out to round up everyone. When they reach Daniel, Daniel asks why the execution was issued and learns of the king's dilemma. Daniel asks the king for some time to figure out the interpretation. He goes to his fellow Judean friends and they beseech God on the matter and the mystery is revealed to Daniel. 

Daniel tells the executioner to not to kill the wise men of Babylon. And demands that he be brought before the king to give the interpretation. 

The king asks Daniel, "Are you able to tell me the dream I had and its interpretation?"

Daniel answered the king, "No mere human can solve the king's mystery, I don't care who it is—no wise man, enchanter, magician, diviner. But there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries, and he has solved this one.” Daniel is letting King Nebuchadnezzar in on what is going to happen in days to come.  

“This is the dream you had when you were lying on your bed, the vision that filled your mind”:

This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation.” (2:36)
After first describing the dream as the king had commanded be done Daniel begins by telling king Nebuchadnezzar how the God of heaven has given him “sovereignty, power, strength and glory,” and exalting him and his great success as a king. Daniel tells the king “you are the head of gold.” (v.38) As Daniel interprets the dream we learn that the dream is about five different kingdoms. Here we find the identification of the first mentioned kingdom, the kingdom of Babylon existing from 605-539 B.C.

After you, there will arise another kingdom, inferior to yours, and then another, a third kingdom, of bronze, which will rule the whole earth. (2.39)
Daniel then lets the king know of two kingdoms that will rise after his own. Daniel here describes the kingdoms of Medo-Persia (538-332 B.C.) and Greece (331-65 B.C.). No know, the kingdoms of the famous Xerxes depicted in “300”, and of Alexander the Great. Notice that he says that these kingdoms are “inferior” to that of Nebuchadnezzar’s. As each new kingdom arises the quality of it’s metal on the statue decreases.

A fourth kingdom will be as strong as iron. (2:40b)

This fourth kingdom mentioned is the Roman empire. The Roman empire expanded the reaches of the know world more so than any kingdom before it. It was powerful and ruthless. Thus, described as iron.

The kingdom did however have great difficultly in uniting its people --which became their weakness. Roman law aloud conquered lands to keep their own laws and traditions to a certain extent. Daniel said that “the people will mix with one another but not hold together.” During the time of Pax Romana (meaning “Roman Peace”) there was the appearance of strength and unity but really the people were never mixing into Roman society, just as clay and iron never truly mix.

In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever. (2:44)
Daniel now begins to speak of the Kingdom of Christ that would come to the world. During the time of the Roman Empire. This Kingdom grows up from the rock, the rock being Christ. It starts with Christ but it doesn’t end there! The rock is portrayed as being alive –living. It grows and fills the whole earth like a great mountain. It is this great mountain that is the Kingdom of God. One eternal Kingdom is what God is here describing. In Mattew chapter 3 John the Baptist said the Kingdom was at hand. And again in the first chapter of Mark Jesus said the time was fulfilled for the Kingdom. Verses such as Col 1:13 make it clear that we (the church) are currently apart of this Kingdom.

Therefore Christ is the mentioned stone that fills the earth. We the church are a part of this Kingdom of God here on Earth (Rom 9:30-33, Rev 5:9-10). Thus, the “millennial” reign of Christ is now! The Kingdom of God is among us right here right now! I hope that you are a part of the Kingdom that has no end. I pray that God will continue to expand His Kingdom throughout all the earth as we take His message of love, grace and truth to all people. And as we live in this world as His body allowing Him to reach others through our own actions of compassion, grace and healing.   

In "Eschatology and the Kingdom Part 3" I will explore the importance of recognizing the Kingdom of God as a spiritual force from Heaven rather than a physical power on Earth.

Monday, October 18, 2010


This past weekend I directed a Fall Retreat at Camp Wabashi in Terre Haute, Indiana. The weekend was incredible and I am so thankful to God that Michelle and I were able to be a part of this wonderful ministry.  

The theme was "I am Radical" and we focused on the radical nature of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. The life that Jesus lived on this earth was extreme.  No one had ever seen anything like it. The words He spoke were radical. Jesus came with a message that seriously blew the world away! The things He did were radical. Jesus spent time reaching out to and loving people that most of the world wouldn't give the time of day to. And this same radical Jesus gives us the invitation to come and follow Him. So at the retreat we explored how the invitation to be a disciple of Jesus is one that must take seriously in our own lives.
One aspect that I was really excited about was our break out classes. In our class sessions we taught an easy approach to sharing the gospel. We also equipped them with the necessary tools to be able to share the gospel with friends who hold completely different world-views from their own.
The retreat was both encouraging and challenging. And I believe that everyone that went (staff included) had a blast! I've placed several links bellow to some of the resources that we used. I hope and pray that we all can continue to show the world we take our lives as Christ's followers seriously. I pray that we can have the boldness to live the radical life that He has called us to -in our words, in our actions and in our discipleship unto Him. Lets Get RAD and show the world the love of Christ through in all that we are!

Click bellow to view printable PDF 
GOSPEL Track based on John 3
Click here to see how to to share the GOSPEL 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Refuge in the Kingdom

He presented another parable to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It's the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it's taller than the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches."

-Matthew 13:31-32

Jesus told many parables to his disciples to explain to them the nature of the Kingdom. We are all familiar with the parable of the mustard seed. Mustard, in first century Palestine, was a terribly annoying weed. Much like our dandelions, it would easily spread, plaguing an entire landscape with its yellow-flower presence. The mustard that Jesus mentions is no ordinary mustard. Jesus says that the Kingdom is like a small mustard seed that grows into a gigantic tree! Now, normally mustard only grows up to be a small bush of a flower -no where near a tree! But that’s the point. The Kingdom grows up in ways that, from a worldly perspective, are simply impossible. Another interesting thing about this tree is that the birds of the air have come to rest in it. It was recently pointed out to me that birds can be mustard seeds number one enemy. We don’ t often think of seed as being hunted and having predators -but seed is hunted and by birds! So, in this parable the thing that seems to be the biggest threat to the Kingdom ends up finding refuge and shelter in its branches. These birds could represent countless perceived “threats”. People that we may label as dangerous, having a rough background, or different world views than our own, you name it. Jesus is saying here that it is the nature of the Kingdom to become a refuge for what was once seen as a threat. There are people all around us that need to find their place of refuge within God’s Kingdom. May we be sure to extend branches to the people that are in our own lives.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eschatology and the Kingdom: Part 1

Have you ever thought about your views on eschatology? If you are a Christian and you haven’t, it may be time that you do. And even if you are not a believer in God at all, it is still important to understand what some believe on the subject, and I will tell you why shortly. The word “eschatology” is a based off two Greek words. The first, “ἔσχατος” meaning “last”, and the word “λογία” meaning “study” so eschatology is the study of the last days, or the study of end times.

It is important that as Christians we have a basic understanding of what many call the “End Times”, because views on eschatology directly relate to what one believes about the Kingdom of God now. For example, many eschatological views do not believe that the Kingdom of God has come to (that is past tense mind you) earth. Many of these same views teach that the Kingdom of God is a physical dominion and power.

Both of these views are clearly flawed as the scriptures and teachings of Jesus show us. First, Jesus said nearly 2,000 years ago that the Kingdom had come (Luke 11:20, Luke 17:21). Jesus spent large amounts of time teaching about the Kingdom, because the Kingdom of God was coming to earth during His ministry. And his disciples were to continue the global expansion of the Kingdom as the church.

Secondly, the Kingdom is not a physical thing. The Kingdom is not a physical country, like the United States, Canada, France or Israel. And the Kingdom does not hold physical boundaries because the Kingdom is not of this world -it is spiritual. Jesus made this very clear while speaking to Pilate before his death: “My kingdom is not of this world”, said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)

Now, this is a very important matter because most of the terrible acts that have been committed in the world throughout history in the name of God were done so because the Kingdom was thought of as a physical force here on earth.

The Kingdom is here and now. And it is spread through actions of love, grace, and forgiveness as lives are liberated by Christ the King.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

LTGs: The Basics with Character Questions

I have been trying to put together a little information about Life Transformation Groups (LTGs) so that people that want to start a group can do so. LTGs are very simple, small and focused, because of that they are very powerful.

Here are the basics:

LTG’s meet once a week for approximately one hour.

LTG’s are groups of two or three people (the addition or a fourth person is the beginning of the second group and multiplication is imminent).

The groups are not co-ed but gender specific. If you are guy you meet with all guys, if you are girl you meet all girls.

There is no curriculum, workbook or training involved.

There is no leader needed.

Three Tasks are to be accomplished in a LTG:

1. Confession:
Sin is confessed to mutual accountability partners. The group must be a safe place of honesty, confidentiality and integrity. “What is said in the group stays in the group.”

2. Scripture Reading
Scripture is read repetitively in context and in community. Each group decides what will be read each week. The goal is 25 to 30 chapters a week. If any one person was unable to finish the reading that week, then the whole group does the same reading for the next week. If this amount of reading seems overwhelming you can start with a small goal of 7-10 chapters a week.  

3. Prayer 
Souls are prayed for specifically and continuously each week. Typically the group prays for people who they would like to add to the group. A soul that you know needs to encounter the transformative power of Christ in their life. Each person can create a list of 5 to 10 people and those people are prayed for individually each week.  

Character Questions
While the group meets they ask one another Character Questions to hold each other accountable and confess sins. They discuss the scripture that they have been reading during the week. And they pray together.

Here are a few sets of Character Questions for different groups:

Character Questions for Men:
1. How have you experienced God in your life this week? What is God teaching you?
2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate sexual thoughts about another person this week?
3. Have you lacked integrity in your financial dealings or coveted something that does not belong to you?
4. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face to face?
5. Have you given in to any addictive behavior this week? Explain.
6. Have you continued to remain angry toward another person?
7. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune? ______________________________________
8. (your personalized accountability question)
9. Did you finish the reading and hear from God?
10. What are you going to do about it?
Have you been completely honest with me?

Three specific questions for Husbands and Fathers
  • Have you modeled Christ-like behavior with your family?
  • Have you shown proper reassurance to your wife through your words and actions in love?
  • Have you been available to your kids –eye contact, affection, listing?
Character Questions For Women
1. Have you been a good example of Christ in your words and deeds?
2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate sexual thoughts about another person this week?
3. Have you lacked integrity in your financial dealings or coveted something that does not belong to you?
4. Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your impart relationships this week?
5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face to face?
6. Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.
7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another person?
8. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune?
9. Have you allowed any person or circumstance to rob you of your joy?
10. Have you taken care of your body through exercise, proper eating and sleep?
11. Did you finish the reading and hear from God? What are you going to do about it?
12. Have you been completely honest with me?

Three Specific questions for Wives and Mothers
  • Have you modeled Christ-like behavior with your family (refrained from yelling, kept emotions in check, patient)
  • Have you worked proactively to build a better relationship with your spouse? Have you shown your husband that you respect him in your words and actions?
  • Have you been available for your kids –eye contact, affection, listening?

Character Questions for Single Girls (what about questions for single guys?)

1. How have you experienced God in your life this week? What is God teaching you?
3.  What sin do you need to confess?
4. Have you been a good example of Christ in your words and deeds?
5. Have you been exposed to anything sexually alluring ( people or material) or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate sexual thoughts about someone this week?
6. Have you properly guarded your heart and femininity?
7. Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your impart relationships this week?
8. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face to face?
9. Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.
10. Have you continued to remain angry toward another person?
11. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune?
12. Have you allowed any person or circumstance to rob you of your joy?
13. Have you taken care of your body through exercise, proper eating and sleep?
14. Did you finish the reading and hear from God? What are you going to do about it?
15. ______________________________________
      (your personalized accountability question)
16. Have you been completely honest with me?

Phil Helfer, pastor of Los Alto Brethren Church in Long Beach, CA, has simplified the LTG
1. How have you experienced God in your life this week?
2. What is God teaching you?
3. How are you responding to His prompting?
4. Do you have a need to confess any sin?
5. How did you do with your reading this week?

The Highway Community in Palo Alto, CA has adapted the questions in the following way:
1. Did I invest the proper quality/quantity of time in my most important relationships?
2. Did my life reflect verbal integrity?
3. Did I express a forgiving attitude toward others?
4. Did I practice undisciplined or addictive behavior?
5. Was I honorable in my financial dealings?
6. Was I sexually pure?
7. Did I spend time with the Lord this week, completing the Bible reading for the week?
8. Did I pray for my pre-Christian friends? Did I talk with someone about Christ?

Neil Cole developed a list of less specific questions:
1. What is the condition of your soul?
2. What sin do you need to confess?
3. What have you held back from God that you need to surrender?
4. Is there anything that has dampened your zeal for Christ?
5. Who have you talked with about Christ this week?

I've been in dialogue about LTGs with a number of people. Much of the information given above is not from my own creation, but comes from the work of others such as: Bill Tracy, Daniel Countinho, and of course Neil Cole. Many people have been developing their own character questions. Several of the ones I have posted here come from a church called The Journey in California. Visit The Journey's website here if you are interested in seeing even more character question. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Aim Alumni Association: Would I Like Me If I Met Me?

Last week I wrote my first post for the Aim Alumni Association. Bellow is a short preview of the blog. 

Would I Like Me If I Met Me?

Every Thursday morning I help with our congregations preschool. Playing with the kids, drawing and coloring, and helping them with crafts is always a great joy. I personally think that kids can be hilarious. They can say the funniest things. And it is so neat to me how much personality they have. While helping in craft time last week, the thought popped into my head, "I wonder what I was like at age five." Like, if I were to be able to see myself, and spend time with the five-year-old me, what would I think of myself? What would I say to myself? How would I have acted in our Thursday "Sunshine School"? What would I think of little Gary? Would I have to keep him from running around the class room? I know I would have to tell him that "it is now time to listen and not talk" (I remember hearing those words a lot as a child). I would really like to see if this "little" Gary would stress me out or not, or if I would think he were the coolest little guy ever. As I pondered these things I began to wonder what it would be like to meet the thirteen year old Gary, the twenty-one year old Gary, and to meet myself as I am right now. What would I think of myself? Would I like me, if I met me? Would I think that I was a jerk, or a really friendly guy? Would I like hanging out and spending time with me, or would I hate myself and think I was lame. Would I be the kind person that I... 

Read the rest of this blog on the Aim Alumni Assosiatiojn page.  

Friday, February 12, 2010

Einstein on the Existence of God

It is hard to determine how to describe the view that Einstein had on God. There is doubt that he did believe in a "higher power", and it is also very clear that he was not an atheist. He's views therefore fall somewhere between that of an agnostic and a deist. I believe him to be more of what we today consider a deist. 

Einstein is quoted in an interview with Time Magazine as having said: "I'm not an atheist. I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying laws but only dimly understand these laws."

Einstein seemed to have a great appreciation for the pure beauty of our universe's harmonized complexity. I believe he saw the its finely tuned order of our cosmos as something that should humble the mortal man when he said: "The fanatical atheists...are creatures who cannot her the music of the spheres. I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos."