Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Post-Christmas Lesson

When I was younger, I used to watch Sesame Street.
Let me rephrase that.
When I was younger, I wanted to live on Sesame Street.

I watched that show multiple times a day, almost every day; I never got tired of it. One reason I loved it was the songs. I remember one in particular song around this time of year (well, two, but, for the sake of this post, one) from one of the Christmas Specials (I can't remember which one, but I'm pretty sure it's not Big Bird Searches for Santa):

"Keep Christmas with you| All through the year.| When Christmas is over| Save some Christmas cheer.| These precious moments,| Hold them very dear.| So keep Christmas with you| All through the year."
Pretty profound for a kids' show.

Now, I know the song is talking about saving the love, joy, and general "Christmas-y" concepts to enjoy throughout the year, but I cannot help but draw all of this back to God.

You see, Christmas is truly about love, joy, peace, hope, etc., but the reason for that is not because of the people, the gifts, or even the "Christmas Spirit". The reason for Christmas and all its associated marvels lies in its name - Christ.

Christ, or Messiah in Hebrew, is a title meaning "Anointed One".

Okay, well, what does that mean?

In Jewish society (the Jews were the ones awaiting the Messiah, after all), anointing was a physical demonstration of the appointing of one by God to a specific calling, notably the high priest, prophet, or king.

So, we have this Anointed One, Jesus, who is appointed by God for a specific task - namely the rescue and redemption of mankind from sin to God. Which means that He had to have been free from sin as well. (Think about it: can one mired in sin rescue all others from their sin? No, only one who is already free from sin can bring others to freedom.) Because mankind is inherently sinful (thank Adam and Eve for that), to be born free from sin, the Messiah must have been conceived sinlessly, i.e. from the seed of a sinless being - God.

Enter the "Immaculate Conception". As was prophesied (Isaiah 7:14), God begat a child with a virgin woman, Mary. Why a virgin? Two reasons: 1) To prevent any doubt as to whether the child was really the son of God and 2) to be miraculous - normally, to conceive, a virgin must lose her virginity; therefore conception without a loss of virginity is miraculous. (no, IVF hadn't been devised and I'm pretty sure that would constitute a loss of virginity anyways)

So, we have a sinless Anointed One, born of a virgin, who is supposed to free mankind from sin, which is separation from God. God is holy, perfect, and just. As such, God cannot stand sin as it is less than perfection and neither can he ignore it as to do so would not be perfectly just. So, to save mankind from sin, someone had to pay the punishment and the only one able to pay the punishment for another is one who has not committed the crime. (otherwise he's merely doing his own punishment) It is for this reason, redemption, that Jesus the Christ came into this world as a sinless, Anointed One.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life" - John 3:16
Oh, I forgot to mention, the punishment for sin: death, and by death I mean a final, total, spiritual death following one's corporeal death, while the end of those redeemed by Christ is life eternally in the presence of God.

This is the message of Christmas. This message of God's love, redemption, and forgiveness and our subsequent peace, hope, and joy is the reason we celebrate Christmas. This is what we must keep with us, carrying it all through the year, reminding ourselves and telling others this very same message of the Anointed One, Christ Jesus.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Seeking the King

So, with my family in the US and all, my dad, of course has done and will be doing some speaking engagements. Today was one such day. One thing he said (which was also touched upon by the Sunday School teacher) struck a bit of a chord.

Looking at the magi which traveled to honour the (at the time) newborn Messiah (Matt 2:1-12), he illustrated, amongst other ideas, the dedication and drive possessed by the magi to finding this newborn king.

These men saw a star, traveled for ~2 years, found that their initial idea of the child's location was wrong, found correct information and went to the child. They brought with them gifts; some might say they were symbolic, but all will agree they were expensive gifts, gifts deemed the best to give to honour the now-come Messiah.

Conversely, the Jews in Herod's court (and Herod himself) knew about the coming arrival of the Messiah and where He would be born. They were a very short distance away from Him, yet when they heard that He was born, they couldn't be bothered to take a measly day's travel to seek Him out.

The question my dad asked [well, either that or implied] which caught my ear, and I hope it catches yours, was "What is your reaction to the newborn King?" Is it "I must follow after and seek out the King" or merely "Meh"?

Ooh, and add to that the shepherds' reaction - they were rejoicing and ecstatic about the birth of the Messiah, while, once again, the Jewish advisers and scholars reacted indifferently, a distinction of "THE MESSIAH IS BORN! WE MUST GO AND SEE; TELL THE OTHERS!" versus "The Messiah? He's supposed to be over there."

So, I ask myself as I ask you, the reader, "What is your reaction to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the saviour of the world?"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finals Week

Once again, it is that time, the time of year when millions of students across the land lose sleep, sanity, and sociability. It is the time of year when hours spent toiling under the forbearing glare of paper taskmasters breed new colourful epithets describing the derisive tortures of the soul

Fear not, my people, for an end is nigh! Though your strength might fall, your courage falter, and your determination faint, there is an end and soon, very soon, that end shall be upon us; on some it had indeed already fallen. So, gather yourselves! There shall come a day when the grip of your hand may fail, when the words trail off the edge of the paper in a senseless line, but it is not this day.

So you can give up and roll back in bed, yes, or you can study, get up and take the final. You may fail, yes, but years from now, as you walk into that interview, do you desire to look back into the past at these finals and regale your prospective employer or graduate school provost with tales of your cowardice or tales of your fight, your struggle, of hours spent slaving away under harsh light, staring at the manifold scribings of ink on pages? Simply remember this: they may take our time, they may take our sanity, but they will never take Winter break!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Thanksgiving Challenge

So, here's what I've challenged myself and my Prayer Group to do:

  1. Each day leading up to Thanksgiving, write at least 10 things for which you are thankful.
  2. On Thanksgiving, take time to read over the list, thanking God in the process.
So, here goes.

Wed 14 Nov. 2012
  • My school - Its Christian morals, faculty, and emphasis
  • My RAs and SLDs
  • My Family - Their safety and their willingness to sacrifice all for Christ
  • That the Gospel may still be shared within the USA
  • That the USA is still "One nation under God," despite what others may say
  • All the Godly men and women in my life (Uncle Alan, Kelvin, Dad, Mom, to name a few)
  • My girlfriend - Both who she is and that she seeks God before me
  • That South Africa has maintained democracy and a relatively low level of corruption
  • That I'll be seeing my sister in a few days
  • The message that Clayton King preached this evening at Campus Church
  • That I'll be seeing my family in less than a month
  • That I'm passing my classes well
  • God's illumination of the Bible, allowing me to more greatly understand His word and His direction
  • My prayer group members
Thurs 15 Nov. 2012
  • Classes are almost finished
  • Thanksgiving for the community at work went well
  • I was able to stay focused/awake through classes
  • I got to talk to Dad today
  • My roommate managed to change his major successfully
  • My girlfriend & I were able to spend some time together before break starts
  • My girlfriend enjoys Lord of the Rings
  • I'm on top of my work
  • Home-cooked meals start in a few days
  • God has kept me safe through the day and the day's travels
  • I'm healthy
Fri 16 Nov. 2012
  • I'm now on Thanksgiving break
  • I'll be driving down towards my sister soon
  • My classes' grades are good
  • Work this week went well
  • I now have time to really dive into God's word
  • I have time to finish papers
  • I'm not driving alone tomorrow
  • I have enough money to pay for the gas for the drive
  • Almost everyone on my hall has had the chance to go home
  • My girlfriend arrived safely at her destination (as far as I know)
Sat. 17 Nov. 2012
  • Making it to my friend's grandparents' house (despite becoming lost)
  • Being able to travel for Thanksgiving
  • Home-cooked meals
  • God's provision & protection over the too-long drive
  • Soft beds
  • The generosity of my professors in not issuing overly much homework during the break
  • The ability to drive my friend to his grandparents
  • The humility to stop and ask for directions
  • Cell phones
  • My friend's grandparents being willing to open their home
  • Brotherly love and community in Christ
  • Company/a navigator during 12 hrs of driving
Sun. 18 Nov. 2012
  • Being able to freely attend church
  • Salvation (Justification, sanctification, and glorification)
  • My workload has diminished slightly
  • Generosity
  • Game nights
  • Southern Hospitality
  • Minimal damage to Jett (the car) after being bumped
  • The ability to read and understand the Bible
  • Professors who objectively examine evolution instead of assuming its validity
  • Being well-fed (despite my hosts' disbelief at "how little" I ate)
  • Having access to clean, running water
Mon. 19 Nov. 2012
  • That, as a Christian, I have the Holy Spirit to counsel and guide me away from sin and to alert me when I begin to stumble (or walk) into sin
  • God's forgiveness
  • The generosity of my current hosts
  • That I have been able to work effectively on homework during this break
  • That God can still use a sinner like me to do His work - the sinner must be genuinely repentant, though. Just qualifying the doctrine here
  • The sanctifying work of salvation that the Holy Spirit works in us as we draw closer to God
  • The strength and comfort of our God when everything's shaken
  • The constant nature of God
  • Brothers in Christ on whom I can lean and rely for Godly counsel and accountability
  • That God is near at all times in all places
Tues 20 Nov. 2012
  • That I have finished my RA application
  • My current RA's wisdom regarding the application & Sharepoint
  • That I don't need loans for university
  • That I was able to pick my sister up from college today
  • That I have a car
  • For my 2nd-cousins for taking me and my sister in
  • The ability to visit with family
  • Family
  • Thanksgiving itself
  • God's overall provision during this break
  • My current homework status
Wed 21 Nov. 2012
  • More homework is done
  • Being able to share a meal with some of my sister's friends
  • Being able to drive
  • Thanksgiving is tomorrow
  • Being able to be with family
  • Good professors
  • Having a place to stay
  • Rest
  • What God has done in my life in the last year
  • What God has planned for me (even though I don't know what it is)

Monday, November 12, 2012

That's It, I'm Gone

I don't know if you've checked the news recently, but it appears that secession fever has hit the U.S.

For you non-Americans, this means that certain states are wanting to remove themselves from the U.S.A. and become their own independent country - a right which is given to the states in the constitution.

This isn't the first time secession has come up in popular conversation: The Hartford convention, during the Madison Administration - Northerners meeting and discussing issues with the government and, off the books, tossing up secession - or the more well-known Civil war in which, for a number of reasons, the Southern states seceded and formed their own confederacy. These are the only two of which I know, but I am no historical scholar either.

The recent secession talks were started by Louisiana and Texas within the first few days after Obama's re-election. In all honesty, I'm not particularly clued up on the reasons given for the official petitions, but I can assure you that it has to do with more than Obama's upcoming 2nd term (though it may be due to some foreseen effects thereof).

What's shocking, though, is the number of states that have joined the secession bandwagon - an astonishing 20 states including, surprisingly, some northern states that elected Obama into office, like New York.

Now, Mr. President, I think this just might be a matter which cannot be overlooked. I implore you to fairly investigate the reasons given for these secession threats, surround yourself with qualified individuals of different political perspectives and liberalities, and tackle the issues raised head-on.

Unless, of course, you want to lose 20 states and be remembered as "Not-Quite-Lincoln".

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"The Most Important Election in U.S. History..."

Well, all the electoral college votes may not yet be in, but the writing's on the wall. Now, I'm not a fan of Obama or what he has and hasn't done as president so far, but, at the same time, if he is to remain president, then I will honor and respect him above my disagreements.

Why is that?

"Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God's command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves." - Romans 13:1-2

Hard enough as it is to swallow, we must remain respectful towards and obedient to the authority over us. In fact, the only time when we as Christians are not to do so is when said government's commands run counter to God.

So God has instituted Obama as POTUS for a second term?

Yes, it appears so. Why, I do not know, but I do know this: God is perfect, in wisdom, goodness, faithfulness, in everything, really. Because of this, I can trust that God has a plan to use Obama as president to ultimately glorify Himself. Beyond that, I have no fear of the future, for I know who holds the future and I know that He works all things ultimately for the good of those you love Him.

So, I implore you, Christians, conservatives, not to gripe and complain about the U.S.'s doom, Obama's shortcomings, or how you're planning to emigrate, but rather to pray. Pray that God would make an impact in Obama's life, that God's will would be done during these next 4 years, and that we, as Christians, would have an attitude of respect and support for Obama and the government, if only for the position.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Eye of the Beholder

As the old adage goes, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," but have you ever stopped to wonder how or why you can appreciate beauty in the first place?

Don't say Evolution.

Evolution is a theory based off of a law of functionality - the Law of Natural Selection, which states:

  1. Variation exists within a species.
  2. Certain variations are more beneficial for survival in certain environments.
  3. The individual with better variations is more likely to survive and thus pas on the variations.
  4. The population will shift over time to the more favorable variation.
Now, I must ask, how does beauty or appreciation of beauty fit into evolution?

For clarity's sake, by beauty, I mean characteristics that serve to make an individual attractive to the opposite sex of the same species. this can take the form of physical expression (decoration, colors, symmetry, etc), vocal expression, or another sort of expression with the sole intent to attract a mate. Pheromones, however, do not precisely qualify, but can also be addressed*.

Well, if one of those traits is already pre-existing, then it is quite evident that the opposite trait would increase the individual's chances of mating and passing on of the trait in question.

This assumption, however, if scrutinized thoroughly under an evolutionary perception, is flawed. After all, for the theory of evolution to fully satisfy the question, we must start from a null point, not from halfway. Therefore, we must start with a theoretical organism that has no beauty or appreciation thereof and one that neither exudes nor receives pheromones. 

Let's start with beauty. From a null point, beauty is relative, therefore a "beautiful" organism in the midst of unappreciative organisms has no advantage save any practical ones possibly lent by the beautiful modification (say, an aid to hunting, swimming, etc). As beauty appreciation is relative, were an organism to achieve a cognitive sense of beauty, that sense would be forced to comply with the immediately surrounding organism, also leaving no true advantage unless the perception of beauty were ascribed to the ability to function.

So, we may concede that functional beauty (beauty derived from a superior functional variation) could possibly have arisen via evolution, but how, then do we explain non-functional adaptations like music, bird plumage, the pleasant arrangement of the natural world? Well, these must be drab, utilitarian constructs we ave come to perceive as beautiful. 

Explain to me, then, a peacock's feather. 

The peacock's feather possesses color due to iridescence, that is, due to the light scattering off of the way the barbs and barbules are arrayed, creating a shimmering hue, not due to dye.

The peacock is color blind. To a peacock, the feather appears as shades of gray.

The question to be asked, then, is what is the point of this beauty? What is its purpose? A fan of feathers whose ornate detail cannot be fully appreciated by its own species seems fairly pointless, no?

Then was the peacock's fan evolved for some other organism?

Hah! Evolution scoffs at this naive idea. There is no purpose to such development, therefore it would not have existed. The only thing it has served to do is attract the attention of humans as objects of beauty who then keep it as pets. 

Then shouldn't ornate peacocks not exist in the wild? Oh, wait.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I beg you to consider that the peacock feather did come about for man's appreciation of beauty; and not only did that feather and the appreciation thereof develop randomly, but that there was explicit design given into the feather and an appreciation for such beauty put in man (after all, this beauty serves no purpose to man other than pleasure, which is not necessary to survival).

While we are on the topic of design, the concept of panspermia only delays the inevitable question of "Whodunnit?"

So, some superior designer created beauty for the sake of beauty in this one instance. 

No, not really. Consider man's whole perception of beauty: we find many traits of organisms outside of our species beautiful. Flower petals, for example, serve to attract bees for pollination, therefore, by evolution, we should have no appreciation of their beauty, yet we do. 
Shall I carry on?

So multiple instances of beauty occur and are designed simply for our appreciation?

Well, yes. 

And no.

The universe wasn't created for our pleasure, but for that of the one who designed it. It just so happens that we, being created sentient, are able to appreciate it. Where I'm going with this is fairly simple: There is a God. He created the universe for His glory, including us. Because we were created in His image, we are able to appreciate the beauty of this creation with the original intent of bringing yet more glory to God.

Does this make sense? I don't want to ramble on, yet I just ask you to consider a piece of art, made by an artist. We look at it and say, "whomever created this is talented." Were we to say that the art brought itself together by pure chance would be an insult.

So, consider the beauty of the world around you. Did that beauty and your appreciation of it really come by chance through a variation? Is it really critical to your survival? I don't think so, and neither, I think, would Darwin.

*Pheromones are chemical hormones that induce a chemical change in the brain, which is a different process and concept from beauty (hence it not being included), but the development thereof could be followed using the same logic.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A.D.- Squirrel!

 So, I was enjoying some time talking with friends and we got started on the topic of ADD and ADHD, but not really about the conditions themselves, but the frequency with which these prognoses are given.

So, to start, I'm going to preface this: I do acknowledge and realize that certain people do, in fact, have these conditions and need medication for them.

My rant is about the quick-fix nature of society that says "My child can't focus. Something's wrong. Doctor, give him a pill!"

Yes, the first two statements are valid, but "Give him a pill!"? Seriously? This idea of looking for a quick fix has become absurd. According to the CDC,

  • The percentage of parent-reported ADHD in children has increased by 22% from 2003-2007.
  • As of 2007, 5.4 million kids have been diagnosed with ADHD.
  • The rate of ADHD diagnosis increased by 3% each year from 1997-2006 and 5.5% per year from 2003-2007.
  • As of 2007, 2.7 million kids with ADHD (66.3% of those diagnosed) were on medication. 1
This is insane.

Here's my question: Given the increasing trends shown, there must be some deeper issue behind the increasing prevalence of ADD/ADHD diagnoses in the US; what is it?

I have two answers that I think may be contributing to the issue.

The first answer is fairly simple, as a society, we have become lazy. We don't want to spend the time teaching ourselves or our kids to focus and push past distraction, so we seek an excuse, a label behind which we can hide. This doesn't excuse us from the responsibility to try, to put in effort. applying a label doesn't solve anything, it becomes merely another layer of whitewash over the crack.

The second answer is a fair bit more complicated. The brain, especially a child's brain, is extremely plastic. What this means is that it easily alters and conforms to different processing patterns depending on the environment. Are you seeing where I am going with this? If you are, you have trained your brain in deductive thinking. It has become increasingly obvious to me that the media and culture of today has affected the attention span of individuals all throughout society, particularly those of the generation that is just now reaching their adolescence.

In a simple case of input = output, we can see the effect of mass media on the brain. today's media consists of multiple short soundbytes and video clips that are no longer than 5 or 6 minutes. In addition, due to the nature of the internet, if one doesn't like what one is watching, one can merely change the page and search for something else. Society's desire for quick-fix hedonism has affected the way we interact with the world and the media has willingly obliged, moving with the zeitgeist in order to maintain and grow their followers. Ever more ring Cobain's words in my ears when I think of society today.

"Here we are now, entertain us."
Okay, so what does this have to do with ADD/ADHD? Simply this: we are training our brains and the brains of the younger generations to have a short attention span, to focus on one thing for a mere few minutes before moving on to the next. As a tutor, I see these tendencies play out as the kids I work with seek constant diversion every few minutes. Even when doing fun, entertaining tasks, like reading or assembling a puzzle, I see these children starting, getting bored, doing something else, and then returning to the puzzle multiple times. I'm not that old, I'm only 21, but I remember as a kid sitting through an entire book or working through an entire 300 piece puzzle in one sitting.

Alright, so I've ranted long enough. What do I propose we do? It's fairly simple: train the minds of the generations to come. The Bible mentions this concept in Proverbs 22:6. We need to train our children (or, in my case, future children) how to focus. We need to engage them in activities which stimulate the mind, allowing an active engagement, and promoting a long attention span.

"How can I do this?" "What type of activities do you mean?"

Well, for starters, TURN OFF THE TV! One of the things I am, in hindsight, extremely grateful to my parents for doing is limiting the amount of TV I could watch each day. I had 2 hours tops each day. So I had to choose what I wanted to watch: a certain show or two or a movie later with the family. They also previewed and monitored what I was watching to make sure that it consisted of shows, mostly educational, that were beneficial, or at worst, non-degrading to the person they desired for me to become.

The second thing to do, after turning off the TV, is to engage your kids in constructive, lengthy activities. Read a book, put together a puzzle, make an imaginary fort out of sheets, work in the garden, or something else by which you can spend quality time with your kids and encourage mental stimulation. Mental stimulation? Yes. Reading is a very active pasttime, mentally, so is assembling a puzzle or imaginary play. "You left out gardening." I was getting there. Gardening can be a manifold lesson: it can teach discipline, perseverance, patience, and the joy of finishing a task. These activities and more are all things I remember fondly from my childhood, not so much the individual TV shows I watched or the video games I played.

So, I would strongly encourage you, put away the remote and start actively putting into your children (or plan for your future children) the ideals and actions you wish to see from them in the future.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll see the excessive ADD/ADHD diagnoses start to fall...

1 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. accessed 18/10'/2012.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sinners in the Hands of an [Loving] God

At the beginning of the Great Awakening in the American colonies, a minister, John Edwards, delivered a sermon that initiated and set the tone for this movement. His sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" caught his congregation by the throat and initiated a period of deep spiritual self-analysis, collective analysis, and renewal.

Here's the interesting part: the spirit of the times pre-Awakening was remarkably similar to our modern times. Many of the social and economical ills were as prevalent then as they are now. (Yes, some ills, such as the pro-choice and pro-homosexuality movements, were not even considered as ideas worth following. Other concepts, like the philosophy and religious apathy developing from the Enlightenment movement were almost cut copy from modern articles and concepts).

What's different, though, is Edwards' approach. Where the modern church takes the route of least offense and melodious offerings, Edwards went straight for the jugular. He spoke about God's wrath.

Yes. He went there. Today, if a pastor of a major church were to speak about punishment and wrath, about damnation and the futility of human endeavours towards salvation, he would be under so much fire from his church, the media, and those outside the church that he might wish he was in hell just so he could escape from the heat.

There's just something uncomfortable about hearing about such matters. For you guys, it ranks up there with watching the [male] protagonist of a movie taking a cheap shot to the crown jewels. Ladies, I'm sorry, but I can think of nothing that, to you, would resonate with such clarity.

Here's the question: why doe we avoid talking about God's wrath and punishment?

It's like talking about the judicial system in the US as a friendly body of men who keep the citizens from being murdered, stolen from, etc. It's true, yes, but it's such a roundabout way of saying what they do. They sentence people to punishment for murdering, stealing, etc.

Similarly, God punishes us for sinning and oh, does God hate sin. It's part of who He is, holy. He CANNOT abide sin. This isn't a mediocre upset stomach or gag reflex. This isn't a mild distaste. This is a deep loathing. God abhors our sinful state and, if that isn't remedied, He would gladly send us to eternal punishment to remove the stench of sin from His presence.

Now, in light of that "unpleasantry", is the mercy and love of God truly shown for the magnanimity that it is. The fact that God would sacrifice his Son to be the perfect punishment-bearer for our sin becomes that much more astounding.

So, how about some fire and brimstone?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Iron Brotherhood

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
- Proverbs 27:17

Today, I was reminded of one of the reasons why we humans live in community and why we Christians put so much emphasis on fellowship.

Let me just start this off by saying that I am thankful for my leadership team that I have this year. There are a number of really great guys on the hall, getting to know whom has been an immense pleasure.

Of these, there's one particular person that I've clicked with. [I'll leave him anonymous for anonymity's sake, sorry] Now, we both have the same U.S. History Survey class and we were meeting up to study for an upcoming test <cough... erm... tomorrow>. Afterwards, we started chatting and just rambling through a ton of different topics, ranging from evolution (the bias in textbooks, logical fallacies committed [straw man, oversimplification], general holes in the autonomy of the theory that, to me as a Christian biology student*, scream "God works here!"), to the state of the church, to the efficacy of short term missions, to toxic charities/missions trips, Convocation, how God has worked in the past and recently, etc.

Needless to say, we rambled and it was a good rambling. It brought to mind the verse written above and I thought about it anew. Too often Christians use this and limit this to the context of accountability, but, in all honesty, it's about living in community and engaging in meaningful conversation with people. When you're doing this, you're guaranteed to come across different views, or a facet of your thoughts or ideas you had never before considered. In these ways, we temper each other and, well, sharpen each other. we hone our edges, wearing away the rough edges into a clean, sharp razor.

*I would love to engage in reasonable, intelligent discussion about evolution/science from a Christian lens vs. an evolutionist lens

Friday, September 21, 2012

For the Sake of It

So, I've realized that I haven't really posted anything up in quite a while...

I'm not particularly surprised about that. Seeing as I usually only update when a major thought or event happens, this must have been a dull last few months.

Not really.

I just haven't been overly moved that I HAD to blog about it else I'd die. (also, you'll notice that Devo Notes, my quiet time blog, has gone on hiatus. That, though, is partly due to a lack of updates and partly due to a change in the way I do quiet times)

Overall, frankly, I just fell out of the blogging mood.

"So, why now?"

Good question. Thanks for asking. Basically, I'm updating to get back into the groove of updating. Does that make sense? If it doesn't, too bad.

Finally, for those curious peoples, what I've been doing in the meantime while my blogsite has gone neglected:

  • Working at camp (archery, field hockey, guitar, international team games, team games, etc)
  • Student Leadership training
  • Classes
  • Next Steps (a retreat run by my school for students committed to full-time missions)
  • Classes
Yeah, that's about it. If anything tickles your fancy and you want to hear more about it, just leave a message.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

There and Back Again

So, as many of you readers have been aware, I took a trip to Brazil a couple of weeks ago.
What you may not be aware of is how it went.

To supplement the video, Let me give you a brief breakdown of the overall trip:
11 Days (9 on the River)
14 Villages (1 first visit) (Don't ask how many miles traveled - I have no clue.) [Route on right]
1 Doctor
1 Optometrist
2 Nurses
1 PA
14 College Students (+ 2 Leaders)
3 Missionaries
3 Translators
1194 Patients
2446 Prescriptions Given
393 Pairs of Glasses Given
2 Conversions
3 Sermons
3 Skits
4 Testimonies

Now, if you're satisfied, read no further, but, if you're like me, those numbers don't say a thing. For the sake of the unsatisfied, let me give you a trip highlights reel (Richmond to Richmond):

Day 0 (13 May) - Travel via bus to Centreville, VA (closer to DC than R/mond - and an excuse to visit a friend)

Day 1 (14 May) - Meet at Dulles Int. Airport (IAD) at 6:33am (hence my pitstop previously) Fly to Panama City (Tocumen Int. Airport - PTY). Fly to Manaus (Eduardo Gomes Int. Airp. - MAO). Met some of the missionaries there along with two of our translators. Got on a bus to Itacoatiara.

Day 2 (15 May) - Arrived at the missionaries' house outside of Itacoatiara (aka the Last Homely House, to continue the The Hobbit mimicry) at 1 am. Boarded our boat and turned in for the night. Travel then began at 6am for the rest of the day to reach our first village [Name to be given later, sorry]. We didn't set up as it was ~ 6:30pm. During the trip, we also divided vitamins, tums, & ibuprofen)

Day 3 (16 May) - Went in to the first village in the morning, then worked in the second village, [name], in the afternoon. Worked with kids in both sessions - singing songs, playing sports, flannelgraph stories, & gospel presentations (a la evangicubes)

Day 4 (17 May) - Again, visited two villages: [name} in the morning and [name] in the afternoon. In these villages I worked with the medical team, assisting one of our nurses. We also visited a casa de farinha and watched manioc being processed into farinha.

Day 5 (18 May) - Two more villages: [name] & [name]. This time, working in the pharmacy under our other nurse. We also did a skit & sermon in the morning village.

Day 6 (19 May) - [name] in the morning and [name] in the evening. Worked in the medical clinic again, incidentally under a doctor who's also a paediatrician (awesome!). We had a house call, too, which we had to reach by boat - pretty awesome. We also made a quick splint and sling for one man whose arm had been broken.

Day 7 (20 May) - Last day working in the medical clinics - worked with our PA in São Pedro and Vila Nova. We had a boat call in the first (kinda like a house call, 'cept on a boat) and testimonies, a skit, and a sermon in the second

Day 8 (21 May) - Back with the kids! playing soccer, painting faces, spreading the Gospel, and having fun. [name] in the morning and [name] in the afternoon. We also did a service (testimonies, skit, & sermon) in the evening village.

Day 9 (22 May) - Only one village today. We traveled to Nossa Senhora de Fatima. The Parkers (our missionaries) had never been allowed in that village until now. This was the first trip into this village, so we were opening a door for them. I was working with our optometry clinic. We then traveled to, but did not set up in, Monte Cristo, our last village

Day 10 (23 May) - Monte Cristo was another optometry trip. We then traveled back to Itacoatiara, bought a few souvenirs (or, some did), and stopped back through the Last Homely House for our first hot shower in ages. Bus ride back to Manaus, then taking off from MAO late in the night.

Day 11 (24 May) - 12 Hr layover in PTY before flying on to IAD.

Day 12 (25 May) - Arrive at IAD at midnight (woohoo). Head to the DC bus station to catch my 6:20 bus back to richmond. Then, Laundry Time!

For the whole collection of trip pics, click here: 1, 2, 3, 5, & 6 (I have no clue what happened to 4)
Or find more videos here: 1

Thank you all for your support and prayers! God bless and please keep the Parkers and their ministry in your prayers!


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Status Change

There comes a time in a young man's life when a certain member of the opposite gender catches his eye...

Okay, enough with the dry, dusty Life Orientation lesson... Basically, I'm now in a dating relationship and we're taking it seriously.

It's become so common recently for people to date/marry then break up shortly afterwards. I mean, it was only a few months ago that Kim and whatshisname married and a few days later divorced. I look at all of this and wonder sometimes, "Why?" Why do so many people fall in love and call it quits as though they were changing clothes?

I look and see it stemming from a problem of perception. The perception, or more accurately, misperception, is that a relationship ultimately exists to satisfy "me".

Right now, at that statement, many would decry this saying, "You misjudge me!" or, "You judge too harshly"

Yes, I judge harshly. A relationship should be and is a serious matter. Let me give my justification:

  1. A relationship is about more than the "feeling". That feeling of love, attraction, affection that you have/had, it will fade, hopefully to give way to something greater, with work. Isn't this such a selfish motive, pursuing a relationship for how it makes you feel? Yet, many people fall into the feeling trap, breaking up because they don't feel the same way anymore.
  2. A relationship is mutual. Many times people going into a relationship expecting to be served, but not prepared to serve. That is commensalism (one benefits, the other is neither benefited nor harmed) at best, but usually it tends to become parasitic (one benefits, the other is harmed). Again, this is selfishness.
  3. A relationship requires manipulation. No, not the maneuvering, scheming, destructive manipulation, but manipulation as in work, effort, and problem solving. Relationships take work, yet so often people expect to not have to do work and be able to sit back with everything given to them. Again, selfishness.
Okay, so that's my rant about relationships. Now, for those of you expecting me to do a flipside and talk about what relationships are, go and re-read the three M's. Yeah, that's right, I just killed two birds with one (okay, three) stone.

So, my challenge to both the reader and myself: Build a good relationship with my girlfriend (or you with your significant other) by being committed beyond the feelings, giving equal to what I'm receiving, and working to strengthen the relationship.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

GO! (or, let me ask you a question)

I was talking with a friend earlier tonight about the church. We talked about many things ranging from complacency to 1st world/3rd world differences to "Country Club" church culture in the Western world. One big sticking point to which we kept returning was the idea of complacency and what we should be doing.

Regarding complacency, we talked, talked, and talked some more and we came to the point of realizing that we couldn't peg down what was the key cause of complacency. We tossed up Western culture, status as a Christian nation, wealth, comfort, and a multitude of other options. We also couldn't figure out why some individuals dedicate so much time to the church, learning, growing, and serving, yet they rarely talk of Christ or Christianity outside of church and then usually only in the context of their church.

Let me ask you a question. In a legal setting, if someone knows critical information about a case under investigation/trial, but refuses to divulge this, what happens to the person?

Now, let me ask you another question. If you knew a specific person was going to die today, would you tell them and try to avert their death? On whose head would the blame lie if you don't tell and the individual dies?

Let me bring to your attention the words of God:
"As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from My mouth, give them a warning from Me. If I say to the wicked, 'Wicked one, you will surely die,' but you do not speak out to warn him of his way, that person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood." - Ezekiel 33:7-8
Now, let me ask you a third question. Readers who associate with the Christian faith (i.e. you who call yourselves Christians), when last did you convey God's warning to the people around you?

"What warning?"
Why, the warning that every man is born sinful and destined for eternal death and hell.  Yes. I just said hell. It's a real place and it's where anyone who hasn't accepted Christ as their lord and their saviour is destined to go.

Let me ask you yet another question, or rather, let me allow Penn Jillette, who, at the time of this clip, was not a Christian (I don't know if he currently is one) to ask the question.

"How much do you have to hate someone to not tell them about Jesus?"
"Okay, fine, but please tell me this, why should I go and tell some complete stranger?"
It's a direct command from Christ.

  • Matthew 28:18-20
  • Mark 16:15
  • Luke 24:46-47
  • John 21:20
  • Acts 1:8
These are 5 different accounts of Christ's last words before His ascension. Nowhere in them is there the idea that this is an option. It is a direct command to preach the Gospel to the world. You don't have to go to some foreign country either. You can start right now at the 7-Eleven down the road.

"But evangelism isn't one of my spiritual gifts!"
Well, fortunately for you, evangelism isn't a spiritual gift. Romans 12 nor 1 Corinthians 12 speak of evangelism as a gift. It is an imperative action. It is something we must do.

"But I'm saved by grace, not by works."
Correct you are, but let's check out James 2:14-26. (verse 26 below)
". . . 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead"
Evangelism, being a work stemming from one's faith, is an integral part to Christianity. Evangelism is the vehicle by which word of God is spread. Were it not for evangelism, Christianity would not have spread all throughout the Roman Empire in a few hundred years.

Penny for your thoughts?

For more information about missions, evangelism, and unreached people groups worldwide, check out these sites:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Point of Exchange

Have you ever had a moment where you said to God, "I have no clue what to do or how to do it."?

I can say most certainly that I have. I'm sitting here, on my dorm floor, thinking and praying about each of the guys in my prayer group and I come to realize that many things that are happening in their lives are things beyond my experience. Sure, I could give speculative advice or advice to seek other, wiser counsel, but I cannot give advice from my own experience. It's a sense almost like futility when you realize that something is beyond you.

But, that being said, it is precisely at this point where I realize that I need to hand this over to God. I have reached the point where I can do no more and that everything is in God's hands. Come to think of it, it's most definitely better that way. I'm a fallible, flawed, finite individual whereas God is infallible, indefectible, and infinite.

It's a humbling experience, and a breaking one at that, when you realize your limited capability, but  the sense of peace that is present when God says "I got this." is breathtaking. My guys are in good hands - God's hands

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New-ish Blog Developments

In case some of you were wondering exactly what some of the new changes on the blog were, here's a basic rundown:
  • Regarding the new images on the side panel: each of those is two things. 
    • Each is an image representing a charity I endorse and, when money's a bit more available, support.
    • Each image is also a link to that organization's website, allowing you to read more of what they do as well as giving you the option to donate (this isn't the first time, either - see Happy Thanksgiving, Pay It Forward)
  • Regarding the page tabs up top, those are, respectively:
    • This blog, 
    • Information about and a link to my devotional notes blog, 
    • Information about and a donation link to the missions trip of which I'm a part, and 
    • The newest page is about and contains a donation link for Restore Rwanda - an initiative started by my school to build a school in a "Widow's village".
So, yeah. Check all of this cool new-ish stuff out!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Good News (of great joy)!


(Well, all of my portion, anyway)

If you can't tell, I'm kinda over the moon about this, which is why I announced it in block caps and followed it with a clip of the most awesome Yaaay-er saying "Yaaaaaaaaaay."

In all seriousness, though, I am extremely grateful to God for bringing together everything I needed for this trip and I am thankful, also for each person/church who contributed:
Michael Kiley
Jamie Soto
Pam Brownfield
Joan Barylski
Dave Evans
Russ King
Jono Warning
Doug & Louise Lee
Living Word Baptist Church
Brittany Ehret
Rodwin Spruel
George Sisson
Broadus Memorial Baptist Church
Sheri Shaw
Bryce Erickson
Eldorette Isaacson
Peter & Barbie Anderson
Flo Meintjies
Martha Moses
"Puchie" Mantlo
Black Creek Baptist Church
Paul & Kimberly Rush
Edna Arnold
Carina Keyzer
Nancy Wicker
First Baptist Church, Somerville, TN
(I also have this niggling feeling that I may have forgotten someone or -two. my apologies and many thanks!)

Let me encourage you, also to not stop donating. any excess money I raise helps other teammates raise their money. Or, you could even donate to them directly. The "Missions Trip" page, above, has instructions on how to donate and you can find the rest of my teammates here.

Second lastly, please continue to pray for this trip and our team as we finish training and fundraising. Please pray also, from 14-24 May, for this trip - travels, health, evangelism, etc.

Lastly, Liberty University is raising money to build a school in an impoverished village in Rwanda that's still suffering the aftereffects of the 1994 massacre. We need to raise a minimum of $22000 to build the school and pay for the students' 1st year. For more information or to donate, check the Restore Rwanda page tab, above!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Give Where It's Due

Some of you may have read my recently reposted old post, "The One About Respect..." Well, recently, I've come across a Bible passage that reminded me of this post and the reason for which I posted it.

Here in America, there is not really a culture of respect. There's very little sense of one's place or position in comparison to the others and it shows itself in diverse ways. One of the most obvious examples is the blatant disrespect of the current POTUS and his cabinet. In fact, much of this disrespect you can find on billboards or shop ads. I see them and I wonder that no-one even considers it abuse of free speech. To show you what I mean, here are a few images that can be seen in various places (some of them are mildly offensive, just warning you)*:

These are in no way the extent of the images, nor are they my personal opinion and perspective (as I shall shortly explain). What type of government allows such messages to be displayed? The same on that still allows rebel flags to be flown and talk of a second Southern rebellion to exist (more on the absurdity of allowing quashed rebellions to linger as "history" and "Southern Pride")

Now, I'm not saying that the government needs to clamp down on freedom of speech, I think free speech is a wonderful thing. What I'm saying is that Americans need to show some discretion and moderation in their use and abuse of free speech. This all boils down to that respect problem I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.

In South Africa, where I grew up, there's a much larger sense of respect present. You see it all through school, in work, and even in the general public atmosphere. People respect each other and are, to a greater or lesser degree, polite to others. Students learn to respect their upperclassmen, prefects, and teachers. Employees carry that same respect and apply it to their bosses. Even in politics, there will be talks of dissent or disapproval with the current party/president, but very few would attack the government or president in the same manner or to the same degree., see*:
That's pretty much the extent of anti-Zuma or -ANC media present on the interwebs (excepting political cartoons, they're a different matter) again, they do not reflect my personal opinion.

Looking at the respect issue, I think it boils down to what you deem important. In America, there's a strong sense of self-centredness, which boils down to "I am the most important.", "I need x.", or "You need to pay attention to me."". In South Africa, however, there is a concept called "Ubuntu" (no, not the Linux OS), which can be defined as "I am human because you are human." This other-centred social awareness is much more beneficial to a respect-filled society.

Lastly, for those still not swayed, I have Biblical reasoning, too. In Romans 13:1-7 we are told to:

  • submit to the government over us as it was instituted by God.
  • obey the law over us as it is for our protection.
  • pay to the government what it is due whether that be money, respect, or honor.
Before you say "The Government does not deserve respect," were we not just told to submit to our authorities? Why would we be told to do that if they were not of a higher station than us? So, then, since the government is a higher station, automatically some respect is deserved from the general populace to the government for no other reason than the inherent nature of the position. (also, some responsibility is deserved from the government to the populace, but that's also another issue for another time)

So please, America, is it so hard to respect your president/government?

*I declined to use political cartoons as they use irreverence to make a sharp point at a prevailing issue and are forms of satire, not anti-x media.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mission Trip Update & Prayer Request

Hey, I'd like to ask all of you to please pray for me. Tomorrow I'll be speaking to my church about the missions trip to Brazil of which I'm a part. I'll be asking for prayer and financial support.
Also, there is still still need a sizeable amount of money which needs to be raised for this trip (again you can donate for the trip here -> Donate). The last update I had received for the funds came a month ago in which I had $1290 of the $2925 needed for the trip.

If you want, you can also follow the mission trip update page.