Wanted to take the time to update you all from the Teen Mission USA blog. This will get you the information on what is happening and how you might help or join them for a trip if you feel so inclined. TM is a missions group I have supported before and highly recommend them for your missions ventures.
I found this to be very interesting on a blog I keep up with. Now he talks about it in relation to the church and its often tricky organizational turns, but this stuff could be true of any organization. So perhaps it will sound familiar no matter your current people place.
I was recently given the pleasure of being asked to respond to three questions for a lady who is taking a world religion course at her school. The questions were all about why I believe what I believe or how I might explain my position.
It made me think of how important it is to have an answer to those questions. And what would you say if you were asked these questions as well?
Here are the questions you can answer:
1. Tell me about a religious experience you have had that made you who you are today.
Most spiritual journeys do not contain some flash of light or “Paul on the Damascus Road” moments. Most are built on a foundation of time or the very simple yet profound message of Jesus Christ and Salvation. My story is just that kind of story. I was raised in a home in which our life in the church was very important. It was a foundation for activity. Still my spiritual growth did not take off until much later. Though my attendance in church was impeccable I did not understand the true gospel message until much later when I was told the true meaning of Jesus Christ and His Saving Grace. It is then that I found out this real understanding. That God created man as an extension of His Glory and for His good pleasure, but man being created to freely choose to love or not love chose to not love by going outside the standard that God set. The true definition of love is seen by God’s creation when they choose to obey the God who created them. Having chosen to go their own way creation was subject then to sin and death b/c the Holy God of the Universe could not endure disobedience. Thus, he proceeds to carry out His plan to save that which through out history would continue to rebel. God seeing that man with every movement of the heart was bent toward sin had to provide restoration that would absolve man from the feeble attempt at reaching God’s Standard on their own power. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “we saved by grace through faith its not by works but by God so that no one can boast.” Having come to an understanding of my own sin and unfortunate destiny b/c of all the things I had done wrong be they large or small I came to an understanding that I needed the shed blood of Jesus Christ to cover my sins and redeem me before a mighty God. By going to the Cross and dying Jesus paid a penalty that I could not pay. Then he rose again the third day to defeat death. This is my story. No “experience” is complete unless a person comes to the realization that they have broken God’s commands just as the first people did and having been proven over and over again through out history that redemption on man’s efforts is futile God has provided a way to be saved, by falling at the feet of the cross seeing that only the gracious substitution in my place for what I have done wrong will save. That is the biggest and most important experience in my life.
2. Could you tell me a story or two that might attempt to describe your understanding of an Ultimate Reality or a higher power?
1. The first factor that brings me to a conclusion of an ultimate reality is the Bible. God’s Word proven time and time again both spiritually and logically to be inspired of God and from God in everyway. Its words speak practical and spiritual truths that have proved time and again to be the proper bases for a foundation of faith. No other manuscript can boast of its preservation and accuracy as this book. It is only by the maintaining hand of God that such a preservation is possible. The words found in it today are the same found at the very beginning. it is this Word that tells me God is real and the higher power that I rely on for truth.
2. The Bible tells us that creation itself testifies that there is a creator. When I see all that is created, despite the reality of the imperfection of sin, we see something that simply cannot be created out of circumstance or accidental occurrences. There is a intelligent hand in the creation we see around us. There must be more to it than happenstance. If we look around and even the simplest of cells or the dna of any animal we soon see there is a code and complexity that makes the smartest of scientist stand in awe of its design. So my mind logically cannot get around anything that is less than a Holy and intelligent God who created with His own power a universe that works in order and pattern. I simply don’t have enough faith to believe in an accidental explosion or nothing at all.
3. What might you tell other people about your religious or spiritual experience that is most important to know?
Question one is the best place to go back and answer this question from. There is no other beginning point than for them to begin by knowing there is a loving and caring Creator God who created us, but there is a need for redemption b/c this creation has turned from God. Only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ can one find Salvation from Sin and Death. Our own merit cannot do it, hope that another god might be the answer cannot save us, and we simply cannot rely on the hope that whether we make a decision to be saved or not God will just up and save us. We cannot be fooled into thinking we can just squeak in. If a person learns anything from what I say that is the first thing they should know.
Received a new member of the family today. Very nice and loving dog named Honey. That was her name at the kennel and at a year old seems too hard to try and change now. She is a Labrador. She is very loving and very kind. We look forward to our new life together.
There has been a great deal of debate over the last few months over the issue of Christian Yoga. Can a Christian engage in the act of yoga and not hinder their Christian faith in anyway? This is a good question considering yoga at its purest forms draws and involves many eastern practices including Hinduism and Buddhism. Practices that the Christian does not hold as true to God’s Word, the Bible.
I read the articles and watched the programs and more or less wrote it off as being a big NO! Sure I knew in my heart of hearts that you could do it and potentially get around it but why take the risk. But something made me change my mind and consider the alternative or the notion that it could be done if the act of yoga was understood for what it was and not blindly taken on.
On our mission trip to Beattyville, Ky I talked to a lady down there who does quote “Christian Yoga.” She suffers from debilitating arthritis and thus needs some form of stretching that will move and stretch muscles. So severe was her condition that she was sure if she was not performing these moves she would be in bed most of the time. Now there wasn’t any magic in the moves or any other spiritual connection that made her feel better but instead just a simple understanding that the moves stretch the body and make her feel much better b/c those muscles that grow tight and tender can be exercised.
I asked her though the obvious question, “Why yoga and how do you do it w/out the wrong spiritual focus coming into play?”
- First she said that she started yoga with a non-Christian class. She said yes she knew about yoga and knew the pitfalls. She said that when they did the meditation parts she was resolved to sit and pray to God during that time. She even was upfront with her co-students that that is what she did.
- A second thing that stood out to me clearly was she understood yoga for what it was. She said she knew going in that some of the negatives of yoga such as the art of emptying yourself was bad b/c the Bible says if we empty ourselves of all things inside and do not keep ourselves full of the presence of God it opens us up to many outside spiritual things coming in. She was informed about the dangers it posed if she were not careful. That is why she took the time to know the activity she was about to engage in.
- Thirdly, in time she simply opened her own place. Once she was certified she opened her own class so that she no longer had to conform to what a non-Christian teacher taught. She was free to gear the class toward what its main focus was and then invite other sceptical Christians who needed this form of exercise for its purely physical benefits to join her.
It was certainly a interesting conversation we had and opened my eyes to the understanding that if done right one can do this and still keep strong to the faith. Certainly though I would lay out a word of caution b/c I know that this is a case that is the exception and not the rule. Many…TOO MANY, go into something like this thinking that it will be ok and its not ok b/c of the spiritual pitfalls. So be careful maybe seek out a Christian circle who does yoga but investigate to see if they do it and eliminate the eastern spiritualism’s that can cause complications.
In Acts 2 & 4 we read of what the 1st Century church was like at Jerusalem. We read of a gathering of believers who were a true community. They did things together daily in a very close and personal way. Ways that produced close community and a togetherness that set a perfect example of what the body of Christ should be on many levels.
Fast forward to our time. In the west we focus primarily on Independence and doing. Thus many times we don’t have that Godly fellowship that we see playing out in Acts. Now I’m not saying that churches who meet two or three times a week do not build community. They can but b/c there is still distance and business that can often fall short of the beauty Christ had in store when we established the church. I know many churches have strived to work community into the church if they feel it is lacking but I still see there being some failings in it.
I say all this b/c recently I was able to be part of my favorite environment that so closely produces the Acts church community, our mission trip. A mission trip is the only time were I felt we came as close as we have to the community that the 1st Church had and the community God desires us to have to experience the full benefit of fellowship together. I enjoyed every moment of it. We laughed together, worked hard together, ministered together, stressed together and even gathered around one of our fallen team members together.
Here is how the comparison works out based on the Acts 2 & 4 example:
- They devoted themselves to the Apostles teachings and fellowship
During the morning we had personal devotion and in the evening we had a time of singing and devotion again. We were dedicated to spending time together in worship and learning.
Also, and I say this honestly I don’t recall too many times during the week that we conversed about the things of the world. I am sure we did. But I do recall many conversations that were directed toward our lives in the Lord. The issue of what style of music brings Glory to God. Can we limit that. The issue of the creation of the world by God. Is it 6 literal days or was the time between day one and two longer b/c God had not marked time as we know it by the sun and moon in its rotation. Many other conversations came from out talks. True community is not talking about who won the big game or how big your big screen tv is but true community comes when we grow closer talking about the Lord.
- All the believers were together and have everything in common.
I can’t recall much time when we were apart. Sure sleeping and other necessary private moments, but otherwise we were together on the job, at vbs, even an evening just sitting around was enjoyably spent laughing at the many farm like animals the Missions Directors grand daughter had. It was a time to laugh. We also worked together to provide food and everyone worked hard to be a team player so that everyone would be benefited by the hard work. There is just something very important about constant time together.
- They broke bread together and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
Meals have always been a big part of any community. One thing that was a significant part of our time together was the working together to prepare our food and then to sit down and eat it together.
- All the believers were of one heart and mind.
Being on the same page is so important for the success of a trip. In the 1st church the want to make sure there was unity was important as well. I found that we were the most unified team I have ever been part of. Even in times of strife we banded together to be united.
I remember one time we had to discuss the differing views about when to stop working for the week. Thursday afternoon or Friday. The typical group stops on Thursday and cleans up the site that afternoon. But some feeling the wish to continue to work hard for the people there wished to go on into Friday. As a community should we brought it to light and talked about it openly finding compromise in the area. We decided to work all day Thursday and go back and clean up Friday morning. This compromise was discussed as it should. Fairly and finding a balance that would work for all.
- Togetherness brings a love for each other that sacrifices.
Close to the end of the trip one of our own fell and tore his ACL. It has become a common injury in our time. But what was great to see is even in such a stressful moment this group banded together to work well together. B/c of the remote area we were in the person had to be air lifted out to the closest hospital. And as a team and community we all drove the hour and a half to the hospital to be with our fallen comrade. We did not return home until 3:30am. But this team would have it no other way.
In the end I think the best way to experience community for all its great moments and moments of stress you must do a mission trip. I can’t promise it will always go well b/c community sometimes is ugly and rough but if you want to see what the first church was like in its intimacies then you should go.
On mission trips often times you are taken away from things that though not bad might be good to either get used to not doing as much or not do at all.
On the trip there is no tv, radio, distractions and for me COFFEE!
Now I did have a cup here and there. But not to the extent I do when I am in the office or at the coffee shop.
But when I got back home I was feeling good. Caffiene can really drag me down b/c its a high then a low situation. So I tried so hard to keep from it.
Well today I worked my usual morning shift at the coffee shop. Hard habits die hard. I have had probably 6 shots of espresso. Pretty jumpy now. Really too jumpy to type this blog out.
Reminds me of my favorite coffee related quote:
“Sometimes I annoy myself and to make matters worse I drank too much coffee and I’m annoying myself. He’s trying desperatly to say absolutely nothing but very loudly.” Dave Matthews.
Above is the team of Southside Christian Church and El Bethel Christian Church serving at the Church of Christ.
As a trip coordinator and subsequent recruiter one of the hardest things to do it tell people adequately what it is like to go on a mission trip. What it feels like and what excitement awaits those who go and take the time to serve. I tell them its like no other service experience.
A Mission Trip is in everyway much like the joy of the first church we see in Acts 2:
- They live together having all things in common
- They serve together growing in faith
- They grow from teaching and learning
- They grow from just spending time with each other in a very close intimate enviorment.
For those who do go I continue to tell them to be patient b/c there will come a day on the trip when the excitement and the preparation for something special to happen does happen.
On this trip we had several who had never went. By Wednesday night I could hear them talking about how the building projects were going and how much fun they were having at the evening VBS. I had to smile b/c they got it. They understood fully the excitement that comes with going on a mission trip and giving yourself wholly to service.
Though this is a trip that has many facits that bring satisfaction as a leader and a Christian this is a important moment for me. To see what we have been preparing them to see for months start to come out in their mission experience.
It is a blessing to see Christians grow to be something they may not have been just a few short days before. God is good.
And if you have never been on a Mission Trip, just trust me on this one, GO!
As previously stated in my other blog entry (click here)we took at trip down to Beattyville, Ky and worked on a familes house that needed to be completed b/c the husband/father of the house was disabled. We also were blessed to work with a local church and do a VBS with them.
Sometimes its hard to know when to respond or just listen. I think this is even harder to control for guys who will start thinking of how to fix it. This is even harder for guys with wives who just want you to listen instead of fixing it.
Advice at times is often very hard to give simply b/c sometimes none is needed.
A friend of mine, Insipid Garbage wrote a great entry on this very subject. We often have to understand that at times maybe nothing more needs to be said. But as you read this I would also say that if you are getting advice when you want just an ear to hear keep in mind with patience and love that the person probably just wants the best for you and their problem solving skills are their way of saying they care