Christmas is all about…

•December 22, 2007 • 3 Comments

I don’t like malls. In my opinion, they are places designed to do one thing: to make you discontent. When you walk through a mall, you are immediately faced with the “reality” that you are not as cool and certainly not as good looking as everyone else [Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister]. Your car is old [Saturn], and you need a bigger house [RealOne]. Your hair is ugly [MasterCuts], you are fat [GNC], stupid [B. Dalton Bookstore], and hungry [Food Court]. Oh, and by the way, your shoes [Finish Line, Payless], hat, [Lidz], sunglasses [Sunglasses Hut], and underwear [Victoria Not-So-Secret] all suck. And you stink [Bath & Body Works].

I work at a mall.

The Christmas sign on the front window of Finish-Line sums it up very nicely: “Walking in a winter Want-It land!” No kidding. Whoever thought of that line was pretty witty, although I don’t think it’s the best marketing scheme. It makes me not want to ever shop there. But I digress.

On Black Friday the store I work at did nearly $80,000 of sales. Based on that alone, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that all together the stores at the mall did over a $1,000,000 worth of business in that one day. Based on the numbers I heard from a team that just came back from Africa, that amount of money would feed roughly 83,000 orphans in Kenya for one year. Eighty-three THOUSAND kids – kids who are starving right now, as you read this. What I spent on a smoothie today would feed one of them for four months.

Don’t think that I am not against buying Christmas presents, because I’m not. What I am against is people who claim to be followers of Christ misusing what God has entrusted to them, especially during the time that we are supposed to set aside to remember that God gave everything to redeem us. We just have to keep the main thing the main thing.

And don’t think that I am against Christmas, because I’m certainly not… see tomorrow’s post for my argument in favor of Christmas. I love Christmas, with a passion. I love (ALMOST) everything about it, mostly the atmosphere, the music, and the expectation, and the joy of seeing my family enjoy the things that I have purchased for them. I have spent some of the money God has entrusted me with in the last few nights on Christmas presents for people that I love. But we must keep the focus the focus.

Here’s a good verse to keep you focused on His mission on earth (and to keep you humble!)

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

So, in the comments, throw out some ideas about how to celebrate the Christmas season, A.L. style!

Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve! 😉

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Longing

•October 16, 2007 • 4 Comments

This week I am staying at home and having as little contact with other humans as possible. My family is gone, I don’t have to go anywhere, I can just stay home. I want it to be a time where I can focus on catching up with some things (such as blogging, for instance!), and time just to be still, put away all the noise that distracts me, pray, read, and listen to God’s voice.

The hardest part of this is that I am not talking to my fiancé Kay this week. It’s Tuesday night. It’s been 48 hours since I have been with her, 48 hours since I gave her that last hug and kiss, 48 hours since I last heard her voice. (insert very long pensive sigh here). Believe me, absence is making the heart grow fonder!

Although it’s no fun being apart from her this week, it is encouraging to me because it makes me realize more than ever that we are on the lifelong journey of making one life from the two. This deep down sense of distress and incompleteness is welling up within me tonight, telling me that something is not right. Something (or someone) is missing.

I was thinking of how this feeling does (or should) apply to our lives as followers of Christ, people who are living the alternative lifestyle. The Bible refers to the church as the Bride of Christ. And yet we are separated right now. Does it bother us?

A couple of months ago I read the book Sex God by Rob Bell (thanks Jared!). Now, I realize that I have talked about Rob Bell a lot in this blog, so let me just say that he is not the only guy I read, it just so happens that it has worked out so that I have quoted him a lot in the posts so far.

Anyway, here is the deal: In the 1st century world in which Jesus lived, after a couple got engaged, he would leave to go build an addition onto his father’s house for them to live in. And the thing that blows my mind (especially tonight!) is that they wouldn’t see each other during this time. (I am extremely glad I live today!)

I can’t imagine what this must have been like for the two of them. Not seeing the person you are going to marry for months. It must have been very hard for them. Yet It also would have been a time of great expectation – looking forward with great joy to the time when they would be together again.

So understanding that context, listen to Jesus’ words to His disciples just before His death: “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” [John 14.2-3, NLT]

You know what I’m looking forward to tonight? Do you know why I am counting down the hours (66 to go)? Because I want to be where Kay is. But I wonder as I sit here in the silence tonight… how often we as the Bride of Christ in the 21st century have the same sense of longing to be with our Groom?

Unfortunately, I can’t count the hours until we see Jesus, because I don’t know when we he will “come and get us”. But this much I do know: the more we get to know Him, the more we spend time with Him, the more we love Him, from deep within our souls we should long for our Him to come and get us so that we can be with Him forever.

Let us celebrate, let us rejoice,
let us give him the glory!
The Marriage of the Lamb has come;
his Wife has made herself ready…
…Blessed are those invited to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.
[Revelation 19.7-10]

Not Part Three, just an update on life

•August 29, 2007 • 7 Comments

Hello everybody!

I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten about this blog. It’s just that a lot of things have been going on in my life during the past few weeks, and I have barely had time to breathe, let alone write. So please forgive the slowness of my posts.

Here’s the three major things that have been going on: first of all, I have been extremely busy with school. The summer semester ended just before the fall semester began, and there has been some overlap as well, so I never really had a break from it.

Second, my dad had his aortic valve replaced two weeks ago yesterday. He just came home today, so most of the last couple of weeks I have spent in A-2 at Munson Medical Center. He is doing fairly well, but he is starting to feel a little sick, so that is not good. We would all appreciate your continued prayer support.

The last thing is some very exciting news. On Sunday The Orchard had a great picnic at Old Settler’s Park in Glen Arbor. The weather was absolutely perfect! Then after that me and my girlfriend Kay went to Pyramid Point. And that evening, on the sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan, I got down on one knee, and asked Kay to marry me. And guess what? SHE SAID YES!

So there you have it. I have been just a tiny bit busy over the past three or four weeks. So once again I say sorry for the wait and I will try my best to post more frequently from now on. 

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On an entirely different note, I do want to make clear what my policy about comments is going to be on The Alternative Lifestyle. I don’t want to be a censor, because I am all about the free exchange of ideas, but there does need to be some guidelines in place for everyone’s benefit. So here they are. Please read them carefully… 

Guideline #1 | Personal attacks will not be tolerated. I despise this in politics, I despise it in relationships, I despise it in theological discussions, I despise it period. If you cannot argue your point in the realm of ideas, then, sorry, you have lost all credibility and you are automatically disqualified from the discussion. 

Guideline #2 | Comments must made be with the right attitude. Remember when your mom would say, “Don’t use that tone of voice with me”? I don’t care the least bit if you disagree with every word I write. That’s your choice. But you must say whatever you say out of grace and love, show respect for the others that are reading and commenting, and even at the end of the conversation be able to agree to disagree agreeably. If you are unable to do so, if I detect any meanness or hatred, then, sorry, your comment will get deleted.

Guideline #3 | Comments are conversations, not lectures. We can kick around an issue, disagree about things, try to convince each other, and agree to disagree agreeably, but the comments are not the place to preach your sermon. Comments are not the place for long drawn out arguments. They are also not the place for copying and pasting someone else answers to a question either. When I get the sense that the comments are meant not to enjoy the blog and the community around it, but to advance a certain ideology or theological viewpoint, that is when I start to get a little irritated. If you want to do that, then it only takes a few minutes to set up your own blog. So what I’m saying is this: if your comment is not a logical part of the conversation, then, sorry, it will not see the light of day. Which leads to the last guideline…  

Guideline #4 | This is my blog. It’s where I write about ideas and things that are going on in my head, you read about it, and hopefully respond. Maybe you disagree with me, and someone else disagrees with both of us, and the fourth person agrees with aspects of all of our arguments. Cool. As long as we are responding in a loving way, I am happy, and this blog is fulfilling its purpose. But if I feel that if the comments are being used to railroad the discussion and turn it into something else or used in any way that doesn’t benefit the Kingdom of God, then, sorry, I reserve the right to decide which comments lives and which ones go to that big forum in the sky.

I don’t mean to sound too harsh… those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that nothing will really change because this is what I have been doing so far anyway. But I just wanted to put them out there so that from now on there will be no confusion and no guessing about where I stand on “censoring” comments. I’m sure that it will be a rare occasion when I need to do so.  

I’ll be posting some more soon… keep checking back!

Bullhorns, relationships, and repentance | Part 2

•July 30, 2007 • 8 Comments

Last time we looked at two supposedly opposing views – what Rob Bell said in the Nooma 009 | Bullhorn and the philosophies of Ray Comfort and his The Way of the Master ministry. In the first part I told you how I agree with Rob Bell – I don’t think that open air preaching like what “Bullhorn Guy” does is effective in the western culture. [As a side note, I think that most of the time what Ray Comfort and Co. do is not the same as what Rob is talking about in Bullhorn.] So in this post is the opposite of the first – how I agree with Ray Comfort, and some dangers of the side of the coin that Rob Bell represents. Continue reading ‘Bullhorns, relationships, and repentance | Part 2’

Bullhorns, relationships, and repentance | Part 1

•July 22, 2007 • 12 Comments

At the Cherry Festival last week, as I walked in with my sweetheart, a lady in a long dress asked me if I would like a copy of God’s Word. I awkwardly declined, mumbling something about already having one. And then as I walked out that night there was a guy holding a sign and street preaching. The one sentence I heard was “what should it profit a man to gain the whole world, and to loose His own soul?” I walked faster, because that too was rather awkward.

Now, I appreciate the fact that they were willing to do what they did. Was their heart in the right place? I’m sure it was. But the question, especially for me as someone who plans to spend the rest of my life reaching people, is was it effective? Continue reading ‘Bullhorns, relationships, and repentance | Part 1’

The Long-Term Danger of Short-Term Missions

•July 12, 2007 • 2 Comments

First of all, let me just apologize for my lack of posting during the last couple of weeks. I have so much schoolwork to do that it isn’t even funny, and a lot of stuff has been going on these last couple of weeks, and I have been totally swamped. Hopefully it won’t be that long before I post again. 

There have been a couple of short-term mission teams up here during the past month, and both times something has struck me. While short-trem mission trips are great, they definitely have the potential of having both a positive and a negative effect.

Yesterday before the mission team left, one of the young teenagers said that he was sad that it was over. And therein lies the great danger of mission trips. It allows us to reduce missions to a week in the summertime, something that you do far away, while the Bible calls us to lead missional lives. 

The more I think about it, the more I am beginning to despise the term “short-term mission trip”, because often that is exactly what it ends up being. A short-term trip, with people being obedient to the commands of Christ in the short-term, and often seeing short-term results.

While I fully understand what the guy meant, it reminded me again of the long term danger involved in short term trips. I couldn’t help but jump up and practically shout, “It’s not over!” If you do something, then what you are doing can be done. When we do mission work, we can be done with it at the end of the week. But when you be something, when you are something, it is never done. It is never complete. Everything you do in life stems from who you are.  

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will BE my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere!

Biblical values

•June 23, 2007 • 2 Comments

In the comments on the last post, there was discussion over where the edge of cultural engagement and sin come into play. In that same Youtube series for the Desiring God conference, Mark Driscoll says this: 

The real evangelical problem is that we have defined culture and worldliness as synonymous… We tend to think that the Christian subculture in church is good, and culture is bad, but the truth is there is worldliness in both… If a non-Christian writes a real nihilistic song, let’s say an indie rock or punk rock song, that’s real depressing and morosing over the messed-up state of the world, I go “Cool, that’s consistent. The non-Christian is disappointed at life in a cursed world under the fall. Ok.” What bothers me is the Christian that sings about the goodness of human nature or man-centered theology. That’s the one that bothers me. Not the non-Christian that’s depressed, the Christian that is happy for no reason! So we’re less about Christian culture, and more about is it in line with Biblical values.            

  So the issue is knowing the Bible and knowing what you believe about the Bible, and making sure that you evaluate everything through that lens. For instance, that’s why I like the movie The Ringer but I don’t like Facing the Giants. The first one has some cussing and a few jokes that I could have done without, but the underlying message is that all humans, including those with mental disabilities, are still people, still have feelings, and are still valuable and important. Facing the Giants has no objectionable content to speak of, and yet the underlying message is that if you come to Jesus, then everything goes right in your life. Apparently once you surrender your life to Him soon after He will bless you with a baby, a new truck, and a state championship. So, which one is more congruent with the values of God’s kingdom?

I think the issue of sin comes down to values. We have to decide what things in culture are worldly (greed, pride, immodesty, etc.) and fight them with everything we have. But on the other hand, we also have to decide what is congruent with Biblical principles, even if it doesn’t necessarily come from “Christian” sources. Jesus said, “I am… the Truth.” Wherever we find truth in culture, we must realize that it ultimately comes from Him, because He is truth personified.