Tuesday, October 30, 2007

#66 - Haste The Day AMV

If you like FFVII: Advent Children, and Haste the Day, then you'll like this video.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

S3 - Obedience to God

That's right, time for another "sermonette" from me!

Ever have trouble obeying God? It seems to be the case for me these past couple of weeks. It isn't that I don't want to obey, but rather, my inability to; or more specifically, my lack of faith in God to obey Him. I suppose this sermon could very well go hand-in-hand with my previous two sermons (see "Trusting God" and "Love God, Love People), because obedience must come from two things: trust in God, and also a love for God. It probably plays a lot into what Jerry has been teaching lately as well (about "complete surrender"). Obedience is part of giving it all to Christ.

For me at least it seems that obeying God can have many different aspects. Sometimes, it simply doesn't make sense. Look at Joshua for instance, the Commander of the army of the LORD comes to him and tells him (Joshua 6:3-5):

"... March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in."

When I look at these instructions I have to wonder, what in the world was God thinking? Or, more importantly, what was Joshua thinking? To him, it must have seemed absurd. I can just see it now, "So we are supposed to just walk around a wall, and scream? Are you sure?" But Joshua believed and because of that Jericho fell, and Israel won the victory.

Why can't we be willing to believe God when He tells us to do something, despite what it looks like? I have been asking myself this a lot lately.

Sometimes, obedience means doing something you don't want to do. This has been especially true for me. These past few weeks have been very humbling in this area of my life. I'm beginning to see that if I don't swallow my pride, I would not grow in my relationship with God. Because of that I have had to write one of the hardest letters I ever wrote to my parents, and it all had to do with my obedience to God and not on anything they did. Learning to trust God with the decisions He makes for you can sometimes be some of the hardest things you do, but God blesses you for that obedience.

Take a look a Paul; In Acts you find that Paul wants to go to Asia at one point for his ministry, but God points Paul in a completely different direction than what Paul wants. So, sometimes we just need to be flexible in our plans. I know God has already done this with me, multiple times this summer concerning weddings, LIFE, college, etc. I missed three weddings that I really wanted to go to, and went to one that involved a couple that I did not know at all. That has changed since then, and it's nothing against them at all, it is merely a good example of how the need to be flexible has been true in my life lately. Another good example would be of what I said in a previous post; giving an extra $50 for missions. I hadn't planned on it, but I needed to be flexible and willing to follow God no matter what the outcome may look like. It is for that reason that I am here, interning under Jerry, trying to figure out what the Christian life looks like, and how to live it.

Yes, I do KNOW what it is supposed to look like, but how does it look in my personal life? This is a question that I seek an answer to.

Sometimes, we must obey God in the face of adversity. To follow God, knowing it will end in what may seem to be bad for us. Acts 21 talks about Paul hearing God's call to go to Jerusalem, so he decides to go. On his way there people prophecy over him, telling him he would be chained up and held captive, but Paul stood strong in his conviction and obeyed God in the midst of all the adversity. I believe it was a test to see how much resolve Paul had to obeying God, and if he would fulfill the calling despite the revelation that was given to the prophets who shared that message with him. In the same way we need to continue to obey the call, or whatever God is telling us to do in the face of trials, tribulations, and discouragement.

Above all, obedience to God means denying yourself. It means learning how to walk in the "sacrificial life"; giving our hopes, dreams, fears, and wants over to God and letting Him have complete control. And that is where I am fighting myself the most it seems. I want to be broken, I want to be emptied, so that I can understand the "abundant life"; but my reflexes and body scream against my will, they shout in protest, and, in the end, I keep dodging the brunt of the hammer and only get nicked where I should have shattered. I need to stand still, and, oddly, all this is just a way to see the glory of God in my life. Ultimately, that is my purpose as the creation, to glorify God. And the more I realize where I can improve, the more I learn, the more I give, and the more I obey, the closer I grow to God.

Will you join me in this pursuit?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

When Life Hits You Hard

You know how life can sometimes kick you in the face? Well, this morning was one of those moments, and it came from Jerry. I didn't know what was going on until the conversation started and all the sudden my size shrank from 6'2" to about 1cm I felt absolutely horrible, and like a failure at life. But, it was done in such a way that I can't blame anyone but myself for being in that position. Apparenlty, my strengths are outweighed by my weaknesses, and I need to start mentally, and spiritually, living in Clarksville and not just physically. Treat it as my home, so to speak. He was right, naturally, but it still hurts to get to the point of complete and utter dependence upon God. There are steps that I feel must be taken that I don't want to take. I'm not going home for the first time on a Thanksgiving holiday, and as if that wasn't hard enough, I have also requested to my parents to not pay for a ticket to go to Chile this December. That had to be one of the hardest requests that I had to give. I already haven't seen my girlfriend for a year, and yet, I feel like I must not go this December, at least for the time being, because God needs me to learn an important lesson. The lesson of a "sacrificial life" and to do that I have to be willing to do whatever he tells me.

I wrote one of the hardest letters I have ever had to write to my mom, and it wasn't because of anything they did, but rather, something I need to do because I need to learn to be dependent on God first and foremost. I find it ironic, that I have been preaching on these kinds of topics in the past two sermons, and yet, obviously I have not come to grips with it in my own life. I haven't fully given "me" to God. I know I have improved in areas of my life, and I have given some parts to God, but I haven't just thrown up my hands and said "I quit, God you do it!" Someone told me recently that being whole was biblical, and it is. We find a wholeness in God, but to become whole, we must first become broken, and that is where I am at. I have been pleading with God to break me, but I think before He does, He wants me to get the obstacles out of the way, and then I have to stop dodging the blows. It is so hard to learn these things. It is so hard to completely submit to God in everything. I want to do it all myself, but the more I do it myself, the more I screw things up, and the more I feel like a failure at life.

On the plus, I finally have the next topic that God would have me preach I think. So I need to start working on that soon, so that I can be prepared for next Sunday.

*sigh* It's days like this that make me want to quit. Being human is so complicated.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dreams, Prophecies, and 20/20 Vision

So this weekend has been by far a much better weekend, than the last. It has a stark contrast of Dark and Light, Death and Life, which I find fascinating. Prayer this morning has been good, and God had to practically push me out of bed, but I'm glad I got up for it. So, the title states this post is about three things, but not in that order.

20/20 Vision:
I'm ever thankful for my parents paying for my eye surgery. I had to go home this weekend to get my eyes rechecked; the doctor told me I still had 20/20... w00t! This was also a great time to spend a lunch time with my family (and get BBQ sauce in my eye), as well as, Titina and Cristina Requena, who had both told me they wanted to talk to be about something. So what better way than face to face?

The Sunday night when I was home I had a very odd dream. I don't know if it means anything, but I'm going to post it anyway because I still remember it two days later. Naturally, the details will be fuzzy like vaseline on a camera lens, but you'll get the basics. So essentially the majority of the dream consists of running, or fleeing in this case, from... something. I want to say that we called them zombies, haha, but they weren't your every day, can't think zombies, they were real people who could be anywhere at any moment, so you couldn't trust anyone. I'm pretty sure that zombies was just the name of choice we gave them. And the entire dream was peculiar. There was one point where I had to go to Wal-mart with one other person (Tessa, of all people, oddly enough), and the premise of us going was to get supplies for our "group" that we were going to meet up with later. Now here is the fun part. Time stopped completely while I was in Wal-mart. People were there, but not moving. I didn't have to sneak in like I had planned; I went to the places I needed, retrieved the items, and headed back to the car.

As I was heading out I saw something that caught my attention, and so I started to go retrieve that as well (fuzzy area) but as I reached down to obtain the item, time resumed, and I had to run. I sprinted to the car, got in, Tessa wondering where I had been all this time, and I looked at her confused. For whatever reason, I had been gone for 5 hours, and I guess the natural assumption to go along with that is the "group" that I was supposed to meet up with had moved on. So, I text messaged Erik (yes, you Pasco!) asking where he was going, and how to get home (or something like that). His reply was really weird. It was something along the lines of "Home is .... (can't remember), and you can't come." I am not entirely sure what that meant, but for whatever reason I knew where to go, I think. I am almost positive that it was a code for the location, and I had to wait for someone to escort me.

Moving along... I arrived in a very rocky area. The scenes kinda spanned to it, I don't know how I got there from where I was. It reminds me of the verse that speaks about fleeing to the mountains in Revelation, now that I think about it. But that is where the dream pretty much ends. There are some conversations, and some hiking, and that's about it. And my knowledge of the time was that I was in "The End Times", but I don't know if that really means anything. When I woke up I was thoroughly confused.

The next morning, I go to talk to Titina before I go to the eye doctor. We begin to talk about this and that, and then she tells me about a prophecy that was told to one of our friends, Glenda. Which basically states that if the church doesn't wake up and start interceding for the people of America, and start to reach out, then 9/11 was going to look like a paper cut compared to what is to come. I realize I probably risk looking like I know something I shouldn't but I have to state it. If you don't believe prophecy really exists, then ignore me, but I do believe it exists, and is very real and active even today. God's wrath is going to hit America if we don't wake up, and He is going to start with the church. The country has been under our watch, and we are going to be held accountable for what we did, and didn't do.

I guess this post has been a bit bizarre, but oh well, get over it. It's my blog, not yours. *sticks out tongue* :p

OH! before I forget, although God told me not to talk about the details. I had a really AWESOME prayer experience driving home last night. That is all. Kbye!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

*Insert Title Here*

Man these past few days have felt very surreal, and yet simultaneously, I feel as though I've been hit with a very tangible, and palpable, metaphysical brick wall. I guess to a degree I could blame it on Satan and say he's just trying to get to me, and I could blame God and say He's trying to teach me, but really, these things are both true, and are unnecessary to state. These facts are always true no matter what day of the week it is.

The funeral went well. I think the pastor captured my uncle very well, and I think that most of my family is taking it well. I was practically thrown into being a pallbearer; it was an honor, but a very odd feeling that went with it (I've never carried a dead body before). I felt like I was being so insensitive this weekend though for a number of reasons: I could only smurk during the service; I was not really sad (sure I didn't want him to die, but at the same time, I was uber happy for him); I guess that's not a lot, but I really did feel like I was being disrespectful... I wasn't trying to be, and maybe I wasn't... *shrugs* Anywho, like I said everything went well. The 7.5 hours driving their and back were largely uneventful except for a couple of crash/construction sites that were just long enough to get on my nerves. All in all, it was a good time to see family and catch up with a lot of people.

Have you ever felt like all your friends are avoiding you because they know something that they don't want you to know? And it's not some surprise party or something? That's how I kinda feel right now. I've tried to get a hold of multiple people these past few days to check up on them and the only people I got were Dan, Rachel, and Amanda. I don't even talk to Amanda that much, so it was cool to talk to her for a few minutes. But other people wouldn't answer their phones or any IM I sent them, I don't think I'm being paranoid here, but maybe I am. I understand we get busy, but that doesn't mean you can't call someone when you have a few extra minutes right? If I had seen someone called me, especially if they had left a message, I would be sure to call back, but that does not seem to be the case with everyone else apparently. Heh, maybe I'm just being silly about this, but I guess you really start to see who your real friends are when you try to contact them. The ones that contact you back, or initiate the contact... they are likely the one's that care. *sigh* That number is far smaller than I would like it to be.

Well now that I've written this huge depressing post, I think I'll go find something happy to do.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Oh My God

Oh my God, look around this place
Your fingers reach around the bone
You set the break and set the tone
Flights of grace, and future falls
In present pain
All fools say, "Oh my God"

Oh my God, Why are we so afraid?
We make it worse when we don't bleed
There is no cure for our disease
Turn a phrase, and rise again
Or fake your death and only tell your closest friend
Oh my God.

Oh my God, can I complain?
You take away my firm belief and graft my soul upon your grief
Weddings, boats and alibis
All drift away, and a mother cries

Liars and fools; sons and failures
Thieves will always say
Lost and found; ailing wanderers
Healers always say
Whores and angels; men with problems
Leavers always say
Broken hearted; separated
Orphans always say
War creators; racial haters
Preachers always say
Distant fathers; fallen warriors
Givers always say
Pilgrim saints; lonely widows
Users always say
Fearful mothers; watchful doubters
Saviors always say

Sometimes I cannot forgive
And these days, mercy cuts so deep
If the world was how it should be, maybe I could get some sleep
While I lay, I dream we're better,
Scales were gone and faces light
When we wake, we hate our brother
We still move to hurt each other
Sometimes I can close my eyes,
And all the fear that keeps me silent falls below my heavy breathing,
What makes me so badly bent?
We all have a chance to murder
We all feel the need for wonder
We still want to be reminded that the pain is worth the thunder

Sometimes when I lose my grip, I wonder what to make of heaven
All the times I thought to reach up
All the times I had to give
Babies underneath their beds
Hospitals that cannot treat all the wounds that money causes,
All the comforts of cathedrals
All the cries of thirsty children - this is our inheritance
All the rage of watching mothers - this is our greatest offense

Oh my God
Oh my God
Oh my God

Friday, October 12, 2007

What I Learned Today

So there are a couple of things I learned about myself today while pulling weeds in the front of the church and doing other miscellaneous tasks.

1) I am really insecure about my singing, haha. I wonder if that is true with everyone, on anything they are good at. I mean, singing is one of the few things that I consider myself good at, and the things I am most confident in my skill in, I am also very insecure about them. I don't understand this, maybe it's God's way of keeping me humble, or maybe it's some demon just trying to distract me from praising God, maybe a little bit of both. Anyway, that was just a random thought that came to mind.

2) I am always the most at peace just before I hear bad news. Some of the worst news I have ever heard has always been preceded by indescribable peace. Today is a great example. I was just really content and at peace emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and then around 9:30 I get a call from my brother that my uncle had died early in the morning. I am still at peace, but I find it odd sometimes that God would love me enough to basically but a "bumper" to lessen the blow of bad news. God is good.

and finally

3) I should not eat more than 4 donuts on any day because right about half way through the fourth one my teeth will start shouting at me for eating too much sweets, heh.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fire and Stars

So today I worked from 7:30 to about 5:00 at a construction site, and basically is spent that entire time burning wood, so now I'm really sore, tired, and my throat is driving me nuts. But that is not why I'm posting. I am just posting because God did the subtle thing he likes to do by reminding me of some things by the way of two things fire and stars.

As I said I was burning lumber today at the construction site, and as I was watching the flame I was reminded how much God's love is like a consuming fire. A fire that rages against any and every thing. It burns us, breaks us, and refines us with its destructive heat and flame. That's right, I said destructive. And it is, it destroys our pride, selfishness, our sinfulness, and replaces it with kindness, goodness, faith, and love (among other things). And the flame was so hot that yous could feel the heat from a good 10 ft. away, minimum. And just like that heat, God's heat from the fire hurts too when you get too close, but we have to walk through the flame, to get burned, and to come out new.

As I was coming from small groups tonight, I got to do a little star gazing, and I had almost forgotten the night sky is. It has been a crisp, cool night as well which made this kiss from heaven all the better. The magnitude, and seemingly limitless expanse of the galaxies and stars are great reminders of God's own magnitude. The very fact that the universe is so huge that we could come up with no better title for it than "space" just proves the awesomeness of it in my opinion. The stars are a light in the darkness, and just as they reflect the sun's light and light the night sky, we as Christians should reflect the Son and light up the dark world, but we so often are so inward focus, we forget about loving others. I am so sick and tired of seeing this trend in "Christians". They certainly don't live up to their name, if they are true Christians, "Slave of Christ" indeed, HA! Get real! Stop faking it! *sigh*

Anyway, I'm done, kbye

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

World's Apart

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

To turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce the skin of one who loves
more deeply than the oceans,
more abundant than the tears
Of a world embracing every heartache

Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow

To love you - take my world apart
To need you - I am on my knees
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - broken on my knees

All said and done I stand alone
Amongst remains of a life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

[Additional lyrics:]

I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
the sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that I despise
speak the words I can't deny
watch the world I used to love
fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
so wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
so steal my heart and take the pain
take the selfish, take the weak
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray, I pray, I pray
take my world apart

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Loving God, Loving People

Here is another "sermonette" for your enjoyment. I'm sure there will probably be edits as the week goes on, but this is what the next sermon will be about, or close to it.

Today is probably going to be something you've heard before, but I really feel God is leading me to share this message with you as He is showing me how to improve on this area of my life. "Loving God, Loving People."

There are verses all over the Bible that talk about loving God, about living in a community with Him as the center. The Israelites were His chosen instrument to show us that, I believe. He gave them all these instructions about clean and unclean, sacrifices, war, and I believe it wasn't them following the rules that He wanted. Yes, they should obey, but not out of obligation, but out of love. The same applies to us, we should obey out of a love for God, a desire to obey because we love Him. Jesus Himself says:

If you love me, you will obey my commands."
John 14:15

And again in Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus says:

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

We are to love God with our very being, with all of who we are, our heart, our soul, our mind, and even our strength. But there is another part of that command, "Love your neighbor as yourself." You see, God loves people, He loves us, and He wants us to love others. So many people remember the first command, but not the second, which is JUST LIKE THE FIRST!

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

He considers it to be just as important as the first. In reality this command is practically a 2-in-1 kind of deal. Yes, they are two commands, but at the same time, you can't have one without the other. Now look at the last verse.

On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

Everything that God commands of us in based on this law. God wants us to love Him and love people, and I believe you cannot do one without the other. Not truly anyway. Loving God IS loving people, and you can't love people without having a love for God.

[At church we have talked about the sex trade and slavery that has been going on in southeast Asia, and the AIDS problem in Africa. If you did a little research on them you would realize that there is a lot of hurt in these areas (edited for relevance to reading group)] Does it concern you that real people are dying daily? Real people are getting raped, abused, molested, and murdered on a daily basis. Does it concern you that a world that was created to be good and growing is dying because of our sin? Ever wonder why people are able to do the things they do? Are you also capable of rape, murder, or any other heinous crime?

If you think "no" then let me ask you this. What makes you better than them? You might be thinking, "Because I am a Christian." Sadly, Christians are not impervious to these crimes and are just as guilty of adultery, murder, molestation, and even theft. And just because you don't act on it doesn't mean you are not capable of it.

I've been reading a book [recently] called, Blue Like Jazz, written by Donald Miller, and while I was reading it he said something that really hit me. To give you some context, he is talking about how he grew up in church and knew all the answers, but he wasn't sure if he really followed what he said. He came to the conclusion he didn't love people.

"I sat there above the city wondering if I was like the parrot in Lewis' poem, swinging in my cage, reciting Homer, all the while having no idea what I was saying. I talk about love, forgiveness, social justice; I rage against American materialism in the name of altruism, but have I even controlled my own heart? The overwhelming majority of time I spend thinking about myself, pleasing myself, reassuring myself, and when I am done there is nothing to spare for the needy. Six billion people live in this world, and I can only muster thoughts for one. Me."

Have we controlled our hearts? Have we willingly, passionately sought after God and persistently asked Him to give us a concern for people? You may say, "But Austin, I am concerned. I don't want people in Africa to die of aids, or want others to be sold into the sex trade." Then what are you doing about it? You may not be able to physically save them from their sickness or their situation, but there are ways to support those who are, and prayer is the easiest.

It is so easy and yet so hard to be concerned about people when they are across the world, because you don't feel the need to be active in it. It is a reality that is only a facade. Sure you might pray about it every now and then, but you aren't being fully, passionately, involved in it. It doesn't count as concern if you put money in the offering plate or pray for them when you hear about it, and only do it a couple of times. That is a reaction of guilt and not authentic concern. But let me bring our love for people back to the U.S. Do you love your neighbor? Who is your neighbor?

Do you love God enough to deny yourself to do what He asks? Then why do you not deny your wants, fears, and time for people? God not only asks us to love people, it is His command. Are you willing to share your faith with them? That is one of the best ways you can show them love, by taking the gospel to them. And don't show love by your words only, show it by living your love for them as well. "Actions speak louder than words." Right?

And it is not always easy, in fact, oftentimes it will hurt, but when you choose, commit, and take action of loving them because you love God, then God can and will eventually give you His compassion for them.

So love people. I don't think I need to give specifics on how to love; everyone knows what it is. Treat them as you would want to be treated, love them as you love yourself.

Love God, Love People.


Free Time

This is what I do in my free time....