Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Few Updates!

Oh hello me! Welcome back to the blogosphere! Where have you been? :)

I give my word that I will finish my full spiritual autobiography probably by the end of the year. But here are just a few updates about what's been going on in my life and what's coming up!

New Career Path
I am going back to school this fall! I have been accepted into the College of Nursing at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. It's an accelerated program, so in 16 months I'll have my Bachelors of Science in Nursing and then be able to take the licensing exam to become a registered nurse. It's been a long process, and a lot of waiting, but God's direction has been so clear! I'm fully confident and at peace that this is exactly what God is calling me to. When I get a chance, maybe I'll share how God revealed this to me. Or you know you could just ask me in person :)

I just got back from a short term trip to Haiti that I took with members from my life group and others from the Midland and Grand Rapids areas. What a mobilizing and educational experience! Stay tuned for a longer, debrief post! You know once I actually finish processing all my thoughts from the trip :)

Those are the two big things in my life right now! I still can't believe that I'll be moving away from home in under a month. As long as I've wanted to leave my parents' house, I know I'll miss it a lot too. God is faithful though, and I'm so excited for this new chapter!

Thanks for all your prayers! Much love!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Journey: Part 3

God as Jesus

Why is it that the person and character of Jesus can be so much easier to relate to?

I can actually recall a specific moment where the cross and the death of Jesus made more sense to me. My family and I were at a Christian film festival one Easter weekend. I have no idea what film we watched, but afterwards the pastor of the church hosting the event presented the gospel and spoke of the cross in a way that my nine year old self had never heard. He said that for each time the nails were driven into Jesus' hands and feet, one of my sins was forgiven. Like "BANG! Lying." Or "BANG! Disobeying your parents." Now I know it sounds trivial and not theologically correct or whatever, but it was my first realization of what Jesus did for me personally. And after being dead for a good, long time, he actually became alive again! He fought death and won. Just for me. So I went up at the alter call and repeated a prayer to accept God’s forgiveness and "ask Jesus into my heart." Of course that phrase didn't really have any effect on me until later in my life.

It's not like the world looked different to me at that moment, or that I felt like a new person, or even that I changed everything about my behavior immediately after that, but I can confidently say that was when I became saved, because that was the first moment that Jesus' death and resurrection actually meant something to me.

I was baptized on Easter of the following year; my first public announcement of my relationship with Jesus. Thankfully, my church provided a Sunday school class for fifth graders to learn about and understand baptism before actually going through with it. I look back with the knowledge I have now, and know that my baptism is not what saved me, and sadly, not all the kids I was baptized with were actually saved. I was baptized as an act of obedience and as a public (kind of public, it was just all of our families really no more than like 50 people J) declaration of my faith in Jesus.

More to come!

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Journey: Part 2

God as an Idea

I grew up in a Bible-believing family, with parents who were fully committed to following Jesus and teaching my sister and me the Bible. For me, my family's heritage and religious background plays a huge role in my own spiritual journey. Because my parents grew up in nominally Christian environments, which held more to religious practices and old cultural superstitions, than an actual relationship with the person and character of Jesus Christ; those sentiments were subtly present in my upbringing. I don't know much about when my parents actually came to understand the gospel, but I think I can assume that their conversions came through a series of life experiences.

My story is similar, since it's hard to identify a clear moment of repentance, or when I came to realize my own sin and my need for a Savior. I grew up knowing that I was a sinner and needed to be forgiven in order to live in Heaven after I died someday. I probably raised my hand multiple times in my early life when asked by a Sunday school teacher if I wanted to receive the gift of God’s forgiveness. I was a good little church kid though, by some standard. I had memorized Bible stories and verses and I was at church in my Sunday best every week. I didn't really think I needed God’s forgiveness at all. It's hard to realize you need anything at a young age, you just kind of do what your parents say without much thought to why.

There's more to the story though. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Journey: Part 1


Happy Easter to you all! I pray the message of the cross and Christ's resurrection reaches you with a fresh exuberance this year!

Recently, I was given an assignment in my mentoring relationship to write out my full spiritual autobiography. You might have heard this referred to as a testimony in some Christian circles. I've done this numerous times in my life in many different settings. When on a mission trip to a foreign country, my testimony had to be short and easily translatable into the native language. At camp, the focus was on specific instances where God met me, or when He was real to me. The testimony I shared at my baptism was only of my experiences in my short ten years of life.

The truth is, coming to faith was more of a journey for me than an event. And continuing as a follower of Jesus is a permanent journey that will, by God's grace, take me to the end of my days here on earth.

So over the next few weeks (maybe months, I mean lets be honest about how often I blog J), I plan to share the significant portions of my faith journey so far, specifically writing about who God was to me at each point of my journey.

Every faith story is uniquely different. But maybe some truth will be spoken into your life about the transforming and redeeming work of Jesus on the cross. And hey, I would love to hear your story too!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jesus vs. Religion-Spoken Word

There was a video that went completely viral on YouTube this week. Maybe you've seen it, or maybe you haven't.

I mean seriously, this video blew up! As did all the Facebook shares, posts and critiques about it.

Responses to Jeff's video have been varied across the board. Some hated it. Some loved it. The guy's heart is definitely in the right place. I struggled with the message however. Then I got angry with myself for overanalyzing a video that probably wouldn't have started a worldwide revolution anyway.

Truth is though, I did struggle. I was confused as to why people I know whose actions and life do not reflect Jesus and obedience to Christ were sharing the video. Then I got angry with people who claim to hate the church because of past shortcomings of church individuals. And then I got upset with myself for being confused and angry at other people. Because I practice religious disciplines and because I was judging the "irreligious" actions of others, did I actually succumb to living the horrible "religious" life that Jeff condemned in his video?

I ultimately (after prayer - which btw can be considered a religious discipline - and discussion with those wiser than me) came to grips with the existing and important distinction between religion and the Gospel. The truth is found in what my definition of religion is. Tim Keller spells out the distinction with a helpful comparative list in his book Gospel in Life (study guide p.16). Read it, check it out, it will do your soul good. Here's a sneak peek:

"Religion: I obey, therefore I am accepted
The Gospel: I am accepted, therefore I obey

Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity
The Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy

Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God
The Gospel: I obey God to get to God, to delight and resemble Him"

Below are links to other articles and responses to Jeff's video. They are from contributing pastors of the Gospel Coalition and helped me out with my own processing.

"Jesus Was Religious"

"Does Jesus Hate Religion?" then read "Jefferson Bethke Responds"

"Religion and the Gospel"

I really like the last one. But don't take my word for it (don't take my word for anything except that, my word) read it yourself!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Face of Jesus

What did Jesus look like?

The answer, of course, is that we don’t know. 

This question came to my mind again recently when my grandmother pointed out a guy at a concert we were at and said that he looked just like Jesus. He was of average height, had shoulder length dark hair, and a full beard. Now with no disrespect meant at all, the guy was kind of homely looking, unassuming, someone who I would not give a second thought. Confession, I thought he was homeless actually. Ok so that sounded disrespectful. Cue the big kick in the face when I realized that both my grandmother and I had our own different cultural preconceptions about what Jesus looks like, founded on what? Whatever artists and filmakers view as "typical?"

In December 2002 Popular Mechanics did a cover story called "The Real Face of Jesus." Using "forensic anthropology" scientists and archaeologists combined to investigate what a first-century Galilean Jew might have looked like, with medical artist Richard Neave commissioned to do the rendering. The article describes the process:

"The first step for Neave and his research team was to acquire skulls from near Jerusalem, the region where Jesus lived and preached. Semite skulls of this type had previously been found by Israeli archeology experts, who shared them with Neave. With three well-preserved specimens from the time of Jesus in hand, Neave used computerized tomography to create X-ray "slices" of the skulls, thus revealing minute details about each one’s structure. Special computer programs then evaluated reams of information about known measurements of the thickness of soft tissue at key areas on human faces. This made it possible to re-create the muscles and skin overlying a representative Semite skull."

How tall would a first-century Jew be? "From an analysis of skeletal remains, archeologists had firmly established that the average build of a Semite male at the time of Jesus was 5 ft. 1 in., with an average weight of about 110 pounds." So apparently, I'm taller and heavier than Jesus! Now that's weird! But it's good to have our cultural preconceptions—even prejudices—challenged.

There are numerous physical details about Jesus' appearance that can be determined from the Bible. We do know that he was in his early 30s when he began his ministry. Jesus may or may not have had long hair or a beard. Irrelevant matter though. I wonder what the length of anyone's hair has to do with their impact in the world. Unless you're Troy Polamalu, who's hair is three feet long and insured for $1 million.

Isaiah's messianic prophecy does suggest that there was nothing unusually attractive about Jesus ("he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him," Isaiah 53:2). Is it taking it too far to say that Jesus was homely, unattractive or ugly? 

Here's where I'm going with this. I am sad to say that I regarded the guy at the concert with some sort of disdain, and my grandmother sort of revered the same guy, just based on his outward appearance. I always thought that if I ever came face to face with Jesus, I would be completely blown away by his beauty, and the forgiveness and mercy in his eyes. Still might be the case someday. But I keep thinking about how so many people just missed Jesus back then.

Who could have cared about the birth of a baby while the world was watching Rome in all her splendor? All eyes were on Augustus, the caesar who demanded a census so as to determine a measurement to enlarge taxes. At the time, who was interested in just another couple making a long trip to be counted for the census? What could have possibly been more important that Caesar's decisions in Rome? Who cared about a Jewish baby born in Bethlehem?

Well, God sure did. Augustus was only a pawn in God's grand plan. While Rome was busy making world history, God showed up. He pitched his fleshly tent in silence on straw... in a stable. The world didn't even notice. Reeling from the wake in Alexander the Great, Herod the Great, Augustus the Great, the world overlooked Mary's little Lamb.

Just because Jesus didn't come down from Heaven in a fiery chariot and stage a coup to take over Rome, most of the inhabitants of the Roman empire overlooked him and his work. An itinerant preacher, with no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20) is this guy right here!

A man who walked and served among the poor, needy, marginalized and oppressed, is my King. I only pray that I seek and serve him every day of my life. Do you know him?