The Worst Week That Turned Out To Be The Best Week

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There’s an indie, sci-fi film that I love called Ink. It’s extremely artistic and oozing with gospel themes. If you’re interested, you can watch it on amazon prime here  (WARNING: It does contain some 4 letter words, especially in the opening scene)

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The movie takes place within multiple timelines that are all working together to reunite a father with his daughter in order to save her life. The plan? Get the father knocked out of his routine and set a chain reaction of events that will hopefully lead to a reunification. The method used to begin this chain reaction? A car crash.

Saturday, April 28, 2018, started off like any other day. My wife and I, along with the baby, got in the car to run an errand. As I was getting ready to turn left, I’m not really sure what happened. Did I not see it? Did I not look? Was I too distracted looking at the GPS? Either way, I went, looked up, and saw another car coming right at me. It was too late for either of us to react.

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Fast forward to an emergency room. My wife is told that she has 3 breaks in her hand. The good news? The ER doctor says that they will be able to heal fine on their own, no surgery needed. What a relief right? Because ER doctors are NEVER wrong…

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Endless calls. Car insurance. Collision Center. Health Insurance. Orthopedic doctors.

Our stress level was at its max. My wife was in lots of pain. I was trying to figure out how to balance a full time job, take care of an injured spouse, keep up the house, and do all the things for our baby that were impossible for my wife to do one handed.

Diaper changes. Bath times. Getting dressed. Feedings. Picking up.

Wednesday, May 2, four days after the car accident, we sat in the office of an orthopedic doctor. She walked into the room after looking at Natalie’s x-rays and said “You need surgery. There are four bones that hold your hand together and you broke three of them.”

Anesthesia. Surgery. Plates. Screws. Physical therapy. Multiple months of recovery.

My wife sobbed.

The. Worst. Week. EVER!

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017 started off like any other day, until there was a knock on our door. A shy 5-year-old girl walked into our home. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Does any first time parent? Natalie and I had finished our Foster care certification earlier that month and our first placement had arrived. Everything changed.

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Laughter. Tears. Exhaustion. Frustration. SO MUCH JOY.

A few months later we received an email. Yes, I typed that correctly…AN EMAIL. A relative had been found, they were moving her to a different home. We knew this was the most likely outcome. We knew this was only supposed to be temporary. But it happened so much sooner than we were anticipating. And just like that, this sweet little girl we had fallen in love with, that made us first time parents, brought so much joy and laughter into our home, and changed our lives forever, was gone.

Quiet. Stillness. Down time. Empty.

We lost contact. We thought of her often. We missed her. We got another foster placement…a newborn!

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Things changed again, but we didn’t forget. A year passed. My wife wrote a letter to “little miss” on the 1 year anniversary. (We call her that on social media because we can’t post names or pictures of her face). You can read it here. We cried as she read it to me.

Then, exactly 1 month after the one year date…CAR CRASH!

Back to Wednesday, May 2, 2018. This the day Natalie finds out she needs surgery. The capper to the worst week ever.

The phone rings. As I answer, I’m told that they are looking for a new place for little miss and want to know if we can take her. I call Natalie…she sobbed. Seriously, this is a lot to take in for one day. We can’t say yes fast enough.

June 7, 2018 there was another knock on the door. The same girl walked in. Now almost 7, and much less shy this time around. Just like that we became a family of 4.

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Chaos. Exhaustion. Frustration. Constant running around. Making it up as we go. Lots of laughter. SO MUCH JOY.

Life feeling complete, even if it’s only temporary.

Who knows…maybe there are unseen forces at work, existing in multiple timelines, all working together to reunite a father and his daughter. Maybe a chain of events that are impossible for any one person to see had to be started to accomplish this end goal. Maybe the method chosen to start this chain of events was a car crash. Maybe I just desperately want my life to be an indie sci-fi film and it’s all random coincidence.

Either way, all I know is that the worst week turned out to be the

Best. Week. EVER!

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Foster Care: The Worst Responses We’ve Heard so Far

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Over the holiday season we had the opportunity to attend a Christmas party held by our fostering agency. We are blessed to do life with friends who are also part of foster care, but this was the first time we were surrounded solely by people who just get it. It was a breath of fresh air. On the drive home, we were commenting on how nice it was to go somewhere and not get all the weird, borderline offensive, responses.

Now, to be fair, we recognize that people have good intentions and sometimes just don’t know what to say and what not to say. We totally get that. We were in the same boat before we began the process as well. So to help out, we compiled a list of the worst questions and responses we’ve gotten so far in the foster care process.

1. Well do they pay for that?!

This question gets asked in response to all the typical expenses that come with kids: medical care, food, diapers, formula, school supplies, clothes, etc…And to be clear, yes, the state does pay for many of these things. This is yet another reason why finances are not an excuse to not do foster care. However, this question is mostly asked with a tone that communicates not only an expectation of compensation but also a refusal to foster unless the costs were covered. Last time I checked, kids cost money, families figure it out, and parents always think it’s worth it.

2. Are you going to have your own children?

There are two main things wrong with this question. First, they are our own children. We do not view them as some “other thing”. These kids are fully and 100% part of our family as long as we have them. Second, so many people we know struggle with infertility and/or have had miscarriages. We may too. We don’t know. These friends have tried everything to have kids of their own,are not able to, and are devastated by this. Considering that you may be talking to a person who has been through this, this is probably a question you should just erase from your vocabulary.

3. That takes a really special person/I could never do that.

We are not special. If anything, we are the exact opposite. We were 26 years old with exactly ZERO parenting experience when we began this process. If we can do it, so can you. If you have an extra bedroom in your house, you can do foster care. There is nothing “special” required. When you read scripture, God is actually quite fond of using seemingly unqualified people to expand the Kingdom.

4. I would just get too attached!

This response always bewilders us. Do we give off a cold-hearted vibe? It sounds like people are saying “I would just get too attached to the child, but you guys are rigid and distant enough to pull it off.” Guess what, we get attached to all the kids that come into our home too. When people say “I just don’t think I could handle them being taken away” we typically say “We don’t know that we can either, but we don’t have a choice.” Everyone who does foster care gets too attached, including us. We just don’t see that as a reason to not give a child in need a safe and loving place to stay.

5. I know someone who fostered, and they (insert horrific story here)

Imagine you or your wife were pregnant and someone came up to you and said “Oh, you’re having a baby. Well, I know someone who had a baby once, and that kid got older and was emotionally disturbed and they physically harmed the parents. I’m not trying to scare you, I just want you to know what you’re getting yourselves into.” No one would do that! But people have done this to us. Foster care can be scary enough, don’t be discouraging!

6. What’s their story?

Let’s be honest, what people really mean by this question is “give me the juicy gossip on what their parents did in order to have their child removed.” When phrased like that, maybe you can see why this is a pretty inappropriate question to ask. For privacy reasons, we are not really supposed to share the details of the child’s case with others. However, beyond that, we don’t want any of these kids to be defined by their past. If we have the opportunity to adopt any of the children we foster, we don’t want everyone to know the details about their background or to think negatively about their biological parents. Besides, that’s their story to tell how, when, and to whom they choose. Some aspects of their story may lend toward prayer. For example, a baby that is suffering really bad withdrawals or physical injuries that need to be healed. However, knowing all of the details of the situation is not necessary unless you are someone who is directly involved with the child’s case.

Now, if you are someone who has said or asked some of these, we are not trying to guilt you. You don’t need to come up to us and address it. It’s cool! We just wanted to help out as you encounter more people who foster. Also, we didn’t want this entire thing to be negative and, after reading this, you may be wondering how you COULD respond. Here are some things we love when people ask

  1. What made you decide to foster?
  2. What can we do to get involved with foster care?
  3. What needs can still be met?
  4. How can we pray for you?
  5. What is God teaching you in this process?
  6. Can we give you free babysitting so you can enjoy a date together? Wink_Emoji

As always, if you want to get involved with foster care in any way, come talk to us. We would love to point you in the right direction. We are always open and willing to answer questions, just think about how they might come off before you ask them.

The 10 Best and Worst Worship Songs from the Late 90s and Early 2000s

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As I enter a point in my life where I am closer to 30 than I am to 20, I’m starting to experience something for the first time…nostalgia. Go to buzzfeed, and you are guaranteed to find countless lists of “things every 90s kid remembers.” Shows that I grew up with are getting re-boots. Movies made 20 years ago are getting sequels. Drinks, cereals, and toys are being re-released. I am realizing now that nostalgia is less about how good or bad something is, and more about the times in your life it brings you back to. As I became aware of this, I started to understand something I never understood before with the “older people” in the Church. I used to roll my eyes or make condescending remarks when I heard someone say “I don’t get why we can’t just go back to singing hymns.” But now, I find myself saying “they will never make cartoons as good as they did when I was a kid.” “When I was a kid we didn’t have all this technology stuff, we played outside.” “If I wanted to make a phone call, I could only walk as far as the phone cord would reach.” When I experience nostalgia, it brings me back to the care-free and formative days of my childhood. The times when I discovered who I was. The times before full time jobs, mortgages, and big responsibilities.

This is also true with worship music. I was a kid in the church from 1991-2009. Obviously I don’t remember much from the first several years, but the late 90s and the 2000s were some of the most crucial years in my faith journey. This is the time I learned to play drums and guitar and fell in love with music as a way to worship God. This is where I learned who Jesus is, got baptized, made my faith my own, and decided to go into ministry. The songs we sang during this period were part of that process. I have a special connection with them. When I hear them, I am brought back to those days. I can only assume it is same with the “seniors” and the hymns. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the worship music of the 2010s. I think we are in a period of creative music writing and theologically rich lyrics, but there will always be a special place in my heart for the songs I grew up with. So here are the 10 best songs I think came out of that time period, and the 10 worst songs that I would advocate disappearing forever. If you grew up in the time period, let me know what I’m missing.

DISCLAIMER: Obviously I could have done way more than 10 in each list. Also, there are entire Hillsong United albums that could go on this list, but I had to pick 10 and I had to diversify. Maybe I can make a list of just UNITED songs another time.

THE BEST

10. Open the Eyes of my Heart (2000)

This is just a great song with great lyrics that nails the early 2000s feel.

9. Holy is the Lord (2004)

Chris Tomlin’s Arriving album blitzed the field of worship music. Just look at the track listing and see how many iconic songs are on it. This one was possibly my favorite and made an almost weekly appearance in our student ministry for some time.

8. Amazing Love (2003)

Pulling some from a very old hymn, the lyrics to this song are rich and deep.

7. The Heart of Worship (1998)

The story behind this song is really quite incredible. This song is still a powerful reminder of who worship is really all about.

6. Here is our King (2005)

After Chris Tomlin, and before Hillsong United, Crowder is the one who changed the game for Worship Music. In my opinion, this is the best song on his A Collision album, and the second best song he ever released. The music was really creative for its time, and the lyrics paint beautiful imagery to share a powerful message. Through Jesus, God had come to bring us back to himself.

5. Jesus Paid it all (2006)

Ok, so this is cheating a little bit because this is actually a very old song. However, Kristian Stanfill gave it a new feel and added the iconic bridge to the end. We sang this song in youth ministry more times than I can count, and it never got old. More than 10 years later, I still hear this song once in awhile in churches.

4. Always Forever (2006)

This song is most likely lesser known, but nevertheless awesome. It was sung at the summer conference I went to growing up, and in our student ministry. First off, Phil Wickham has the voice of an angel. Second, when this song octaves up after the bridge and the band drops out…CHILLS! Finally, this is great music writing and fantastic lyrics.

3. Shout to the Lord (1996)

This song just brings back so many memories for me. It hits an 11 on the 1-10 nostalgia meter, but it also is a great worship song. This video is more recent, and I know they don’t do it, but in the original song there is a key change at the end. If the key change doesn’t give you some goosebumps, you aren’t human.

2. From the Inside Out (2006)

If there was one song that defined my youth ministry experience, it’s this one. If you really want to be blown away, just look up the Hillsong United album United We Stand and see how many songs from that one album deserve to be on this list. I really could have made number 2 that entire album. The pace of this song is outstanding. It builds and rescinds in all the right places. Also, it was a major part of the time in my life where I was learning what it actually means to embrace following Jesus and have him completely change me from the inside out.

1. O Praise Him (2003)

This song is almost 15 years old at the time of writing this post, yet, if it was released today it could hang with modern music. Crowder was THAT ahead of his time. I also feel like this song is timeless. The lyrics are simple yet profound. Of all the songs on this list, I am most sad that this one doesn’t still make an appearance, even as a tag on the end of a song.

The Worst

10. I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (1998)

God’s love is amazing and I get the metaphor of being able to sing of that love forever, but Delirious took that a little too literally. Don’t lie! You know during this song you thought, How many more times are we going to say ‘”I could sing of you love forever”?

9. Trading my Sorrows (1998)

Let’s compare. The chorus of one of my favorite worship songs today says: By your spirit I will rise, from the ashes of defeat. The resurrected king, is resurrecting me. In your name I come alive, to declare your victory. The resurrected king, is resurrecting me. The chorus of this song says, “Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord. Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord. Yes Lord, Yes Lord, yes yes Lord, Amen.”

8. Every Move I Make (2004)

I am glad we moved from the Nah’s and La’s the Woah’s and Oh’s.

7. Love the Lord (2005)

I can’t really knock the words, because they are straight from scripture, but man this song is annoying.

6. Better is one Day (1995)

How many times can we say “Better is one Day” in one song? Matt Redman went on a journey to find out.

5. You are Holy (2002)

Here’s the thing…people in church can’t even clap on beat. Imagine the chaos that ensued when two separate sets of lyrics were being sung at the same time. What you just imagined is exactly how it sounded whenever this song made a Sunday morning appearance.

EDIT: The guy who wrote this song commented on the post below! As a person with extreme nostalgia for all songs on this list, my life is now made!!!

4. Undignified (2004)

Not everything Crowder did was gold. Also, this song gave student ministry worship leaders a chance to bring people up on stage to do something “undignified.” As you can imagine, that never ended well.

3. All Day (2004)

It’s hard to believe that the same group that was nominated for a grammy wrote the lyrics “I will read my Bible and pray, I will follow you all day”, but it happened.

2. Friend of God (2004)

Just listen to the song. You’ll understand why it’s number 2.

1. Days of Elijah (1997)

I don’t know what it is about this song, but bring it up to any worship leader, and they will giggle. I don’t know that I could tell you exactly why, but I don’t think I will ever hear this song in a Church again, and I’m pretty ok with that.

Defending Millennials Against Christians

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It happened about a month ago. The article 7 Harsh Realities of Life Millennials Need to Understand was blasted all over my Facebook timeline. I wanted to say something right away, but a wise friend has taught me the “sit on it rule” when it comes to blogging. Well, I’ve sat on it, and now I’m posting it. I have grown increasingly frustrated with the millennial bashing trend, but this one took it to another level. What first baffled me is that so many people were quick to share an article that contains only one source and no author name. The article was shared by many websites, but it seems the original source is the Libertarian Republic. I could not find any information on this site besides what they offered in their about section. What really got me though, was how many Christians, many of whom are friends with me on Facebook, were sharing this article. They would post the link with a comment like “amen” or “so true”.  Here is a collage of just some of the posts I saw, with names and profile pictures blocked out

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I still don’t get why older Christians love to hate on millennials, but I really don’t get how a Christian could support the views presented in this article toward anyone. I can’t see how you could be a lover of Jesus and a lover of the Church and get behind these sentiments. Let me explain what I mean. I linked the article above, and I would encourage you to go to the source and read it, but I have pasted the entirety of the article in this post (emoji emphasis is mine). Each point of the article is italicized, and my response is below. Sources to show I’m not just making all of this up (something the article’s author apparently doesn’t know how to do) are linked in green.

  1. Your Feelings are Largely Irrelevant crying-face

“Seriously, nobody who has already graduated college cares about your feelings. That means that when you complain to your boss because your co-worker mis-gendered you, he’s probably not going to bend over backwards to bandage your wounds. Given feelings are entirely subjective in nature, it’s completely unreasonable to demand everyone tip-toe around you to prevent yours from being hurt. The reality is that people will offend you and hurt your feelings, and they won’t stop to mop up your tears because they shouldn’t have to. Learning to accept criticism, alternative viewpoints, and even outright insults will make you happier in the long run than routinely playing the victim card.”

 

Reponse: Let’s just think about this statement for a second. Your feelings are largely irrelevant. It seems the author points toward the workplace as a main example. Well, please tell that to the 1 in 3 women who have been sexually harassed at work. Please tell that to the 26% of African Americans and the 15% of Hispanics that say they experience racial discrimination in the workplace at least once in a 30 day period. Even beyond the workplace, this is such a cold-hearted response. Imagine your daughter coming home from school, crying as she told you the things the boys were saying they wanted to do to her, and telling her that her feelings are largely irrelevant. Imagine your son, completely defeated after being bullied mercilessly, and telling him that his feelings are largely irrelevant. Now, let’s talk about the Church, because all the Christians sharing this post seemed to be on board with this. Remember that time Jesus said, “come to me all who FEEL weary and burdened so I can tell you your feelings are largely irrelevant”? Remember that time we read that Jesus saw the crowds that FELT harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, and he said their feelings were largely irrelevant? NO! Jesus said come to me so I can give you rest. Jesus had compassion on them. Could you imagine someone walking into the doors of the Church, sharing with a pastor or church member that they feel burned out in life because they are constantly criticized, offended, and insulted, and then receiving the response that their feelings are largely irrelevant? If this is the main way in which our world functions, millennials should not be told to get over it and get used to it. Millennials should be celebrated for trying to change it. The Church SHOULD be a place that bandages wounds. The Church SHOULD be a place that mops up tears. How could a Christian agree with, and share, this article?

  1. You Cannot be Whatever you Want to Be emoji766

This is a comforting lie parents have started telling their children to boost their morale in school. Unfortunately, millennials are now convinced it’s true, especially as society has now decided to push this narrative as well. The reality is if you’re 17 years old and still can’t figure out basic division, you’re not going to be a rocket scientist. If you’re overweight and unattractive, you’re not going to be the quarterback’s prom date. If you lack fine motor skills, you’re not going to be a heart surgeon. It’s okay to accept that you cannot be whatever you want to be. In fact, once you accept this, you’ll be able to focus on the things you can be — the things you really are talented at.

 

Response: Let’s just ignore how rude and shaming this point is, and look at that first line. This is a comforting lie parents have told their children. So if anything, it’s YOUR fault we are this way GenXers. Criticize yourself, not us. However, why is it bad for us to believe this? Look at all the inventions millennials have made because they believed this to be true. It’s why you have a Facebook to trash talk us on. Even more so, Scripture is full of stories where God uses people who were in no way qualified for the job to which He called them. Peter was an unlearned fisherman. He most likely could not do long division. Yet, he is one of the most influential people to ever exist in the Church. God can call anyone to anything He wants to, and He can give anyone the ability to do it. How could a Christian agree with, and share, this article?

  1. Gender Studies is a waste of money x1f393-png-pagespeed-ic-2uka3jhddg

You heard me. While some millennials taking useless degrees will claim they’re beneficial for teaching or research positions, the reality is that they just put themselves several thousands dollars in debt to learn how to be a professional victim. While you’re struggling to make ends meet after graduation because nobody who pays more than minimum wage is interested in your qualifications and you’re drowning in student loan debt, be sure to check out the next harsh reality before you start complaining.

 

Response: This point apparently has nothing to do with gender studies, but is more about millennials getting various degrees that the author views as pointless. Regardless, has this person done any research? The type of degree chosen has nothing to do with millennials graduating with tens of thousands of dollars of debt and no job. Research shows that institutions (which are not run by millennials by the way) are majorly failing us. Also, millennials face higher tuition and more competition in the workplace than ever before. In the previous generations, a high school degree was enough to help you get into the middle class. Now millennials need a college degree and 3-5 years experience to even enter the workplace. Do you see the dilemma here? Sorry, there’s my millennial whining again. But besides being uninformed, this comment goes even deeper. What this is really saying is, following your passions is a waste of time. Millennials want to make a difference. Therefore, we pursue degrees to go into fields that align with our passions and our desires to make an impact. That doesn’t always make sense to people. My degree is in youth ministry. I am still paying off student debt, and will continue to for awhile. I will never be wealthy by American standards. Many people look at that and call my degree a waste of time and money. Guess what. I didn’t get that degree to be well off financially. I got that degree to make an impact in the lives of people. Millennials don’t want to spend a huge chunk of their lives working in a cubicle or a factory doing something they hate so that they can spend a small portion of their lives living comfortably. Millennials want to spend the majority of their lives doing something of value. If my two options are doing something I’m passionate about that positively affects out world, or doing something I couldn’t care less about that puts me in less debt and makes me more comfortable, the choice is obvious. Also, have you read your Bible lately? Scripture tells one story after another of God calling people to things that don’t make sense and seem like a waste to others. God doesn’t judge things by the worldly standard, He judges things by the impact they make on the kingdom. How could a Christian agree with, and share, this article?

  1. If you live in America, You’re already in the 1% regional-indicator-symbol-letters-usbanknote-with-dollar-signstatue-of-liberty

That’s right. Even though you work at McDonald’s for minimum wage because you got a useless, outrageously expensive college degree, you’re still far better off than the vast majority of the planet. Don’t believe me? Fly to Uganda and check out the living conditions there. Fly to China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, Russia, and even European countries like Ukraine and Greece, and you’ll quickly discover just how well-off you really are. While it may be cool these days to dump on capitalism, it’s the only reason you aren’t already worse off.

Response: So many things going on in this point

  1. Duh! Millennials know this better than anyone. That is why we are one of the most charitable generations ever.
  2. Not that it’s a contest or anything, but I would bet that I actually have flown to more countries (not to vacation in their resorts, but to serve the poor and needy) than this author ever has. Likewise, many of the teenagers in my student ministry have been on more missions trip efforts than the majority of Christians who shared this article on Facebook. These types of experiences have led many of them to pursue degrees that others would say are a waste (see above point), or even take time off before going to college so they can serve the needy in other countries. My millennial sister is about to graduate and then is immediately going to work with children in Nicaragua. Now I’m getting back to point 3, but if that kind of stuff if a waste then I want to keep wasting my time and money.

Millennials know we are already in the 1%. That’s why we value social justice and making a difference all around the world. That’s a GOOD thing. What are YOU doing about it? How could a Christian agree with, and share, this article?

  1. You don’t have a right to it just because you Exist kingrzbzt

That includes healthcare, guaranteed income, and somewhere to live. Just because you’re here and breathing doesn’t mean society owes you anything. Like the billions of people who lived before you, working hard is a better guarantor of wealth and the ability to comfortably take care of yourself than begging society or the government to do it for you. Demanding healthcare be a right, for example, is equivalent to demanding government force the taxpayer to pay for it. While that may seem like a good idea in theory, it only leads to rationing of care when costs become unsustainable, which negatively impacts not just your health, but everyone else’s, too.

Response: Wait, what? So because I exist, I don’t deserve to have basic necessities of life like shelter, money to buy food, and healthcare? I don’t know how any person could agree with this, but especially the follower of Jesus. In Matthew 25, when Jesus says that whatever you did for the least of these you did for him, he talks about welcoming in the person who has no place to go, looking after the sick, and clothing the naked. The Bible constantly speaks of caring for the poor. I work for a Church that does exactly this. We have a ministry called Current Cupboard that gives groceries to those who cannot afford them. We have a homeless ministry that goes out and gives much needed items to those in need. We help people who are in financial need pay bills. My co-worker’s wife works for a clinic that gives medical care to those who don’t have insurance or are under-insured. They only ask people to pay what they can afford…even if it’s nothing. Guess what the clinic is called…CHRIST clinic, because this is the attitude of Christ. We do these things as a church because we believe that all people are created in the image of God and are valuable. Because they exist and are human, they DO deserve basic life needs. How could a Christian agree with, and share, this article?

  1. You DO have the Right to live as you please – But not to demand people accept it.zipper-mouth-face

If you want to cross-dress, smoke marijuana, drink lots of alcohol, have lots of sex, and, yes, even go to school for gender studies, then by all means, go for it. Government should not be allowed to legislate people’s behavior as long as it doesn’t infringe upon someone else’s rights, but that doesn’t mean society isn’t allowed to have an opinion. You don’t have the right to demand people keep their opinions about your lifestyle to themselves, especially if you’re open and public about it. I have as much of a right to comment on the way you live your life as you do to actually live it. Your feelings are not a protected right, but my speech is.

Response: Ok, this one is a bit sticky. I’m really just talking to the Christians here. First, this is not a millennial thing. This is a society thing. Do you have the right to an opinion? Yes. Has society as a whole (not just millennials) unfairly blurred the lines of freedom of speech and hatred/bigotry? Yes. However, does having the right to have an opinion also give you the right (as a Christian) to not treat certain people as human? No. Jesus spoke truth into the lives of sinners, but he also valued them as beloved creations of God. He looked at them, touched them, conversed with them, and went to their homes. These were all things that were radically off limits for a good Jewish man. I hear lots of Christians talk about the combo of truth and love but then only follow through on the truth part.What makes us think that, as followers of Jesus, we can call people terrible names, say hateful things, and deny people basic goods and services just because we disagree with a lifestyle? Most of our comments on the way people live their lives, that this author says we have a right to, are not said in a way meant to build one another up. Posts like this that get shared by Christians are exactly why the lines of freedom of speech and hatred/bigotry get so badly blurred. How could a Christian agree with, and share, this article?

  1. The only safe space in your home house-with-garden

No matter where you go in life, someone will be there to offend you. Maybe it’s a joke you overheard on vacation, a spat at the office, or a difference of opinion with someone in line at the grocery store. Inevitably, someone will offend you and your values. If you cannot handle that without losing control of your emotions and reverting back to your “safe space” away from the harmful words of others, then you’re best to just stay put at home. Remember, though: if people in the outside world scare you, people on the internet will downright terrify you. It’s probably best to just accept these harsh realities of life and go out into the world prepared to confront them wherever they may be waiting.

 

Response: Do you even know what a safe space is? I’m not just talking to the person who wrote this article, I’m talking to everyone who shared this as well. I’ll save you the google search. A Safe Space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.

I work at Current – A Christian Church. It’s an awesome place to work and one of the many reasons it’s so great is that they employ several millennials. Once a week, a group of us sit down in a creative team meeting to discuss all sorts of ideas from stage design to sermon content, to experiential elements. Before we start a brainstorming session we typically point our what we call “the umbrella of mercy”. What this means is that, while we brainstorm, we are in a judgment free zone. All ideas are welcome. Not all ideas will be used, but no one will be belittled for their opinion, no matter how outrageous it might be. This is a safe space. Our students meet once a week in small groups. We regularly communicate that, in small groups, everyone in the group can be real and open about what is going on in their lives and what they are struggling with. They know that if they do this, they will not be judged or ridiculed. This is a safe space. At Current, we regularly communicate, in as many ways as we can, that people of all genders, races, cultures, backgrounds, etc…are welcome. We tell them that Christ, and His Church, are ready to embrace them exactly where they are at and help them move forward. We work painstakingly to make sure that everyone who comes to Current feels welcomed and loved. Do you know why? Because the Church should be the safest safe space of all. To the world, your home is your only safe space, but for Christians, this should not be true. All people (not just millennials) spend their whole week being torn down. The Church should not be another environment where this takes place. If you are a Christian and you are not working to make the Church a safe space, you are missing out on what the Church could and should be. How could a Christian agree with, and share, this article?

So what do I hope to gain from this? To the older generation, remember how you felt when your parents’ generation constantly criticized you for everything? Stop doing it to us. Of course we are not perfect, but neither are you. Of course we don’t know everything, but neither do you. Of course we have things to learn from you, but you can also learn some things from us. We are not a lesser part of Christ’s Church. We bring value to it as well. The thing is, this article is absolutely right when it comes to what our world is like, but the Christian should not be content to let it stay that way. This is why I just can’t get over how many people who claim to be joined with Christ in the ministry of reconciliation could share and agree with the mindset presented in this article and many others like it. Millennials should be commended for trying to shape culture, not told to just get over it and accept it for what it is.

To prove I mean it when I say I don’t think I know everything, share your agreements or push backs below. I’d love to interact with and learn from you.

 

A Tale of Two Preachers

TTP

Once upon a time, there were two preachers. Each preacher had a church member, who was struggling with depression, come to them for counsel. [1] Preacher 1 told this person all the things that were wrong with being depressed. They told this person that one of the fruits of the spirit is joy and if they didn’t have joy then they must be doing something wrong. They told this person that they needed to repent of their sin of depression. They then gave them a long list of things to do to start not being depressed.

Preacher 2 told this person they were deeply loved. Preacher 2 spent time with this person helping them understand who they are in Jesus. This person was told all that Jesus has done and the life that he offers. Then preacher 2 prayed over this member.

Each preacher had a church member who was struggling with (insert any sin you would like here).

Preacher 1 read all the Bible verses to this person that said this act was a sin. He also made sure to read the ones that talk about the punishment of sin. He made sure this person knew that they needed to stop this sin less they face these punishments. Preacher 1 then gave this person a long list of things to do to stop this sin and start living the right way.

Preacher 2 told this person they were deeply loved. He spent time with this person helping them understand who they are in Jesus. This person was told all that Jesus has done and the life that he offers. He painted a picture for this person of what life looks like when we experience it the way it was meant to be. He retold this person’s story through the lens of Jesus. Then preacher 2 prayed over this person.

When preacher 1 preaches, he makes sure his sermons are about what things his church needs to STOP doing and what things they need to START doing. He often points out what will happen if they don’t stop and start doing those things. Oddly enough, preacher 1 has a small church of miserable, behaviorally modified members who don’t really understand who they are in Jesus.

When preacher 2 preaches, he preaches on who we are in Christ. He paints a beautiful picture of what the life he intended for us involves. He talks about what it could look like to bring heaven to earth. He preaches on the way that Jesus re-tells all of our stories. He realizes that what we do, flows out of who we are. Oddly enough, preacher 2 has a pretty large church that is healthy. None of the members are perfect, but they sure understand who they are in Jesus and that drastically impacts their behavior and the way they live. Oddly enough, preacher 2 doesn’t have to give long lists about what to do and what not to do. The people have begun to naturally do and not do those things because they now know who they are.

Preacher 1 often quotes John 1:14 to preacher 2. When he does, he really likes to emphasize the AND TRUTH part. Preacher 2 chuckles at the irony of his situation as he thinks about how most of the AND TRUTH from jesus was directed toward self righteous religious leaders. Preacher 1 also likes to bring up the story of the woman caught in adultery. When he does, he really like to emphasize the GO AND LEAVE YOUR LIFE OF SIN part.

At this point, preacher 2 would really like to give a list of things to start and stop doing to preacher 1, but he won’t. He recognizes that preacher 1 doesn’t fully realize who he is in Christ. Preacher 2 knows that if he did, he would realize that Jesus only says that to the woman after he says that he doesn’t condemn her. Oddly enough, the woman never repents, she never asks for forgiveness, she never even indicates a recognition that what she did was wrong or a desire to change. Jesus forgives her anyways. Without repentance. Preacher 1 cannot reconcile that. It’s why he has to emphazie the AND TRUTH part. If only he realized that the AND TRUTH part came after Jesus bathes this woman with an almost irresponsible amount of grace. It’s almost like Jesus knew that real changing power comes when you announce who people are, and you retell their story through the lens of Jesus. It’s almost like Jesus knew that this is what changes behavior, not sermons about behavior modification.

Good thing, this is just a “hypothetical story.”

[1] This is a hypothetical story. Depression is a serious medical issue and if this were a real story, unless preacher 1 and 2 have a master’s level or higher degree with the word counseling in it, they should refer.

Understanding Revelation Part 4: The Seals

Revelation 4

Chapters 6-7: The Seals

Missed any previous posts? Get caught up:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

So far we have addressed the churches this book is written to and we have seen how powerful Jesus is and how worthy he is of worship. Now we started getting into the judgments. This is where the book starts to get dark, so let’s jump in. As always, it would be helpful to read chapters 6-7 along with this post.

The Four Horsemen

This is one of the most well known parts of the book. We saw earlier that Jesus alone was worthy to remove the seals from the scroll and the one who opens the scroll will carry out what is written inside. Christ is about to bring judgment.

Background: This vision is modeled straight out of the Old Testament, like most things in this book are. Read Zechariah 1:8-17 and Zechariah 6:1-8. The riders in Zechariah’s vision came to bring judgment to Babylon and Egypt. The riders we read about in Revelation do the same thing but for Rome.

The White Horse: This rider has a bow in his hand. In the Old Testament that represents Military Power. (See Jeremiah 51:56, Hosea 1:5, Psalm 46:9). Many people say this rider is Jesus, but I don’t think so. I think this image would have immediately struck fear in any Roman. Here’s why. At this time, the enemy Rome feared most was Parthia. In A.D. 62 something happened that had never happened before. A Roman army actually surrendered to the king of the Parthians. This freaked the Romans out and they feared an invasion from the east where Parthia was located. Oh by the way…The Parthians were known for riding white horses and were the most famous bowmen in the world.

The Red Rider: This rider is said to take peace from the world. Rome was known for bringing a time of peace to the world. Maybe you have heard of the Pax Romana. In the Old Testament, God’s judgment is often symbolized as a loss of peace. What’s more interesting is that a major reason for the fall of Rome was due to many civil wars that took place.

The Black Horse: This horse represents famine and tough times economically. The balance in his hand is for weighing food. We see a judgment of famine and bad economy coming to Rome.

The Pale Horse: The Greek world here that is translated as pale is “chloros” which means yellow-green or livid. This horse represents disease and epidemic. Here is a question: why do only a quarter perish? This judgment is not final or complete. There are still many more to come.

Important Note: So far these seals mimic the Old Testament. Ezekiel 14 describes God’s judgment against Jerusalem as sword, famine, and disease. Leviticus 26 shows the penalties for disobedience as sword, disease, and famine. John is using traditional images to describe God’s judgment. We should not get lost in trying to tie real historical events to every judgment we will see in this book. Most, if not all, are symbolic. The point is that God is going to judge Rome.

The “BIG” Question

Now that we have seen the four horsemen, the focus moves back to the people of God. We see an altar with people who have been killed for witnessing for Christ. Then the BIG question is raised. I would call this question our key to understanding this book. We read

“O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?”

The book of Revelation is an answer to this question. And what is the answer for right now? Wait…a bit…but not long.

The Sixth Seal

When this seal is opened we see more language of judgment. These are phrases that were used in the Old Testament to describe judgment against Assyria, Egypt, Edom, and other enemies of God. Wait! So all of this wording has been seen before? Yep!

  • Burning fire – Isaiah 34:9
  • Sun and Moon going dark – Joel 2:31, Amos 8:9, Isaiah 13 and 50, Matthew 24:29…(if this were literal we would have lost the sun and moon many times already)
  • Stars falling – Isaiah 34:4, Psalm 102: 25-26
  • God used the same language of judgment against the Babylonians. They came and went; yet the stars still remain in the sky. This language was not meant to be taken literal then and we should not take it literally here either. God is judging Rome here just as he judged Babylon, Edom, Egypt, Assyria, Judah, and Israel in the Old Testament.

Let’s Take a Break

Chapter 7 takes a little break between seal six and seven. This chapter is used to bring comfort to the church and reinforce that they would have victory in Jesus. Chapter 6 ends by asking the question “who can survive the wrath of God?” This chapter answers that question.

We start by seeing God holding back his judgments for a second so he can seal his faithful. Some of those suffering persecution may have wondered if God had forgotten about them. Revelation was written to remind them he had not. This chapter does just that. God marks his people to remind them he knows who they are. However, as in Ezekiel 9, we are not talking about physical protection, we are talking about spiritual deliverance. The kind that truly matters.

The 144,000

Stick with me; we are going to have a math lesson. But first, some symbol explanations from scripture

  • 12 – God’s people (12 patriarchs, 12 tribes, 12 apostles)
  • 10 – number of completeness (10 fingers, 10 toes)
  • 3 – number of divinity (think the trinity)

Ok so how do we get 144,000? Take 12×12 (the completeness of God’s people) and get 144. Take 10x10x10 (complete divinity) and get 1000. Now multiply the two numbers together. Can you see how much symbolism is wrapped up in this number? This is a beautiful symbol of all of God’s people protected by the power of His divinity. This number is the Church.

Why are they called Israelites? Israel is the original name for God’s people. It means “He who prevailed with God”. What a perfect name for this situation.

Wrap it Up Please

Ok fine, just a few final things. Revelation 7:9-12 is written to model the Feast of the tabernacles. This feast looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. In Revelation we are doing the same thing.

We see this group of people dressed in white and the question is asked, “Who are these?” We see they are those who have come out of the great tribulation. People who died from Roman persecution. Are they depressed? Are they in despair? No! They rejoice! They stand before God’s throne and he wipes every tear from their eye.

Next Week – Part 5: Judgments

Why the Blood Moons have Nothing to do with Jesus Returning

blood moon WP

About one week ago was the most recent blood moon and all of the “prophets” are pointing to the end of the world and the return of Jesus. The theory that the blood moons signify Jesus is returning, or at least that something majorly significant is about to happen, has been blowing up my Facebook feed. If you haven’t heard about this, you can get caught up to speed here. However, I firmly believe that the blood moons have absolutely zero to do with Jesus coming back. So let’s answer 5 questions regarding the concept.

  1. What is the theory?

The most recent blood moon is the 3rd of 4 in a row that will take place over a two year span.

Blood-Moons-tetrad-april-4-2015

What has interested people is not just the number of blood moons, but the timing. Each one takes place on the first day of Passover and the first day of Sukkot (both significant Jewish holidays). This has people thinking that these are a sign from God.

  1. Where are people getting this from?

There are 3 main places in the Bible where this idea comes from

  • Revelation 6:12 – I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood.
  • Matthew 24:29 – Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
  • Joel 2:30-31 – And I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth—blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives.
  1. Does this language usually mean something in the Bible?

Yes! What a great question! In the Bible, the shining of the sun, moon, or stars represents a time of prosperity. In contrast, the darkening, or falling from the sky, or one of them changing to blood, represents a time of judgment or hardship. These images are not literal. The destructions of many kingdoms in the Old Testament are predicted with this language. Last time I checked, those kingdoms are gone but the stars are still in the sky and the sun is still shining.

  1. So what do these verses actually mean?

Revelation – This is figurative language used to describe the judgment coming against Rome for persecuting the church. I have a whole series on my blog I’m working through on understanding this. Check it out here.

Matthew – Jesus is not talking about the moon literally turning to blood before he returns. He is not even talking about when he returns. He is talking about the destruction of the temple. This passage begins with Jesus telling the apostles that someday not one stone would be left on another in the temple. They ask when that great event will happen. Jesus says, this generation will not pass away until this takes place, and it didn’t. That event happened in AD 70. In the verses following he tells them that there will be NO SUCH SIGNS of the end of the world. (Including blood moons).

Joel – I’ll spend the most time on this one because it’s the main passage used. Most people don’t know very much about the book of Joel so here’s a quick recap

  • A plague of locusts comes through and destroys the food supply of Judah. According to Joel, the plague was not random. He sees it as a judgment from God. He sees the locusts as God’s army.
  • Joel tells the people to repent and turn back to God. When they do, the Lord answers. Here’s a few things he says
    • He will send food and drink that will satisfy fully (sound familiar? Whoever drinks this water will never thirst again…)
    • He will make up for what the locusts have taken
    • The people will eat until they are full
    • (if you haven’t figured it out yet, he is talking about Jesus)
  • After he talks about Jesus. Here is what Joel says

“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike. And I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth—blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives. But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved, for some on Mount Zion in Jerusalem will escape, just as the LORD has said.

Maybe you have heard this scripture before, but not in Joel. That’s because Peter quotes it in Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit comes. He quotes it because he says that when the Holy Spirit came, this passage from Joel was fulfilled. Wait a minute! How can this passage refer to blood moons in 2015 when Peter said the passage already came true almost 2000 years ago? Exactly!

So what was Peter talking about?

The coming of the Holy Spirit began the fulfillment of this prophesy that God would pour out his spirit on all people (it’s in Acts 2). He said wonders would happen (we read about a ton of miracles in Acts). Then the sun will become dark and the moon will turn to blood (which we known means struggle and hardship) before the day of the Lord. I would say the Church has definitely faced struggle and hardship, and will continue to, until Jesus returns. Jesus made it clear that would be the case. The amazing part is at the end though. Even though we will face hardship, those who call on the name of Jesus will be saved. Jesus brings deliverance for his church, and for all who accept him as their savior. What an amazing message.

  1. So what do we know about when Jesus will come back?

Unfortunately, not much. Jesus said he himself doesn’t know when he will come back. He says the day and the hour are not known. There are no signs laid out in scripture. It may be soon, it may not be. I can tell you though, that the blood moons have absolutely nothing to do with when he will come back. So instead of counting down the days until September 28 and the next blood moon, go out and start telling people that even though this world is full of struggle and hardship until Jesus returns, if they call on his name they can be saved.