My oh my. I haven’t blogged in a while.  REALLY blogged.  Well the topic of this post is somewhat of a broad one and I think I’m going to be jumping all over the place, but that’s okay.  I want to start off by saying that this is going to be more of a personal reflection rather than a “try to teach you something” or “try to be exegetical” blog.

Right now it is 7:38am on Easter Sunday Morning.  I was planning on going to the sunrise service that was orchestrated by the college group, famously known as “The Well,” at EFCC.  It was a facebook event, and I completely misread it.  It said meet at 6am at 7-11.  It did NOT say meet at 7am at 7-11.  My bad. Well, I’m a little disappointed, but not too much because I think it was God ordained.  He wanted me to blog. =] So here I am, saddened that I missed the beautiful California Sunrise on the most appropriate of days, but content to know that it was not meant to be.

So what am I getting at?  Well in the past week, I have been vacationing in the most awesome place.  A good place of relaxation (ish) and reflection commonly known as Yosemite.  I brought a couple books to read, one being Surprised by Hope. In an earlier post that was written during Christmas break, I criticized the work a little too harshly, quickly reading through it and not paying attention to the important details that Wright has to offer.  Reading this book and paying close attention to detail, I learned so much about Christ and specifically his purpose here on earth as it pertains to the resurrection (I have finally digressed).  What an earth shattering thing, Christ’s rising from the dead.  The implications of this event are far greater than I could ever hope or imagine to put into words, but I think Wright does a fine job.
I want to share some of what I am learning from this book.  It is amazing.  I highly recommend it.  I have not completely finished it yet, but I am close, and it is so good.
God and the world are not the same thing, nor is everything simply held within something called “god.”  Within biblical theology it remains the case that the one living God created a world that is other than himself, not contained within himself.  Creation was from the beginning an act of love, of affirming the goodness of the other.  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good; but it was not itself divine.  At its height, which according to Genesis 1 is the creation of humans, it was designed to reflect God, both to reflect God back to God in worship and to reflect God into the rest of creation in stewardshipHumans were made to be God’s stewards over creation, so the one through whom all things were made, the eternal son, the eternal wisdom, becomes human so that he might truly become God’s steward, ruler over all his world.  Equally, if you tell the story from the point of view of human rebellion and the consequent sin and death that have engulfed the world, this again emerges as the moment all creation had been waiting for: the eternal expression of the father’s love became the incarnate expression of the father’s love so that by his self-giving to death, even the death of the cross, the whole creation can be reconciled to GodThis is the real cosmic Christology of the New Testament:…a retelling of the Jewish story of wisdom in terms of Jesus himself, focusing on the cross as the act whereby the good creation is brought back into harmony with the wise creator. (pages 94-96)
Did you put all that together?? Wright took 3 pages to explain all that, but I condensed it down and made it more concise.  It took me a long time to read through these pages.  Re-read the bold sections.  Because of Christ’s resurrection, the whole creation was reconciled back to God.  I cannot quite explain it how Wright does, but if you do not fully understand what this passage is saying, please ask!  What a magnificent God! What an all loving and forgiving God, that he would become his own creation, love us so much, and be willing to die and defeat death so that we might one day be resurrected in bodily form like he was along with all creation!  That is the implication of his death and resurrection.  Death is the last enemy.  Jesus Christ has defeated it and therefore, we have all the hope in the world! Hallelujah! What love.
The world is created good but incomplete. One day, when all forces of rebellion have been defeated and the creation responds freely and gladly to the love of its creator, God will fill it with himself so that it will both remain an independent being, other than God, and also be flooded with God’s own life.  This is part of the paradox of love, in which love freely given creates a context for love to be freely returned, and so on in a cycle where complete freedom and complete union do not cancel each other out but rather celebrate each other and make one another whole. (page 102)
Wow.  Thank you Jesus.
I guess I want to confess publicly here.  I have been struggling with selfishness for quite a while.  Selfishness is an awful thing because the way I see it, it plays out in every corner of my life.  My entire motivation is all about me.  The only reason I do things and the only way I look at some situations is by how much I will be benefiting from those situations.  It is is remarkable to me how selfishness manifests itself into so many different areas.  Please, as you think of it, pray for me.
Lord I confess to you my wrongness and my sin.  I have chosen to follow you and in doing so have committed myself to you.  I am not my own.  Forgive me.  Thank you for humbling yourself by entering creation and reconciling it to yourself.   And thank you for your sacrificial love.   You are alive today, and I celebrate and live in the hope that one day I will be raised up to spend eternity with you.   Thank you!

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
BUT in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
-1 Corinthians 15:16-24

where has all my time gone??

This is where all my time has gone. God bless it.
1 Corinthians 10:31

a christmas of revelation!

FIRST off, MERRY CHRISTMAS!! I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed this Christmas season with your family or whoever you celebrated this season of Christ’s birth with.

SECONDLY, get ready for a long post. Don’t be discouraged by the length! Please read on! If you’ve clicked on a link to get here, then you might as well spend at least a couple minutes reading what’s been on my mind, no?

A couple of Sundays ago, Ryan Paulson – college pastor at Emmanuel Faith Community Church – referenced the Christmas story as mentioned by John in Revelation 12; The Woman and the Beast. I had never heard of this account of Jesus’ birth and loved his lecture on it. If you haven’t read that chapter, I encourage you to read it from this perspective sometime; HOWEVER, this is not the topic of my post! Tricked-cha!!!

The topic of my post is actually about this man:

This is N. T. Wright.

Who is he?? Here is a small excerpt from his site:

He is one of today’s best know and respected New Testament scholars. Born in 1948, he studied for the ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and was ordained as Junior Research Fellow and Junior Chaplain at Merton College, Oxford. From 1978 to 1981 he was Fellow and Chaplain at Downing College, Cambridge, and then moved to Montreal as Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies at McGill University. He returned in 1986 to Oxford as University Lecturer in New Testament, and Fellow and Chaplain of Worcester College, Oxford. He became Dean of Lichfield in 1994, and Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey in 2000.

In other words, this guy knows his New Testament (N. T. Wright). He is, at the current time, probably the most reliable source of New Testament history, culture, and background information in the world. His intricate knowledge of how Greeks, Romans, and Jews thought, wrote, and behaved during this time period is unrivaled in theological circles. Having been exposed to him in my Christian, Life, Faith and Ministries class through the book Simply Christian, and having been referred by my cousin, Matthew Grimes (who is currently working towards his doctorate in organizational studies at Vanderbilt), to read some material of his, I picked up one of Wright’s books at the Family Christian Store to gain an idea of who this guy was and where he was coming from.

The book is called Surprised by HOPE: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. Boy, does he have some interesting things to say, and I’m only half way through the book! If I believed everything this wise scholar had to say, there would be no basis for my desire to become a missionary! That’s pretty radical stuff. I agree with the general thesis of his book, which I’ll explain later, but some of the explanations and reasoning behind this thesis of his come out of nowhere and I must disagree with him.

From what I’ve gleaned thus far from reading it, the basic outline follows the message of Jesus’ resurrection. He makes the claim that the emerging church is so heavily insistent upon a disembodied “soul” that will one day spend eternity in heaven. This hope, according to Wright, is a false one. Instead, the hope that should be the excitement of the church is the hope that one day all believers in Christ will be resurrected in BODILY form with Him and rule and reign on earth…the new earth that is. This is just an oversimplified version of his thesis, but you get the idea.

Well, truth be told, I agree with this theology! HOWEVER, little bits and pieces of his doctrine began surfacing as I read it that made me question his validity. He is a “Kingdom of God” preacher, so he will tell you that “the Kingdom of God is at hand” and we must be a part of God’s kingdom here on earth by taking care of it, feeding the hungry, caring for the needy, giving money to the poor. These types of acts are even mentioned in James 1:27.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

What is the definition of religion? I was told that religion is man’s best way to get to God. So what was the first organized religion? Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin before God by covering themselves with fig leaves once they realized they were naked = first religion.
SO visiting orphans and widows is the most pure and undefiled way of man’s best efforts to get to God. BUT IT DOES NOT SAVE YOU. Nor is this salvation. This idea is not Biblical. What happened to the “grace as a gift of God, not by works lest any man should boast,” mentality?
Now that is not to say that we shouldn’t care for the sick, feed the hungry, and give money to the poor. This was a part of Jesus’ ministry…but it didn’t end there. Jesus did not come to provide temporary comfort. He came to die so that all might have the reach to grasp eternal joy in Him and with Him!
So I was wondering where in the world these ideas of Wright came from…he gave no explanation of why he believed this. No background. No nothing.
Well, I had the privilege of talking about this with my dad and Phil de Martimprey tonight and gained some important insight about N. T. Wright: he is an Amillenialist (I highly disagree with this notion). In other words, he believes that Christ’s reign will not be an actual 1000 year reign after the tribulation. Instead, we are now experiencing the thousand years in the church age. This information is the key to understanding some of the weird theology that I have never heard of in this book, but now it all makes sense, I just disagree with some parts of it.
That means that, yes, the Kingdom of God has come already. That means that those who will be saved are saved and those who are not will not be saved. That means missions is no longer necessary, but rather WORKS WORKS WORKS!!! Political justice is what the church should focus on! Sure, we should strive for political justice, but this is NOT what we are working towards.
What happened to Jesus’ ministry of seeking and saving the lost…the spiritually lost?
So the conclusion that I came to is a quite broad one: There are some excellent authors, theologians, pastors, and teachers that are backed by all sorts of ethnos that have some excellent things to say about God’s Word, but that does not mean they are undeniably right about everything they might have to say, nor do I have to agree with them. For instance, N. T. Wright has some incredible commentaries on the culture of the Jews and how they viewed resurrection before and after Christ. I agree with him! Just not concerning the Kingdom of God philosophy. John Piper is probably one of the most amazing pastors I have ever heard speak. He is so in tune with God’s Word that you can feel his passion flowing out of his sermons, but I do not agree with his complete supremecy of God theology. God is supreme alright, but I don’t agree with predestination. Rob Bell has some great things to say as well, but I don’t have to agree with everything he says either.
The important things to keep in mind are this:
  • God was and is forever
  • He created the universe
  • Man became inherently sinful after the fall and needs a Savior
  • God sent His son in human form (fully God, fully man) born of a virgin to redeem the world
  • Jesus lived a perfect sinless life and died and rose again, defeating death and providing a way to the Father for those who would repent and be forgiven
    anymore?? let me know if I forgot something =]
    Without these beliefs, one cannot call themself Christian. Within the boundaries of these doctrine, the extemporaneous beliefs about how long it took God to create the universe, post-millenial vs. pre-millenial, and all arguments concerning the book of Revelation (sarcasm) are not extremely important, or rather “life and death” important.Lord, gives us an ear for wisdom and a heart of understanding! You give freely to those who ask for discernment. Let us not ask in vain Lord.

preparing for the future

One of the greatest triumphs of “growing up” is watching the friends around us grow into and become the leaders of our generation. Some of my upperclassmen friends have mentioned how bizarre it is to be bridesmaids or groomsmen in their best friend’s wedding. Not bizarre in a negative sense, but bizarre as in, “Where did the time go?”

Well, Justin Ross, a good childhood friend of mine, just got his solo pilot license about a month ago and his trying to attain his private license now. A solo license means you can fly by yourself within a restricted area and with other passengers under the supervision of a flight instructor. The next license would be private, meaning he could fly whenever he wanted for an extended period of time without limitations as to where he can fly. His ultimate goal, as of now, is to get his commercial pilot license which allows you to fly passengers whenever and wherever you want, analogous to a driving permit versus a driving license.
One of the requirements of a private license is a cross-country trip, which basically is flying a certain distance x-country, not necessarily flying ‘across the country’. Justin’s trip was scheduled for a Friday and he called me the Friday before: “Wanna go flying with me on my x-country trip?” The event was scheduled and I had a blast! So here is the video that I made as a result of the trip. It was so much fun and I’m glad I was asked to go.

I asked him what his goals in getting his commercial license were, and he didn’t really give me a straight answer. The future is a mystery, but when asked, he did express interest in missions! I think that the most exciting facet of growing up with your peers is seeing them grow into Christ and watching Him mold and shape their lives alongside yours. There is such a need for mission-minded aviators! Justin said it would be a long process, but he does hope that one day he will be able to assist missionaries by flying them into remote locations, delivering essential supplies including mail, food, and providing medical help by assisting nationals and missionaries out of tribes if needed. The need of missionary pilots is a large one, but God’s Kingdom is being built and He is raising up some amazing workers for His purpose.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist o one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
1 Corinthians 12:12-20

the shack

About a year ago, I developed a unique passion for reading “make you think” books.  The reason I say unique is because before this, I HATED to read. Now I love it. God has some great things to say through His Word,  and through some wonderful authors God can be understood more clearly and I can’t get enough!
I often struggle to get all the way through books. I’m not sure why.  For instance, I am in the middle of several books right now: Spirit of the Rainforest, Bruchko, Lillith, Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and finally Let the Nations Be Glad.  I usually don’t like to read novels, but the novels I’m reading now are interesting to read and have a substance too them, so I’m giving them a try.
So, the topic of my post: Harold Clousing, of APU Man Choir Directorial fame, gave us a book called The Shack by William P. Young as a Christmas gift to every guy in the choir. I started reading it two days ago. I don’t often read the forwards in books because they are usually dull and take more than enough time to read, but I thought “Eh, why not.” Hooked. Immediately. I can’t wait to read this over break! I have only heard positive feedback from those who have read it. I will try and post what goes through my head while I’m reading this heralded (no pun intended) book.
I think that will be a good motivator. Yep =]

the parable of the orange tree

Dr John White

I DREAMED I DROVE ON A FLORIDA road, still and straight and empty. On either side were groves of orange trees, so that as I turned to look at them from time to time, line after line of trees stretched back endlessly from the road, their boughs heavy with round yellow fruit. This was harvest time. My wonder grew as the miles slipped by. How could the harvest be gathered?

Suddenly I realized that for all the hours I had driven (and this was how I knew I must be dreaming) I had seen no other person. The groves were empty of people. No other car had passed me. No houses were to be seen beside the highway. I was alone in a forest of orange trees.
But at last I saw some orange pickers. Far from the highway, almost on the horizon, lost in the vast wilderness of unpicked fruit, I could discern a tiny group of them working steadily. And many miles later I saw another group. I could not be sure, but I suspected that the earth beneath me was shaking with silent laughter at the hopelessness of their task. Yet the pickers went on picking.
The sun had long passed its zenith, and the shadows were lengthening when, without any warning, I turned a corner of the road to see a notice “Leaving NEGLECTED COUNTY – Entering HOME COUNTY.” The contrast was so startling that I scarcely had time to take in the notice. I had to slow down, for all at once the traffic was heavy. People by the thousands swarmed the road and crowded the sidewalks.
Even more startling was the transformation in the orange groves. Orange groves were still there, and orange trees in abundance, but now, far from being silent and empty, they were filled with the laughter and singing of multitudes of people. Indeed it was the people we noticed rather than the trees. People–and houses.
I parked the car at the roadside and mingled with the crowd. Smart gowns, neat shoes, showy hats, expensive suits and starched shirts made me a little conscious of my work clothes. Everyone seemed so fresh, and poised, and happy.
“Is it a holiday?” I asked a well-dressed woman with whom I fell in step.
She looked a little startled for a moment, and then her face relaxed with a smile of gracious condescension.
“You’re a stranger, aren’t you?” she said, and before I could reply, “This is Orange Day.”
She must have seen a puzzled look on my face, for she went on, “It is so good to turn aside from one’s labors and pick oranges one day of the week.”
“But don’t you pick oranges every day?” I asked her. “One may pick oranges at any time,” she said. “We should always be ready to pick oranges, but Orange Day is the day that we devote especially to orange picking.”
I left her and made my way further into the trees. Most of the people were carrying a book. Bound beautifully in leather, and edged and lettered in gold, I was able to discern on the edge of one of them the words, “Orange Picker’s Manual.”
By and by I noticed around one of the orange trees seats had been arranged, rising upward in tiers from the ground. The seats were almost full-but, as I approached the group, a smiling well-dressed gentleman shook my hand and conducted me to a seat.
There, around the foot of the orange tree, I could see a number of people. One of them was addressing all the people on the seats and, just as I got to my seat, everyone rose to his feet and began to sing. The man next to me shared with me his song book. It was called “Songs of the Orange Groves.” They sang for some time, and the song leader waved his arms with a strange and frenzied abandon, exhorting the people in the intervals between the songs to sing more loudly.
I grew steadily more puzzled.
“When do we start to pick oranges?” I asked the man who had loaned me his book.
“It’s not long now,” he told me. “We like to get everyone warmed up first. Besides, we want to make the oranges feel at home.” I thought he was joking but his face was serious. After a while a rather well-groomed man took over from the song leader and, after reading two sentences from his well-thumbed copy of the Orange Picker’s Manual, began to make a speech. I wasn’t clear whether he was addressing the people or the oranges.
I glanced behind me and saw a number of groups of people similar to our own group gathering around an occasional tree and being addressed by other well-groomed men. Some of the trees had no one around them.
“Which trees do we pick from?” I asked the man beside me. He did not seem to understand, so I pointed to the trees round about, “This is our tree,” he said, pointing to the one we were gathered around.
“But there are too many of us to pick from just one tree,” I protested. “Why, there are more people than oranges!”
“But we don’t pick oranges.” the man explained. “We haven’t been called. That’s Pastor Orange Picker’s job. We’re here to support him. Besides we haven’t been to college. You need to know how an orange thinks before you can pick it successfully, orange psychology, you know. Most of these folks here, he went on, pointing to the congregation, “have never been to Manual School.”
“Manual School,” I whispered, “What’s that?”
“It’s where they go to study the Picker’s Manual” my informant went on. It’s very hard to understand. You need years of study before it makes sense.”  “I see,” I murmured. “I had no idea that picking oranges was so difficult.”  The well-groomed man at the front was still making his speech. His face was red, and he appeared to be indignant about something. So far as I could see there was rivalry with some of the other “orange-picking” groups. But a moment later a glow came on his face.
“But we are not forsaken,” he said. “We have much to be thankful for. Last week we saw THREE ORANGES BROUGHT INTO OUR BASKETS, and we are now completely debt free from the money we owed on the new cushion covers that grace the seats you now sit on.”  “Isn’t it wonderful?” the man next to me murmured. I made no reply. I felt that something must be profoundly wrong somewhere. All this seemed to be a very round-about way of picking oranges.
The well-groomed man was reaching a climax in his speech. The atmosphere seemed tense. Then with a very dramatic gesture he reached two of the oranges, plucked them from the branch, and placed them in the basket at his feet. The applause was deafening. “Do we start to pick now?” I asked my informant.
“What in the world do you think we’re doing?” he hissed. “What do you suppose this tremendous effort has been made for? There’s more orange-picking talent in this group than in the rest of Home County. Thousands of dollars have been spent on the tree you’re looking at.”
I apologized quickly. “I wasn’t being critical,” I said. “And I’m sure the well-groomed man must be a very good orange picker but surely the rest of us could try. After all, there are so many oranges that need picking. We’ve all got a pair of hands, and we could read the Manual.”   “When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you’ll realize that it’s not as simple as that,” he replied. “There isn’t time, for one thing. We have our work to do, our families to care for, and our homes to look after. We. . .
But I wasn’t listening. Light was beginning to break on me. Whatever these people were, they were not orange pickers. Orange picking was just a form of entertainment for their weekends. I tried one or two more of the groups around the trees. Not all of them had such high academic standards for orange pickers. Some held classes on orange picking. I tried to tell them of the trees I had seen in Neglected County but they seemed to have little interest.
“We haven’t picked the oranges here yet,” was their usual reply.
The sun was almost setting in my dream and, growing tired of the noise and activity all around me, I got in the car and began to drive back again along the road I had come. Soon all around me again were the vast and empty orange groves.
But there were changes.
Something had happened in my absence. Everywhere the ground was littered with fallen fruit. And as I watched, it seemed that before my eyes the trees began to rain oranges. Many of them lay rotting on the ground.
I felt there was something so strange about it all, and my bewilderment grew as I thought of all the people in Home County.
Then, booming through the trees there came a voice which said, “The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers. . .”
And I awakened because after all, it was only a dream.
Author: Dr. John White

what’s new?

Well, to begin, the style of this blog is new. I’ve decided that, in addition to posting things I’m learning, I’m going to post blogs about what is going on in my life every once in a while. Hopefully it will provide you humor, entertainment, and ways that you can pray for/with me. This post is just some of what I’ve been thinking about here at school.

My “end all” goal is to get to the foreign mission field. I have had such a tug on my heart to go there that everything I have been learning and experiencing has been filtered through that goal. As such, I’m trying to figure out the fastest way to get there while still being content with where God has me right now, mainly here at Azusa Pacific University. I recently talked with a friend of mine who asked me a question: Why am I at Azusa if I want to be on the mission field so badly? A hard question to answer. For now, I sense that this is where God wants me at the present time. This answer will have to suffice for now. I face many years till I get to the mission field, and I’m waiting quite patiently (Psalm 37:7a); realizing how much debt I am incurring by staying here and paying nearly full tuition every year – a tuition that increases significantly from year to year – for four years, I can’t help but question whether or not I should be going to this school if it means I’ll be spending about +5 more years after college working off my school debts. Not to mention the 4 years I’ll be spending at New Tribes Bible Institute BEFORE I get assigned to the field. That’s 9 years or more after college! It saddens me to realize that it will take that long to get to the place where I know God wants me to be serving Him.

I have considered the possibility of going straight to NTBI, but I think that I need to mature emotionally and spiritually before I take that next step. A four-year university seems like the perfect place to do this, but at what cost?

Wheaton College forgives school debts if the person whom they are forgiving is going into full time missions. Should I go there? The Lord does not endorse indebtedness. “Owe no one anything,” Romans 13:8. “…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

While I was in Papua New Guinea during my Interface training, we had a seminar on finances and debt. The missionaries there were very adamant about avoiding school debt as much as possible. A student will come out of college excited to get on the field, thinking that they will spend a few years paying off their loans, when in reality, this pursuance of financial freedom turns into a cycle that becomes increasingly difficult to escape. Some family friends of ours are actually experiencing this difficulty now. I don’t want to become a part of this American system that I hear is so difficult to escape.

Please pray for me. Pray that God will give me a clear vision of what He would have me do in this situation. I have considered every possible avenue I might be able to take and have come up empty-handed. In Isaiah 30:21, it says, “And whether you turn to the right or to the left you will hear a voice behind you saying this is the way, walk in it.” Pray that I might hear Christ’s voice. I want what God desires for my life to become part of what I desire for my life. With the busy-ness of college and all the “going-ons” here, it is difficult to get away and just listen, so pray that I might find time for solitude here. Thanks, and thanks for taking the time to read this if you happened to get this far =)

May the LORD bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26
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