Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heaven Meets Earth Like an Unforeseen Kiss

How He Loves Us

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities and Today

The latest book I had to read for English was A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I was excited to dive into this incredibly famous book, and in no way was I disappointed. If you haven't read it, please do. Not only does it give incredible insight into Revolutionary France, but it provides even greater insight into the hearts of men and the characters that make up our world. I found the tale to be both depressing and inspiring; it brought out my emotional highs as well as lows.
For a final project I decided to re-read the famous introductory paragraph, then do a comparison to today's world. I received 100% on my paper (yes!) and I really do think it's one of the better things I've written in High School. I wanted to post my paper not for self-glorification, but to share my thoughts. Feel free to comment and share your opinion. And, most importantly, enjoy!


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

This opening paragraph to A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most famous to ever be written. Certainly this is partially because A Tale of Two Cities is an amazing book written by Charles Dickens – one of the best and most celebrated authors; but I would submit there’s more to this opening then mere pen on paper. When words reach through the book and the barrier of time that separates us from the writer’s hand, and we feel those words tug at our hearts and our emotions, and we relate to the feeling of what’s being communicated, this indeed is more than simple etchings in ink. The opening paragraph to A Tale of Two Cities is a perfect example of something that speaks anew to every generation – if they listen. Undoubtedly everyone will read this beautiful arrangement of words with their own opinions, experiences, and belief systems in mind, and they will glean certain truths about today’s world because of this. In general, however, there are two main categories that this passage speaks to that can be related to today’s world: morals and beliefs. Examining each of these separate and looking at how they play into today’s world, and how they are presented from Dicken’s writing will provide clarity to both understanding today’s world, and understanding the passage.

Nearly everybody in today’s world has some kind of set of morals. Some may cringe to admit it, but history has shown humans to be beings who draw certain lines in their metaphorical sand, and say “this far, but no further.” Some base their morals on religion, while others prefer to base them from experiences, and still others prefer neither and fall to the morals of immorality. All people, however, have some kind of moral code. “…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” The masses of today flock to the widely popular philosophy of simply “being a good person.” They are sorely let down when they realize the narcissism of such a belief has inversely showed them that they are, in fact, the opposite: foolish people. Then there are the Mother Theresa’s and the Ghandi’s of the world: people who sacrifice of themselves and find true happiness. The few that follow these people tread on a narrow road and seek true wisdom. “…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…” “…we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” The newspaper and news channels of today’s world reveal how full of Darkness our society is. Murder, theft, drugs, pornography, adultery, bombings, terrorism; the list is ever-increasing and never ending. Drug busts are a common occurrence in even the smallest of cities, and one need only look at Las Vegas or Atlantic City to realize how enamored and addicted our culture is with sexual deviance. Through everything that is Dark and grows ever Darker, however, there is Light. Organizations, groups, and people step up and make a difference in our world every day. Disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti reveal how prone many people are to helping those in need. Morals in today’s society truly reveal that, if one was to create a spectrum, there is no middle ground.

In many ways, a person’s morals are tied closely to their beliefs, or their belief system. Like morals, everyone carries some kind of belief system; whether it be based on their upbringing, their experiences, their wins, or their losses. Most people’s beliefs are continuously in process; they change through experience and periods of time. “…it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” In today’s society, seeing is believing. One need only sit in on a public high school Physics class to realize that if you can’t prove it using a formula, postulate, or experimental analysis, then our culture screams “it is not true!” We place personal menu requests on mathematics and science for this very reason, with side orders of debate and logic. The winners in our society are those who are smart, and can show you just how smart they are. Then, there are the pastors, the priests, the rabbis, and the prophets: those who choose faith above their mind, and who know that they can’t trust their eyes to show them the real truth of this world. The scientists and scholars of today’s society at the very least disregard the words of even the most esteemed in this camp, and at the worst mock them for not having the facts to back up their beliefs. “…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” The highly regarded people of today’s culture (the lawyers, the doctors, the scientists, and even the politicians) all have their own voices and opinions on the happenings in the world. If one were to take all of their voices and combine them in to one shout and uproar, the result would be depressing: global warming, failing economies, and warring nations to only name a few of the loud and piercing cries. Despair creeps through every crack and every floorboard – it turns the strong to weak, and the weak to nothing. And yet, just as with every winter, there is inevitably a spring on the other side. Even above the naysayers and pessimists that rule our upper-class society, there are those that lead revolutions in technology, which in turn leads to solving issues such as water crises in other countries. There are also those that lead in the study of medicine, that rather than simply screaming the common cry of “there is no hope!” they help solve global issues like HIV/AIDS, and provide medical assistance all around the world. These people show the world that mankind truly does not exist merely to continue its existence until the end of the world; that we really do have everything before us.

Morals and beliefs: these are the two main categories that I would distil everything into from Charles Dickens’ opening words in A Tale of Two Cities. They reveal that, although the circumstances were very different and the quality of life was not nearly the same in Revolutionary France, the very same wise words can be applied to today’s world. The words reach through space and time and grab our society by its collar; they show us how similar people of yesterday are to people of today. More than that, they grab you and me and present a choice. We can heed the words and choose what kind of person we can become, or we can leave the words and fall into the same winter of despair, epoch of incredulity, and season of Darkness that so many have fallen into: both yesterday, and today. So many people today are split on this choice that in many ways it truly is the best of times, and the worst of times.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I'm tired of people pretending like they have all of the answers.
Is it so unfathomable to think that there are things happening around us that we have no clue about? Even more than a "scene above the ceiling" - a whole Kingdom around us that many refuse to recognize?

This trip to Israel was so awesome. I'm glad I was able to journal via blogging; it really helped me process while traveling, and I'm glad to hear it proved interesting to others as well. The things I speak of in this post are only a fraction of what I've been thinking about.

Something this year has taught me, and something that really hit home for me on this trip, is the power of questions.
I've really come to a place of peace about not having to always know the answer to something. I can accept that many times things are simply out of my control - that no matter how much I plan and map a decision out, there are things are at work that I have no clue about. I can accept that Papa's will for me is to live loved, and that He will take care of the rest.

This last year has forced many questions through my mind. I've heard it said that when you question something that is in the Bible, oftentimes the answer to that question produces only more questions. I've seen firsthand the affects questions can have on someone who is trying to haggle for an item from a Jewish shopkeeper.

There's something about questions, whether answerable or unanswerable. People are uncomfortable with too many of them, as they can pry a man's heart from his chest if asked correctly.

I've come under fire from a few people, both online and in the real world, when I've written or talked about author's such as Rob Bell and William Young. Why? I'm really not sure. There's something about people that ask questions, and look at things with a different set of glasses on. In some strange way, it scares people. They tack labels like "Emergent Church" and then call for unity. What? Please, for the sake of us all, I would ask those people to look for a plank before removing the speck.

Even God challenges people with Questions.

Job 38
Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said:
"Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me."

God goes on to question Job for four chapters. At the end of the questioning and challenging, Job replies:

Job 42
Then Job replied to the Lord:
"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

Whoa. That's powerful.

I'm never going to stop asking questions. I understand that the nature of asking "why?" is to come back with the answer "I don't know."
And I'm ok with that.

Because I really don't need to know everything.
Like getting to know a friend, girlfriend, or relative, I accept that there are things about the nature of God and this world He's created that I may never know. But just as with those people, that won't stop me from continuously seeking a relationship and asking the hard questions.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Israel Day 6: The Desert

Today has been so much fun!
The day started with a bus ride to the Ahava store/factory. All of their products are Dead Sea based, and plenty of people spent plenty of money on loved ones! It was a fun time, and there were alot of laughs.
After Ahava, we hopped back in the bus and headed for Masada. On the way we saw En Gedi (mentioned In the Bible, and historicaly belonged to Cleopatra). We also saw an Ibex on the way, which are native here!

Masada is historical on two levels. First, it was one of King Herod's desert retreats and is one of the amazing structers the crazy king had built duri g his life time. The second historical level is far nearer to the hearts of the Israeli people.
We learned from the writings if Josephus Flavius that Mosada was the last stronghold for the Jewish Rebels in ~72 AD against the Roman Empire. They were besieged in the old mountain fortress until the Romans realized they weren't moving anytime soon. At this point, the Romans built a huge earth ramp up to the wall of Mosada so that they could wheel a huge battering ram to the top and take the city. The Jews put up a fight, but couldn't hold out against the Romans' unyielding attack. The final desperate act was decided by the leader of the Jews, and all the people agreed to the plan. 10 people were chosen to kill the other families (men, women, and children) so that the Romans wouldn't make them their concubines and slaves. Finally, the leader of the Jews at Mosada was the last alive, and the only one who had to take his own life (considered a sin). This story of desperate measures has been passed down from person to person, and written down by Josephus Flavius and finally it was re-discovered, excavated, and can be journeyed to by tourists.
What an amazing place to see Biblical truth and historical record meet.

It's interesting to note that we were at Mosada at the same time as Mrs. Biden, the second lady. (pictured in pink)

-Dead Sea-
After Mosada we headed to the shore of the Dead Sea for some fun and floating! The super salty mineral rich water and mud is excellent for skin, and for a hilariously fun time! What a blast!

Today was a more relaxed easy-going day, and I think we all needed it. Tomorrow is a free day to explore Jerusalem for everybody except the High School Students (Shalom, Sara, Hannah, and me). We are volunteering at the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem! We're not sure what that means, but I'll keep you posted!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Israel Day 5: From the Garden Tomb to Bethlehem

Yesterday proved extremely tiring, but was so awesome! Today should be incredible as well!

-The Garden Tomb-
So peaceful. The Garden Tomb is such an amazing place to reflect and remember the ressurection of Jesus. Whether or not this is where it happened, the point is that Jesus is no longer dead. So awesome!

"The place of the skull"

Inside. The tomb is empty!

-Random Jerusalem-
We went to the upper room, King David's Tomb, and the Western Wall! So awesome!

-City of David-
This was not a part of our original tour, but it was such a blessing to be able to go! The City of David is everything within the old walls, and we got a chance to see the spring that would have been directly outside of those walls. The spring provided water for all of Jerusalem, and was well hidden from Israel's enemies. It had to be fetched using a series of tunnels, which we got to walk through!

Because Bethlehem is under Palastinian control, it is really an interesting experience. No Hebrew, sheckels not accepted, no Jews. Arabic, mostly Muslims, very dirty. That being said, all of the holy sites are well protected by Churches and wonderful staff. We saw two sites in Bethlehem: the sheperds field, and the Church of the Nativity. The shepards field has a beautiful church made by the same guy who did the church on Mt. Tabor, and the Church of All Nations. The Church of the Holy Nativity is an incredible site as well. The church is built in the shape of a cross, and the top of the cross features beautiful Greek Orthadox iconoclastic art work. After walking the length of the church, we decended a staircase into the cave: the birthplace of Christ. Unlike many other "traditional" sites we've seen, this is very likely the spot Jesus Christ actually was born.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Israel Day 4: Jerusalem!

Hey everybody! I was so tired when we got back to the hotel last night, I didn't have a chance to throw a blog post together! Also, I made a video recap of the day's events, but that won't upload for some reason.
That being said, plenty of pictures were taken throughout the day, and I uploaded all the great one's onto Facebook!

We got to Jerusalem safely, and Day 4 of our trip was spent experiencing the Old City and seeing many of the sights.

Here's some of our pics of Jerusalem. The rest can be viewed here.

To give you a brief look at what we did, here's bullet points of our day's activities:
  • Church of the Holy Sepulcher
  • Walking around Old City/shopping
  • Camel rides & cityscape
  • Mount of Olives
  • Garden of Gethsemane
  • Church of All Nations
Thanks, and hopefully I'll be able to bring you more tonight!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Israel Day 3: From the Jordan to Jerusalem

To be honest, I'm going into today not at all knowing what we're doing or where we're going. I do know that we're ending up in Jerusalem however! So, here we go!

-Baptisms on the Jordan-
Our first stop today is to a baptismal place on the Jordan river! Several on our team wanted to be baptized, including our own Shalom, Sara, and Bart!
It was such a cool experience. I was baptized in the Jordan during my last visit, so it was cool for me to observe and take pictures this time around.

Also, a really cool thing happened here. After our group was finishe with baptisms, my dad saw a group of college students standing off to the side. My dad being how he is (amazing) went and talked to the students. They were on a YWAM DTS and had been serving in Tel Aviv! This was the touring part of their trip. Four from their group wanted to be baptized, but didn't have a pastor to help them out. My dad and another pastor on our team volunteered to lend them a hand. Four of the students decided to go for it! It was a really cool thing to watch! The students were really blessed, and my dad thought it was so awesome!

Such a cool thing to see Papa bring two completely seperate groups together in one experience. Totally a praise!

-Mt. Tabor-
Considered to be the Mount of Transfiguration by Catholics, Mt. Tabor stands 1800 feet tall over the Jezreel Valley. A beautiful church stands at the top which is kept by Franciscan monks, and has three seperate rooms: a main sanctuary dedicated to Jesus, and two side chapels dedicated to Elijah and Moses. A beautiful garden with plants from around the world is also a beautiful addition. This was a special place as Tim, our fearless leader, had never visited Mt. Tabor (neither had my family). Such a beautiful view!

Deli sandwiches from a delicious Israeli supermarket-esque store. Really great!

Nazareth is a largly Arab/Muslim town today. We went to the spring in Nazareth, where Mary, Jesus' mother, would have drawn water. This is the only spring in Nazareth, so it is the defenite spot. The church built over the spring is a beautiful Greek Orthodox church. Very cool!
Now, off to Jerusalem!

Jerusalem is beautiful! We made it safely to our hotel, and tomorrow is going to be a CRAZY day. Lookin forward to it!


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Israel Day 2: Sea of Galilee

We're all really looking forward to today! We're stayin on Tiberius, off of the Sea of Galilee! We get to take a cruise on the sea, which should be awesome. Once again, I will be taking notes throughout the day, then posting them at the end of the day.
Here we go!

-Old Galilee Ship-
Our first stop, we went to a museum that was built for the purpose of displaying a 2000 year old Galilean ship! It was really cool to see something that was used in or around Jesus' time. Also, the gift shop was great!

-The Church of the Beatitudes and surrounding area-
Words I would use to describe The Church of the Beatitudes:

Palm Trees

We had a brief church service led by a team member. We read The Beatitudes, then talked about the area and church. Tim gave part of his testimony about coming to Israel, and many on our team cried. It is an amazing place to sit, think, process, write, and feel Papa's tangible love. It's amazing to be reading the Bible, then look around and see it come alive.

This is where Jesus walked, spoke, and healed. How cool is that?

-Caesarea Phillipi-
Well folks, it's official. We've been to the Gates of Hell. In Matthew 16 Jesus changes Simon's name to Peter, says that on this rock Jesus will build his church, then continues to say the Gates of Hell will not be able to stand against it. Many people don't realize that Jesus and Peter were in Caesarea Phillipi when this conversation went down, and that the "Gates of Hell" was the name of the temple of Pan, a pagan half man half goat god. It's said that the people who worshipped Pan did incredibly disgusting things with goats to show their devotion.

Here is where Jesus spoke about the foundations of our church and promised that the Gates of Hell could do nothing to hinder it. Today those "gates" are no more then ruins. And we, the people of the church Jesus spoke of, get to take pictures and read about these ruins.

For lunch we ate at a Druze villiage and had a wonderful meal of falafal, flat bread, hummus, goat cheese, and more. Turkish style coffee topped off the meal with fresh baklava. Such an amazing meal.

After lunch we went to Capernaum! This is an incredibly beautiful area that holds Peter's house, and a beautiful semi-restored synagog! Although our visit here was short due to it almost being closing time when we got there, it was really cool to see the ruins and read about Capernaum while there.

-Sea of Galilee boat ride-
Many in our group had been looking forward to the boat ride with great anticipation. The Sea of Galilee is really a huge freshwater lake, and is crowned with green all around.
Our boat was fairly large. My dad, Dennis, did the teaching (members of our group have been teaching in each spot of interest.) He really shared his heart and was real; it's awesome to see our geoup's bonds growing stronger.
The sunset on the boat was beautiful!
The ride lasted about 40 minutes, and ended with the ship driver/DJ playing worship music. It was so cool, and slightly surreal, to worship on the Sea of Galilee while watching the sun go down.

Tonight Shalom, Sara, Hannah, and I are hitting the town!

Amazing day, so incredible to see the sight Galilee has to offer.