Thursday, April 26, 2012

Nope... Nothing...

Don't ask me why that's the title. I just asked a student to give me the first title that popped into his head and those where the first words that came out of his mouth. Anyways, last night was a great night! We had to meet off campus at a local church because our room that we normally meet in was being used by the school for a program called 'celebration of scholarship,' but we still had 40 people show up! I talked about Jesus' parable of the sower as part 1 of a 2 part sermon 'mini-series' that I'm ending the semester with. We had a great time last night, but I have to admit, it's getting to be a little bitter-sweet. Next week is the last CSF of the school-year and it'll be the last time that I see some of the students who are graduating in CSF. My hope is that I can leave them with encouragement and motivation that will help them as they enter into the next stage of their lives. I also hope that the other students will get encouragement from it as well so that they can continue to grow in their relationship with Jesus this summer and come back to school with some awesome stories and an amazing testimony about how much they grew closer to Jesus and how much Jesus did through them. If you're reading this blog, I hope you will join me in praying for the students and pray that they won't abandon working on relational growth with Jesus this summer! I hope to keep you all updated on our adventures this summer with the two weeks of camp, our adventure to the 3rd-world country of Iowa (JK ;)...), our adventure to Florida, and then are big move from Avis to Lock Haven! I'd appreciate your prayers as Emily and I head into the summer and as the students go about their ways as well! Until next time! =)


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Our Relationship with Jesus

This is sort of a recap of what I talked about last night for those who weren't there or even for those of you who were there and just want to read over it and let it simmer in your mind for a bit.

I was sitting in church this past Sunday and God slapped me in the face, and of all days, Easter. I got to church early because Emily and I were helping out with the sunrise service and then the two services after that. I was sitting there during the third service, looking through my Bible and just reading and thinking about different things (because I had already heard the sermon, haha). As I was reading through my favorite book, Micah, and then reading through other passages of Scripture, when I just started to just think and pray. Then it hit me. I grabbed a pencil and having no idea of what I was going to write, I began to and ended up seeing this on the paper.

"I think the biggest thing that our church has lost its focus on is the subject of salvation. We find ourselves hammering repentance and baptism a lot. Not that that’s a bad thing, but we’ve lost focus of the RELATIONSHIP! For if you truly love Jesus and have a RELATIONSHIP with Him, these things WILL come as a part of it. In fact your entire life will be a walk with Him, growing in this relationship!"

 Then as I was sitting there reading what I had just written, various Scriptures started coming to mind, so I wrote them down. They were:

Micah 6.6-8:

"What can we bring to the Lord? What kind of offerings should we give him? Should we bow before God with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

Matthew 28.19-21:
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Revelation 2.1-4:
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands: “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!"

Nahum 1.7:
"The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him."

1 John 5.20-21:
"And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts."

All of these thoughts began rushing through my head. It was then that I realized that in all that I had right, I had it all wrong. I was just as guilty as the church at Ephesus when Jesus told them they had essentially nearly forgotten Him. I/we get caught up in the motions and the 'procedures' of becoming and being a 'Christian' that we lose sight of the one who started it all, and maintains it all (Colossians 1.17, Hebrews 12.1-2). In fact, I'm convinced that if we lose sight of Jesus, our relationship with Him becomes less and less, until finally we lose it all together. We might think we are still one of His because we go to church, pay a tithe, got baptized, take communion, etc., but the fact is we've just bought into a 'system-based' salvation instead of a Jesus-relationship salvation! Am I saying that I/we aren't Christian then if we find ourselves in this position? No, of course not! Even with the case of the church in Ephesus, Jesus told them that they needed to reevaluate why they are doing what they're doing and their priorities, because if they didn't, they would be in danger of having their lamp-stand removed. The point is that I'm saying if gone unchecked, walking down this path could lead to a person no longer being a disciple of Jesus. Now even with this, you could get into a discussion about if that means they wouldn't be Christians any longer or that their specific church congregation would be closed down. Regardless, I don't want either to be said of me.

So I'm sitting there and thinking about how my relationship with Jesus should be the priority above EVERYTHING else in one's life, including various doctrinal statements. So I sat there. Thinking. Finally God decided to give me a little nudge. He brought to mind my relationship with Emily. So I sat there thinking about that and it finally made sense. I'll try to explain it the best that I can...

I love my wife. VERY MUCH! =) I would do anything for her. I enjoy spending time with her, in fact, I try to get things done at work or when she's not home so that I don't have to do them when she is home and we can hang out together (play games, watch a movie, go on a walk, etc.). What would happen to that relationship if I decided to only spend 5 minutes with her (talking with, eating with, etc.) a day, for only... let's say... three days a week? What would that communicate to her and to everyone who saw that? It would tell her and everyone else that I don't really care about this relationship enough to invest in it. In fact, it wouldn't be much of a relationship, or at least the kind that it's supposed to be! I wouldn't really know her anymore. I wouldn't be involved in her daily life, I wouldn't know her 'pet-peeve' of the week (jk Emily.. ;)... ). I think you get the picture. So I started to think about all the things that I do know about Emily and what I would need to do if I wanted to get to know her better and learn things. The only way for me to know what she likes and doesn't like, what irritates her and what she loves, what she wants to do in her free time and what she doesn't want to do in her free time, is by spending quality time with her!

So after coming to this revelation, I asked the question, "Why is it that I don't spend time with Jesus, like I do with my wife and with other people?" I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this. The only conclusion that I came up with is that it's because I see these people everyday around me in flesh and blood. But even that's not an excuse. Before Jesus left this earth and flesh and blood, he said:

“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you."      (John 14.15-18)

The Holy Spirit is HERE! Jesus isn't dead, He's ALIVE! So what excuse do I/we have for neglecting my/our relationship with Jesus as badly as I/we have? I don't think we have any excuse! I will say, not passing blame by any means, but we as the church, I think, don't acknowledge the Spirit as we should. He's here with us! Why do we ignore Him?!?

Obviously, my relationship with Jesus hasn't taken my first priority, but instead I've moved it to the back/side burner. He doesn't have first place in my life, and even though I love my wife A LOT, there is NEVER an instance when she should replace Jesus as my #1 relationship! I'm reminded of when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was guilty of putting God on their back/side burners and what God spoke through Amos to convey to them.

"What sorrow awaits you who say, “If only the day of the Lord were here!” You have no idea what you are wishing for. That day will bring darkness, not light. In that day you will be like a man who runs from a lion—only to meet a bear. Escaping from the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house—and he’s bitten by a snake. Yes, the day of the Lord will be dark and hopeless,
without a ray of joy or hope. “I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living
."        (Amos 5.18-24)

Now granted, when Amos is talking about the Day of the Lord, he's referring God's judgment to come. What the Israelites didn't understand, is that he was referring to when Assyria would come and sweep them away. Yet there are some tones that also look forward to the second-coming of Christ. How guilty I have been of wishing for Jesus to come back! Amos message rings loud and clear to me today! "You don't know what you're wishing for because you don't have the relationship you're supposed to have with Jesus!!!" It's NOT enough for me just to give Jesus my Sundays and Wednesdays and maybe 5-10 minutes the rest of the week!!! That won't build a relationship, or at least a relationship that is considered to be your most important!

I got onto Biblegateway yesterday and the verse of the day really got to me. So I looked it up and read the rest of the section and it broke my heart.

"He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls."         (1 Peter 2.22-25)

If Jesus did all of this because he wanted a relationship with me, WHY DO I NOT VALUE MY RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM? It doesn't make much sense at all! And the absolute crazy thing about the whole thing, is that even though there are times when I blow Jesus off and show how little I care/value my relationship with Him, HE STILL KEEPS TRYING, LOVING, AND CALLING TO ME BECAUSE HE STILL WANTS THAT RELATIONSHIP!!!

I know this has been a long blog post and maybe a lot, but I really feel God has revealed to me something that a lot of us aren't getting. Going back to my example of my relationship with Emily, I took a little piece out of that book and I'm utilizing it with my relationship with Jesus. Since Jesus is REAL, ALIVE, AND HERE WITH ME, I'm blocking off various times throughout the week where He and I can meet up for a lunch date or a cup of coffee, just as I would if a student wanted to meet with me or an old friend wanted to come visit and catch up. Sure, I might look crazy, talking to Jesus in public, but if someone were to come up to me and ask who I am talking to, I'll smile and say, "I'm talking to Jesus. Would you like me to introduce you to him?" Thanks for reading! I pray that God will use something He's been teaching me to help you and encourage you in your relationships with Jesus!!! God bless! I love you all! Until next time,


Tuesday, April 10, 2012


That's really all that can be said about last week's Stations of the Cross. We had a great number of people show up from CSF as well as a great number of people from the church and participate in the evening. We had a total of 11 stations in the Stations of the Cross that led people up to a communion station. We also had two other stations that people could participate in. One of the stations was a table with paper and Bibles on it. Anyone could go up and sit at the table and just free-journal. They could also read passages from Scripture and just write there interaction with the Scripture and the Spirit if they chose to. The worship leader, Kathy Spotts, helped us out A LOT in setting up for the evening. We can't really thank her enough for the work that she put into helping getting everything set up. Overall it was a fantastic evening. We also made copies from each station available for people to take home with them if they so chose. Many students and members of the church communicated just how much they enjoyed the opportunity to experience this 'different' type of service. I for one love the opportunity to have a break from a routine of a 'traditional' service and experience a service that forces you to use and embrace the non-linear side of your brain and use your creativity and allowing the Spirit to move and work in out of the ordinary ways while spending time with God.

After the service I was able to talk with Kathy and we agreed that we should try to do 'joint-services/experiences' like this more often. I personally think it's a great idea! I'm really excited to work with Emily and try to think of more variations and more types of services that we can put into our programming. I'm hoping that this might allow for an atmosphere in which students will come out to experience God in different ways. One of the biggest, most beneficial things that I experienced while growing in my faith was participating in services that didn't get stuck in a monotonous routine. There was a fresh service/way of connecting with Scripture and God infused throughout the year. Hopefully we'll be able to make some headway here soon, coming up with ideas for next semester's programming. I've already had some revelation regarding what to cover in the curriculum for next semester, and that's been really exciting for me. I would appreciate any prayers that you all could give for Emily and I in preparing for next semester and for this summer with the camp weeks that we are going to be participating in. We're super excited and just want to be used by God to be a conduit for his love and the gospel of Jesus to be spread through.

Sorry if this blog seemed a little scatter brained, haha. I'm currently trying to write this update for everyone while hanging out with a couple guys from the campus ministry. I used to think I was pretty good a multi-tasking, but I'm beginning to wonder if this isn't one of those things that I'm able to do while doing something else, haha. But nonetheless, you won't have to suffer through any more thoughts, haha. =) Thanks for all of your prayers and support! I hope you all know that it's not in vain and that you're helping to make a difference in the lives of people up here in Central Pennsylvania. I pray that God will bless each of you and the ministry (personal and/or vocational) that you all are involved in. Hope you all have a great week!!! =) Until next time!


Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Well where do I begin, haha? We've been having a 'break' from our regular programming here @ CSF-LHU. Two weeks ago we had students share a little bit about what they experienced and what God taught them on the mission's trip to Cleveland. That was certainly an exciting time, or at least it was for Emily and I. It was so cool to see and hear students come to realizations and conclusions that they were able to arrive at simply because they were living their lives in a way that is near the heart of God, loving and serving people. It's something Emily and I have been teaching and preaching on for a while, but this experience, I think, is credible proof for St. Francis of Assisi's quote, "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." There's something to be said about hearing someone talk to you about living your life the way God would want and going out to actually do it, even if for a short period of time. Just last week, we had a movie night where we watched 'The Grace Card.' It was a great movie, despite the awkwardness of the acting at times. It conveyed a good message and many of the students loved it.

I must confess that I am a little nervous for tonight, but despite the feelings of anxiety that I do have, I think my feelings of excitement are just a little stronger. Tonight we've been able to partner with a local supporting church, Blanchard Church of Christ, and we are holding our 'service' out there. Tonight, since it's 'Passion Week' we're going to be doing something called the 'Stations of the Cross.' Traditionally, I believe this is something that originated or at least is primarily done in the Catholic Church. However I see GREAT merit in doing something like this and I'm just about as non-denominational as someone can get, haha, so I adopted the idea. I've had the privilege to participate in this 3 times already in my life and it's certainly a different experience. My hope is to allow people to engage their non-linear parts of their brains and encounter God, as they take a 'journey' through meditation, Scripture reading, and prayer along the path that Jesus took to the cross. My hope is that students will take it seriously and not see it as something boring that's going to make them move, but as an opportunity to engage all of their senses as they really reflect on the significance of why we as Christians celebrate this week as we do. I would appreciate any prayer that you guys could lift up for us tonight! I look forward to updating you (hopefully tomorrow) on how everything went! I hope you are all doing well! Until next time! =)