Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ashamed of the Gospel

I just came back the other day from Colorado Springs for my fourth EDGE summit. It was by far my favorite one for reasons I may or may not elaborate on further in the future.

One of the things that I brought back from summit was actually something I brought to the summit. We had to do a Bible study before we arrived, and it was on our calling to ministry. The first questions asked about verses that God used to call us. I’ve written about how God really put Isaiah 6:1-8 on my heart before on here, and this was of course one of the verses I’ve used. So, I went back read it. I decided to look at the whole chapter instead of just the first 8 verses (which is only an additional 5 verses). I was struck by the difference between myself and the person whose calling I kinda jackmoved.

After God asks who will go out for Him and Isaiah volunteers, God tells Isaiah the message he’s going to be giving. Verses 9 and 10 make it seem really hopeless. Blinding eyes, deafening ears, and dulling hearts is not a really good message. But Isaiah doesn’t say, “Gee, God, um, that’s not a really good message to be giving people. Maybe You wanna give them a more hopeful message.” No, that’s not what he said. His response? “How long, O Lord?”

Really Isaiah? “How long?” You hear what you have to tell people, and you ask God how long you should do it? No hesitation? I have a more hopeful message than that, and I’m hesitant to share it. I tell people that they can meet their maker, but not in a bad way. I tell people that God came down to earth to build a bridge between God and man. I tell people that they can live eternally with God, who cares for and loves them deeply. I tell people that there’s hope, love, grace, and peace. And yet, I don’t want to go up and tell people about that. That’s uncomfortable. That’s unnatural. That’s not what I wanna do. My natural response isn’t “how long?” It’s more, “Do I have to?”

This was on my mind a lot at the summit and still is. It got me asking a lot of “why” questions. Why am I ashamed of the gospel? I look at Romans 1:16, and it doesn’t make sense. Why should anyone be ashamed of the gospel? What’s there to be ashamed of? What aspect of the gospel is shame-worthy? People are ashamed of their pasts, of the things they’ve done, of the things they regret. I don’t understand why we are ashamed of the gospel.

Yet we are, and I include myself in that. I don’t quite get it. There are other things that I share with others so willingly, but the gospel? Uh, maybe later. That thing that gives life, that sets the captives free, that brings man to the relationship with God that he should have had from the beginning--yeah, that I’ll keep to myself.

Every summit, I buy a book that I fully intend to read but never do, and this summit was not an exception. While in the very popular Glen Eyrie bookstore, a John MacArthur book caught my eye. It’s called Ashamed of the Gospel. I bought it because I think it describes a current trend in the Church and in my life. I don’t want that to be true, but it is. I pray that this will stop being true. I want to love Jesus more than I love being comfortable. I want to be able to speak the words in Romans 1:16 with the confidence that I see in Paul. I don’t want Jesus to be ashamed of me because I was ashamed of Him.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. -Romans 1:16

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Real quick prayer request

I have an outreach thing going on tonight. Click here to see how you can be praying for it. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Black is as black does

I'm a firm believer that very few good things happen after midnight (or 2:30 if you're on college student time). Here's a story supporting that.

Some time in the last week or two, I got off work at 3:00am. I wasn't too thrilled with this. But, whatareyougonnado, right? I'd gone on break early that night and was kinda hungry when I got off. I wrestled with whether I should just go straight home or stop by the local Fry's Food & Drug, which is conveniently open 24 hours a day. I went for the latter. I didn't want anything too big. Just a thing of cottage cheese (which is probably one of my favorite dairy products ever created).

So, I drive slightly out of my way to go to Fry's. I hop out of my car, and hear people in a nearby truck calling out to me. Remember, it's past 3 in the morning at this point, so while normally if this were to happen, I would do what you're supposed to do whenever "Stranger Danger" approaches (stop, drop, and roll, right?), I instead approached to see what these gentlemen wanted.

I never got their names, so I'll call them Anton and Tyrone. Anton, in the passenger seat, told me that he and Tyrone, the driver, were well overage to be purchasing alcohol, but Fry's for some reason would not accept their out-of-state licenses. Now, this store is about a mile and a half south of a campus that attracts many out-of-state students, so for them not to accept licenses from said students makes about as much sense as a vegan making honey barbecue chicken for dinner with a side of cheesy eggs and a glass of warm deer blood. I told them that I didn't think that that made sense, and they agreed. Anton then asked if I could be a dear and purchase said alcohol for him and his friend. While I did believe that they were of the legal age to drink, I politely declined their request, because I just wanted to get in, grab my cottage cheese, and get out. I didn't want to deal with anything else. Tyrone then asks, "Are you black?" I was confused at this question because I figured that his eyes worked fine since he was the driver and anyone whose eyes work even remotely can tell that I am. Because I was confused, I asked, "What does that have to do with anything?" Again, this is something that I probably wouldn't do had it not been 3:15 in the morning. Anton interjected, "Just answer. Are you black?" I told them what their eyes had already let them know--that, yes, I am indeed black. For some reason, we stayed on the subject of what race I was. "Black and what?" Anton questioned. "I'm just black," I clarified, wondering if they were maybe census takers in their down time. Tyrone then instructed me, "Then take yo' black self* on!" as they drove away to another parking spot to ask someone else to purchase their beverages for them.

I continued into the Fry's to purchase my cottage cheese (with pineapple!) and nothing else. I was very surprised at myself for giving the amount of attitude that I gave them, which usually would not happen if I weren't tired. I was also slightly annoyed and angry at Anton and Tyrone's insistence that I owed them some kind of favor because I'm black. Maybe I missed the black people meeting, but I don't see how I am in any way obligated to do something for someone else because we have similar amounts of melanin.

Let this be a warning to all reading this: if you are ever approached by 2 black fellows in a truck at 3:15 in the morning in a Fry's parking lot, don't go near them. Be sensible and stop, drop, and roll.

*Some words in the narrative have been changed for the readers' sake.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Letter from Zacchaeus

Dear Jason,

This is your car, Zacchaeus. I just wanted to write to you because of something that I think is cause for concern. Usually, I stay relatively silent (except, of course, for that sound I constantly make whenever you drive me), but I had to speak up.

Now, before I start, I want you to know that I like you. I really enjoy that you drive me, that you're concerned whenever I bottom out, and even that you call me by name. I really do enjoy all that. I'm glad I can be blessing to you by taking you wherever you need to go.


Yes, Thursday was not my best day. My left arm (I believe you called it my "front tire" or something like that) deflated. I needed a new one. Yeah, you were upset, but at the same time concerned. It's good to want to take care of things. It's called being a good steward. But I think there's a fine line between stewardship and idol worship.

Whoa, that's right, I went there! See, I remember when you first got me. You wouldn't listen to the radio because you were always talking to God. You would start yelling at other drivers and then stop yourself and pray for them. You would praise, you would confess, you would talk to God about stuff I didn't want to know. But it was good. You thanked God for your salvation, for your job, for me.

What happened? Now you just yell at other drivers while you listen to your radio. You talk to me more than you talk to God. I mean, I'm awesome. But I'm a car. I was made in a factory. The God of heaven and earth knit you in your mother's womb. You were woven by Him. He made you and knows you deeply. And you have a chance to talk to Him. And yet you choose to talk to me instead? You get what I say about idolatry?

I feel like my left arm got deflated because you weren't paying attention to God, and you know how jealous He is. He wants the glory. He deserves the glory. I was the blessing. He's the Fount of every blessing. So he took me away temporarily. But was that enough for you to turn to Him?

No, it wasn't. So He flattened my replacement arm. The next night. And you called Josiah to come pick you up, but he didn't answer. It was only then, when you were forced to walk about a half mile alone, that you talked to God. That's whack, man. Why did it take Him flattening my arm twice to get you to worship Him? Seriously, Jason, what made you stop relying on God and start relying on yourself? You've done it before. Plenty of times. And it never turns out well. If you're trying to live your life, go to the one who created it.

Honestly, Jason, I'm glad that you're driving me again and that you've turned the radio off. It's not bad to sing, but your priorities were out of whack. I'm glad to see they're turning back in the right direction. Please keep it up. I'll be really pissed if something more traumatic than a flattened arm has to happen to me for you to recognize God.

Sincerely,
Zacchaeus, the Wee Little Car

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Here I Am to Worship

It's been far too long since I've posted. I apologize. I'm making a new (school) year's resolution to get on this more.

Anyway, I was talking with my homeboy Richdawg the other day. He and I were talking about worship at our Nav Nites and what it's gonna look like. I won't go into too much detail about what we talked about because if I told you, I'd have to kill you (and you don't wanna get killed, do you?), but we did talk about some songs that we like and some songs that we don't. Actually, moreso the latter than the former. We wanted to make a list of worship songs that we weren't going to be doing this year, whether we dislike the simplicity of the song, the incoherency, the cheesiness, or the theological implications. For example...

Come, Now is the Time to Worship
This is my all time least favorite worship song ever. I've heard someone remark that it sounds Universalist ("One day every tongue will confess You are God, one day every knee will bow"). That's definitely true if you're not familiar with Philippians 2, but I'm willing to overlook that since it's based on Scripture. My beef is the implications of what I'm singing. Essentially, I'm saying, "Yes, Jesus, every person living and dead will one day acknowledge your deity, but for those who recognize it this side of the grave are gonna have partay while those who wait too long are gonna suffer in hell. Sucks to be y'all!" At least that's how I feel when I sing it. I feel like "Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose You now" is the lyrical equivalent of spitting in the face of the lost.

Mighty to Save
I don't really dislike this song all that much, but there are a few things that are nigh unforgivable about it. For one, the verses don't rhyme. That's not the biggest deal, I know, but I feel like writing something that doesn't rhyme is kinda lazy. And it wouldn't bother me nearly as much if the song was coherent. You would think that "Mighty to Save" is about how God saves us throughout the song. But you don't really get that. The first part of the first verse talks about our need for compassion, love, and mercy. The second part does talk about our need for forgiveness, but "the hope of nations" doesn't really fit in right there. The second verse isn't much better. It talks about Him taking us as we are and then how we will surrender everything to follow Him. Even looking at the chorus, I feel like we're talking about how God is mighty, not mighty to save. Don't get me wrong. I like all the stuff that the song talks about. But it's not one coherent thought. It's all over the place. And if you're gonna be all over the place, at least rhyme.

Revelation Song
Richdawg and I actually agree that this is a really good song. We both like it a lot, except one line: "Clothed in rainbows of living color." What? Someone in a forum wrote that they imagine a unicorn prancing across the stage when we sing that line. There's a chance that we'll do this one at Nav Nite, but that line will be modified, like with what Crowder did with the "sloppy wet kiss" part of an otherwise good song.

Do you have a song I should add to the list? Or do you maybe have a reason for why one of these songs shouldn't be on the list? Let's discuss. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Who Am I?

One of my favorite stupid comedies of all time is Zoolander. In it, Derek Zoolander is dismayed when he loses the status of #1 male model to Hansel ("he's so hot right now"). After the ceremony that puts Hansel above Derek, he's seen walking the streets, not knowing what to do with his life. He looks at a reflection of himself and asks, "Who am I?" His reflection answers, "I don't know."

I think, although this is a wildly stupid Ben Stiller movie, that this scene speaks volumes about human thinking. Derek was so distraught that he'd been dethroned as the top male model that he questioned who he was. He was lost. He'd been at that spot for the past four years, and when that was taken away, so was his identity. He looked to his own reflection and wondered what, if not the top male model, was he.

God made us all different. He gave us all different gifts, different abilities, different interests. These are good things that the good Lord has blessed us with, and some of them can even help describe who we are. But when those good things of the Lord stop describing us and start defining us, we've misused those gifts. When our identity is wrapped in the temporal blessing rather than the infinite God who blesses, we're doomed to fail.

There are so many adjectives we use to describe ourselves that we can easily take on as our name. Black, white, fat, thin, tall, short, athletic, musically-inclined, gay, straight, student, minister, doctor, poet, author, blogger, hippie, Republican, Democrat, reader, gamer, sinner, saint, ugly, pretty, misshapen, whatever else you can think of to put here. Good or bad, we run into trouble when we let these define us, when these things consume us and we let them become all that we are.

In biblical times, names meant more than what they mean now. In Genesis 35, we see God change Jacob's name essentially from Deceiver to One Who Struggles with God. Later on in that same chapter, we see Jacob change his own son's name from Ben-Oni ("Son of my sorrows," given to him by his mother's dying breath) to Benjamin ("Son of my right hand"). I think these instances of renaming are beautiful pictures of what God does. We can take up as our names our struggles, or what we dislike about ourselves, or even what we like about ourselves. But God comes in and says, "No, I have something better for you. You are Mine. You are My beloved child, whom I love. I bought you with the blood of My one and only Son whom I love dearly. The cost was great, but I don't regret it. Shake off that old self; that's not who you are. I'll tell you who you are. You are a beloved child of the Most High."

I know I struggle with labeling myself by my talents or my failures or whatever thing I choose to listen to about myself. But, as Tyler Durden says in Fight Club, "You are not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet." Where Tyler fails to give a "You are" amidst all the "You are not," Jesus steps in and says, "You are My beloved."

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. -Romans 8:15-17

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Is there such a thing as too much grace?

I haven't blasted a public Christian figure since Pat Robertson's stupid comments on Haiti. I think it's time to remedy that.

I recently heard on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media that Ted Haggard was starting a church in Colorado Springs. He's a pastor that came into the limelight in 2006 when a male prostitute made it public that Haggard had been paying him for sex and drugs for three years. Haggard (wisely) stepped down from leadership in his megachurch and kinda disappeared for a while.

Well, he's back. What started off as prayer meetings in his house turned into St. James Church (even though he assured us in April that he would not be starting a church). At St. James, "Everyone is welcome: Democrat, Republican, gay, straight, bi, addicts, tall, short."

I read a blog by someone who actually knows Haggard. Mike, from People of the Second Chance, stated that "at the end of the day I believe in radical grace. And I will forever be a champion of second chances, seemingly lost causes, and the prodigals that no one believes in."

When you put it like that, it seems unchristian to disagree. We are all broken people that God chooses to use despite of, not because of, ourselves. Why should I deny Haggard the grace that I so often need and get?

The simple answer is I shouldn't. And I don't. I definitely don't think that Haggard should be denied grace. That would be playing God, something which I don't want to do and frankly am not good at. I just have to ask, how far do we carry this grace? Jason Boyett, a blogger and author who I read though I more often than not disagree with him, had deep trouble with Haggard's dishonesty with the whole thing. He also asked if 3 years was enough time to recover. I agree, and want to go a step further. I think a role in church leadership should be completely out of the question. Extending grace does not mean making just anyone clergy. God set up some rules for who should be considered an overseer of the local church. I don't see Haggard in that. Maybe he's learned self-control since leaving New Life Church. Maybe he's quit drugs and is sober-minded. Maybe he's learned how to handle his household (although I read that instead of trying to find a job he was asking for donations so he could support his family and take classes online). Verse 7, however is the real kicker, which says that the overseer should have good standing with those outside the church. I don't see that one happening. His sin was too public and hypocritical to be ignored. Furthermore, I would like to see what would happen if he joined another church and tried to join their pastoral staff. If this were to happen, and he got accepted instead of laughed at (if I were on that pastoral hiring committee, there would be much laughter), I would eat my right shoe.

I think we as Christians and recipients of such amazing grace should show grace to others who need it. But not so much grace that we are ignoring God's laws and ultimately causing harm to others. I think then we are showing a bit too much grace.

Monday, May 31, 2010

No More LOST...

So, last week, one of the greatest TV shows in the history of television ended, leaving some happy, some angry, and some utterly confused. I am sad, feeling like I've lost a friend; a friend who I only saw on a weekly basis, and only online, but a friend nonetheless.

I know that it's done and we won't see any crappy spinoffs, but I feel like it left the possibility open. So I'm going to present to you the spinoff series and movies that will never be, but could be. (None of this will make sense if you haven't seen the show, so if you haven't, stop reading now and watch it. All of it. Right now.)

Ben & Hugo
Starring: Jorge Garcia and Michael Emerson
This sitcom starts right after Jack dies and Lapidus and the crew fly off. It's the tale of the obese yet lovable Hugo "Hurley" Reyes taking over the island as the new Jacob, living with his often insufferable #2, Benjamin Linus. There will be guest appearances by Rose and Bernard (L. Scott Caldwell and Sam Anderson) and a couple "Very Special Episodes" where Hugo and Ben deal with loss. It will be touching. You will cry.

Ji Yeon
Starring: Henry Ian Cusick, Sonya Walger, and some little Korean girl
This made for TV movie will tell the tale of Ji Yeon Kwon, Sun and Jin's daughter who has to grow up not knowing who her parents are because they died in the submarine. Desmond and Penny Hume will raise her, sheltering her from her parents' troubled past, but she will have dreams, remembering the short time that she had with her mother before Sun returned to the island. Yunjin Kim will reprise her role as Sun for a dream sequence. If it does well, they'll try to get Daniel Dae Kim for the sequel, but let's not count those chickens before they hatch.

You All Everybody
This rockumentary will tell of the rise and fall of Drive Shaft, delving into the bandmates' drug and sex habits and trying to regroup after the death of their bassist, Charlie Pace, on Oceanic 815 (or so they thought...).

My Two Moms
Alternate Title: Raised by Another
Starring: Evangeline Lilly and Emily de Ravin
After they arrive back in the States, Kate has a hard time letting go of Aaron, though she went back to the island with the express purpose of bringing Claire back. The solution is that they raise him together. This show, dealing with the hardships of two women raising a son together and fighting over the title of "favorite mom" will eventually be syndicated on Lifetime.

The Extra Miles
Starring: Ken Leung and Josh Holloway
I know they were only cops in the flash sideways/purgatory thing, but there's gotta be a cop show somewhere in there, where Miles solves murders by talking to the dead, only letting his partner, Officer James Ford, know of his ability. Michelle Rodriguez will be a series regular as Ana Lucia until special guest star Harold Perrineau shoots and kills her, due to negative audience response.

I Love You, Too
Starring: Naveen Andrews, Maggie Grace, and Andrea Gabriel
There's trouble in the afterlife when Nadia, Sayid's former lover, dies and finds him snogging Shannon. This movie will show how Sayid deals with having a girlfriend on-island and one off-island, and what happens when they meet.


Alas, none of these will ever take place, but you know it will be awesome if it did. You would watch all of them. Don't lie. You know you would.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Prayer for the Supreme Court

Today, I ask you to be in prayer for a Supreme Court decision. I received this from a higher up in the Nav office, so I'll just let them explain what's happening rather than summarize:

On April 19th, [that's today!] the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments to decide whether groups like The Navigators, InterVarsity, Campus Crusade and others can be removed from college campuses because they require their officers and voting members to share their core religious commitments. According to some universities these core religious beliefs violate their affirmative action policy.

Seventeen organizations and 13 state attorney generals are working together on this case. Pray for the justices to rule on the side of religious freedom. For more information on how to pray, go to http://www.intervarsity.org/news/campus-faith-freedom-alert. This case has far reaching implications for religious freedom in all areas.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Behind Closed Doors

I work at a movie theater, so it's amazing how often sex comes up. We're a "family establishment," so we don't carry anything above an R rating (although I've heard that Zach and Miri Make a Porno and BrĂ¼no were pretty close to NC-17). Still, both my co-workers and customers talk sex far more often than I previously thought was acceptable.

For example, on New Year's Day, a customer asked if I'd had a good night. I said yes. He asked, "Did you get any?" I said no. He said that it was not a good night. I didn't really care too much that he gauged my enjoyability of the night based on whether or not I'd had sex, but that he came into my place of employment and inquired of a perfect stranger about his sexual activity (or lack thereof). Why is that OK?

In another instance, a young co-worker of mine got asked his age. He answered that he was 18. The middle-aged women (*COUGH* cougars *COUGH*)that he was helping said, "Oh, you're legal." Later that night, this same co-worker told me about his first time and gave more detail than I cared to know. A completely different co-worker told me about his first time. And a different co-worker told all who were listening that he and his girlfriend had sex recently for the first time since she had his kid. This whole paragraph all happened in one night.

I guess this is why I get kind of uncomfortable when reading the Song of Solomon. I have no problem with what Solomon and his wife did, I just don't think that what happens in someone's bedroom should leave their bedroom. I thought that this was the norm, but I'm starting to think that not many people share this thought. I guess I should be surprised, since pretty much any rap song (and a bunch of R&B and rock as well) are littered with explicit sexual lyrics that would make Solomon cry. It's also all over a good deal of TV shows (I challenge you to watch an episode of Friends where someone doesn't sleep with someone else. Go ahead, do it).

I guess I'm turning into one of those crotchety old men who thinks that a couple who are sleeping together don't need to share it with others. I guess I'm just way old fashioned and think that what happens behind closed doors happens behind closed doors for a reason. Or I guess I need to grow up and realize that sex happens, and I should just embrace it because complaining's not going to do anything about it anyway.

Pardon my rant. It just frustrate's me that we have become a society so obsessed with sex that I can't escape it, on TV, in the movies, and apparently at work. I don't think that sex is inherently a bad thing, but we humans have taken something that God created to be good and have bastardized it so it doesn't mean anything. There's very little commitment involved anymore, if any. It's devolved from something that was meant to be enjoyed by two people joined together in holy matrimony to "just sex." Pretty soon, people will post videos on the internet of themselves having sex (my sarcasm hand is raised). I pray this is a trend that will soon be reversed, but I don't see that happening.

Friday, April 2, 2010

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jesus

Genesis 22 has always been an uncomfortable chapter in the Bible for me to read. The gist of the story is that God tests Abraham and tells him to sacrifice Isaac, his son, as a burnt sacrifice to the Lord. This was slightly problematic because God had prophecied that He would use Isaac, Abraham's only son, to bring about a great nation, and that was gonna be hard to do if Isaac was dead. Nonetheless, Abraham took Isaac up to the mountain and was about to bring the knife down when God stopped him and provided a ram for the sacrifice. God was satisfied with Abraham's obedience and later fulfilled His promise to muliply Abraham's descendants.

I always find it uncomfortable around verses 7-10. In 7, Isaac asks his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering.
In 8, Abraham tells his son that God will provide it.
In 9, Abraham lays Isaac on the wood.
In 10, he raises the knife.

This is where I would fail. Even knowing the end of the story, I still wince whenever I think of Abraham raising the knife to slaughter his son, his only son, whom he loved (v. 2). I don't even have kids, but I can't imagine doing that. Even knowing now, on this side of the sacrifice, that God would provide the ram in place of the son, or even knowing that God could raise the son from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19), I don't think I could have lifted my arm to offer my son as a sacrifice.

I was thinking about this this morning, and thinking about the many parallels there are between Abraham's offer of his son to the Lord and God's offer of His Son to us. The son carried the wood that he would be placed upon. The son had been prophecied to be a blessing to many nations. He was the one and only son, who the father loved. God provided the lamb for the sacrifice.

There is one main difference between these two. God stopped Abraham from going all the way. When He provided the lamb, Abraham got to take Isaac back down the mountain. On the cross, however, Jesus suffered and died. There was no other sacrifice to take His place.

I was thinking about how I'm always uncomfortable thinking about Genesis 22, but it doesn't phase me much when I think about how Jesus died. It's become almost old to me. I can say Jesus died, and not bat an eyelash. I offer up a "Thanks, God!" like I would thank someone for giving me $20. This is much bigger than $20. He gave His Son, causing Them to be in disunity for the first time in all eternity. That's big.

I pray that on this Good Friday that we will not belittle the Cross of Christ, but remember exactly what that meant to Him, not only the physical suffering and death, but that He took our sins and their punishment upon Himself. And praise God that it didn't all end there, because if Good Friday had happened without Easter, it would not have been good at all, and we are to be pitied the most of all people.

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" ...And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"
-Mark 15:33-34, 37-39

Monday, February 22, 2010

I Paved Paradise to put up a Parking Lot

I'm sorry I haven't updated this in a while. My laptop is having troubles and I can't use it. Well, it's not the laptop tha has troubles, it's the power cord. It sparks. I'm no computer genius, but I'm pretty sure when your AC adapter starts sparking, you should stop using it. It seems nobody carries the right power cord I need, and the universal ones aren't working either so, I have been without computer. It's shown me how much I rely on that thing, and how difficult life is without it. 

So, all that to say that I can't update this very much right now. I'm using my iPod Touch for this blog, and I have to be careful with how much I use that since I need computer power to charge it. 

So I'm still alive and can't wait to get my computer working again, because there's quite a bit to update about. 

Much love,
Jason

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Day After

Well, yesterday was Super Bowl XLIV (why they insist on Roman numerals instead of regular numerals is beyond me). As most of America knows, the Saints came back from a 10 point deficit to beat the Colts, 31-17. This should not have come as a surprise considering that God obviously favors saints over colts (Jesus served the saints, but he rode a colt to the Triumphal Entry). Another thing that most Americans know is that the Super Bowl is not about football. It's not about parties or eating junk food or Janet Jackson flashing everyone. It's about the commercials.

Is it just me or have Super Bowl commercials sucked a lot lately? I mean, companies spend millions for a 30-second spot, and that crap that they gave us is really the best that they can do? It would be too difficult to compile a list of the best Super Bowl commercials because I'd have to search far and wide for good ones. But, how about a list of...

The Worst Super Bowl Commercials of Superbowl 44!

7. The Tim Tebow Story
I must admit I thought that Pam Tebow was Mary Steenburgen when the commercial started. I realized that this was the controversial Focus on the Family commercial that some more liberal groups were complaining about when she held up a picture of a little boy. And then Tim Tebow tackled his mom. I guess this was to say, "Hey, he's a football player that people should know," for the people who didn't know who he was, but I thought it was very stupid because (1) he had no reason to tackle her, (2) he's a quarterback and thus doesn't tackle much, and (3) um, what was the point of that commercial? I guess I wouldn't have been so disappointed if people weren't so pissy about it before it aired, causing an unnecessary uproar about the evil James Dobson-led group getting a half minute spot during the Super Bowl. I think for all the commotion, he at least should have tackled a recently un-pregnant teenager walking out of Planned Parenthood and revealing her to be satan in Ellen Page's body. I'm just saying.

6. The Jack-in-the-Box Commercial
In an attempt to show that Jack-in-the-Box is trying "new things," (which I take to mean good food) the big white ball-headed spokesman goes bungee jumping off of a bridge, but they forget to secure the rope. Luckily, his hat takes the brunt of the fall, and he's still alive to give us stomach pain for another day. I think they should have ended it with him dying, and then the employees sawing off his flesh and putting them into their tacos. That would explain a lot.

5. The Dramatic Chipmunk and other animals Commercial
I'm not gonna lie. I laughed when I saw the Dramatic Chipmunk commercial. I can respect a company using popular internet memes to sell their product. But then they kept doing it with other animals. After that, it was just stupid and annoying.

4. The Denny's Commercials
Speaking of using animals annoyingly in commercials, I feel these Denny's commercials were intentionally trying to annoy people so we won't flock to the breakfast restaurant and get our free Grand Slams and cause them to go out of business. When I see/hear chickens screaming, I don't think, "Ooh, I want breakfast," I think, "Ooh, cut it's head off so it'll stop screaming and make a delicious dinner next to the mashed potatoes." And if I want that, I'm going to Cracker Barrel.

3. The Budweiser Bull Commercial
What's with all the animals? This commercial showed a scrawny looking cow that I guess wanted to race a horse but realized that he was a cow. However, 3 years pass, and this cow is not a big strong bull with big horns and, instead of being stopped by a wooden fence, he plows through and trots alongside the horse, as a bull should. I think some farmer wanted to get some money from the beer company and pitched this idea using his own animals (who, like Gary Coleman, will never see the money that he made off of them). When they asked the connection to the beer, he said that they can have the word "Budweiser" at the end of the commercial. The Bud execs were drinking heavily that day (so much so that they actually started to like the taste of Budweiser), so they accepted the commercial pitch. That's the only reason I can think of that they would have a beer commercial devoid of beer.

2. The GoDaddy/Dockers/Career Builder/any other commercial where people are for no reason undressed or undressing
The Dockers commercial actually had some significance, because they were saying that men should wear pants. I got the point of the Career Builder one, but I feel like they could have come up with better ways of saying "this job sucks." And someone at our party said that he thought that GoDaddy was a porn website because of their raunchy commercials. Again, there has to be a better way of advertising a website that sells domain names than Danica Patrick taking her clothes off.

1. The Bridgestone Tires Commercial
As much as I hate companies using sex to promote their products, this tire commercial takes home the award for the Worst Super Bowl 44 Commercial. A man is told to either give up his tires or his life. The man apparently mishears the villain and thinks that it is his tires or his wife. He kicks his wife out of the car and drives away. Let me repeat that: Bridgestone wants you to pick four rubber circles over your committed bride. I hate this commercial for the same reason I hate those stupid Miller Lite commercials that say to choose your girlfriend over your mom, but your beer over your girlfriend. I understand wanting people to buy your product, but saying that it's more important than the people you are to be committed to is reaching a new low.

I think Wal-Mart should have submitted the following commercial, because it has me laughing, no matter how many times I watch it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Peace

So, my last blog told a story that never happened to me. For balance, here's a story that did:

When I was 16, the first semester of my Junior year of high school, I was hospitalized. For three days and four nights, I got my own room and a bed. It wasn't quite the vacation that that last sentence makes it sound. I was on a liquid diet, which is one of the worst things in the world. My disgusting breakfast consisted of lemon jello and vegetable stock. My tasteless lunch was cherry jello and beef stock. Dinner was the most enjoyable "meal," which consisted of orange jello and chicken stock. To this day, I can't eat jello. 

I was there for an ulcer, which basically means my stomach was bleeding. They use to think that it was only caused by stress, but they found a virus that causes it, which is what I had, and which explains why such a young person had an ulcer (as difficult as Junior year of hih school was, it's not quite ulcer-inducing).

It was a very weird day when I was rushed to the hospital. I was helping my mom's friend move, but I wasn't much help because my stomach was hurting terribly the whole time. When we got home, I remember pouring myself some water one minute and then waking up one the ground the next minute, the back of my head and elbows in pain apparently from hitting the floor. I went downstairs to get ready to go to the hospital. In the parking lot, I threw up. Blood. 

On the way to the hospital, I was praying, as I'm sure most Christians would in my situation. My prayer wasn't really that I would get there safely or for healing. I and my possibly overdramatic 16-year-old mind were pretty sure that I was going to die. And I was alright with that. I was praying more for my mom, who would have been completely dismayed if I did die.

I was completely fine with the thought of dying, even at such a young age. God had given me an amazing peace. I knew that if He wanted to take me out of this life, He would take me to be with Him. I probably had every right to be freaking out at that moment, but God gave me peace. Now, more than 7 years later, I'm filled with worry and anxiety all around me instead of trusting in God's provision and accepting His peace. I pray that I--and you--would find peace in God in the midst of life's trials.

"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 4:6-7

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tonight

Did I ever tell you about my dream job working at a gourmet restaurant? Oh, I didn't, eh? Well, let me tell you...

My story starts out quite some time ago. I had gotten hired to prepare desserts at the Nicaraguan Barbecue Cafe after the previous guy went to another restaurant (I think it was called the Cajun Bird Station). I was the dessert chef for quite some time. I always had my eye on the main course, though. I knew people didn't go to the restaurant for the dessert, as good as it was. I almost started considering going to other restaurants, until...

I was offered the job as head cook! I was uber excited. I had dreamed of it since I was a kid, always admiring the craft. It would be quite some time before I would take up the position, but I was promised that it would be mine. I waited for what must have been five years. I was so excited when I got the position! You have no idea. I was a little upset because the restaurant decided to hire the old head cook to prepare the appetizers, a move that many were skeptical about and would still have my creations following the previous chef's, but whatever. I had the job I wanted. So, there was a new line up. The old guy on first with the appetizers, I'd swoop in afterward with the main course, and then we hired this guy who once worked for the Siberian Noodle Lounge to take my place on desserts.

Well, this immediately didn't go too well. The appetizers turned out to be a very bad idea, and many people were so dissatisfied with it that they didn't stick around for the main course or desserts. The restaurant knew that it wasn't working with the old guy doing appetizers. Everybody suggested that he just put up his hat, that he'd worked there long enough and had his day. He had enough money to live off of, so he didn't need the work. The restaurant was fine all those years without appetizers anyway. I thought that this would be the logical plan of action.

However, the Nicaraguan Barbecue Cafe had different plans. They wanted to give the old guy his position back. I was flabbergasted! He was the one who drove off the clientele with his appetizers, and they were gonna kick me back to dessert?! Where's the logic in that? Many voiced their opinions that this was an even worse idea than the appetizers debacle. People from the Cajun Bird Station, as well as from another rival restaurant, the Asian Bowl Company, spoke out in my defense, and the people loved me. But the company had made their decision. After only 7 short months, the job was his again. I didn't think it'd be fair to bump the new guy without giving him a chance. So I decided I'd be the bigger man and just quit. As much as it hurt me, I knew it was the right thing to do for the restaurant. Who knows? Maybe you'll eventually see me at the French-Oriental Xanadu (I'm not sure why they named it that, but I suppose that's not too important).

So, that's my completely true and non-allegorical story of my tenure at a restaurant. It was my dream job and it was taken away from me by the guy who had already lived the dream but didn't want to give it up. But it's OK, they gave me a good severance package, and I'm a classy guy, so I took it like a champ and don't wish any ill will towards Jay--er, I mean the old guy.

And now, I leave you with a song that I feel is appropriate as a memorial to the short 7 months that I had at this job.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lust

So I joined this thing called the "One Word at a Time Blog Carnival." Basically, every other week, they give you a single word to blog about. I figured that this was a good thing for me since I vowed to blog twice a week (which was broken on Monday by work and preparing for school to start; sorry) and sometimes don't know what to write about. So I look on this list and the word for this 2 week period is "lust." I honestly thought about not joining the Blog Carnival for another week. Nobody wants to write about lust. There are more comfortable sins to write about, some where a person can point the finger and say, "Look at those people. Look at how they dishonor God." In some ways, it is easy to do that with this. I can say, "Look at Potiphar's wife, how she couldn't resist Joseph and gave in to her lusts," or "Look at David, and how he saw Bathsheba on the roof and had to have her."

It's easy to see these examples of lust and cross my arms and shake my head in disapproval. These people are long dead, but their deeds are immortalized in the words of Scripture. However, it doesn't take much digging in my life to bring to the surface times in which I've let my eyes wander. I may not have ripped off someone's robe or called a bathing woman to my bedchambers, but according to Jesus, I have committed adultery in my heart with more women that I care to count.

Keep reading in that passage, and it's clear that Jesus takes lust seriously. People don't usually advise that you mutilate your body for your own good, so it seems He's trying to get your attention.

Why is the lust of the eyes such a big deal to God? I have never claimed to know the mind of God, but something tells me that it's because He is a jealous God. He doesn't want us to take our eyes off of the Cross and put it on some man or woman. He doesn't want us to take our eyes off the Creator and put them on the things He's created. He wants all the glory.

We Christians can't ignore lust because we know what God says about it, but I think we have a flawed way of dealing with it. Instead of taking our eyes off of the people that He's created and putting them on Him, we try to put them on other solutions. There are internet filters. There are books. One such book, Every Young Man's Battle, suggests that if a young man catches himself looking at a young woman, he should "bounce," his eyes. Eyes diverted, crisis avoided. What this seems like to me is an attempt to be holy, minus Jesus. We think that by avoiding this sin, we're bringing ourselves closer to God through our actions. Isaiah 64:6 makes it clear that whatever good we try to do is insufficient.

Brothers and sisters, I pray that in whatever temptations that we will inevitably encounter, that we not forget the sacrifice that Christ gave so that we don't have to work to earn His grace, but that we are continually "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bad Representation

Here in the great United States of America, we are blessed with the right to free speech. Criminals are also given the right to remain silent. I think we too often practice the former and ignore the latter.

I'm sure everybody's heard about the devastating 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti on Tuesday. I'm sure a lot of people have also heard about televangelist Pat Robertson's comments on the earthquake. If you haven't, click here.

How Pat Robertson is still allowed on TV, I have no idea. How people listen to him is simply beyond me. This guy claims to be a man of God, yet some of the things he says make me question whether or not he has ever read the Bible or just makes one up as he goes. He gets on television and proclaims that God is getting back at the people of Haiti for something that they themselves had nothing to do with by sending an earthquake to kill thousands and hurt millions of others.

What a horrible misrepresentation of Christ of His Church! And one thing that pisses me off is when people look at Robertson and say things like, "Christianity at it's finest." When people think about Christians, this should not be the first thing that pops into their head. I and the Christians I know would not stare in the face of someone who just lost their family in an earthquake and tell them that it's their fault and the fault of their people. I and the Christians I know would not watch the Twin Towers fall down and say, "Well, you can blame the ACLU, the homosexuals, the abortionists, and the feminists for this one." I and the Christians I know are not represented by the likes of Pat Robertson.

It angers and saddens me that Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Fred Phelps have somehow become the faces of Christianity. The Church is supposed to be ambassadors for Christ. These yahoos do not stand for what Christ stands for. These are the very kinds of people Christ opposed. These people are quick to cast the first stone. I do not serve their god because they have created a god in their own image.

I pray that Christians around the world will be able to show the people of Haiti what the Church is really about. I pray that they don't see fingers pointed at them, but hands helping them up. I pray that God will show them how much He loves His creation by using us, His people, to care for those who need it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Customer is Seldom Right

I've made a point to pray on my way to and from work instead of listening to music. It's been a very good time of talking to my Father. I usually start by thanking Him for providing me with my job again, even though I often complain about it. This is the second time that He's used Harkins to answer my prayer request of a job, and for answering it, I am very thankful.

I, however, have never thanked Him for the customers I have to deal with on a regular basis. I suppose I can thank Him for sending these people to test my patience. What's that? You don't know what kind of people I deal with? If only there were a list of the types of customers that come into Harkins.... Oh, look I found:

The List of Annoying Harkins Customers

The Smoker: This guy comes up to me in box office. There's only a small opening so they can give me money and I can give them the ticket. But good gravy does this man's stench fly through that little space! I want to gag and tell him to step away and yell what movie he wants to see. And the stink lingers, too. Once, I went to clean the bathroom. I step in and I smell the pungent odor of cigarette, greatly overpowering the ungodly smells that a bathroom is supposed to have. This guy smelled so bad, he brought his stench from outside, walked through the lobby and into the bathroom, and left some odor for the poor defenseless usher to try to mask. I'm glad I don't have to sit next to this guy in the theater.

The Procrastinator: She likes to show up on busy days. There will be a long line of people waiting to get there concessions and go to their movie. While she's waiting in said line, do her eyes look up at the menu? Oh, no, there's too much socialization to be doing to spend time on that. There's really no need to look until they make it to the cashier. Not only does said cashier have to stand their as she says, "Um, let's see, what do I want?" He also has to deal with her vague requests for "some popcorn" or "a coke." "What size?" the cashier asks through clenched teeth. And if she asks for layered butter....

The Pre-Snacker: Oh, your family just came from Coldstone, huh? That's nice. I see your little one got something colorful and pretty. I hope you guys enjoy it. Outside. Oh, no, you actually can't bring in any outside food or drink. Stop arguing with me, please. This isn't going to change the rules. I don't care if they used to let you in with that. I don't deal with used to. I deal with now. And now says that you either need to throw away your dessert or finish it before you come in. I'll say I'm sorry, but that's really just a courtesy. I'm not sorry. (I honestly don't care if you bring in food from the outside. Just hide it. And throw it away when you're done, don't leave it in the theater. I mean, seriously, who leaves a McDonald's bag in the theater?)

The Price-Complainer: This is the guy who comes up to your register in concessions and buys his snacks, but lets you know that he's not happy about it. "$5.75 for a bag of popcorn? Are you kidding me? That's highway robbery!" I would like to respond with either, "Then don't buy it," or "It's actually not highway robbery, it's price-gouging. There's a difference," but I instead ask if he want's to make it bigger for 75 cents and if he wanted to throw in some M&M's for four bucks. The worst part: he does.

The Late-Comer: This person annoys me on different levels depending on where and when I'm working. If I'm in box office, ready to close, but you come in 15 minutes after the last movie starts showing, you're wasting my and your time, buddy.
If I'm at door (ticket-taker), and you come in at 7:15 for a free screening that started at 7, you're not getting in. No, I can't allow you into another movie for free since you can't read that the ticket says, "Come early; seating is limited and it is first come, first served." Yes, you did drive all the way out here for nothing. You got what you paid for. Sucks to be you.
If I'm in concessions, please don't come to my register and say, "C'mon, Jason, you're making me late for my movie," while I'm still helping the customer in front of you (this actually happened one time, and I have to admit, as much as I didn't want this guy around, I wanted to make that transaction last as long as possible; I'm a horrible human being).

The Selectively Deaf: Oh, look. There's a line of people waiting to get into this rated R movie that's just been released. And I've been selected to check tickets to make sure we don't have movie-hoppers. Oh joy! I will stand by this sign that says, "Have your tickets ready and make sure you have it if you leave the theater, cuz you gone get checked again." Now, I will wait until my manager finishes saying, "Make sure you always have your ticket on you, because it will be checked every time you try to enter the theater. Seriously, folks. Don't leave it in there." Oh, goody, now the lines going in. This isn't so bad. Ah, people are leaving to get snacks and use the restroom. That's nice. Oh, look, they're returning. You left your ticket inside? I checked it already? I should remember you? I'm sorry, I was looking at your ticket instead of memorizing your face out of 400 others. That was my bad, I guess. It's not like you had warning that you should have your ticket on you or anything....

The Cell Phone-Talker: I actually kind of enjoy when they come to my register, because I talk to these people as if their attention weren't split between their order and this obviously life or death call. "Hi, welcome to Harkins, how can I help you?"
"Hold on," they tell the person on the other line. "Um, give me a large popcorn and a refill of Diet Coke." They continue with their other conversation.
"Are you sure you didn't want our tub? It's only 75 cents more"
"No, the large is fine," they say, covering the mouthpiece.
"Would you like butter on that?"
"Yes, please," they answer, looking annoyed.
"Do you only want it on top or do you want me to layer it and get all your popcorn nice and buttery?"
"Hold on a second," they say into their phone, obviously pissed. "On top is good." The conversation continues.
"And did you want any Red Vines or Skittles with that today?"
"No thanks!" They shove their credit card in my hand.
"Can I see your ID please?" They angrily look through their wallet or purse for their driver's license. At this point, I'm almost giddy. When all is said and done, I give them a nice, sincere, "Thank you, enjoy your movie!" (Like I said, I'm a horrible person. But so are they, so it evens out.)

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I didn't mention the people that ask what all of the movies are about, the men with terrible aim, or the just plain stupid people (I honestly had someone ask if she could use her fake ID to see a rated R movie. I wanted to throw my cash register at her head). I figured the list is long enough. Does anybody else have examples of people proving wrong the old adage, "The customer is always right"?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sacrifice

It's the first week of January, which means that gyms are fuller than usual, Starbucks is seeing more "non-fat" drinks, and grocery stores are probably seeing an increase in nicotine patch sales and a decrease in cigarette sales. For a while.

I know a lot of people like to make New Years resolutions, myself included. Some have the (probably correct) mentality that if there is an area of your life that needs improvement, there's no need to wait until January 1 to take care of it. Some foresee the future failure and don't even try. They don't see the point in making an empty promise to themselves that will only disappear as the year progresses. I can respect these reasons. Really, I only make New Years resolutions for tradition's sake.

So far, I'm making good on all my resolutions. I've read the Bible everyday of 2010 so far, I've worked on Scripture memory, and I've been watching what I eat (how much, how healthy/unhealthy is it). I'm still recovering from an upper respiratory infection, but when that's cleared up, I'd love to... um, I'd like... part of me wants to start running.

There's a very simple reason these resolutions tend to be completely off the radar come March and don't resurface until January 1 the following year: resolving to change takes sacrifice. After a while of hitting the gym, it gets harder and harder to go there and give up that comfortable spot on the couch with a bag of chips and the remote. I've heard somebody say that the hardest part of going to the gym is going to the gym.

Sacrifice is by definition not easy, but we as Christians are called to sacrifice. Jesus says in Luke 9:23, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." He tells us to sacrifice ourselves--our dreams, our desires, our wants, our lives--to follow Him. And you know the best part? It's totally worth it. He asks for all of us, and in return we get Him, which is infinitely better than what earthly possessions we may have had. It's not easy. It'll hurt. But it's worth it. 


I'll try to remember this, not only in my daily walk with God, but in every aspect of my life. It was a sacrifice to go to Dunkin Donuts and get a muffin instead of a delicious doughnut. It was a sacrifice to grab the banana from QT rather than that delectable maple long john (in case you couldn't tell, I really like doughnuts). It was a sacrifice to hop on the treadmill yesterday rather than keep the recliner warm. But these small sacrifices won't matter when the scale I step on stops breathing a sigh of relief when I step off. 


Here's to less me (in more ways than one) and more Him in 2010!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Old

Yesterday marked the 24th anniversary of my birth. 24 years ago, I was crying from colic and my mom was crying from 12 hours of labor and pushing my oversized head out of her.

Sometimes I look back and I have to ask, "Where has the time gone?" I mean, I feel like it wasn't that long ago that 20 seemed really old, but now I'm in my mid-20s. When did that happen and can I make it stop? I can definitely see what those Nationwide commercials are getting at when they say that "Life comes at you fast." I feel like I was a freshman math major just last week, but I've been a history graduate for 7 months.

Now, I know 24 isn't really that old. But sometimes I'm in situations that make me feel older than I am. Like going back to my old church and seeing kids that are much bigger and older than I remember them when I first started. Or being called "Sir" or "Mr. Jason."

Or going to work. Both jobs make me feel old. Whenever I go to campus, I'm reminded that I'm probably older than most people on the campus. It freaks me out slightly to think that there are kids in college who weren't alive in the 80's. What?! Seriously?! You guys are toddlers, at best.

Even worse than working on campus is working at the movie theater. I'm an adult, grown and with a completed college degree. I'm working with kids in high school. What's worse is that sometimes I'm working under kids in high school. In fact, I'm older than most team leaders and I'm pretty sure than most managers. I described it like this one time: I get off work, buy a beer, go home, drink the beer, and cry over the fact that I take orders from people who can't even buy beer (this has never happened, btw).

As weird as growing older feels, I can see 2 good things come out of it: eventually, I'll get gray hair, which Proverbs 16:31 says is a crown of glory gained in a righteous life; and I'll eventually get a senior discount. Bring on the reduced-price bacon!

And now, on this the 10th day after Christmas, I hope you enjoy this song that my choir sang many, many, many years ago when I was in 3rd or so grade: