Saturday, April 30, 2005

I Needed That

Most people don't credit Davis for much in terms of being a place with a lot of "things to do," but I have noticed one thing: there are a lot of different places to eat. There's Chinese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Japanese, Italian, American, Indian, Vietnamese, and Korean; There's Pluto's when I feel like a salad, 10 different pizza parlors, Wendy's, Quizno's, and Carl's Jr. These are places and types of food that I've patronized/ingested here in Davis, and that's probably not 3/4 of the places I've been to, and even less than all of the good eating establishments out there. I would say that I've had a lot of really good food. The irony is, that when I'm meeting with someone for a bite to eat and they say, "Max, what do you want?," nothing comes to mind. I'm not indecisive, I'm just O.K. with everything. I'm always hungry, but I'm never starving. So after a while, they'll say, "How about mexican food?" At that point, this image of a steaming Chicken Super Burrito floats into mind's eye and I can almost taste it. Or they'll say, "How about Chinese?," and I can almost smell the General Chicken and fried rice. I've tasted so much good food, that I sometimes forget; all I need is someone to remind me.

I've been blessed with the chance to have a relationship with Jesus, and I can't even convey how much of a blessing it has been. I can't even remember all of the times that I've given up my fears and doubts to GOD, how many times I've been inspired, challenged, and moved by GOD's GOD-breathed word, the number of prayers he's answered, and the number of times I fell at his feet his answer was no. A relationship with Jesus is so personal, so intimate, and so eternal that since I've come to know him, I've formed countless memories of GOD's faithfulness, mental images of mountaintop highs and long shadowy valleys; experiences, inumerable experiences that all weave together to form my faith.

This relationship is so engrossing and eternal that sometimes it just lays in the back of my mind, not forgotten or ignored, but simply there. I roll out of bed every morning, jump in the shower, shove food in my face, go to class, come home, work, and sleep. I have a lot of responsibilities and commitments that I enjoy fulfilling for GOD's glory, but it's the times in my life when I catch a glimpse into the relationships that other people have with Jesus that I'm reminded of how good GOD is to me. When I see someone with their hands raised in worship, or listen to someone pour out their heart in prayer, or see tears stream down the face of someone overcome with the beauty of Christ, I am reminded of the pure, unadultered joy that it is to taste and see that the Lord is good. I've experienced GOD, and I know that GOD is always with me; but it is those times in which I see the holiness, purity, joy and life of the presence of GOD in someone else's life that my heart swells, and I'm moved to pursue Him all the more. The beauty of community is that when the fire of my passion for GOD burns low, it takes but a spark from another to have it roaring again. It's all there; I just need to be reminded. I just love to be reminded.

The body of Christ is awesome. I needed that.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. (Romans 1:11-12)

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." (John 21:15-17)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

It's Preacher Season

Here on the UC Davis campus, there's a group of some kind participating in some kind of demonstration just about every day of the week. The students, for the most part, are pretty jaded to the majority of protests and rallies that regularly are held in front of the MU, but one group never fails in drawing a crowd - the preachers.

They come from San Fransisco with signs that say "Trust Jesus" and "Jesus Forgives Sins," with bibles in their fanny packs. Today, there were two people holding said signs, flanking an older man in a red plaid shirt and glasses. There was no need for him to start conversations, because taunts and accusations flew from the crowd constantly, which he answered with scripture, mostly from the teachings of Jesus. He had a clean-cut, blanket answer for every question. When someone asked him what he thought about the war in Iraq, he said, "I came here to talk about Jesus, not the war." People were screaming, laughing, and were walking away talking about how crazy this guy was. Christians who I recognized in the crowd were shaking their heads. Everyone was disgusted by the way in which the man in the red plaid shirt (I'll call him Red) judged and condemned groups like gays and Muslims. He said a few things that may not have been biblically sound, but on the whole most people didn't like Red not because of the truth in the things he was saying, but in the way he iwas presenting them. Through all his shouting and finger-pointing, all that people heard was God's judgement; nothing about his love. All about God's condemnation, and nothing about his forgiveness.

This made me think about the way that I share Christ with other people. I think that there are times that I leave out some of the "harder" or "scary" parts of the GOSPEL to make it easier to digest for non-believers. Do I tell them all about the love and forgiveness of Christ, but nothing of his judgement? Is there action without consequence? Love without hate? Disobedience without discipline? Life without death?

As a believer, I've been called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I don't agree with the way that Red preaches all about judgement, but I don't think that leaving it out all together is any more right; any distortion of the nature of God is wrong, whether I'm yelling or not. God does not fit into either of these boxes; he is greater and more complex that I can ever possibly understand. I desire to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I believe that God greater than I know, so I'm going lay aside my concerns and fears and let the truth speak for itself. I don't want to tell half of the story anymore; love and hate, judgement and forgiveness, passion and patience, all flow together into the intricate, unfathomable, holy nature of GOD. I'm just gonna stop acting like I know better and start letting God tell his story through me; the paradoxes, difficulties, "hard" stuff and everything else that I'm afraid to share because of what other people think. I'm going to let GOD's holy, incomparable love speak for itself. Thanks for the inspiration, Red.
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.(2 Timothy 2:2-5)

Postscript: I know that this issue is a very tender and weighty because of the way that the actions of a few reflect on the whole Christian community, here at UC Davis in particular. I said that "for the most part their teachings were biblically sound," but on listening to them further this week heard several things that pointedly disagreed with my understanding of authentic, biblically sound Christianity. My desire in this post was not to make light of the impact that zealous evangelists have on the authentic, loving relationships that we Christians seek to build with non-believers; these thoughts were simply convictions that arose in my heart from pondering the way that I share my faith, thoughts inspired by my interactions with Red. Sorry for miscommunicating my heart.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Like Jazz

I love jazz music. It's an art form that I grew to appreciate in high school: playing it, watching people play it, listening to it, and learning about it. I played the 1st (the lead, or most important) saxophone partin the MCHS Jazz Band. Or at least I did, until my senior year of high school, when a sophomore who practiced a lot more than I did beat me out; but that's another thought, another story.

But it's related to the hard fact that I never really practiced outside of class. I would show up for zero period @ 7:10 AM every morning, play for 50 minutes, and I would never my saxophone outside of class. This leads me to two of the great truths of jazz music (and life): you have to practice, and you have to know your scales. One of the most beautiful (and hard) parts of playing jazz is the opportunity to improvise, to play whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like it. You might not realize this, but a large majority of jazz, good jazz, consists of improvisation. Phenomenal jazz players like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis played improvised solos on some of their recordings that are still being analyzed and performed note for note today, decades after their passing. I say good jazz, because you might think (at least I did, when I was in middle school) that since it's just whatever I feel, shouldn't it be easy? Great players make their improvisation seem like second nature, but in truth they spend upwards of 3 hours practicing every day, playing through their scales, listening to other players play, and performing in groups. Practicing and playing are probably pretty self-explanatory, but you might not know exactly what a "scale" is.

See, a scale is simply a series of notes: scales are in essence the building blocks of music. Great players internalize them to the point where they are second nature, so that when the time comes to play, there is no hesitation; just sweet, sweet tunes, straight from the heart.

For me, the eternal, unchanging truths of GOD are my scales. I strive to practice them daily, and hide them away in my heart so that GOD can tell the story of his Son through me. And when I teach, when I share my heart, when I study the Word, I take the truth and tell my own story over it and through it, illuminating different factets of the Gospel and raising up fresh thoughts of eternity and overtones of hope and grace. My hope is that I decrease and GOD increases so much in my life that my life is simply the melody of GOD'S kingdom come; my desire is to know GOD so intimately that I can simply love him with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength... GOD, tune my heart to sing thy grace. I think I'm going to go practice. See you soon.
I love you, LORD, and I lift my voice,
to worship you, oh my soul, rejoice;
take joy, my KING, in what you hear,
let it be a sweet, sweet, sound in your ear.
"Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD .
Blessed are they who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart.
They do nothing wrong;
they walk in his ways.
You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.
I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws."
(Psalm 119:1-7)


This last weekend was a busy one. A very good friend came and visited me on thursday and friday, and saturday was the day of my fraternity's semi-formal. We went to a spanish restaurant in Sacramento, and then to the symphony (sounds refined, doesn't it.) It was a sweet time of enjoying life, building relationships, and reflecting on the simple sweetness of God.

Today was "Youth Director Appreciation" sunday in my church, so me and my co-director got to really experience what it feels like to be a part of a loving church community. We felt appreciated, to say the least. I can't say enough about how much of a blessing this opportunity of ministry and service has been. I'm always totally over my head and constantly being humbled, and that's where I like to be - dependent. In my life, there are a lot of things that are just begging to be worried about, but there is one thing that I know for sure: God is holy, above all things, in all things, and watching out for his little, foolish children. That's me. Sometimes, my life so good, and sometimes it doesn't make any sense; but so it goes in the service of GOD, and I wouldn't change a thing.

I'd rather chase your shadow all my life
than be afraid of my own
I'd rather be with you
I'd rather not know
where I'll be than
be alone and convinced that I know

and the world keeps spinning round
my world's upside down
and I wouldn't change a thing
I've got nothing else to lose
I lost it all when I found you
and I wouldn't change a thing
no, you and I wouldn't change a thing

everything I know has let me down
so I will just let go
let you turn me inside out
cause I know I'm not sure
about anything
but you wouldn't have it any other way

spinning turning watching burning
all my life has found its meaning
walking crawling climbing falling
all my life has found its meaning
(Lifehouse, Spin)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Pope

I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, so whenever my friends have questions about any topic remotely related to the Catholic faith, they ask me. In reality, I don't really know much about why Roman Catholic tradition is the way it is; That wasn't information I was too interested in when I was in elementary school. But the hairs on the back of my neck (I'm not sure if I actually have neck hair) stand up when I hear people say that all Roman Catholics are going to hell. I'm not going to go there. Arguing and pointing fingers is an activity that generates a lot more heat than light (got that from my RST 135 professor.)

Regardless of the doctrinal differences, there are many connections between the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. Check out Pope Benedict XVI's view of protestants here and the late John Paul II's connection with Campus Crusade here. Keep up to date with the papacy on the unofficial Pope blog. (Articles found in Christianity Today)
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgement, for in that which you judge another you condemn yourself, for you who judge do the same things. (Romans 2:1, NASB)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Demetrius and the Gladiators

Tuesday night are always my "movie nights" because that's when my RST 135 (The Bible and Film) class meets. Last night we watched Demetrius and the Gladiators, the sequel to the movie we watched last week, The Robe. The story follows the life of Demetrius, (the slave of the protagonist of the 1st movie) a member of the early church in Rome who loses his faith and finds it again. It is an excellent film, a movie from an era when movies with openly biblical themes and characters regularly graced the screen. Not to say that movies today don't turn my thoughts to GOD, but they are a select few.

The story of Demetrius' faith, his hard long fall into disbelief, and his dramatic recommitment is a very engaging one, but the character that really stuck out to me was Peter. Jesus' disciple is good friends with the fictional Demetrius, and stands by Demetrius in everything, even in his unbelief. There is one scene in particular where Peter is speaking to the underground (literally) church after two of their congregation were martyred. Though the things that he said were thought up by some screenwriter in Hollywood, the power in his words of encouragement struck a chord in me.

I can only imagine how powerfully GOD worked through Peter in those early formative years of the church. He didn't really get it when Jesus was alive, but once he died and rose again, Peter finally understood every word that Jesus said. All of his teachings and parables that seemed like foolishness he realized to be the keys to abundant life, in this life and the next. I imagine that he would often close his eyes and remember the taste of the bread that he and Jesus shared at their last meal together. The caress of Jesus' hands as they washed his feet. The touch of the water on his skin when he jumped out of the boat to swim towards Jesus. The bitter tears that rolled down his cheeks as the cock crowed that dark morning of denial. It was all there, memories of the intimate presence of Christ in his life. Nothing else mattered.

I know that my relationship with God is not based upon my emotions or my experiences, (or lack thereof) but how I love to close my eyes and remember those moments in my life when I could almost feel God's tender embrace. How they shine when all else goes dark, how they comfort when I've nowhere to go but to the foot of the cross. Not only do my memories comfort me, they empower me; to never stop, never compromise, and to live a life worthy of the calling I've recieved. I am convinced that GOD is good; nothing else matters. See you soon.
"But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, 'Children, you do not have any fish, do you?' They answered Him, 'No.' And He said to them, 'Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.' So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord.' So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea." (John 21:4-7)


It is so amazing to me how easy it is for me to become so absorbed into my daily routine that I forget that the GOD I serve is absolutely incomparable, uncontainable, unfathomable, and unimaginably loving and holy. GOD didn't die for me to help me "arrange my priorities" - he IS my priority, my pearl of greatest price. My desire is to leave this life behind, with all it's illusions and half-truths, to rid my soul of all it's selfish ends and to set my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. All this to say I'm nothing without You. And when I forget that, I'm nothing more that a morally correct, walking to-do list. I want more to faith in GOD than that; I want to be stunned by you. I want to be so moved by your holiness that I long to lay my life at your feet.

I'm in one of those "pour out my heart" modes. There's times in my life where I can't think of a thing to say to God, but there's time like today when I feel like I can't say enough. On-off, hot-cold, sleep-wake: all motions in the life that I live in accordance with the rhythm of Grace. Catch you on the flip-side.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)
"What can i do with my obsession
With the things i cannot see
Is there madness in my being
Is it the wind that moves the trees?
Sometimes You're further than the moon
Sometimes You're closer than my skin
And You surround me like a winter fog
You've come and burned me with a kiss

And my heart burns for You
And my heart burns...for You

And i'm so filthy with my sin
i carry pride like a disease
You know i'm stubborn, Lord, and i'm longing to be close
You burn me deeper than i know
And i feel lonely without hope
And i feel desperate without vision
You wrap around me like a winter coat
You come and free me like a bird

my love for You
my heart for You
my life for You
all i have for You"
(David Crowder, My Obsession)
See you soon.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Yesterday up here at UC Davis was Picnic Day, a day for students to invite their families and for alumni to return for a day of sweet events like Dachsund races, a "battle of the bands," campus tours, and a big ol' parade. It was a beautiful day, and a lot of fun.

The day before picnic day, I was heading to a meeting with the woman that I work with at Countryside Community Church. We had agreed to meet at Starbucks, which is just a 5 minute walk from my house. It was a gorgeous day, and I was wearing my blue board shorts and a blue hawai'ian shirt; in my own little bubble, everything was right with the world. The problem is that the ideal path to Starbucks was (and is) bisected by the main street in Davis, and the crosswalk for this street is 100 feet in the other direction. It's 4 lanes, divided by a grassy median. So I said, "Well, no cars coming, guess I'll go." I didn't even have any thoughts about the illegality of my actions, just whether or not I was going to get run over. So after looking both ways, I crossed the first two lanes and made it to the grassy median. The other two lanes were stopped up with traffic, and stopped two cars away from me was a cop. A motocycle cop, no less. It's pretty hard to be inconspicuous in blue board shorts and a bright blue hawai'ian shirt, so I just stood there like a deer in the headlights. After staring at me for awhile, he said, "You gonna cross?" And I said, "Is that ok?" To which he answered, "Now would be a good time." So, feeling like a dog who just peed on the carpet, I crossed the street.

There was a time where I used to have a real problem with jaywalking, but it has kind of eroded over time. There were times when I would be walking in a group and we'd all just jaywalk it, and I would walk around the long way, take the crosswalk, and meet back up with them again on the other side. But after awhile, I just said, "Hey, it's just jaywalking, right?" I know this sounds like one of those "If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" talks that my mom used to give me, but I do think that there is a lot of truth in the way my beliefs and morals are slowly eroded. In my mind, I knew that jaywalking was against the law, but I was willing to compromise that belief because I didn't see any immediate consequences to my actions. But those consequences became VERY real to me when I set eyes on that policeman.

John Eldredge talks in his book, Waking The Dead, about how we as believers make "agreements," or compromises in our Christian lives. The kicker about this is, no matter how trivial and seemingly harmless our agreements are, The truth is that we settle for less than God's best. It was a reminder to me that GOD is always watching me, and that he loves to show up and discipline me. In my shame, he reminds me that he wants to create in me a desire for holiness, and a yearning to be conformed to the image of Christ. One step at a time, one day at a time. This, for me, is repentance; a constant turning, a reminder that God desires for his people to be set apart, just as he is. After my meeting, I took the crosswalk home.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:17-18)

"The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good." (Proverbs 15:3)
See you soon.

Friday, April 15, 2005

As I Close My Eyes

Man, what an awesome day. Here's my prayer as I close my eyes:

Thou has promised thy beloved sleep;
Give me restoring rest needful for
tomorrow’s toil.
If dreams be mine, let them not be
tinged with evil.
Let thy Spirit make my time of repose
a blessed temple of his holy presence.
May my frequent lying down make
me familiar with death, the bed I
approach remind my of the grave, the eyes I now
close picture to me their final closing.
Keep me always ready, waiting for admittance to
they presence.
Weaken my attachment to earthly things.
May I hold life loosely in my hand, knowing that I
receive it on condition of its surrender.
As pain and suffering betoken transitory health,
may I not shrink from a death that introduces
me the freshness of eternal youth. I retire this
night in full assurance of one day’s awakening
with thee.
All glory for this blessed hope, for the gospel of grace,
for thine unspeakable gift of Jesus, for the fellowship
of the Trinity.
Withhold not thy mercies in the night season; thy
hand never wearies, thy power needs no repose,
thine eye never sleeps.
Help me when I helpless lie, when my conscience
accuses me of sin, when my mind is harassed by
foreboding thoughts, when my eyes are held
awake by personal anxieties.
Show thyself to me as the God of all grace, love and
power; thou hast a balm for every wound, a solace
for all anguish, a remedy for every pain, a
peace for all disquietude.
Permit me to commit myself to thee awake or sleep.

("Sleep," Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of
Puritan Prayers and Devotions

See you soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Right Under My Nose

I lost my sheet music today. I'm playing in a saxophone quartet this quarter, which means that there are 4 of us in the group, total. (For those of you who didn't know, I play the alto and baritone saxophones. I didn't really practice much during high school, but now that I'm a music major, I've started to take it seriously again.) Since the group is so small, when one person doesn't have their music, it's not the best thing in the world. I knew I hadn't lost it lost it, but I just couldn't find it. In addition, a lot of close friends of mine are going through some tough times in their families, and one guy that I've been really praying for, Gary, is not doing very well. So when 2:50 rolled around and I couldn't find my music for my 3:00 quartet, I was in a frenzy. I was flinging open drawers, rifling through stacks of papers, and looking under couches for this stinkin' folder. In the end, I just jumped on my bike, folder-less, and went to class.

My mind was awash with all these thoughts of how forgetful I am, and I was wondering why some things never work out for people, no matter how hard they try. In short, I was angry. So I got home, plopped down in at my desk, and decided to do a little room cleaning. My roommate's guitar was laying across this really comfy brown leather chair we have, so I picked it up. And guess what I found under it: my music folder. It had been right under my nose the whole time, waiting to be found.

I've been thinking lately about the fact that whenever I want to speak with the God of the universe, whether I'm on the bus, in class, or at a death metal show, he is always there, ready to listen. And whenever I fall down, he is there to pick me back up again. Every moment is an opportunity to commune with the King of Kings; that is, if I truly believe in his faithfulness. Because there are times when I feel like I can't find my way to God, be it because of my pride, my shame, or my fear. There are times where I feel so alone, so lost, so confused. But the truth is, that I'm never alone - He is always there, waiting for me to seek him. Waiting to step into my life and make it supernatural. Waiting, begging for me to let me love him. Though I feel alone, I am never alone - he's right under my nose.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3, NIV)

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24, NIV)
See you soon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Robe

I watched The Robe in my RST 135 class today. I was running late, so I had to run into the MU really fast and buy a chicken quesadilla. It was good. The movie was good. I did kinda sorta feel like a jerk for eating in class. I'm not trying to draw any spiritual parallels between chicken quesadillas and the sweet film I watched; the two are just inextricably intwoven in my mind, kind of like a buy one, get one free deal.

The part of it that really spoke to me was the way that it depicted the early church. The film centers around the roman soldier, named Marsellus, who crucified Christ and is wracked by guilt after realizing that the "traitor" truly was the Son of God. The story is fiction of course, but the tale of Marsellus' conversion to Christianity and his zeal for God paints a compelling picture of the early years of the Acts church as the gospel spread like wildfire despite heavy persecution by the Romans.

Early Roman emperors used to use Christians as torches for their palaces during the height of their persecution. And to take this fact stored in my hand and pair it with the movie scenes of the early believers praying together and singing together hit a warm spot in my heavy heart. I know this is a Hollywood depiction, but the church described in Acts 2 surpasses even the touchy-feeliness of the movie's depiction of believers - it was cool to be reminded of how powerfully God used people in the early days of the Church, and how he continues to use people powerfully today.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NIV)
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Romans 12:11, NIV)
See you soon.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Pouring My Life Out

Well, I'm back from Woodleaf, and I can't tell you how restful and rejuvenating it was. There were 11 of us all in all, and we spent the weekend helping out in the kitchen, washing dishes, and setting tables. There were over 200 people at the camp that weekend, and so we definitely had a lot of work to do, but no one ever complained or gave up. We ate good food, played basketball, sang, prayed, threw snowballs (they had had a freak snowstorm the day before), and we laughed until our sides hurt. We served.

While we were standing around on saturday, a good friend of mine asked the question, "Why do we, being Christians, serve?" Someone shot back the answer, "Well, because Jesus tells us to." This was supposed to be a joke, but besides being the church answer, we all knew it was the right one. But that doesn't make for much of a conversation, does it? Darn the truth for being so simple. Just kidding.

This talk about serving made me think of a story I'd read once in Matthew 26:
"Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, 'Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.' But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman hasdone will also be spoken of in memory of her.'"
I learned this weekend that the "alabaster vial" of costly perfume that the woman poured out on Jesus' head was meant to be saved for one of two occasions: her marriage, or her burial. Without it, it was unlikely that she would be able to get married. This perfume represented for her great value, her social standing, and her security: in essence, it was her life. The disciples were disgusted because they thought it was a waste, but for the woman, it was just between her and Jesus; she wanted to do nothing but pour out her life at his feet, because she understood who he truly was. He was her everything, and this was seen in the magnitude of her sacrifice, her service.

And I think that this is why we serve: because Jesus, in his infinite love, has revealed himself to us in all of his glory, and as we come to know him more, we desire to offer up our lives to serve God, regardless of the cost. Regardless of whether or not it makes a difference, regardless of whether it seems like foolishness, regardless of whether or not we see and fruit come of our labors, the truth is that it's all between me and Jesus. This is how Jesus has messed me up; he has placed a new heart in me, a heart that longs to serve him, regardless of the price. Regardless of disappointment, discomfort, discouragement, and weariness. I serve because it pleases him. He's my King of Kings, and I want to pour out my life at his feet.
"It may not make a difference,
It may not move a single stone,
It may not change a single life,
but it pleases you, it pleases you

Oh, because it pleases you,
because it pleases you I come"
(Moi, It Pleases You)

See you soon.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Off to Woodleaf

I'm going away to Woodleaf this weekend, so I won't be around for a day or two. Me and a group of about 15 folks from my college group are headed up there for the weekend to serve food and wash dishes. Trust me, it's a blast. See you guys soon.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

On Tears

At least a few times a week I hear this: "Max, are you crying?," and I say, "No, I'm not, my eyes are just tearing up." They always do it at random times, too - today, I was eating a plate of bowtie pasta and parmesan cheese when tears started to run down my cheeks. Sometimes, it will happen during regular conversations, and people think that they've said something really offensive or personal. As a matter of fact, they're starting to run right now.

The irony of this is that when I really want to just fall into the arms of Christ and cry, the tears don't come nearly as easily. It makes me think that I've got some wires crossed somewhere up in my brain, holding back the tears when I'm sad and letting 'em loose while I'm eating dinner. Or maybe I have some wires crossed in my heart, rejoicing while others mourn and mourning when I should be rejoicing. When someone collapses into my arms because their mother has passed away or when I hear that every 8 seconds someone dies in Africa from a treatable water-borne illness, I pray to God for a soft heart and a river of tears. Sometimes, the tears do come, but many times, they don't. No matter how hard I pull at my heartstrings, I won't get even a drop. Just me, all alone. Later, they run down my cheeks over dinner, taunting me. I can almost hear them say "we'll come back when you're ready to cry," as they fall down my cheeks.

This narrow, straight road that us Christians have been walking on isn't a cakewalk; I sometimes wonder what would happen if Christ answered my prayer, and my heart broke for all of the hate and pain in this world, all the time. Would I scream with agony? Would I fall to my knees and pray? Would I sweat blood?

I guess I'd just have to cry.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Inheriting The Wind

I am taking RST 135 this quarter, which is "Bible and Film." Tonight was our first "movie night," which was cool because I feel like I'm getting units to just show up once a week and watch movies. The movie we watched was called "Inherit The Wind," and this was a film that held a lot of truth for me only many different levels. A lot of movies today rely on cool cinematography and special effects, but old movies like this one really are built on powerful, engaging dialogue and an engrossing plot. I think the phrase "they don't make 'em like they used to" is applicable here.

The title of the movie is based on Proverbs 11:29, which says:
He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. (NKJV)
The story, based on a real court case, is set in an ultra-conservative town in the Bible Belt called Hillsboro. The movie follows the trial of a high school science teacher accused of breaking the law by teaching evolution in his classroom. The movie focuses largely on the two lawyers assigned to the case, the "atheistic heathen" defending the high school teacher, and the prosecutor, who is a fundamentalist christian who is practically revered as a prophet by the people of Hillsboro. The sad irony is that this community of "strong christians" is so blinded by their perception of truth and what is right that they hurt those that they're called to love most: fellow Christians. There are several main characters in the movie, but the interesting thing is that there is not really a clear-cut, well-defined bad guy. I identified with all of them in some ways: the well-meaning, stout-hearted legalist, the misunderstood, passionate agnostic, and the zealous priest. All had frailties and very real shortcomings. At the end of the movie, no real decision is made as to whether or not it is legal to teach evolution in schools (a debate which is still very much alive today, 80 years after the historic trial on which the movie is based occured.)

One of the scenes that really struck me was a scene in which the town priest had organized a "prayer gathering" in the park. It is nighttime, and the scene shows the priest, bathed in sweat, zealously rebuking all who believe in evolution, passionately speaking to the point of calling down the wrath of God to strike down all those who believe anything other than the "truth of the bible" that says the world was created in 6 24-hour days. Seeing her father's misguided and hurtful intent, his daughter, Rachel, attempts to intervene, and her father turns on her and prays for God's wrath to strike her down as well, the blood of his blood, and flesh of his own flesh. She collapses in tears, aghast at the hateful words from the man who is supposed to love her the most.

In this way, I hurt inside thinking about all the times that I have passed judgement on others in my heart; non-christians, but more so on other christians. People who have confessed their faith in Christ. Fellow believers. Friends. Brothers. This world is a lonely, lonely place without a family: why is it so easy for me speak the truth in hate instead of love? Why is it so easy for a passion for the Lord to turn to a passion for empty rules and hurtful legalism? I think the absolute acceptance the we have in Christ is so amazing and beautiful that we can't understand it, so we place a vengeful, bookkeeping God in the place of the God of Grace. I spend so much time dwelling on places in the lives of fellow christians which are still "under construction," while ignoring the gospel of grace and the eternal promise of Christ which makes us one body, one church, one spirit. I claim to know and understand the faults of others, while I barely understand myself. Many terrible things have been carried out in the name of Christ, in history and in my own life - what I think we need is to stop relying on our zealous passion for what we understand, but instead walk by the wisdom and righteousness of Christ, for he is the ultimate absolute truth, and he is all we have.

If I continue to bring strife on the family of God by condemning others and speaking the truth in hate, I will gain nothing but the wind. Can't hold on to that, can I? See you soon.
"Therefore, you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgement, for in that which you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge do the same things." (Romans 2:1, NIV)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Grasping at Postmodernism: Part I

I talked a week or so ago about posting some thoughts about postmodernism in the Christian faith, mostly because I've been thinking a lot about it and I didn't want to forget the thoughts that I had over spring break. I know this probably seems really random for me to just come out of nowhere with this, but I've had a lot of conversations in this past month about a lot of issues that have really challenged me and compelled me to rethink and reevaluate my understanding of biblical Christianity.

I think that a postmodern way of viewing God is difficult for me because rules and absolutes were very important to me when I first became a Christian. Because I was so steeped in sin before I came to Christ, I needed someone to tell me, "Max, the things you are doing are wrong. These actions are keeping you from Jesus. He loves you, and he wants you to stop." It was so intruiging and attractive because it was so simple. In this same way, the Gospel is so intruiging and attractive because of it's simplicity; we have but to place our faith in Christ for what he has done, and we will spend eternity alive in the fullness of Christ. In my mind, postmodernism is hard to grip because there is very little black and white, and a lot of gray. It requires a lot of wisdom, guidance, and discernment. There are a lot of issues today that cannot be answered cleanly and quickly, and there are a lot of issues in my life that defy my understanding and leave me with the constant struggle of what I truly believe.

But regardless of all my doubt, I know that behind the curtain of gray lies Christ, the ultimate black and white, embracing in my struggles and sustaining me when I walk in deserts of unbelief and strife. There are lot of questions, and a lot of interpretations, but there is only ONE truth. ONE way. I am not alone on this journey. Though I walk through the valley of disbelief, I shall not fear, for YHWH is with me. See you soon.

(Brian McClaren is a well-known postmodernist Christian thelogian who has a lot to say on this subject and more. Read his blog here. Check out his books here.)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Game

Well, I'm back from the south of the border, and I had an amazing time. The FBC youth and 3 kids from CCC went down there with YUGO Ministries. almost 130 students and adults in all. It was a week of fruitful ministry and uncontrollable, hearty laughter, and I'm not sure if I can capture all my feelings and prayers and convey them to you, but I might be able to piece together a story out of the whole experience later.

Yesterday I drove back from LA (BY MYSELF) and spend the last half of the day in Fremont. Me and Monica went over to a good friend's house that night, and we watched The Game. I'd been wanting to see this movie for awhile now because I remembered that I'd seen a lot of spiritual truth in it. I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it, but it was such a beautiful, shocking reminder that even when it seems that my life is spinning out of control, God is right by my side, guiding me in love and breaking my fall when I fall apart. This was a cool because this was how I felt at times when I was in Mexico; over my head out of my league, ill-equipped, and misguided. But scripture tells me that in my weakness, God is made strong, and that even though I am "under construction" in terms of being conformed into the image of Christ one day at a time, I'm still open for business. Though I sin, God allows me to take part in his work. I am broken, and Christ makes me whole. See you soon.