Sunday, June 24, 2007

A man with heart...

Wow. I just found something absolutely incredible. Watch this, and then watch this. Paul Potts is a surprise - to everyone. I've never heard someone sing quite like this. I've heard people with better technique. But I've never heard someone sing this well with this much passion and, more importantly, heart. I've seen people sing with this much passion and heart, but never this well. You'll get his story in the clips - and that makes it so much more powerful.

[Sourced: Boundless Line]

I think there is some interesting commentary here, about the way that God has made us and the place He has given us to live out the gifts and talents that He has placed inside each and every one of us. Most of us will never stand in front of a nation and suddenly explode into popularity - but all of us have a responsibility to exercise the gifts that He has given us, not simply leave them dormant. When we do, it is beauty that results, because it is what we were created for. I don't know whether Paul Potts is a Christ-follower - I hope he is - but I know that all of us who are need to surrender our own understanding of what life ought to be and simply follow God's leading, exercising that which He has given us.

Good night!

- Chris

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Blog recommendation

I've been reading Dr. Del Tackett's blog, Truth Observed, for a couple months now, and have been consistently impressed (and humbled by) his understanding of God's word, philosophy, history, and the like. There aren't many better people I've run across discussing those topics in the blog world, or indeed even in regularly published texts. His commitment to the holy word of God and to the truth as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ are very much an encouragement and a blessing. I highly recommend you all read his blog (in fact, if you have a choice between reading his and mine, I think you'd be better served reading his).

I was astounded when I realized that this man would be teaching one of my classes here at Focus on the Family Institute - and the time I have spent with him in class have only confirmed the picture I had of him from his work on the Truth Project and his blog. He is one of the most passionately dedicated man I have known in his heart for Scripture and for the glory of God.

Seeing the blog world and the "real world" converge this way has been really interesting.

I pray God's peace and love and comfort be with all of you.

- Chris

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"You're a great guy, but..."

Quick recommendation before I sleep tonight. I'm tired. But I have to highly recommend this article from Boundless, called "You're a Great Guy, But..." by Suzanne Hadley. It's an experience I'm familiar with; indeed, I've joked with some friends in the last year that the seven most terrible words for a guy are "I think you're a great guy, but..." because the basic meaning of whatever comes after that is exactly the same: "I'm not interested." God often uses that for His glory and for the advancement of His purposes in our hearts; but nevertheless it's not a pleasant thing to hear. Suzanne does a great job of addressing both men and women in that situation, and I really respect the way she presents the best ways of going about that rather sticky conversation.

As a side note, I have to say that the two girls with whom I've had that conversation nailed it: delivering it respectfully and in a way that affirmed me, while still noting firmly their lack of interest. That's a hard thing to do, and I respect them immensely for doing it and doing it rightly: in a way that honored God.

It is now time for a brief bit of Bible study, journaling, and then sleep. Tomorrow is coming quickly! God bless you all.

- Chris

Monday, June 18, 2007

Secret Ambition

This song has grabbed me recently; I've been working on learning it on guitar. Can we make our life goal to follow Christ in this? - to make our life's ambition the same as His?

Secret Ambition - Michael W. Smith
Young man up on the hillside
Teaching new ways
Each word winning them over
Each heart a kindled flame
Old men watch from the outside
Guarding their prey
Threatened by the voice of the paragon
Leading their lambs away
Leading them far away

Nobody knew His secret ambition
Nobody knew His claim to fame
He broke the old rules steeped in tradition
He tore the Holy Veil away
Questioning those in powerful position
Running to those who called His name
(But) Nobody knew His secret ambition
Was to give His life away

His rage shaking the temple
His word to the wise
His hand healing on the seventh day
His love wearing no disguise
Some say Death to the radical
He's way out of line
Some say Praise be the miracle
God sends a blessed sign
A blessed sign for troubled times

Nobody knew His secret ambition
Nobody knew His claim to fame
He broke the old rules steeped in tradition
He tore the Holy Veil away
Questioning those in powerful position
Running to those who called His name
(But) Nobody knew His secret ambition
Was to give His life away

no, no
no, no
i tell you nobody knew,
until he gave his life away

Can we make our highest priority giving our lives away? We are called to lay down our lives - to daily pick up our crosses and follow Him; to die to ourselves, to proclaim the Gospel at whatever cost in whatever environment He has put us in.

What's your secret ambition? Mine is to be a voice of the gospel - one of the men who moves mountains for Christ, whose name is written down in the finished book of Acts as a man who never compromised, who dedicated his life to the glory of God and the furthering of His Kingdom. I fail, all the time - but that's my ambition: that every person would hear the gospel, and that I would be a tool in that process. I don't know what that looks like, but I know that God has a purpose for my life - and I believe that's what He has made me for: His Name's glory.

God bless you all. Numbers 6:22-27

- Chris

Saturday, June 16, 2007


And God is amazing. So are the people He has put around me.

I just got ambushed with water balloons, by the amazing girls who live above me. The best part was the absolute confusion on my part... I had no idea what was going on, for a good five or ten seconds, because my brain was functioning so muzzily.

I love you, God! (And I love you ladies in 1027, too. You have no idea how amazing your timing was tonight, nor how God used you. Thanks for being your wonderful selves. Apologies I didn't have a better reaction. I'm just glad you're not all better aim.)

Good night, all. In Him,
- Chris


Just some questions I've been mulling over (in no particular order, and expecting no particular answers):

Why I am here at the Institute? Not in a general sense (I know that God has called me here; even in this questioning I have absolute assurance of that) but in a specific sense. Why this place at this time? What purpose has He in this? What, precisely, is He doing in me in this season? How is He using this in the bigger scheme of things? What am I supposed to be getting in the midst of this? I'm not here for the reasons most others are; that much is clear. I'm not dealing with the same things; I'm not confronting the same struggles and issue. I'm certainly no better than the others here; but I am in a different place. So why am I here?

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Why do guys not stand up and lead the way they ought to? Don't get me wrong; I see guys here and there doing it. But overall, the pattern I see is lethargy and laziness, a general malaise that has slipped into our culture and our way of life until at last we lounge about, doing little - and nothing of consequence. Where are the men who will rise up with passion and righteous anger to defend the family? Where are the courageous men who will valiantly fight for the Gospel and the redemption of a fallen culture? Where are the men who will come to their feet with a shout and stand firm over issues of right and wrong? Where are the men who will dare to lead in their relationship with the woman in their lives?

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Why do we play these emotional games with each other? I see so many guys stringing girls along. They're "just friends" - but they talk for an hour and a half every night. If the guy is interested, get up and pursue! As my pastor in Colorado Springs has often said (about many things), there comes a time when we simply need to fish or cut bait. This dilly-dallying in the middle is folly; and it brings pain. Why do the girls put up with it? Why do they let guys string them along when there are other men waiting to pursue them - but who won't, because the girl is interested in the other guy. The one she's "just friends" with. Why do we use each other like that, to fulfill our emotional needs without the necessary commitment? [There is a place for guy-girl friendships, as I have written before - but we as guys in particular need to not be a hindrance to the girl we're friends with or to other guys. If I am keeping a guy from pursuing a girl I'm not romantically interested in by my friendship with her, I need to get out of the way, plain and simple.] Why do we keep toying with each other, instead of dealing with each other seriously, realizing the impact we can and often do have on each other's lives?

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Why am I doing this - right now, at this time? Why am I sitting here blogging? Do people read this? Why did I get asked if I wanted to review books? My readership doesn't justify that. Not at all. I'm not influential; people don't pay attention to what I write overall. [Which is fine by me.] Why? [Side note: yes, I've been asked to do some book reviews beyond those I have done so far, possibly including some interviews with the authors. I'll let you know when those are coming.] Why am I doing this?

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

Why has God called me the way He has? Why am I the one that He has chosen for the things He has, for the calls He has laid on my heart? It is certainly nothing in me; of myself I'm a rather tragic figure - prideful, stubborn, obnoxious, and at times far too serious and intellectual. Why did He make me this way? For what purpose have I been formed as I am, and for what reason have I been set apart the way I have? And where are those who will walk alongside me this way, who share the passions and the vision that He has laid on my heart? How am I to walk forward, to carry out all that He has called me to? And where, precisely, is forward from here?

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

I don't know the answers to any of those questions. And that's okay with me.

I'm tired, right now.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day; indeed, this will be a long weekend to end a long week. Yet God's grace is sufficient - indeed, far more than sufficient - to meet my every need.

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly host
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness!
- Psalm 29:1-2

God bless you all. May you be kept in His perfect peace - the peace that surpasses all understanding - this night. My prayers are with you.

- Chris

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When God Writes Your Love Story Review

Last weekend, I finally followed the advice of several friends and picked up When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy. The book is one of several extremely well-selling books on the topic of dating that has appeared since Joshua Harris sparked an ongoing discussion about Christians and dating with the publication of I Kissed Dating Goodbye over a decade ago. Unlike many of the other books in the genre, though, this one does not aim to either directly contradict or reinforce the message that Harris presented (see, for example, my earlier review of Cloud and Townsend's Boundaries in Dating). Rather, the Ludys simply set out to provide, from their own history, a picture of how a God-centered view of relationships changes the very nature of those self-same relationships.

The book is essentially an historical narrative told variously by Eric and Leslie Ludy (each one contributing different chapters); the contents of each chapter being those useful for making the particular point that the Ludys are attempting to communicate at a given instance. We follow the Ludys from their teens through their early twenties, including some glimpses of their courtship, as well as pictures of previous relationships and the general church culture in which they were surrounded.

Their history is probably fairly typical for many Christian young adults today: they both grew up in a church that taught them "Don't have sex," and little more: no justification beyond "It's bad" and no explanation of the notion that chastity extends far beyond technical virginity. Both compromised significantly in their relationships during their teens - Leslie looking for commitment and sacrificing herself physically in vain attempts to gain it; and Eric as part of a desire to fit in with the other guys in his group of friends (notably, a group that includes Christians). Along the way, both encountered the truth of Christ in a way that forced them to reevaluate their life patterns - to examine their choices in the light of a God-centric, rather than self-centric, existence. Eric dedicated himself to waiting to date until God made clear that the woman in question was the one he was to marry. Leslie committed to wait for a man who would pursue her in a Godly way, setting Jesus Christ as the foundation of the relationship. Both decided to let God be the center of their lives - including their love lives - and then to bear the consequences of that decision.

The authors adopted a simple conversational style for the book, as has been common in books of this genre since Joshua Harris relaunched this conversation over 10 years. They address the reader with honesty and a candid tone that is simultaneously invitational and instructional, without ever crossing into lecturing. Half the chapters are written by Eric, half by Leslie; but their voices are similar enough that remembering which person is telling the story (or giving the challenge) requires glancing at the header for each chapter, where the narrator is specified, and paying attention to contextual clues throughout the chapter. I never got confused in the transitions, which speaks well of both their writing and the invisible editor's hand; getting lost in this sort of back and forth (especially when the changes are relatively random, as here) is easy enough to do. Each chapter includes both personal historical narrative and directed challenges to the reader; and each chapter closes with a set of questions for further thought and practice of the principles the Ludy in question had laid out.

The book has considerable merit: unlike many entries in the genre, the focus is not on rules or principles for improving one's relationships with the opposite sex, but rather on a complete change of heart and attitude with regard to not only relationships but life in general. The Ludys took the entry point of romantic relationship and used it as a springboard to discuss the notion of wholehearted pursuit of Christ - living a life that is truly centered on Him. Their central argument is that it is a Christ-centric and surrendered life that is truly worth living, in every aspect of our lives, including romance. They note that God's plans for us are far better than our own, and thus that He deserves our trust in this (as in all other) areas. This was a refreshing change from most of the books on the subject, which tend to focus significantly more on us than on Christ (to my knowledge, the only real exceptions here being Harris' books). Their picture of purity as being a matter of chastity rather than virginity was also pleasant - and unfortunately also rare. Their telling of their early history and the ways that God changed their perspectives, brought healing to their hearts, and prepared them for their future marriage is excellent, and the exhortation to follow their lead was encouraging - particularly to others brought up in the same church culture that they were (which is a significantly higher percentage than it ought to be).

The book has, in my opinion, two significant demerits. One of these actually stems from the merit listed above: in choosing to focus so intensely on the general question of surrender to Christ's pattern for our lives, the Ludys actually spent very little time discussing what God's writing of one's love story actually looks. This is not intrinsically a bad thing; however, in the context of a book proposing to do precisely that, the fact that they spent so little time on it was more than slightly disappointing. Their purposes would have been better served by either finding a better balance between the themes of general surrender and Christ-centric romance, or by writing a book that wasn't supposed to be about romance but about general surrender. The second demerit flows out of this, as well as out of their basic stylistic choices. By centering the lessons they tried to teach on their own lives, the Ludys created an expectation of seeing how their love story played out - what it actually looked like in practice once God was writing their love story. However, there was almost none of this: indeed, what is present is almost entirely incidental. The Ludys, though they did a good job of laying the foundation for why one should have a romance (and life) surrendered wholly to God, simply did not fulfill their unspoken but essential promise to then demonstrate it. I've no doubt they can do so, because the hints that we do get of their relationship sound wonderful and exciting. Yet by not expanding on that part of the story - in many ways, the most important for demonstrating the veracity of their claims - the Ludys simply leave the reader hanging. From a literary sense, the book never reaches a climax at any level - not in terms of its narrative, nor in terms of its lessons; it simply continues until it ends.

I think the book is good on many levels. Certainly I recommend reading it, especially for those who have come from a past with damaging relationships and broken hearts. While I still think that Joshua Harris' books Boy Meets Girl and Sex Is Not The Problem [Lust Is] (formerly Not Even A Hint) are the best books on dating/courtship and lust respectively, I rank this one as being best after those that I've read thus far. I very much appreciate their Christ-centric focus.

In Him,

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A matter of trust

This summer is requiring a lot of trust in my Father. It's funny... I know that He will come through here, do something incredible. I just don't know what it's going to look like yet. And I - the physics major, the apologetics geek, the answer freak - have a hard time if I don't know exactly how things are going to play out. It's not so much my mind as my heart that's struggling right now. My mental theology is fine; my emotional theology, not so much. I'm working on grounding myself in the Word and meditating on it so that I can retrain my heart to trust, to believe God will come through.

I have $1500 left to pay for the Focus on the Family Institute. I also have almost $800 in other bills to pay this summer. My job will probably pay for the latter. It won't cover the former - nor even close. I've no idea - none whatsoever - how God is going to move that mountain; yet I also know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am at this moment precisely where I'm supposed to be. I have rarely in my life experienced the peace I have right now about being here at the Institute, with these people, at this time. This was a divine appointment. That means that God has a way for me to walk through this; He (who is He Who Provides) will do all that is necessary for His will to be fulfilled. I don't know what my part is beyond what I'm doing. Many thoughts, ideas... none of which would help, so far as I can see.

I'm immensely blessed at that first total - the $1500 left for the Institute. That means that people have generously (and probably sacrificially) given some $500 dollars for this. To all of you who have given who might read this: thank you. That's a lot! And to those of you who have prayed for provision: thank you! That's equally important here!

I do ask for your continued prayers, for your continued spiritual support for me. Indeed, I ask for more, and for all of my colleagues here at the Institute, not just myself. It's become very clear over the last week that by being here, we've very much put ourselves on the front lines of the spiritual battle going on in America. There have been a lot of attacks - physically, emotionally, spiritually - against us already, from sickness to our dreams. We need your covering and support as we are very much waging a battle here. It is good to know we are not fighting it alone, or even just those of us here.

For now, I must get to eating and reading before I head off to work. God bless you all, and may He richly reward you as you continue to follow after Him!

- Chris

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Out of the whirlwind...

God's answer to our hearts' questions is always timely, and always amazing. Even when it doesn't seem timely to us (e.g., to Job, who waited for what appears to be many months before he heard God answer his questions), it is, and it is exactly what is needed at that moment.

Thank you all for the words of encouragement after my last post. I was perhaps not clear: I am not walking in fear, but in exactly the trust you all pointed me to. God is in control. I refuse, as I note, to speculate, or even spend any time thinking, about possible difficult times; my eyes are on His cross and on what He is doing in my life - both of which are amazing and miraculous.

But in confirmation of what I'd been praying about regarding trusting Him - in confirmation of all you wrote to me in the last day - God opened His word to me last night. I almost just closed my Bible after my time of study in Job (and how refreshing that was: to see God's character as I moved through Job 38 and 39: it's very much a blessing!) - but the Spirit prompted me to read a Psalm as I often do. So I turned to the next Psalm in sequence for me, Psalm 27. The first words:

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

The rest of the chapter is excellent, worth reading: because it points us to Him, makes clear that David's trust in God existed because He knew who God was - and knew Him well.. Our ability to trust Him is directly related to our knowledge of Him. Indeed, if we know Him, if we really and truly understand His character, there will be no question of our trusting Him: because He is absolutely worthy of our trust, like no other person is. He never fails; He never leaves or forsakes us; He never leaves us to ourselves. He is intimately concerned with every detail of our lives. He loves us.

God bless you all. May you experience His power and His calling in your life - in great power.

- Chris

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Various Life Updates

Well, I've now moved into the apartments for Focus on the Family Institute. The last few weeks have been very busy, what with looking for work, having my oldest younger sister graduate high school (with the huge number of extended family members around that that implies), and then moving in here and having orientation - on top of working.

Yes, working. God's provision is absolutely amazing. I am in awe of how He has worked on my behalf. He has required some of me, of course, but much of the work He has simply done for me, in ways that I would never have guessed at. I'm working at the Mardel here in Colorado Springs, which is an immense blessing. I really like the people I'm working with here (though I very much miss my friends and fellow workers at Store #9 in Norman). But more than that, I have to stand amazed at how God worked. When I first got in town and spoke to the general manager of this store, she was interested but said she'd probably only be able to give me 8-10 hours a week, maximum. Now, I need at least 19 hours each week just to pay my regular bills - and there is much to pay for the Institute as well, and basic living expenses for being in the apartment. That wasn't going to work. So I immediately began looking at other possibilities. None of them were seeming to go anywhere, though, which was somewhat disheartening. Yet the Spirit continued, in His grace, to prompt me to simply trust Him. (That's an ongoing teaching right now: I struggle immensely at times, which is interesting, because there are times and situations about which I have no difficulty trusting.) And then He showed how trustworthy He is. Suddenly my manager wanted to know if I could take on more hours - maybe up to fifteen. I readily agreed. Then it was more - how many could I possibly work? And not only that, but I'm getting trained in multiple departments across the store, so wherever and whenever there's a need, they can use me to fill in. I'm probably going to have to ask them to limit my hours to some extent so that I can still have the necessary time not only to study but to truly and deeply connect with my fellow students here at the Institute.

Speaking of whom - I'm incredibly blessed at the people around me. My roommates (those who are here so far; one arrives tomorrow) are great guys with strong hearts for the Lord; I'm very encouraged. I know that God has put us together specifically for very particular reasons, and I'm excited to see what the rest of the summer will look like for all of us. We're all doing things we've not done before - like putting together a grocery shopping list. (We're all excited to be cooking and so forth... yes, we guys are excited about it.) I know that the Spirit will be using us to sharpen and teach each other, though I do not know exactly how. As well, the small team I've been assigned to is already proving to be a blessing. Just in the course of our orientation yesterday, it became very clear that God has put us together uniquely and purposefully: we fit together extremely well, and we work as a team extremely well. Our personalities all mesh well, and we complement each other nicely. We all have much to learn of course, but God is going to be working mightily this semester. That keeps coming up: it's a theme of every person who has spoken to us; and it is the sense that we all have in our own hearts. I was greatly encouraged by the word spoken to us on Friday night by Dr. Del Tackett, where he emphasized the transformation that they long to see in our hearts this semester - the very thing I've been praying for in this semester. God's faithfulness goes above and beyond. And the others I've met so far are also great people; from the other guys in the apartment across the way to the girls directly above us that we hung out with this evening to the various other guys and girls that we've met so far, all are hungry for God's word and for His work in their lives; and all are passionate about advancing His kingdom. It's an exciting place to be.

And yet - and I don't really understand this completely - I have a bit of fear for this semester. It's not related to finances; I know God will provide, though I don't yet know what it will look like. But as I pray about this semester, I'm increasingly getting the sense that it's going to involve pain - loss. I don't know what that means, or why I'm getting that sense. But it's getting stronger. I feel like the bubble of security is about to get popped, though I don't fully understand what that might mean or look like. And it's that lack of understanding that is triggering the fear, I think - the simple fact that whatever is ahead is unknown. I believe this is something from the Spirit, not just my own trepidations, though I do not fully know. I do know that I've been struggling with some emotional issues since Laurie Goree's father passed away a little while ago. It made me sharply aware of the brevity of life and of the immediacy with which people can be torn away from us. Yet this sense that some kind of loss might be ahead has been around since Christmastime. I can't explain it - the sensation of sort of bracing yourself, against what you don't know. I refuse to let my imagination run; what will be will be; yet there is still a certain amount of fear trying to minister. I'm turning it over to God; yet I am struggling because I simply can't see ahead of me. I would simply dismiss this as being triggered by having various people close to me experiencing different losses; yet it keeps coming up, and prayer has not given me any sense to the contrary; indeed it has seemed to confirm it. I had a moment this evening while hearing our Resident Supervisor's testimony and her statement that the semester ahead would be truly good for us, where she shared Psalm 126:3 with us, that I sensed both the truth of it and that this semester would be painful for me, and very much so. I am going to simply wait and see. I know that God is God; and this may pass - or it may come to pass. Regardless, He is God.

And I am excited about this summer. Not least about the different things God is calling me to do with it - the study, the fellowship, the writing. I have started on a large writing project that may keep my blogging down a bit, but I will still try to update as frequently as possible with everything else going on.

God is good. And He wants you to know Him better! I love you all. Our Father's blessing and keeping be with you; may His peace cover you; may His light shine on you and His love cover you. In Him,

- Chris