Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A New Papa, A Trip to Guatemala, and Some Future Projects.

What I've Been Up To In 2013....



The year 2013 has been unlike any other. 


Even though the blog does not show any signs, I have been busier during the first few months of this year than any other I can remember. Here is a little bit of what's been going on.



February


Back in the fall of 2012, I received a unique invitation from a dear friend and mentor, offering me the chance to come to California and cover a leadership conference that he and his wife were hosting. The three day conference was held at The Rock Church & World Outreach Center in San Bernadino, and featured different leaders and missionaries from over 140 nations around the globe. I had the distinct privilege of writing articles for his website, chronicling the events of each day and highlighting different key speakers. I was also extremely fortunate to interview several of those leaders and missionaries personally. Hearing their stories opened my eyes up to just how rapidly the Gospel is expanding throughout the far reaches of the earth. 


Papa Gill

During my time in California, I met a lot of amazing people. One person in particular was a man named Dr. A.L. Gill. 

Everybody calls him "Papa". 

It's difficult to describe Papa Gill without smiling. He has the most loving way about him, like a playful grandfather who laughs with joyous pleasure at the sight of his grandchildren. I met him in the hotel elevator. He had a conference program in his hand, so I asked him if he was attending.

"Yes I am,"  he answered, turning to me with cordial intrigue.
"So am I. My name is Ben." I extended my hand to him.

"Well, hi Ben! My name is Papa Gill!" his blue eyes sparkled as he shook my hand. That's another thing I loved about him instantly. He had the brightest blue eyes of anyone I've ever seen. 

"You are actually one of the speakers, aren't you?"

"I sure am!"

"That's great! I look forward to hearing you."

"Well, thank you Ben!"

The elevator doors opened.  "I'm glad we got to meet." I said as I picked up my suitcase off the elevator floor.

"Me too! It was very good to meet you, Ben!"
After that short 10 second exchange with him, I felt as if I was the most special person in the building. He was so sincere when he told me how glad he was to meet me. I felt genuinely loved by him. I can't really explain it any better.

 If I never meet that man again, I will love him for the rest of my life, I thought to myself as I walked down the hall towards my room. 

At the end of the conference, I was visiting with Papa and asking him what he had planned in the coming months. I wanted to know how I could stay in touch with him and how I could pray for him. 

He looked at my with those playful, twinkling blue eyes and said, "Oooh let's see... I'll be in Columbia at the end of March. Would you like to go with me?"

My jaw dropped! My heart pounded! I looked up at him, and all I could say was an emphatic, "Yes!" 

"Ok," he reached into his blazer pocket and pulled out a schedule booklet. "Let's see, I am going March 26th, and coming back April 1st. I will put your name down here. What is your email, so I can send you the trip information?"

We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers, and I left the conference that evening in awe of how God works.


Trip Change

I began fundraising for my trip with Papa. I needed about $1400 in order to cover round trip airfare. I sent out some support emails and contacted a few friends on Facebook. Within less than a week, I received $700 for my trip. God was definitely behind this. 

The date for the Colombia trip was approaching rapidly, and I still needed about $700 more to cover it. About two weeks before I was to meet up with Papa Gill and go to Colombia, he called me with an idea.

"Hey Ben! This is Papa Gill calling." His voice illuminated my heart, seeping through the phone like sunlight through venetian blinds, illuminating a room. 

"Hi Papa! How are you?"

I'm doing great! Listen, I've been doing a little research and some praying, and I discovered that all of the seats in coach are taken at this point. The only way to fly to Colombia, if you planned to go on the same flight as me, would be business class. This would end up costing you way more. Now, you could either take an earlier flight and wait for me, or you could come a day later and meet me there."

Neither idea sounded very appealing to me. But, Papa wasn't through, and he offered another idea.

"However, I don't want you to miss anything and I don't want to put you in an uncomfortable situation. So here is what I think we should do. I think you should wait until May, and then come with me to Guatemala instead. That's my next trip, and I think it would be better for you to plan for that instead."

He and I both felt this was the better plan, so we decided that was what we would do. 



Currently


As of right now, I am still in the process of raising the necessary funds for my Guatemala trip with Papa, and I am so excited for such an opportunity. In the meantime, I have been working on a few projects of my own. For the last two years or so, I've wanted to start some film projects that have been brewing in the back of my mind. I've started meeting with a friend who has a video production company. We've met a few times now, and I've shared some of my work with him, as well as some ideas for future projects. I can't say very much about it at this point, but I can say that I have started working on the rough draft of a script for the first video project.

It's definitely an exciting time!


If you would like to stay updated on the progress of my trip with Papa Gill, please email me so that I can include you in future email updates! My email is: benbetweenthelines@yahoo.com.


If you would like to know more about Papa Gill and his ministry, you can find out more here  .


Thank you so much for reading and for your prayers and support! 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Reaction, Stemmed From Brain Malfunction, Ruled By Circumstance....

How A Bad Decision Changed My Perspective








I went to the doctor yesterday. 

Why? 

It's a long story. 


Basically, I hurt my foot at work on Friday. I won't say much, only that it involved a forklift, a large box, and one bad decision. 

But that's all I'm going to say. I will tell you though, that I came out of the ordeal a much wiser man... a much wiser man with a bruised foot. 

I'll be honest, I'm an emotional guy. When things - in this case, machinery -don't work the way I think they should, I have a tendency to react. 

Somewhere deep inside of me, there is a fuse. When I reach the point of "overload", the wheels in my brain begin to lock down, causing an enormous amount of internal friction. This friction sends sparks soaring through my bloodstream, and eventually those sparks find their way to the fuse. And once the fuse is lit, its only a short NASA countdown until disaster strikes. 

When the numerical ticks decline to a zero, the emotion, which is normally held back by the brains spinning wheels, erupts. This volcanic wave collides with the amount of friction built up in the brain, causing the system to short circuit. The end result is an uncontrollable chain reaction of sudden and aggressive violence. It's uncontrollable because of the the brain's malfunction, which causes me to lose all ability to think clearly.

 And of course, there is always an end result to the end-result. My end-result ended in a second degree sprain in my big toe. Oh, and a box that is no longer usable, due to the foot-sized hole in its side....

But that's all I'm going to say about it. 



The Visit

When I went to the doctor's office, I sort of already knew what to expect. I figured I would go into that pessimistically white examination room, sit on the examining table and take my shoe off. The doctor would look at it (my foot, not my shoe), touch it in the worst possible spot (like where it's purple), the whole time asking if it hurts. 

I would tell him, Yes, thank you. Then he would say something about a fracture and that we'd need an x-ray to be sure. Then I'd have to get up and walk down a cold hallway for about a mile wearing only one shoe. I'd get into the room, have the nurse lady person take her picture of my foot, turn around and walk back down the cold, mile long hallway in one shoe, get back into the pessimistically white examination room and wait for about forty five minutes or so until the doctor came back in. 

He would come in, sit down and say, "Yep. It's a fracture."

I'd walk out with some weird bandage on my toe, a prescription of some pain medication I couldn't pronounce in a hand writing I couldn't read, and a big hole in my bank account. 

At least, that's how I thought it might happen.....



The Doctor

When I got into the examination room (which was not quite as pessimistically white as I remembered), I sat there while the nurse did the usually temperature taking, blood pressing reading and what not.

About 2 minutes after she left, the doc came in. 

"Hi Benjamin, how ya doin?"

"I'm fine, how are you?"

"I'm better than you, obviously. What happened?"

I quickly explained how my brain short-circuited and the friction build-up met with the volcanic wave of emotion, which resulted in my state of mental stupidity and physical aggression. 

"Well," he remarked, his forehead furrowed as he tried to understand, "So you got mad and kicked a box?"

I sighed, "Yeah... basically."

"And did this happen today?"

"No, yesterday."

"Okay," he jotted down some notes on his clipboard. "Well, it looks like you bruised it pretty bad."

"Yeah, I can still move it, so I don't think its broken."

"It's not broken, but you may have cracked it."

"I wondered if it was fractured."

"Well, six of one... either way it doesn't make a difference. Do you know what we do when something like that happens?"

"No, what?"

"Nothing."

"Oh, uh... okay."

"It just has to heal itself, basically. I could take you in for an x-ray, but it wouldn't tell us anymore than we already know and I don't want you to have to pay for that."

"Well... thank you."

He smiled, then asked, "So... how's your family doing?"



The Question

We spent the next 10 minutes or so chatting about my family, about me, if I was in school, and where I wanted to be in 10 years.

"Well," I answered his ten year question thoughtfully, "hopefully by that time, I'll have a book or two under my belt."

His eyebrows shot up at that. "Really? That's great! What kind of stuff do you write?"

"Mainly intellectual perspective stuff, some theologically minded, some whimsical..."

"I think that's terrific. So right now you are just working?"

"Yes. Just working and trying to save money."

"Mmhmm... Are you happy?" That question sort of caught me by surprise. "Well... yeah, I am", I responded.  

I thought about that question for a few more seconds after answering. Am I Happy? Other than the fact that I was sitting on an examination bench with a cracked toe, I believe that I was, and am, very happy. But, if I was so happy, then why did I allow my emotions to get the better of me over such a ridiculously insignificant situation? Maybe I wasn't as happy as I wanted to believe? Maybe there was something deeper inside, something that was holding me in check, suspended between emotion and rationality.

The truth is, I do feel suspended. There are some days where I feel complete, where the revelation of God's grace makes me feel whole, secure, satisfied. But then there are other days when I feel like there's more for me out there; there's more meaningful things I could be doing, there's more purpose to be a part of than just living and working.

On those days, I've realized that I allow my current circumstances to dictate how I handle certain situations. I don't walk in grace with other people, I don't practice patience during times of stillness, I don't operate in love, but I give into frustration. And, I also realized that all of these are results of not trusting God.

I know God has a calling on my life. I know he has given me gifts to use. I know I am loved and that I have purpose. But sometimes I don't trust in the fact that he has a plan, and I try and take matters into my own hands instead of following his guidance. I'm learning that this always ends in frustration.



The Decision

After our conversation and me paying my bill (which was a ridiculous $47 plus tax), I limped out to my car. I sat there for a moment just pondering my visit. It's funny how everything I expected to happen, didn't happen. I didn't have to get an x-ray for a problem that was already obvious; I didn't have to limp single-shoe'd down a mile long hallway; I didn't have to wait forty five minutes. And I didn't expect a thought provoking conversation.

I did get a prescription in a handwriting I couldn't read, but that's no different than going to a water park and expecting to get wet. At least I could pronounce the name of the drug:

Loratab (more correctly spelled, Lortab).

I made a decision that day. I refuse to let any situation get the better of my emotions. I'll admit, the circumstances may not be what I would prefer. But, that's all they are - circumstances. They do not dictate the course of my life, nor its outcome. My actions during those circumstances do, however. And if my brain malfunctioning causes continued acts of aggressive violence blinded by stupidity, then how long can I expect
to be ruled by circumstances? I'll tell you - for the rest of my life.

No amount of difficult circumstances are worth that. No reaction I could have to such circumstances would ever change me for the better. It would only prolong my difficulty.


Decide today what's going to dictate the outcome of your present situation: the circumstances, or your reaction.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

SAVE....

An Original Poem







Save



You cast answers into a sea of rocks,
forcing me to dig around through your thoughts
and find the missing pieces that fit all my questions...

Discovering you has become my obsession.


The answers are small but not hard to find,
as I reach for the pearls that reflect the suns shine.
And all the while I can't help but think the prophets were right...

You're casting to the swine.


I can't walk on the water or fly through the air,
yet that doesn't keep me from trying. 
 Your words fall like treasures upon deaf ground
and it's for their meaning I'm dying.

Please don't leave me too long in the dark -
don't hide life's answers from me.
Ignite knowledges' matches with you spark
so my mind can burn thoughtfully free.



I want my heart to line up with your words and 
my mind to reflect all that my soul prefers
in the attempt to malign my flesh and 
carve out areas where self is disturbed.

The flesh is hungry and it eats away 
at the sin laid out on the devils buffet.
On this diet, the mind only decays, the heart
is starved and the soul is depraved... 

I need the value of truth to alter and outweigh this appetite for all that my humanity craves. 



I can't walk on the water or fly through the air,
yet that doesn't keep me from trying. 
 Your words fall like treasures upon deaf ground
and it's for their meaning I'm dying.

Please don't leave me too long in the dark -
don't hide life's answers from me.
Ignite knowledges' matches with you spark
so my mind can burn thoughtfully free.



©Ben Burleigh

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Romance and Rose Petals


Valentines Day: What It is, What it's Not, And What it Should Be...




 











   For as long as I can remember, I've received a Valentines Day gift every year. I always know its coming, and I always look forward to it. 

   Because every year my mother always takes the opportunity to express her love in this way. 

   Valentines Day for many is a day of expression, romance and selfless love. Nevertheless, there are many more who feel quite the opposite.

   Many people today don't appreciate such a holiday because they are under the mindset that this day should be about them. And if they do not have someone special giving them something, or showing them love or expressing their true feelings, then they decide the day is no good and they try to counteract the thought of others being more special than them by celebrating it as a day of Hate.

   The problem with this is that Hate is just as contagious as Love, sometimes even more so. 

   If you are experiencing this day as a day of Hate, I want you to know that I feel terribly sorry for you. 

You are missing the point.

   Don't write me off just yet, though. I could easily jump on the bandwagon and take a swing at the Cupid shaped Pinata if I so desired.

   Please do not take this as me being insensitive. I know exactly what heartache, rejection, and loneliness feel like. I've been there. But I also learned I couldn't stay there.

   I know what it's like to be single. I know what it's like to need love. I know what it's like desiring to love someone special. I'm there right now. But you know, I haven't ever experienced a relationship that ended well either. And do you want to know why?

Because in my mind, it was all about ME.

And in having this mindset, I not only hurt a few people, I hurt myself.
  

   We miss the point of Valentines Day because of the romantic overdrive. But love is not all romance and rose petals.


   Instead of dragging your feet and sighing every time someone you know posts about the love of their life on Facebook, make a decision to find someone that is close to you and love them intentionally. You'll be amazed how special it will make that other person feel. And what's more, you will feel better about yourself too.

   I look forward to my Valentine gift every year, because I know that it came from someone who truly loves and cares for me. It makes me feel as if I am the most special person in the world.

And that's the point.

   Don't miss the opportunity to love someone intentionally just because you are feeling sorry for yourself. It may not be a romantic love. It may not even be a familiar person. Maybe just an act of loving kindness. But you never know just how much that other person may need a small act of love in their life.

Don't hate. Appreciate.

It's not all about you anyway.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Check Yo' self....


...before ya wreck yo' self (and someone else).



  My friend Drew and I occasionally try to meet in the mornings to read the Bible and talk about what we are learning. We are reading through the book of Romans right now. 

Such a deep book.


I find it interesting how in just the first five or six verses of Romans 1, Paul adequately tells about the message of the Gospel. However, there are still fifteen more chapters that follow.

Many Christians today would tell somebody the message of the Good News in one sitting and afterward they would feel their job was done. They would feel as if they did what their church said to do, and that they led someone to saving knowledge of truth. I mean, that's how I always felt.

Paul talks about the gospel and the reason why he is an apostle, but he definitely doesn't stop there. He goes on to expound on God's righteousness, conviction of sin, the sin nature of fallen humanity, the grace of God and the power of the cross, the law of sin and death, the resurrection and salvation of Jesus through faith, the renewal of the mind and how we are to live as sacrificial believers, and so on... 

I've been in church all my life, and as a kid I can honestly say that after learning about Jesus dying on the cross and raising from the dead, I didn't learn much of anything else. Sure, we heard all the popular stories - Jesus walked on water, he fed 5,000+ people with a handful of food, he turned water into wine, Jonah was swallowed by a whale, Moses rescued the Children of Israel from slavery, David killed Goliath, Adam and Eve, Noah, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus... You name it, we heard it.

But from what I actually learned about Jesus and what being a Christian was supposedly all about, it pretty much stopped at the cross. I was taught the way to be saved was by praying and inviting Jesus into my heart. After I prayed that prayer I was given a Bible and expected to be saint.

And believe me I tried really hard. I tried to be good and to be perfect for Jesus. But I kept messing up. I was so confused as to why I still had the same struggles, because even though I wanted to be good and to live for God, I kept doing all of the things I knew were displeasing to him. Soon I felt I couldn't be involved in worship or even talk to anyone about Jesus because I felt like he was displeased with me.

It's interesting that other Christians talked about the gospel message, about Jesus coming to die for our sins and raising from the dead again, and about inviting him into our hearts so we can go to heaven some day. But I never ever heard about how to put my flesh to death and not give into my sinful desires after accepting Jesus.

I thought everything was supposed to be good? I thought I was supposed to be changed? I thought God would make my life a heck of a lot easier? That's what we were always told. But there was so much I didn't understand because the subject was never deeply discussed. Everybody wants to hear about heaven, but nobody wants to talk about how to live sacrificially on earth.

I never understood about the first Adam and the last Adam. I never heard about having peace in Christ through faith. I didn't know how to be dead to sin and alive in Christ. I was never told why I had desires to do good but I continually did all of the things I knew were wrong. I never understood how there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. I had no idea how to renew my mind as an act of worship to God.

I struggled so much more after accepting Christ that part of me wondered if there was something wrong with me or if it was all even real.

Paul spent chapter after chapter breaking down sin, the law, grace, redemption, salvation.  He spent years with churches mentoring, teaching and discipling. He loved each member in such a way that he wanted to encourage them by laying hands on them and imparting spiritual gifts to them, and he also wanted to be encouraged by how they used their faith and the gifts he imparted.

I wonder how many people heard Paul teach and didn't believe it later when they heard his testimony about how he killed and persecuted The Way before he met Jesus? I wonder how impossible that thought might seem to them after witnessing this man so full of love and passion and desire to change the world?

And I wonder why some churches today don't take the necessary time to teach and disciple and mentor those who are new in Christ or especially those who desire to go deeper and learn more? Jesus commanded us to MAKE disciples. He didn't say go and prostitute the gospel so that you can earn reward points for the salesman of the year contest in heaven.


So having said all of that, here is an intriguingly borderline thought -

Would it be better that a person never hear the message of Jesus and live as a gentile, ignorant of the law, than to be told about him by a "believer" and be promised all sorts of radically life-changing experiences only to be abandoned, ignored or overlooked by that  "believer" later on?

Obviously the Spirit of God can work through any circumstance to change someone's heart.

But I seriously think we need to consider this kind of a question. Not because I believe it would be better for them to never hear the message of the gospel, because I do not. But we must be prepared for follow up.

Sharing the gospel with someone is not handing them a road map and saying, "This is the way to Jesus. Good luck."

It's pulling your car over to the side and saying, "I'm on a journey to know and learn more about Jesus. This is the route that leads to him. Join me."

 I think we need to check ourselves before we try to go out and convert someone who will have sincere questions for us that we can't answer because we are either too afraid or too lazy or too brain dead to open up the issues on our own time and know the Word of God for ourselves.

As the outdated, somewhat ghetto saying goes: "Check yo'self, befo' ya wreck yo'self."




Scripture references for this post: Romans 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.... just read the whole book.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Make Room In Your Heart






I met a man the other day named Rob.

He and his wife came into the store looking for a new couch. I showed them around and presented what we had available. 

They didn't really find anything that suited them. After about ten minutes of looking around, Rob asked me who the manager was. I gave him the managers name and asked if everything was okay.

"Well, I lost my job and I'm looking for work."

"Oh, I see. Well - he is at the front counter. I don't think we have any positions open at the moment, but you are welcome to talk with him."

He thanked me and went to the front of the store. A few minutes later he returned and thanked me again for showing him around. His wife, who had been silently sitting in a recliner on the far side of the room, got up and started walking towards the glass double doors. But Rob had something else in mind, something I wasn't expecting at all.

After he thanked me, he looked me in the eyes and said, "You know, I talk to people a lot about Jesus. Do you believe in Jesus?"

The question surprised me, but I responded. "Yes, actually... I do."

"Good," he said with a smile.

"Thank you for asking. It's very encouraging to know there are other people around who believe and care enough to ask others."

 "I always like to ask people that question. I asked a man downtown earlier this week and we spent quite a long time talking about God."

He went on to tell me how he helped that man find Jesus. The more Rob talked about God and his witnessing to other people, I began feeling convicted. I, being the jerk-face that I am, had totally judged this man in my mind before he'd even opened his mouth.

His unkempt appearance would probably mislead any selfish person into premature judgement of some kind. With missing teeth, a gray untrimmed face and nose, and a grungy complexion, I laughed on the inside when he'd asked about a job position.

But now, the same man I scoffed in my heart was being used by the God of the universe to change my perspective.

Rob went on to tell me how God spoke to him and gave him songs. He would write these songs and then try to sing them to his home church.

He sang a song once at church and the people hated it. They mocked him. They judged him. They rebuked him. Maybe it was because he didn't have a full row of upper teeth. Maybe it was because the lyrics didn't all rhyme. Maybe it was the difficulty he had speaking clearly. If anything, it had to be the root-like nose hairs extending into a befuddled conjunction with his beard.

Or maybe it was simply the fact that Rob sang the truth. Plain and simple.

And as he stood there, telling me the story of how God had healed him three times from three different forms of cancer, and how his wife had never given up on him and was used by God to bring him to a point of brokenness and acceptance of Christ, he broke down into tears of bewilderment.

This man had been beaten down by life and circumstance, neglected and rejected by the same "body" he belonged to, train wrecked by the people closest to him, and judged by complete strangers who didn't even know his story. Yet with every trial he faced, God submerged him in love taking him deeper than he ever imagined he could go.

He couldn't say the name Jesus without smiling. He couldn't talk about his wife without getting lost in thought.

And as we stood there together in the middle of the showroom floor, he wept again as he sang to me the same song that his church had rejected.


"You must make room in your heart for Jesus,
Then he'll roll away the stone.
And the walls in your life will tumble,
You must make room in your heart for God's love."

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Thorn in the Flesh

Sin, Humility and the Nature of God.



A few days ago I read 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about his "thorn". 


Paul experienced some insane spiritual moments with God and due to the awesomeness of it all, he had full right to boast about what he had seen and experienced because it was all true. But because of the unspeakable revelations he witnessed, God felt it necessary to send something to Paul to keep him humble, something he referred to as a "thorn in his flesh."

We don't know what this thorn is because he never says. He does refer to it as a messenger from Satan, but we don't know if it was an actual being that kept with him, or if it was something physical, an illness like malaria or epilepsy. There is actually a passage in Galatians where he refers to some physical ailment regarding his eyesight when he first preached the gospel to that church.

I don't know what exactly it is that Paul regards as this thorn, but I believe I can safely say what I think it is not. I do not believe he is referring to a sin. He is not talking about a personal struggle that held him back from telling about what he experienced because of condemnation.

Why would I say this? Because for years that’s what I allowed myself to think. I thought maybe God caused him to have a struggle that kept him humbly committed and more reliable on the Lord’s grace. Obviously this idea is re-freakin-diculous. But you want to know why I thought that? 

Because I felt like my own struggles were so strong I would never break free. 

I felt that after years and years of praying, begging, and pleading with God to take my issues away and replace them with purity and righteousness - and after finding that they still remained the next morning - I began rationalizing that maybe this was something designed to keep me in a constant place of reliability on God.  Soon it became a thought that justified my sin. Eventually it allowed me to arrive at a destination of acceptance of the sin.

I do believe God will allow things that cause us to be kept in line humility wise. But I do not believe he will ever inflict something on us that is out of his nature or character, something that is not part of him. He does not operate like that. Not with a born again believer.

Paul even wrote in Romans 8 that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And he was referring to believers who are following Christ but still struggled with their sinful flesh. If you are in Christ you are his. You don't belong to the sin nature anymore and he does not see you as sinful because he has clothed you in a garment of righteousness.


Do not allow the enemy to sneak ideas into your mind regarding sin and humility. God would never inflict something to hinder you in your pursuit of him, and Satan would never incline an aspect of character to develop a trait of humility in you. Sin and humility are opposites. They promote completely different lifestyles

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Don't Spend Your Life Trying To Be The Perfect Example




Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace did an interview last year on The View promoting their book,  Real Marriage . (You can view part of that interview here.)

In the interview, the Driscolls talk with the hosts regarding their own marriage and their own views when it came to sex.  

The part of the interview that really stood out to me was when a question regarding heterosexual married couples verses homosexual couples arose. Naturally a question on this topic is bound to pop up, and not surprisingly, this question was more like the baiting of a trap to a personal onslaught of criticism.

"In the book you say its a gift, that everybody should have great sex, everybody but homosexuals. What have you got against them having fun?"

Driscoll, in response to the query, did something extremely impressive. Instead of taking a direct approach in professing personal belief on that specific subject, he simply returned to the foundations of what he believes and that according to Scripture, marriage is meant for heterosexual couples and sex is designed and reserved for enjoyment within marriage. Then immediately after doing this, he uses himself and his wife as the example for what was wrong.

Driscoll: "We are Bible believing Christians and we do hold to the teachings of Scripture and that is that sex is reserved for married couples, a heterosexual married couple, and so even when we were dating and we were sexually active, we were wrong. So we don't want to say we were better or holier than anyone, but we were wrong and had to make some changes."

This answer is brilliant for so many reasons.

1. It immediately brings the focus to Scripture.

"We are Bible believing Christians." - this is the foundation and the basis for everything that we teach and the way that we live our lives.

2. It diffuses any foreseen or unforeseen attack regarding views on homosexuality.

Driscoll is no stranger when it comes to the questions regarding this topic, and he is also very well acquainted with the underlying arguments, bitterness and the insolence intertwined. He has stated from his own pulpit multiple times that he will not allow himself to be baited into an argument on this issue, and I have yet to see him try to take and defend a personal stance. He simply refers to what the Bible says, and he does so in a way that doesn't entice any judgement or malice towards homosexuals.

3. It takes all of the focus off of the person (in this case, Driscoll) and puts it on the Bible and what it says regarding sex in marriage.

The whole point of Christianity and following Jesus is to put all of the focus back on Christ and the Word of God. That is how our lives should be lived. Keith Green often referred to the fact that the word Christian means "Little Christ". That is who we are to be like instead of trying to promote ourselves in some form of holiness or maturity.

4. And it still answers her question as far as homosexuality and any other form of ungodly sexual activity outside of marriage.

Driscoll is not pin pointing homosexuality as the Sin of Sins, nor does he ever target a homosexual as a perverted individual or a demented sinner. He states according to scripture that sexual sin is just that - sexual sin. Whether it's viewing of pornography, adultery, sexual activity outside of marriage - it doesn't matter. Sin is sin. A gay couple engaging in sexual activity together is not anything worse than a heterosexual couple engaging in sexual activity together. Sin is sin. There isn't a level of sin that is greater than another. The focus shouldn't be on changing someone or trying to make them focus on not being gay or not being sexual. The focus should simply be to point them towards Christ. 

Driscolls' response in this interview SHOULD be the response to any question regarding sin in general.

This is what Scripture says. This is what I was doing. I was wrong. I changed because of what the Bible says and what I believe is true according to the Word.

People can argue and refute the words of man. But they cannot argue or refute the words of God without blatantly and openly refuting Him.

 I believe one of the biggest traps a minister, preacher, evangelist, worship leader, or Christian in general can fall into is the idea that they must be the example of holiness. Doing so will cause them to think they are justified in saying they are right and "sinners" are wrong.

This is always a mistake. Instead, we should focus on making our own sin and our change from sinful ways the example showcasing true grace, love and forgiveness. Because that's what really catches peoples attention. That's what everyone is looking for. That's what people relate with. 


Don't spend your life working to be the perfect example of holiness. Instead, use your life as the example for what true redemption looks like.





Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas: Socks, Underwear and Les Miserables




Last night my family and I were perched high above Oklahoma City in a Marriott hotel room opening gifts and drinking Welch's Grape Juice.

Welch's Sparkling Grape Juice


And I was excited because this was probably the first year that I could remember when I didn't know what any of my presents were. Didn't have a clue.

Earlier that day they (my presents) were all sitting on our dining room table taunting me like rebellious children with finger antlers and tongues sticking out of their mouths. The little brown gingerbread men printed on the red wrapping paper all had the same annoying smile on their faces like immature people holding a secret about me with no inclination of filling me in. 

When I was younger I could look at a package and know exactly what it was just by its shape. This was because I usually had to show my mom what I wanted  while we were at the super store together, and then she would buy it right there on the spot. Naturally she would send me away to another part of the building first, thinking that the thirty second trip to the bread aisle would distract my memory and cause me to forget all about the latest Nintendo 64 game I'd just begged for. Then she would try to hide the present in the shopping cart by piling all kinds of crap on top of it. 

But I didn't care. I knew I was getting what I'd asked for so I was still just as happy. 

Of course Moms do have a way of wrapping items so that they all look the same. This can fool you if you aren't careful and don't know what you are doing. I could pick the box that I believed was holding the Allen Iverson jersey and instead find a 4 pack of multiple colored Fruit of the Looms. 

Fruit of the Looms


That was always disheartening. 

Then again, she still had a way of saving the best present for last. I might have already opened everything I thought was under the tree, and then she would tell me to hold on and she would whip out one more present that I didn't even know was there. 

And it would be THE present, the one I had been waiting for all my life - the one present I had prayed to God for since September - the one present I had almost sold my soul to the African mission field for...

And a month later is was the one present buried somewhere in the bowels of a cluttered closet with no hope of seeing daylight again until it occupied a particle board table on the front yard wearing a sign that said "All Items $5."

So this year I was glad not to know what I was getting. I'm just as happy to be with family as I am at being surprised by my packages. Because no matter the stuff I end up with, its the memories that really count.

After we opened our gifts, my brothers and I spent the night watching movies and laughing our faces off. Dad had to come over at one point and ask us to keep it down because he and mom could hear us through the hotel walls. Not that this is unusual. Still, if my dad can hear us over his own snoring then you know we were having a good time.

These are the moments that really matter. These are the gifts that you cherish the most - the laughter, the love, the family bonding.

This evening we plan to attend the showing of Les Miserables at AMC theatres in Quail Springs.

Les Miserables





















I'm so excited for this movie!


I hope you all are having a Merry Christmas! And for all of you who know what I was talking about regarding the Fruit of the Looms present, then this is for you:


Socks and Underwear by Joe Burleigh



Merry Christmas From BTL!


















Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Moment of Truth!




The time for voting has passed. Now, the time for recognition has arrived. 

This was the third annual BTL Christmas Sweater Contest, and it was a good one. Now I get the exciting opportunity to present one lucky contestant with a free Sony Touch Screen Camera!

Sony Bloggie Touch Screen Camera
 
But first, I would like to thank everyone who participated in voting this year. When a person submits a photo for the contest, they are hoping to win a prize. However, what they may not realize is that by submitting to the contest, they are actually helping to spread the reach of BTL around Facebook, Twitter and such. 

So when you decide to submit to the contest or when you decide to vote and help a friend win a prize, not only are you supporting your friends or family, but you are also supporting BTL itself by sharing it with everyone you know.

And for that, I sincerely thank you.

But enough about me..


Now is the moment you've been scrolling to get to.

It's time to announce this years BTL Christmas Sweater Contest Winner!



So ladies and Gentleman - 

Congratulations to this year's winner...


For a Second year in a row....




#3

Eccentric Santa

Miss Colleen Zelenski!


Colleen received 27 of the 45 votes submitted, and has earned herself a Free Sony Bloggie Touch Screen Camera, as well as another page in the annals of BTL Christmas Sweater Contest History!

Congratulations Colleen!


Also, a big thanks to Tabitha and Amber for participating this year. You both will be receiving a little something just for participating, so be on the lookout for a message from me! 


Thanks everyone for making this contest happen!