Saturday, September 14, 2013

Who Will We Go To?

John 6:60-69


67 Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?”

68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God!”


“Who will we go to?” – Simon Peter’s rhetorical question comes after a “hard teaching” from Jesus.  The implied answer here is “no one,” as in, “there is no other.  You are God.” Many of the larger pool of disciples (not the Twelve) abandoned Jesus immediately following this “hard teaching.” In fact, their rhetorical question implied the same answer.  In v. 60 they ask, “who can accept it?” Their implied answer is, “no one.” So what was the difference?  How can the same illustration illicit such drastically different responses? I believe the answer lies in verse 65. This is Jesus repeating what He’s already said in 44, that no one can come to Him unless drawn by the Father.

This should remove any semblance of pride or arrogance that we may have about our faith, because “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9), and even the faith we have to believe was gifted to us by God.  It should increase our brokenness and gratitude for the grace of God, because apart from His drawing us in, we would not know Him.  God has invited us to join Him in making disciples, but the most important aspect of that endeavor must be crying out to Him on their behalf.  All of our evangelistic eloquence and apologetic arguments will be powerless apart from the saving grace of the Lord.  The Lord hears the prayers of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29), and if salvation is a sovereign act of God, why shouldn’t we beg for His salvation for the lost, both near and far?

And yet…in this passage we see that although God is sovereign, a response is required.  Each man must, when presented with the Gospel, respond.  Ultimately, there are only two responses.  Either Jesus was and is the Bread of Life who came down from heaven, the spotless Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, or He’s not.  There may be no caveats, no partial responses, no straddling the fence on this issue.  Our response should be clear, as was Simon Peter’s.  The response to the question, “is Jesus the Son of God who died for our sins and was raised to life for our salvation?” must be definitive.  Black or white.  Hot or cold.  Lukewarm will not do (Revelation 3:16).

All must answer this question once for justification, and Christians must answer it daily for sanctification.  We must choose daily to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).  Our devotion to and dependence on Him must be complete, total, and undivided. Where we fall short—as we will, and Peter did—we must rely even more heavily on His compassion, grace, and forgiveness.  Even when we are faithless, He is faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).

Oh, that God may draw us to Himself!  May He give us the grace of faith that grows more deeply each day.  May He grow in us a desire to know Him, to walk with Him, to love Him more each day.  May He grant perseverance, so that when the day of testing comes, we will not harden our hearts (Hebrews 3:8).  When His teachings, or the circumstances of our lives become hard and Jesus asks, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” may we like Peter, humbly, decisively, emphatically respond, “Lord, who will we go to?”

Friday, February 25, 2011

Better Slip You an Ambien

NYC trip started off poorly, with a little bit of roomie miscommunication about coffee that ended up not happening.  Bummer.
But, you know—it was 9AM so that’s a pretty minimal concern, and that was really about the only pitfall of the entire trip.
We cruised to Bethesda to catch our bus, got there with time to spare and I was able to catch up with my grande mocha there, so, problem solved.
The 4 hour bus ride sailed by thanks to my friend CS Lewis, and next thing you know, we were being dropped off at Penn Station.  Let the fun begin!
It was about a 20 minute walk to Luke and Whitney’s and the weather was great (about 60 degrees), so we enjoyed taking in the sights and smells and noise of the big city as we walked.  One of my major goals for the entire trip was to make sure I did not look like a tourist, which for the most part, I accomplished. 
So Luke met us outside—what a cool apartment!  We walked up 5 flights, dropped our things off, and Luke suggested we hang out on the roof—why not?  What a view!  From the top of his building we could see several famous buildings, including the Empire State building.  It was great catching up with my buds and seeing the sights and enjoying the views.  We waited a few minutes for Whitney to arrive home (she was at one of about 14 million job interviews she had that week, she’s a really awesome designer) and she joined us on the roof shortly after we arrived. 
Walked to this great Cuban restaurant, and even though it was about a 45 minute wait to get a table, we didn’t mind hanging outside.  There was some…uhh…let’s say amicable disagreement about whether we were in NoLita or SoHo…I just knew we were in New York.  Dinner was a blast, food was excellent, conversation sparkling.  We grabbed the check then headed out to a local bar where we saw—of all things—a Skynyrd cover band, but it was great.  The guys playing were all probably in their 50s, but they were having a blast playing, and they were good, so we enjoyed it.  The walk home included a quick stop at Sixteen Handles, a great frozen yogurt place, and someone should have told Matt that they charge by weight.  I think he had about a $9 bowl of food, mostly toppings.  I’ve never known someone with more of a sweet tooth. 
 Saturday morning = blueberry pancakes.  Really nice treat.  We decided that we would do a little bit of the touristy stuff during the day, and since some of us had never been the Statue of Liberty, that was first on the list.  We purchased our Metro Passes, and navigated the subway like seasoned vets, albeit with the help of a couple folks who actually live there.  But, aside from our smiles, I don’t think we stuck out too much. 
I think whoever decided to nickname Chicago “The Windy City” should REALLY rethink that in favor of New York.  We got all the way to Battery Park, went toward the ferry that would take us to the Statue, and decided it was just far too cold to pay $13 to set out on the water.  So, we posed as ice cubes in front of the water, with Lady Liberty appearing as merely a speck in the background of the photo, then hurriedly rushed into Starbucks to warm up (this quickly became a theme of the weekend).  Then we checked out ground zero, where I had never been.  Really, really emotional for me.  It’s one of those things that, if there’s ever a special on the history channel or whatever I always watch, but it always drains me to reflect on the events that took place that day my freshman year of college.  Like many, I was and am profoundly shaken by that tragedy. 
Moving on, we had pizza for lunch at a place near Luke and Whit’s, and watched a little college hoops before heading out for the night.  And the night was great—We went to Brooklyn Bowl, which is like a bowling alley/bar/restaurant/concert venue in Williamsburg.  Have to give Matt some credit here, because when he said he wanted to go to a bowling alley I was not excited, but this was really one of the highlights of the trip. 
We walked to church on Sunday morning, and I really enjoyed their church.  The music was good, and the message was a tough one—“A Devastating Doctrine,” from Romans 3:9-20.  It really was devastating, until we learned in verse 21 that “…apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known...” (read: Jesus).  Awesome to read 21-22 in contrast to 9-20, but I still don’t know if we will ever be able to fully understand or appreciate just how big of a deal it is that the God of the Universe humbled Himself by stepping down from glory in order to reconcile to the Father a people who otherwise were irreversibly separated by our sin.  Incredible.
We then got two pizzas and four drinks for $15 (yes, in NYC) and ate lunch at Grand Central Station.  We spent the rest of the day walking around the city, seeing Rockefeller, 5th Ave stores, Central Park, The Met, and a few other really neat places.  Went to Times Square Sunday night, and got on the bus to head home Monday morning. 
It was an absolute blast, and I was so happy to see my friends.  It was one of those weekends where it seemed incredibly busy the entire time, but I also felt like there was so much left to do that we didn’t get to, which I guess means we have to go back again soon!  (twist my arm)
I was not quite as overwhelmed with the big city as a lot of people told me I might be, but I was certainly impressed, and I fell in love with it pretty quickly.  Aside from the great food, famous locations, spectacular buildings and other attractions, the best part for me was just spending time with great people.

 Even if they did get annoyed that I was singing that Jay-Z song the whole time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

First person wakes him up..

We said it every time, without fail.

Like clockwork, we'd have just taken our shirts off and thrown them into the cabs of the trucks, grabbed our fishing poles and were headed down the side of the mountain in the middle of another scorching Virginia summer day.  Mission: well, there's a lot to it, so I'll bottom-line you: we wanted to have fun, and catch as many smallmouth bass as possible.  But there was a lot more.  Get away from our girlfriends, responsibilities, and cell phones.  Cool off in the river.  Share a lot of laughs.  Take in the absolutely breathtaking beauty that is God's creation.  You know the "fishing stories" your grandfather might have told you as a kid?  A lot of the ones my grandkids will hear about happened there on the river with my boys.

Anyway, we had a guy in the group who was terrified of "Mr. No-shoulders" as he called them.  Nobody's really crazy about coming up on a snake unexpectedly in the woods, but this guy was comically afraid of them.  His nickname is "Kramer" and his spastic-freakouts reminiscent of the Seinfeld character were never more vivid and animated than when we encountered a snake in the woods, or in the water.  The path that cuts through the side of the mountain is essentially a one-man trail so you have to go single-file through.  And, the saying goes, as it pertains to a snake, that "the first person wakes him up, the second person <upsets him--edited>, and the third person gets bit."  (this was proven false several times, as we saw at least one snake every time we went down there, and usually if anyone gets bitten, it's the first guy through.  And, even if you're one of those "tough" guys, it still kind of freaks you out when you're the one who gets struck).

The entry point to the fishing spot is so cool---right underneath a dam, where the end of the dam meets the side of the hill, and the water rushes over so fast, that there is almost always a cooling mist hovering that creates a mini-rainbow right in front of where we'd stand.  The deafening roar of the water rushing over the dam was always so peaceful, and often times we'd catch a few fish right there in the midst of all the rushing water.

In the summer, the sun doesn't go down until almost 9 o'clock in this part of the country, and it was often that late when we would finally make it back to the trucks.  The hours between were spent catching fish (and sometimes getting shut out), slipping and falling on the rocks, talking about women, and building life-long friendships.  I've been in several weddings, attended kid's birthday parties, and prayed with and for my brothers when they were going through serious life-changing crises.  Hard to believe it all started when a few crazy 17 year old kids decided to get together and wet a line to pass a summer afternoon.

The snakes never went away.  Shortly after college, I learned that the dam had been closed to the public because it was infested with rattlesnakes, and it was no longer safe to go down there.  I was crushed when I read the text message from Kramer. 

So we may never be able to spend the afternoon there again (with our football and basketball knees, falling on the rocks probably isn't the best idea anyway).  I see these guys all together maybe once a year, and the same stories we witnessed first-hand and have heard retold five thousand times are repeated, again and again.  And there's never one speaker--everyone chimes in with his own version of events, or things that someone forgot.  It's basically a train-wreck of verbiage jumbled together which hardly qualifies as conversation, and it's essentially incomprehensible through all the laughter. 

Nobody seems to mind. 


Friday, January 28, 2011

We Peaked at Duck Hunt

I know you remember it.  The Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt combo game for the old Nintendo system.  With the bright orange gun.

Was this not the best video game ever?  I've been thinking about this a decent amount lately, and it is crazy to me how much time kids spend playing video games nowadays.  Just go to the electronics department at Wal-Mart or Target or (dear heavens) Best Buy.  There are SOO many games for sale, they're ridculously expensive...and...well I could talk about what's featured in the games and whether it's appropriate for kids, but I don't think the blog will allow that much text, and I have neither the time nor the patience for that type of endeavor.

What happened to riding bikes?  What happened to pick up games?  Going fishing?  Are the only people who participate in these activities...grown ups?  Did this stuff die with our generation, in favor of first-person shooter games and Wii sports resort?

Last weekend I threw the football for 45 minutes or so with my neighbor's son, Ethan and his buddy from school.  This leads me to believe there's still some hope.  That's what kids should be doing! 

here's what typical day looked like for me as a kid:

Wake up, breakfast, go find my neighborhood friends.  Pick-up basketball for a couple of hours.  Playing in the woods.  Finding a creek to splash around in, and getting REALLY muddy.  Trying to catch crawfish and tadpoles.  Climbing trees.  Building forts. Someone's house for lunch.  Back outside.  Football game. If we're lucky, swimming at the neighbor's pool.  More bikes and hoops.  Dinner at home.  Flashlight tag.  Duck Hunt/Mario.  Back home for bed. Wake up, repeat. 

Look, I get it.  We live in a high-tech, fast-paced, virtual-reality world where you're more likely to Tweet about your day than have an actual conversation with another human being.  And I praise God for technology; without it you wouldn't be reading this.  But, I'm afraid it's getting out of hand.  I'm afraid, especially for kids, that video games are becoming the focus, and not a small part of a life that mostly includes pop flies, blue gill, skateboards and skinned knees.

I'm sure everyone generation says this, but man--those were they days, weren't they?  I remember playing video games as a youngster, but not nearly as vividly as I remember a thousand other things. Like riding in my dad's old VW Beetle to the neighborhood pool, and spending hours catching bugs with my first crush, Emily.  She was really something--she even liked bugs!

So if you have kids, or if you are a kid (especially of the grown-up variety), please go outside!  I know it's cold, but put on a jacket.  You could play a REAL first-person game of cops & robbers. 

Besides, as far as I'm concerned, they'll never make a game that will hold a candle to this one.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Catch Phrase!

Yes, I love that game.  No, that's not what this post is about.

This is about some phrases, words or sayings that I use.  A lot.  And maybe some I shouldn't.  C'mon, everybody's got a few, right?  What are yours?

Here's a sample list of phrases with examples of how they might be used:

-Clown show
  "The ACC's bowl record is a complete clown show."
-Painted with that brush:
  "Yes, I do data analysis, but I don't want to be painted with that brush"
-Homie (see also, "homey")
  "how you doin, homie?"
-Bottom-line me
  "Bottom-line me here Becky, what's going on?"
  (probably my most overused, this can be an acknowledgement of my understanding, a question seeking       confirmation--"FSU won today" "Word?"--or it can simply denote emphatic agreement with something.
  it's a term of endearment, really.  As in, "Megan is such a creep."  That oozes love and respect as far as I'm concerned.
-Postin up
  "Nothing going on, I'm just postin up with my coffee doing some reading"

Also have a couple of one-liners I use at work ALL the time, and they never get old.  So if someone jumps in front of me at the coffee pot, or the elevator, or the door to the office and then apologizes, I'll say, "no worries--I'm not that anxious to get upstairs anyway" or "there's nothing but work waiting for me when I get back."  Instant friend-maker.  Communicating common ground.  Another round of smiles, puppies and rainbows for the house! 

And my favorite elevator line happens on Mondays.  Everyone's dragging.  So I say, "only four more days til the weekend!"  Gets at least a chuckle everytime.  Or a strange, angry look.  Without fail.

Confession time: I kind of think I'm hilarious.  But there's some tension because I also realize that most people don't.  I really feel for those poor souls who lack a sense of humor. 

Ohhh maybe the next post will be about phrases people use a lot that I can't stand.  Good thinking.  Until then...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Field Turf Rubber

It's EVERYWHERE!  Mostly in my shoes, and in my laundry. 

If you don't know about field turf, it's an artificial sports field playing surface.  Not like astro-turf (how old ARE you, anyway?), it's a little bit softer and more comfortable, and you can wear cleats or tennis shoes on it.  And under the "grass," there are millions of these little pieces of shredded rubber.  Kind of like tires that have been ground up (maybe that's actually what it is?), and they've very small--like, I dunno, bigger than a pinpoint but smaller than a piece of rice.  So anyway, when you cut, or dive, or run on this stuff, the little pieces of rubber kick up and inevitably end up in your shoes and socks.  Small price to pay, but they get all over everything. 

This isn't typical for me; it's the offseason.  If anything, this time of year generally serves as training time for the Monument 10k, and otherwise a time of rest between my fall and spring River City football leagues.  But this year we decided to do a Movement Church winter flag football team (we're now 1-1 since my last post on the subject, don't want to talk about it) and tonight I got invited to go coach/train/play at a place called UTurn.  The best way to descibe this place without looking at their website is that it is a huge, faith-based sports training complex for kids up through high school age, and my buddy Robby (football) and my roommate's friend Santos (soccer) both coach and work there.  I got to see and talk to both of them tonight, which was great.

So, aside from the field turf rubber getting all over the place, here's what I learned tonight:

  • this place is awesome. Not just because it is so big, or the fact that they have so many sports there (I saw football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis tonight and I'm sure there's much more) but                 also because of the ministry they are providing to kids in the city.  There were SO many kids in there tonight, and thinking of them being exposed to sports and the Gospel instead of drugs and gangs and whatever else kids are getting into these days is really refreshing and exciting.  The coaches that I came into contact with really know their stuff, and Robby was telling me he led a little devotional with the kids before I got there.  I got the impression that this is the norm, which is incredible. 

  • I am not in high school anymore.  What I mean is, I'm not in that kind of shape. Toward the end of the night, the high school kids and the coaches played "hardy ball" which is kind of a mix between football and ultimate frisbee.  It was a lot of fun, and a lot of running, and I was beat by the end of it.  I mean, exhausted.  Having said that...

  • I can still make plays, go up and catch the football.  Maybe I wasn't going against elite competition, but I have never claimed to be an elite athlete. But, those guys were very good and I was able to hold my own, which was nice to see and a lot of fun. 

So anyway, I guess dealing with little pieces of rubber is worth it.  Yeah, it totally is given what they have going on there.  Maybe I'll check into it a little more and see if they need any more staff or volunteers....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Movement, 1-0

Winter flag football kicked off this past season, and I could not have asked for a better game. 

Well, ok, yeah I could've.  It would have gone like this:  Everything happening how it did, minus the cold, wind, and ice-covered field (check out the pics on my Facebook page--it was crazy).

So the idea was borne a month or two ago to establish a flag football team through Movement Church.  A good idea considering we have lots of people in the church who love sports, and we want to be intentionally involved in and around Richmond, not just inside the walls of a building on Sundays.  This wasn't supposed to be a "holy huddle" or your typical "church league softball" type thing--the idea was to take a couple of guys (and girls) from church and have each one invite a few coworkers, neighbors, roommates, fellow students, etc to play as well.  And, praise God, we got a lot of interest!  So much, in fact, that we decided the best thing to do was not tell people our roster was full, but rather just establish a second team. So that's what we did.  The team I am on is Movement, and the other Movement team is Still Running.  And, ironically (or by design?), the first game of the season matched the two Movement teams against one another.

The coin toss was interesting:  Captains met at midfield, and I was face to face with my neighbor/mentor/bff/pastor Robby, and for the next hour or so he would also be my nemesis. 
It was a great game from start to finish, two rookie teams sliding around on the frozen tundra while trying to figure out the league-specific rules and desperately grabbing at (and often missing) the flags of the opponents.  The first half could hardly be described as "pretty"--lots of turnovers, and the conditions limited much of the passing game, but it was not without highlights. For me though, the first half was a bit of a disappointment as I missed a couple of fairly routine catches, including one that would have given us a score right before the break. 

Each team enjoyed the benefits of having a mobile QB who could make plays with his legs, and after halftime each team seemed to find a bit of a rhythm and things started clicking.  It was a back-and-forth type game with several ties and lead changes, and as the clock expired, we were knotted in a 23-23 tie at the end of regulation.

We met again at midfield for the overtime coin toss.  My team won the toss and I elected to play defense first.  It is a college-type overtime, with each team having 4 downs from the 20 yard line.  It started off badly for us, as Robby took the snap, danced through a few defenders (including me) and walked into the end zone for the apparent lead.  However, the play was called back because of downfield blocking (not allowed), and the next play would be a pivotal one.  Carter and Tiffany applied the pressure, and Robby put up an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Movement's Mike Edwards in the end zone.  We took over at the 20 with a chance to win, and barring a crazy interception returned for a TD, the worst we could do was extend the game to another overtime. 

By this time in the game I had learned that the best position for me was tailback, where I could be a decoy to hold a flat defender, or I could take a swing pass or a toss and have a run/pass option, with Mike (QB) still involved in the backfield if another lateral was needed.  So on second down, he pitched right to me and then he snuck into the flats, and I had another receiver deep in the right corner.  Deep guy was covered; I couldn't find Mike.  The flat defender stayed home and appared ready to make the stop, but he was the only obstacle between me and paydirt.  I decided to go for it. 

As the two of us appeared headed for a collision near the 5 yard line, I knew I had to use a "move" if I was going to get by him. But what would it be?  Juke?  Spin? Stutter step?  The most unlikely is the one I chose--pump fake.  I was clearly beyond the line of scrimmage, and after I had mentally committed to it, I knew there was no way he would bite....but he did.  As his feet left the ground and his arms went straight up to deflect my would-be pass, I knew I could get to the corner.  But it wasn't without contest--another defender from the inside hemmed me between him and the sideline.  As I'm sprinting toward the end zone, I decided the only thing I could do to ensure I didn't step out was switch the ball to my inside hand, and reach for the pylon like the guys do on TV.  I heard the whistle, and I had no clue whether they would rule me out or call it a score.  The refs hands shot up vertically.  No flags.  Celebration time. We had won, 29-23, and were 1-0. 

As a competitor, I'm really glad we won.  And I would be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled that I was able to produce the game-winner.  But more than that, I am excited that everyone seemed to have a great time despite the weather.  And it wasn't a blowout--it went into overtime!  Both teams have some things to work on, but I am hoping that this will mark the beginning of a great season, and that we will be able to build some good relationships with folks who we otherwise wouldn't know.  This already started as after the game both teams met for a quick debrief, and Robby was kind enough to share some of his Clif bars and water with us. 

We'll see what type of competition the rest of the league has for us, but I am encouraged and honestly believe that this will be a great experience for everyone involved.  I am certainly hoping we meet Still Running again in the playoffs.