Monday, September 27, 2010


Last week at this time, I was preparing for a trip to State College, Pennsylvania, home of The Pennsylvania State University, my alma mater. This was my first time going to a Penn State football game as an official alumnus, and while that was truly the reason for my visit, I knew going into it that I would see some old friends, and have a chance to build some friendships with new ones.

As I mentioned in my sermon, faithfulness manifests itself through three things: trustworthiness, investment, and an expectation of a return. Well, last week I got my return after years of the other two.

From the moment I got out of my car, I felt incredibly welcome. The entire weekend flew by, in part because I barely had a moment where I wasn't surrounded by people who loved me and wanted to see what was best for me. Everyone was incredibly interested in what God was doing in my life through graduation, a breakup, moving to Virginia, and preaching at First Christian Church. I was just as awed by what God had been doing at Penn State, especially through Christian Student Fellowship, New Life, and my pre-service teaching school, Grace Prep.

And that's pretty much what led to my sermon of last week. My friends and I have reached a point where we're trying to be faithful to God, and, in doing so we've been able to remain faithful and loving toward each other. Truly, I see the Word of God living within us, and what a great feeling that is to see. Check this out:
1 Thessalonians 5:10-11

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Proverbs 3:3-4

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart.
Then you will find favor with both God and people,
and you will earn a good reputation.
Hey Pennsylvanians, keep up the good work... A+ for the whole week, honestly.

There came a point, then, on Saturday when I didn't want to leave. I mean, how could I want to leave a place where I felt so welcomed, so loved, and so encouraged? But then I started to realize that there was never a point when I was talking to my friends when we said "Hey, remember this encouragement *if* you go back to Virginia," because rather than the word "if" we always used the word "when." "...when you go back to Virginia."

I don't know if Virginia will always be the place for me, but it is for now and I'm so excited about that. My friend Britainy told me tonight that people in Virginia will like me just as much as the ones in Pennsylvania... they just don't know me yet. So it looks like I get to start being a faithful servant of God, and a faithful friend all over again.

How are you doing walking in faithfulness? Join in the fun... I promise you won't regret it.

"...let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" -Hebrews 10:22-24

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Kindness is a pretty clear concept... so why do we continue to be so ineffective in it? I have a theory. We're less interested in being kind, than we are in looking good. Many people in Christendom have bought into the idea that if “I'm a good person, then Jesus will love and accept me,” even though the Bible clearly teaches that this is not the case:

Psalm 14:2-3

The Lord looks down from heaven
on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
not a single one!

I've never understood the concept about how “goodness” leads to conversion. “If I act like a good person, then I am a Christian,” is totally false doctrine. The Bible clearly says that we must believe in Christ, confess that he is Lord of our lives, repent of our sins, get baptized, symbolizing the death to our sin and our new life in Jesus, and walk in His footsteps every day. That is conversion, and if you have followed that, then the Bible says you can call yourself a Christian.

But there is a problem. You see, while most Christians to agree on the fact that being “good” cannot save you, we fall into a pretty awful trap: “Well, if I just act like a good person, then people will realize I am a Christian, and they will wonder what it is about me that makes me different, and then they will discover I am a Christian, and then they will want to become a Christian too.” Does anyone know of even one person who was brought to Christ in this manner? Even Jesus had to explain who He was... why should we feel that our lives are worthy of showing Christ's love any better than His own?

To truly be good, and to truly exemplify this concept, we need to first admit that we could not be good without Jesus, and accept his gift of salvation. Once we call ourselves Christians, we go into the mode of show-and-tell. In no way am I saying that trying to be a “good person” is a bad thing... it's just ineffective to leading other people to Christ.

For instance, if you just randomly decide to pay for someone's meal at a restaurant, but do not tell them why, they'll probably think, “Wow, that was really nice of that person,” but I doubt they'll leap to, “They're probably a Christian, so I should become a Christian too.” If you do good, tell people why you're doing it! Teach people that God loves you, and because He loves you and has commanded you to love others, you're doing that to show them that God loves THEM as well.

Every conversion in the Bible has some aspect of “show-and-tell.” Even the apostles, who could whip out some pretty cool stunts in order to “show” people the power of Christ, made sure to explain that it was through faith in Jesus that they were able to perform all their miracles.

So this week, as you try to do good, remember to take it the whole way. Don't just tell, and don't just show, but make sure that both are working together for the good of the kingdom.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I remarked right at the beginning of my sermon this Sunday that I didn't want to waste a lot of time talking about the concept of "Kindness" because there is nothing to explain. Kindness happens, and when it does, we know it immediately. It has varying degrees and levels, but in the end kindness is kindness.

Although I'm only 22 years old, I've lived long enough to figure out a few things about kindness. For one, as much as it is clearly evident when it happens, kindness doesn't seem to happen enough. Two, kindness appeals to a huge demographic of people. Three, when Christians aren't kind, the world is quick to point out that we're being hypocritical... and they would be correct:

Phil 2:12-18

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Now, I need to confess that I don't always feel like shining like a star, especially when it comes to being kind to those who make me angry, but that's not what Paul seemed to have in mind. I've always respected Paul, because I always figure that no matter how bad I perceived my life to be at the time, Paul had it worse-- so when Paul tells me that I should treat people with kindness and respect, I should probably listen... but at least it's somewhat sneakily “righteously vengeful.” :-P

Romans 12:14-21

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the L


If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

I'll be completely honest and say that I feel uncomfortable in reading that. I know I need to get better, but I also had an recent experience where I got to live this out, and what a phenomenal experience it was (listen to this week's sermon on Kindness for more info). Reacting to those who angered and upset me in a loving and kind way was a very liberating experience, and one that I know God smiled on. It's a start, and it's something I need to improve. It's what the church needs to improve as well.

When it comes right down to it, I have to ask myself, who would I rather have as a face of modern Christianity: Mother Teresa or Terry “Koran-burning” Jones?

This spiritual battle is changing. For proof, I submit the following video to you. It comes from a Skeptics conference, and the speaker in this clip, Dr. Phil Plait, is a self-professed atheist, and a very entertaining blogger over at “Bad Astronomy.” Someone in the atheist community has discovered what Paul knew 2000 years ago... people don't respond well to yelling, nor do they respond well to being called an idiot. Now, the video has some language that probably wouldn't be considered kosher for this blog, but it's pretty astounding just how amazingly similar his rhetoric sounds in comparison with my own.

Phil Plait - Don't Be A Dick from JREF on Vimeo.

For hundreds of years, Christians have relied on the fact that the message would get passed on, no matter the delivery. But until we actually SHOW Jesus' love FIRST, we won't have an audience to tell SECOND. Now the atheist community has started to change their delivery, and their tone. They will have an audience, and though I feel our message is superior, we need to figure out a way to pass that message along in a way that people will want to listen and respond. Chew on that, and I'll have a follow-up on this next Wednesday in relation with this week's coming sermon on "Goodness."

Please feel free to post comments and questions in the comments section. Also, I suppose that I should put a disclaimer that I do not agree with much that Dr. Phil Plait has to say about God, or Christianity in general, but this blog post is not meant to debate his a-theology, and I don't want the comments section to devolve into a scientific debate... thanks in advance.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit / September 11

Well Labor Day really fouled me up... not because I didn't realize that yesterday was Wednesday (I did) but I was called away from what I had planned to do (Labor... ok, laundry and church work) to attend a Labor Day picnic. That's why you're getting this blog about patience a day late... and yes I see the irony in that.

I've struggled in writing this, because I don't have much to add to the sermon that I preached on Sunday without getting into the one that I'll preach this coming Sunday... so I've decided to go in a different direction and tie in some topical stuff to the Fruit of the Spirit.

There have been a couple points in my life where I just knew that nothing would be quite the same as it was before an event or experience happened. Some of them have been normal "growing up" events, like graduating from high school and college, others have been more dramatic.

I have a bit of a tradition that I do every year on September 11th... some years it's much more involved than others, but I always like to remember that day as it happened. I still remember that I was in Mr. Stewart's Algebra I class when Mrs. Mento came in and whispered something to him. When I went out into the hallway after class, one of my friends said, "Hey Adam, did you hear what happened? Two planes flew into the World Trade Center, a plane flew into the Pentagon, a bomb exploded outside the State Building, and the Mall is on fire!" At that time, I thought it would be a story in the English class that I was about to go to, since he had just come from there. I had no idea that it was really happening, and even though he did, I guess his coping mechanism was to smile as he was passing on this information... perhaps because it seemed so surreal to him. None of us in the 8th grade knew exactly how our lives would change after the events of that day, but everyone knew they would.

Obviously, September 11th was a horrible day in history, but some very good things came out of it. Very harsh trials led to acts of love and patience with each other. Out of a terrible ordeal, people of many different backgrounds came together to seek out peace, and with that came joy. The day itself will never become a celebration by any means, and I daresay most of the emotion, the pure unbridled emotion, that came out of that day is gone. But it was there for all of the world to see, if even for a short time.

That's the difference between human love, joy, peace, and patience... it goes away before we can truly understand what those feelings are. God's Fruits don't go away... they're eternal... but I always like to look back on the events of those days *as they happened* to remind me just what we, God's favorite part of Creation, are capable of when we let go of our preconceived notions about each other. When we all stand on solid ground and on even footing, there's a lot of good that can come out of that. And when I see those physical, and very emotional, reminders, it always makes me aspire to having that again... not through the evil of the attacks of that day, but through the goodness provided by God.

Some of the resources that I look back to every year (if not more) will follow.
Fark is a news website that was created not too long before 2001. It's usually a fairly appropriate website to get actual news information, in an inappropriate way. I don't necessarily support everything that Fark stands for, but the comments of the day truly show what the American public was thinking. Most of the people who normally comment on stories on this site fall under the categories of immature and irreverent. September 11th was really a different time for that website, as you can see in the following links (Be advised that these ARE internet forums during a very stressful time... the language is very colorful at times): is a website where various parts of the internet are kept alive. When people say that what hits the internet never goes away, I always think of this website. In this case, though, it truly is an invaluable resource to those people who are looking to remember the events of September 11 and the days that followed. hosts the "September 11 Television Archive" which is basically three solid days of television programming, on 6 different channels. You can literally watch the news coverage before, during, and after the attacks. It's a very cool website, which takes viewers from an interview with the Duchess of York before the attacks, to the now famous "U-S-A" chants led by President Bush. You can see live interviews, and see the cities of New York and Washington reacting. The sadness is overwhelming, but so is the love.

I encourage you to set aside some time on what is now known as Patriot Day to reflect on the feelings you experienced on that day, and in the weeks that followed. That common bond is something that we will certainly experience in heaven, but as you remember, think about how love and joy, peace and patience can work into your life right now to help those who feel as if they're under constant spiritual attack and lack guidance.

Take to heart what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

"Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Peace among men

Disclaimer: This one's pretty much for the Christians

Before I get started on this, I thought it would be awesome to include this from They have some great stuff over there, so you should definitely go check them out!

I'll be the first to admit that I have a deep, deep desire to be right most of the time. I think it comes from the fact that I was never really good at sports, so I tried to be better in the knowledge arena. I like my church, I like what we believe, and I feel very comfortable that we're doing what the Bible says.

But rather be comfortable in that, I became entrapped by the idea that everyone else is 100% wrong-- and let me tell you, if you let yourself get entrapped by that idea, Satan will use it to ruin any kind of witness, or even friendship that you have with anyone. Although you may not agree with everything that others have to say, chances are you agree about something. The key is to find that common ground first, and learn to respect that person's viewpoint on that issue (I mean, he must have good taste in one area, if he shares it with you right?!)

In no way am I claiming to have all the answers, nor am I an authority on this issue, but as I look through the life and times of Jesus, the one thing I don't notice is Him walking into someone house with the Old Testament Scrolls, beating them over the head with them. Jesus understood that He would not be accepted into the lives of those He was trying to reach unless He was approachable.

Take a look at Mark 5. Jesus miraculously interacts with three separate people, all three of which seek Him out. One was a demon possessed man, one was an old woman, and one, a synagogue ruler. All three of them knew that their only hope was Jesus, and all three of them were allowed to approach Him.

How many people know you are a Christian? Are you a Christian who is approachable? And how many people today know that their only hope is Jesus?

If the Christian community today expects to reach out and affect this world, we need to come to some conclusions.

1.) We're called to act:

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

2.) We cannot expect people to recognize Jesus as an authority in their lives, nor will they necessarily respect you or scripture.

Luke 21:12-17
"But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me.

3.) We need to love them anyway!

Luke 6:27-31
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

4.) We need to become known by our fruits

Luke 6:43-45
"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

5.) Live out your faith, be at peace with all men, and love each other

Galatians 5:6
"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

To be clear, I'm not advocating any sort of "watered-down" Christianity. Stand up for what you believe in, but realize that this is a process of love and of time. Invest in the lives of those around you, for that's what Christ did for us, while we were still sinners.

Let me hear any stories you have of either past or present successes in the comments!