Why did God create me? (Lesson intro and class podcast)

Cross-posted to the BLASTcast blog.

This morning in our 5th grade Sunday school class we started a new unit with the theme, “Why did God Create Me?” We read and discussed the following verses:

Ephesians 2:10
Psalm 139: 1-12
Romans 5:8-11

We recorded a five minute podcast in class (unfortunately no longer available online due to server changes), sharing these verses and some of our own ideas about what they mean in the context of God’s purposes for our lives. It is important to think about these ideas as we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States this week, and as we move into the month of December to celebrate Christmas.

We started off our lesson today talking about the following advertisement I saw at Pier 1 this weekend, and what the advertisers might be saying “our purpose” is in the world.

Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Gifting?

God HAS made us to share our gifts with each other, but he has made us for so much more than to just buy things! He has made us to love him, to worship, and to be his hands and feet on earth. We are called to do his good works each day of our lives.

In December, we’ll be discussing questions like:

How Come I’m Not Perfect?
Why Didn’t God Make Us Like Robots?
What Does God Want from Me?

Next week (Sunday, November 29th) we will meet in Creation Station to make advent wreaths along with other elementary students. In December we’ll be back in our “normal” classroom for Sunday school.

If you have comments and feedback for our 5th graders on their podcast or on any of the ideas we’ve shared here, please leave a comment here on this post! Thanks for visiting our blog and listening to our podcast. We’d love to hear from you, and will share comments / feedback we receive here during class.

Here are some additional photos from our brainstorming, discussions, and prayer time today.

Key verses for today

Prayer concerns today

A Story of Faith from a World Class Rodeo Clown: Larry Minchey

The digital story “Minchey” by Shelly Gwyn Moffatt, created this week at our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices professional development workshop in Hugo, Oklahoma, tells the life story of rodeo clown Larry Minchey in his own words as he eventually came to know Christ as his personal savior and became a cowboy preacher.


Find more videos like this on Celebrate Oklahoma Voices!

This video was not solicited by our workshop organizers to be a “Story of Faith” but is the story Shelly chose to chase and share during our workshop. This coming school year, I hope to formally launch the “Stories of Faith” project on its own website. This is a great example of Christian Digital Storytelling, which has been on my heart to promote for several years.

Great work Shelly– and many thanks to Larry for sharing his testimony. His ongoing ministry to reach out to “the lost” is inspiring.

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Week 1: The Truth Project

Our church is offering an adult summer school class this year using “The Truth Project” as the curriculum. These are my notes from week 1. (I took these notes on my iPhone via EverNote, and am pasting them later– actually after week 2 which was today!) MY REFLECTIONS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. Dr. Del Tackett is leading and presenting in this video series. His blog is on deltackett.com.

Setting up dichotomies: God’s view vs the world and devil’s view
– reminds me of Angels and Demons and the Catholic separation of the church and science

Postmodernism is the same old battle

What is truth?

Ravi Zacharias, RC Sproul, Os Guiness

Defines from Noah Webster in 1828

Isaiah 44

What is insanity: losing touch with reality and believing that the lie is real

Our actions reflect what we believe to be really real

Lies are powerful

Truth is fundamentally about who God is, he provides the reference point fir what is true and false

Colossians 2:12

Overarching message: the cosmic battle around us
– our faith is in the truth claims if God
– faith, hope, truth

Faith like a child
– image of child jumping off a diving board to his mom in the water

Our hope and faith us not a feeling, it overcomes our feelings

Our beliefs and perceptions determine our actions

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Week 2: The Truth Project

Our church is offering an adult summer school class this year using “The Truth Project” as the curriculum. These are my notes from week 2. MY REFLECTIONS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. Dr. Del Tackett is leading and presenting in this video series. His blog is on deltackett.com.

Philosophy and ethics form the outside pillars of our understanding
– striving to understand “what our culture has been taken captive by”

2 Timothy 2: 24-26
– the Lord’s servant must gently instruct his opponents

24And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will

We were all outsiders before we came into the body of Christ

Col 2:8
– addressed to us as believers
– tone of this verse is a warning to believers
– message is we CAN be taken captive by lies

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

We have to receive this as a warning from God
– we should know what that deceptive philosophy looks like, otherwise we will be taken captive by it
– now showing an opening clip to a video series shown all over the United States and in other countries
– if you went to public school in the US, you may have seen this opening scene from “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan

– what were his opening words, “The cosmos is all that ever was, is, and ever will be”
– what he is fundamentally saying this is a material world, there is no God

[I HAVE READ THIS IDEA THAT CARL SAGAN, AN EXPERT ON SCIENCE BUT NOT THEOLOGY, MAKES LOTS OF FAITH CLAIMS IN HIS SERIES ‘COSMOS’]

If Sagan had came right out and said “There is no God” then that video wouldn’t have been shown in public schools
– Sagan says “our contemplations of the Cosmos stir us.”

What we see here is assumptive language: the most dangerous form of knowledge
– assumptions are caught and bought without an open, conscious dialogue
– if you buy a statement, you buy the underlying assumptions as well
– so Carl Sagan is precisely teaching here that “there is no God”

I DON’T ENTIRELY BUY THIS. I ACCEPT CARL SAGAN IS NOT SHARING A CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW HERE, OF COURSE, BUT I QUESTION (AS I DID LAST WEEK AS WELL) THE IDEA THAT ANYONE PRESENTING A SCIENTIFIC VIEWPOINT IS NECESSARILY ANTI-CHRISTIAN AND ANTI-GOD.

Carl Sagan: “we are made of star stuff, some part of our being knows this, we can return to the cosmos”

I AGREE THAT SAGAN’S WORDS IN THIS CLIP ARE GNOSTIC

We are going to call this “the cosmic cube”
– philosophical position that all we have and know is inside the

What we see is a philosophy that is attempting to define everything, everything is inside the box

THIS IS NOT TRUE OF THE SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW. THE SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW ACCEPTS THERE ARE MANY THINGS OUTSIDE OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING, AND WE CANNOT GO BEYOND WHAT WE CAN OBSERVE IN A REPEATED ENVIRONMENT IN TERMS OF TRUTH CLAIMS

A contrary view, a Biblical view, is that God is outside the box and acts inside the box

in Deism, people said God created the box but really doesn’t act within the box, doesn’t send his Word, and certainly wouldn’t come to die for us
– if he doesn’t act, speak, care, or come to use when we need us / help us: then he is irrelevant and gone
– then we end up with “the Cosmos” of Carl Sagan

What is this thing called philosophy?”
– we are going to find that the Biblical worldview and the worldview we are exposing here are polar opposites

Basis of the Biblical worldview
– God Is
– God reveals himself to us: in his creation and in his special revelation / in his Word

The “other” worldview begins with the assumption:
– God is NOT

CLEARLY SCIENCE DOES NOT MAKE FAITH CLAIMS, THAT IS A GIVEN
– I DO NOT THINK IT IS ACCURATE TO SAY THAT ALL SCIENTISTS AND ALL OF SCIENCE STARTS WITH THE BELIEF THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST. LOOK AT DARK MATTER AS AN EXAMPLE. THERE ARE CERTAINLY THINGS WHICH SCIENCE ACKNOWLEDGES LIMITS TO ITS KNOWLEDGE.

Story of a man who was caught up in an addiction to pornography
– told him you do not believe in the omnipresence of God (if he did, he wouldn’t look at and do the things that he was)

A pantheist wouldn’t disagree with Carl Sagan’s statements
– a pantheist adds God throughout the box, not outside the box

Maybe we’ll turn God into “may the force be with you”
– paganism adds “spirit” inside the box
– many religions which profess belief in God do this as well

Without “the spirit” we might call it naturalism
– with the spirit we might call it “spiritual naturalism”
– this worldview says: the cosmos is all there was, all there is, and all there ever will be

What is philosophy?
– a scientific quest to discover “ultimate reality”

Again I love Webster’s old 1828 dictionary definition, of philosophy:

The objects of philosophy are to ascertain facts or truth, and the causes of things or their phenomena; to enlarge our views of God and his works, and to render our knowledge of both practically useful and subservient to human happiness.
True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle

that same definition NOT in current Webster’s

Something has changed in philosophy
– webster’s new dictionary says: philosophy is a search for underlying reality
– that leaves God out of the picture, which is the problem, because now you just have “the box” and are searching for the truth in the box

Philosophical questions:
– why do I exist?
– what is existence?
– what is thinking?
– what is reason?
– what is logic?
– what is knowing?
– if I know something, how can I know it is real?
– what is the meaning and purpose of life?
– where did we come from?

If you want an impossible task, try to find the answers in “the box”
– this has been the great quest of philosohpers from the beginning: to find the big answers to the big questions

The Universals
– how are we going to make sense of the particulars if we don’t know the answers to the universal questions

Story of friends who told him “the universal truths of Cricket

This quest for the answers to “the universals” is captured in this incredible painting by Raphael in the Vatican, “The School of Athens”
– this captures the philosophical dilemma between Aristotle (looking for the particulars) and Plato (looking for the ideals)
– problem was they were both looking for the answers in the box”

From "The School of Athens" by Raphael in Vatican City

IS THAT REALLY TRUE FOR PLATO? I AM NOT SURE

There was a huge gap between the particulars and teh universals
– why am I here?
– what is the meaning to my existance?

Now showing a photo of Leonardo Da Vinci
– believed he could find those universals
– people believed we could find the universals through mathematics, then turned to science, then turned to art
– ended up as most of the philosphers do despondent, depressed, failing in their quest

IS THAT STATEMENT CORRECT, THAT MOST OF THE GREAT PHILOSOPHERS END UP DEPRESSED

The world’s approach is to try and discover the universals from the particulars
– God’s approach is the opposte: we don’t have to hunt for the answers to those big questions, therefore we can live in this world and make sense of all the particulars around us

OR AT LEAST MOST OF THE PARTICULARS. I DON’T THINK WE CAN UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IN THE WORLD

different options:
– materialism
– mechaism
– solopism:
– rationalism:
– more….

When I attend Kansas State University, I attended my first philosophy class
– I was sitting on the front row, and the philosophy professor began his lecture sharing a philosophy without God
– he said “you don’t even know if the chair you are sitting on is real…” and I asked myself, “I am paying for this?”
-this path takes us to depression

THIS IS RIDICULOUS. HE IS REJECTING THE WHOLE OF PHILOSPHY BASED ON THAT ONE OPENING STATEMENT FROM HIS FRESHMAN PHILOSOPHY INSTRUCTOR.

Can you live in a world that is postmodern?
– that says there is no absolute truth: that says we can both have a truth and they can both be true

Story of an architect who designed the building with randomness and chaos in mind

You cannot live in a non-reality, insane world
– but that is where philosophy has taken us

IT IS A RIDICULOUS AND INACCURATE ASSERTION TO SAY THAT ALL OF PHILOSOPHY IS POSTMODERN AND MONOLITHIC IN REJECTING THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, THE GOOD, IDEALS, AND OTHER CONCEPTS OUTSIDE THE MATERIAL WORLD
– HAS THIS GUY ACTUALLY READ PLATO?

Brings us to the pillar of ethics
– who makes the rules?
– what is right, what is wrong

If this is your philosophy, then might makes right (postmodern society)
– then this leaves you with 51% of the vote is right

SO IS HE REJECTING DEMOCRACY HERE?
– WHO IS MAKING A CLAIM THAT DEMOCRACY IS THE PATH TO TRUTH

Now showing a montage of video of different people sharing what they thing truth is and how you know what truth is

we don’t know how to answer this question without God
– do we fall back on some utilitarian, pragmatic position? what is best for society? what about the minority?
– when might begins to make right, you will find a lot of people oppressed and crushed

so what do we turn to?

SO I GUESS HIS ESSENTIAL POSITION IS THERE ARE NO ETHICS WITHOUT GOD.

From Plato’s Euthyphro:” Is an act right because God’s wills it….”

I WISH HE WAS LEAVING THE SLIDES UP LONGER

Now quoting William of Ockham cited in Feinberg and Feinberg
– means God could change
– that is wrong because we know God is unchanging

If God never changes, then how would this guy explain “the new covenant”
– I AGREE THAT GOD IS, HAS BEEN AND ALWAYS WILL BE. I ALSO BELIEVE GOD IS IN RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE AND THAT RELATIONSHIP CHANGES. THE OLD AND NEW COVENANTS AR EXAMPLES.

God can’t lie.
– lying is wrong because it is counter to the very nature of God

SO THIS GUY IS SETTING UP A COMPLETELY BLACK AND WHITE VIEW OF ETHICS AND GOD, WHERE THERE NO ARE GREY AREAS. I WONDER (BUT DOUBT) HE WILL BRING UP SOME GOOD CASE STUDIES AND SITUATIONS WHICH

Dr William Provine
– lecture at Harvard
– summarizing views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us
– no gods or purposive forces, no life after death, no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning for life, no free will for humans
– Christian humanism has a lot going for it, it is warm and kindly (not for gays, of course)
– problem is you have to suspend your rational mind
– question is can atheistic humanism give us anything? Yes, it can give us intellectual satisfaction because we don’t have to cling to the fairy tales of our youth
– free will is a horribly destructive idea for our society
– so we can rely on “proximate meaning”

SO WHY DOES HE VIEW ‘FREE WILL’ AS DESTRUCTIVE?
– THIS IS QUITE A VIDEO. I WONDER IF IT IS AVAILABLE ONLINE ON YOUTUBE

you can’t live in that kind of world
– THAT IS NOT REALLY TRUE, TO THE EXTENT THAT DR PROVINE AND MANY OTHERS DO “LIVE IN THAT WORLD.” I AGREE THE POSTMODERN WORLD BELIEFS CAN VIOLATE THE LAW OF NON-CONTRADICTION AND NOT BE CONSISTENT

Quotation from R.C. Sproul (video clip)
morality looks at “is”
ethics looks at “ought”
– this distinction has been blurred in our society
– this leads to a statistical view of morality, “the good” is determined by “what is” rather than “what ought to be”
– this leads to a crisis in ethics

do you understand why we are so caught up in surveys and statistics today
– I’D SAY A LOT HAS TO DO WITH WHAT POSTMAN SAYS IN “TECHNOPOLOY”

Barna’s recent survey: How many Americans have a biblical worldview?
– only 4%
– based on 10 fundamental questions
– born again Christians: just 9%

Charles Colson quoted from “Now How Shall We Live?
– Christianity’s big problem: not seen as a viable worldview

merging formal worldviews and personal worldviews

formal worldviews
– marxism, Christianity, islam, etc…
– have truth claims
– these bombard us, are all around us

what I am interested in is your personal worldview
– “the set of individual truth claims that you have embraced so deeply that you believe the reflect what is really real…”
– very seldom do we have a personal worldviews that mirror exactly a formal worldview

What are the consequences when you buy the lives? You conform to the world
Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Again from Sproul
– you can’t divorce the transformation of the mind and the heart
– postmoderns are looking for experiences and not intellectual study

the world “transformed” is overused in our culture
– “metamorpho” is the Greek word
– butterflies are the pretty part of metamorphasis

Only 3 times this word is used in the scriptre
– Romans 12:2
– also in the transfiguration of Christ, something that is fundamentally transformational
– also in 2 Corinthians 3:18

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit

We are involved in this study not just to know facts and have answers, but because of our children
– showed picture of a person who had undergone a lot of facial body piercings, and then juxtaposed that with a photo of his grandchildren

OUR CHURCH IS NOT PROVIDING ANY OPPORTUNITY FOR FOLKS TO DISCUSS AND TALK ABOUT THESE VIDEOS. THESE VIDEOS ARE 55 MIN LONG, AND NO TIME IS PROVIDED FOR DISCUSSION. I THINK WE SHOULD HAVE BOTH FACE TO FACE OPPORTUNITIES TO DISCUSS, QUESTION, AND DEBATE THE POINTS AND ISSUES WHICH ARE RAISED HERE, AND ALSO AN ONLINE OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS THEM. I THINK I AM GOING TO COMMENT ON DR. TACKETT’S BLOG AND MAKE THIS SUGGESTION. OUR CONGREGATION IS LIKELY “NOT READY” FOR THIS TYPE OF ONLINE FORUM FOR DISCUSSION LIKE THIS, BUT WE SHOULD BE. IF THE PUBLISHERS OF THIS SERIES DO NOT HAVE THAT TYPE OF FORUM SETUP AND ARE NOT WILLING OT SET ONE UP, PERHAPS I’LL SET ONE UP VIA NING.

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Some great insight into Charlie Brown’s Christmas story

My wife, Shelly, found this YouTube video today (“The Christmas Story”) which gives some amazing background information about Charles Shultz, CBS, and his “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” special from 1968. It also includes Bible readings of Luke’s version of the Christmas story.

Shelly is working on a digital version of the Christmas story (narrated by preschool children) this year, and really likes the background sound effects in this story.

Here is a one minute and eighteen second clip of Linus’ Christmas Monologue from a “Charlie Brown’s Christmas.”

I showed Shelly how to create an account on YouTube and create a Christmas video playlist, so she can more readily share videos with me and others in the future.

She also discovered “Christmas Nativity Morph (Luke 2:4-14)” on GodTube. Very interesting and different effect to make static images more dynamic and visually interesting.

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An amazing 4 year old tells the birth story of Jesus Christ

Matt Craven’s 4 year old son does an AMAZING job retelling the entire birth story of Jesus Christ in this 2 minute and 46 second YouTube video.

Wow! Retelling is a fantastic way of assessing comprenhension, and also a great way to cultivate oral communication skills. Great job, son of Matt! 🙂

Thanks to my wonderful wife for sharing this video with me tonight!

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God’s Unfair Love

when we don´t get what we deserve that´s a real good thing
when we get what we don´t deserve that´s a real good thing

Those are the words to the Newsboys song Real Good Thing. It speaks to the amazing gift of God’s grace.

I’ve just finished listening to Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli. It’s a wonderful listen or read, whatever you choose. The final chapter deals with God’s unfair love. To anyone who hasn’t experience grace, the idea that’ God’s love is somehow unfair seems ludicrous. But as scripture declares,

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Cor. 1:27

God’s grace and love does not match the world’s logic. As Yaconelli describes in the book, the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the fact that those that began work late in the day received the same as those who began in the morning just doesn’t seem right. Our world would never stand for this unfairness.

But as I continue to have God’s grace lavished upon me I can only see myself as a beneficiary of the unfairness. My mind is constantly influenced by the ways of the world and often forget this amazing gift that I’ve been given.

God’s grace is extremely difficult to explain and harder to understand. But I’m so glad he’s given it to me. That’s a real good thing.

Jesus on WikiPedia

In writing a post this evening about the 2008/9 Wikipedia Selection for schools (“WikiPedia to go (an offline download for schools)”) I briefly scanned the opening paragraphs of the site’s article for Jesus.

WOW.

The first content issue the article raises is in the first sentence of the third paragraph, which reads:

…though some scholars argue that other texts (such as the Gospel of Thomas) are as relevant as the canonical gospels to the historical Jesus.

Score one point for Elaine Pagels and the modern-day gnostics. See my Christmas day post from 2005, “Modern day gnosticism,” for why it is misleading to suggest that Pagels’ fringe views on the “gospel of Thomas” deserve mainstream attention and respect.

Pagels and gnosticism aside, I find this extensive article about Jesus from the WikiPedia Selection for schools to be very thought provoking and worthwhile to consider as a Christ-follower, parent, spouse, Sunday school teacher, and leader in my local church congregation.

I think it could be a great activity for an adult or youth Sunday school class to review and analyze this article, in light of the beliefs, theology, and worldview of the local congregation in which it is studied.

Do you know what you believe? Do you know why you believe those things? Can you articulate and explain your beliefs, by reading an article about Jesus Christ ostensibly written from a secular perspective?

These sound like great challenges as well as opportunities for modern-day Christians. 🙂

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Reflections after a fantastic Pilgrimage (Presbyterian Cursillo) weekend

My wife and I just returned this evening from a fantastic renewal weekend with members of our church congregation as well as other Protestant church members from around Oklahoma. This event was Oklahoma Presbyterian Pilgrimage (or OPP) #40. Presbyterian Pilgrimage was formerly known as Presbyterian Cursillo, a movement which began in Spain after the Spanish Civil War as a means to renew the Catholic church and reunite the country. Because of World War II, however, the first Cursillo was not held until the late 1940s in Spain. Eventually in the late 1950s the program came to the United States. The current WikiPedia article for Cursillo contains a less detailed description of the movement’s history than the one we were provided at our weekend. I do not want to focus this post on the history of Cursillo, but will point out that recently the Presbyterian version of this renewal event was renamed “Pilgrimage” because of a trademark/licensing issue on the name with the Catholic church. From what I understand, the Presbyterian license to use the name “Cursillo” permitted ONLY Presbyterians to attend these weekend events, NOT people from other Protestant denominations or people not affiliated with a church denomination. Apparently, the Catholic church opposes Presbyterians using events named “Cursillo” for the purpose of evangelism and sharing the gospel with non-Presbyterians. I find this situation both surprising and disheartening in our day in age. I’d like to think that anyone who is a Christ-follower would support others learning about Christ and God in any way they can, regardless of the name of the event. After experiencing a Presbyterian Pilgrimage weekend myself I am delighted, however, that Presbyterian Pilgrimage leaders have found a way to continue these renewal events and keep them open to ALL PEOPLE (Presbyterians or not.) In the case of our Pilgrimage weekend, people representing ten different church congregations from around Oklahoma participated. It was a fantastic and energizing experience.

The registered website for Presbyterian Cursillo / Presbyterian Pilgrimage (www.cursillo.com) appears to have most of its content taken down (including the history page.) I’m guessing the name change situation is the reason for this missing content. The official Cursillo Movement website (www.cursillo.org) provides a little background, but disappointingly asks visitors to order a commercial, print-based publication to learn more about the movement:

If you wish to learn more about the Cursillo® Movement, please order “Cursillo – What is it?” (publication 719) from the on-line Cursillo® Bookstore or contact your Diocesan Cursillo® Movement Secretariat.

Evidently, the gatekeepers of content for cursillo.org do not yet fully understand the power and potential of digital texts. 🙁

I’ll conclude my historical points about the Presbyterian Pilgrimage movement here, because I want to focus the bulk of my post on some reflections as well as notes I took during the weekend.

At the outset, I want to first encourage anyone who has not participated in a renewal event like Pilgrimage to do so if you can. There are other similar programs, including Walk to Emmaus, which are based on the Cursillo model and have a similar format. The chance to spend three days with other believers learning more about Christ, reading the Bible, spending time alone in prayer and meditation, and experiencing together the overwhelming joy and love of a caring community is certainly one that should not be missed. I hope in the not too distant future my wife and I will be able to return to a OPP event as members of the volunteer staff.

I also want to say that I am NOT going to reveal all the aspects of Pilgrimage, because part of the fun of the weekend is enjoying the surprises which are part of the program and have been prepared by the staff as well as other 4th day volunteers. I had never experienced a retreat or renewal event as powerful as this one before. I had some good experiences attending summer church camps when I was growing up, but those experiences were not anything like Pilgrimage. My wife attended camp at Montreat several years when she was growing up, and said those experiences WERE comparable to Pilgrimage. I knew this would be a wonderful experience and powerful weekend, but I must say it exceeded my expectations in many ways.

I want to take some time this evening to record some reflections and digitize many of the notes I took during the excellent presentations from the weekend. I’ve learned that if I don’t take time to do this QUICKLY after an event, life seems to just zip on by and I often never return to this task of processing, documenting and sharing many of the things I’ve learned. Last May I attended (again) the annual men’s conference at Mo-Ranch in the hill country of Texas. I still want and need to process, record and share many of the things I learned there (particularly because our keynote speaker was Rick Ufford-Chase and I found many of the things he shared to be quite illuminating considering many of the recent controversies in our denomination) but unfortunately I have not done that yet. My notes from that weekend are stashed on a shelf somewhere in our house, and hopefully I’ll make time to do the same thing with them sometime before long that I want to do with my Pilgrimage notes tonight. Here we go…

There were many learning points and “takeaways” from my Pilgrimage weekend, but this one was perhaps the clearest message I heard this morning from God as I sat quietly outside, prayed, and strove to clear my mind of thoughts, ideas, and song snippets:

Rest my son. Rest thy mind and rest thy body. Allow my spirit to enter and fill you with my peace.

I have needed a weekend like this one for many weeks and many months, really, and I treasure the opportunities it provided to not only deepen friendships and develop new friendships, but also to draw closer to God and seek guidance for my life as well as my marriage with Shelly.

I’m now going to share the notes I jotted down during our Pilgrimage teaching sessions. I could attribute these to each individual speaker, but because of potential confidentiality issues I am not going to. So, credit the notes below to “the staff of OPP #40.”

IDEALS

We CAN act on our choices, this is what defines us as humans as different from animals
– say: I will be brave and change my thinking
– the key to being human is choosing NOT to merely act on instinct
– we have the will to act on our choices

At times we can be in danger of forgetting our humanness
The real test of being human is to live out loud
– how much do we stretch ourselves to be better each day?

Ideals can simplify our lives in some ways because they clarify what we already know that we think
– when we recognize our ideals we have more control over our environment
Ideals are revealed in our relationships
Ideals can change
Be bold: change your name

Question to discuss: How are your ideals recognizable to others, and what would make them worthy of you?

In moments of transparency our ideals can be revealed
– when we admit a mistake or a shortcoming, often those are some of the most important moments when we reveal ideals
We MUST practice our ideals
– some experts say only 7% of communication is verbal (most is non-verbal) [THIS MAKES COMMUNICATION VIA TEXT BLOGS INHERENTLY LIMITED, DOESN’T IT?!]

What goes in a man’s mouth is not what defiles him, it is what comes out
One of our table group members said she’s always had such great respect for Billy Graham, because he never held himself out to be a perfect man

I think that often when I’m hearing a speaker talk at a conference or event, it is when they tell a story about their own shortcomings or a failure they’ve experienced that I begin to connect with them most directly and personally
– I wrote this idea in the following way:

When people share a story of their own brokenness or failure, often we connect most directly with them.

John Eldridge’s new book “Walking with God” was highly recommended by a participant, it uses very real language to which she could easily relate

Often we want to respond automatically to a situation with our instincts, but our challenge is to instead respond IAW (in accordance with) our ideals.

GRACE: AN INVITATION TO BE RESTORED

We need to pay attention to the words of familiar hymns

1 John 4

God’s grace is an invitation to be restored in our relationship with Him
grace = getting what we don’t deserve and doing nothing to deserve it
if your fists are clenched you can’t receive anything
“When I let go of the plan to go to seminary, God’s grace worked through other people”
Grace is the act of letting someone love you
Grace is God reaching out with abundant love
palanca is a gift of grace at Pilgrimage

Question to discuss: Where have you seen or experienced God’s grace in your life?

forgiving yourself is one of the most important things we all need to do
it can be a great challenge at times to accept others as they are and simply love them, yet that is what we are called to do

LAITY: THE PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS

Jeremiah foretold that God would forgive us and “remember our sin no more”
II Corinthians: We can become a new people through Jesus Christ

Question to discuss: What was your response to the last time you were asked to serve in your church or community?

On average (according to some studies) spouses in the United States talk to each other just 12 minutes per day.

In a church of one of the participants, small groups are called “rock groups” (building in the Rock)

FAITH: LIVING IN GRACE

faith is given to us as a gift
grace is an invitation from and a gift from God
faith is our response

is my faith just a seed that hasn’t sprouted yet?
Has an intense desire to express my faith sprouted up?
Does my belief in God have any bearing on my life?

one of our speakers was an atheist from age 18 to 30

God works through people and our stories

no matter how much rhythm one of our speakers had as a young person, he still had to PRACTICE it to be good (on the drums)

palanca = to lift up (we interpret this at Pilgrimage as a “gift of grace”)

PIETY: PRACTICING THE PRESENCE

piety is how we grant consent to allow God into all aspects of our life
– it is the intentional process of spending time with God
– we must turn loose of the control
– we must make regular investments in our relationship with God

GRATITUDE AND JOY

Cited Psalms: 46, 134, 28:2, 100:1, 150
We should all reaffirm our relationship with Jesus Christ

Recommended book: “God is Closer than you think”

STUDY

Study is the consequence of our God-given abilities to learn, reason and reflect
– study is putting the whole of our humanity at the service of truth
– it is 1 way God knows we are seeking Him

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is God-breathed

We should strive to grow in conformity to God’s will

Why study? To pursue truth (a means to sanctification)
Resources we have:
– scripture
– church sermons
– Sunday School classes
– small group study classes
– Christian books
– Bible dictionary
– Christian music

Find out why a Pastor chose a particular passage of scripture for a message and then research it in depth

Key element to the Christian life: daily routine of prayer and scripture reading

Process of study:
1- Prayer
2- Reading
3- Interpretation

Question to discuss: Do you believe in your heart the Bible is God-breathed and divinely inspired?

Recommended websites by a participant at our table:
www.earlychristianwritings.com (unfortunately the site is offline because it has been suspended for some reason)
www.crosswalk.com (it strikes me as having way too much advertising)

There are HUGE differences in the perspectives and biases evident in search results for Google searches on Biblical topics

NASV is (according to some sources) the most accurate English translation of the Bible

Some Pentecostal believers see big problems with the concept of the Christian trinity, and engage in “unity versus Trinity” debates

SACRAMENTS

the word “sacrament” is not in the Bible
Sacro in Latin means “oath of allegiance”
– a life or death pledge

Sacraments point to 2 truths: God IS and God is WITH US
– since the Reformation, two sacraments have been maintained by Protestants: baptism and communion

A sacrament has two primary elements: An outward sign and an inward grace

John 13:1-7

Akumal is an amazing destination on the Yucatan

A sacrament is much more than a ritual, a memorial, or a re-enactment
– it is flesh meeting spirit

Baptism: the sacrament of belonging
– a Biblically required sign of incorporation

The torn edges of the bread during communion show and should represent the torn flesh of Christ on the cross

When we have met face to face with God, in Christ we have the power of reconciliation within us

Recommended book: “How to spell PRESBYTERIAN”

We are extensions of Jesus’ incarnation in this world

the bread and the wine are SIMPLE things which remind us of POWERFUL things

sacraments prepare us to do battle

ACTION: COMMITTED IN LOVE

You have a timeshare in your local church

service does not equal “serve us”

Mark 10:43 – God has a covenant with us through Christ

Story of no piety: “I just did for God”
– the story of someone who had good intentions with no direction

Ask God for directions without the noise of business (everyday life)

“my new action was to BE STILL”

Genesis 2:7 – Don’t be so busy you are out of breath

Think of a 3 legged stool as your firm foundation with Chris
1- Study
2- Piety
3- Action

All should be equal and balanced

piety key: listening for directions

Action because of him, not for Him (we’re not earning stickers here / earning our way into heaven via works righteousness)

A litmus test for determining whether we are within God’s will with a particular new commitment?
– wait at least 24 hours before saying yes
– pray about it
– consult with spouse
– am I full of peace and joy with respect to this decision?

Question to discuss: If you were an action figure, what works of yours would be superpowered?
– wisdom
– communication skills

Key is delivering a message (any message) with Christ’s love
– we are called to show and share Christ’s love to a suffering world

SIN

sin is universal, personal, and has corrupted creation
– sin distorts your view of God’s colors
– satan is the adversary
– Peter was Satan when he was thinking of himself and his will

wages of sin: include alienation from others, from God, and from his will

sin is about killing the abundant life available through and in Christ
– we can become anesthesitized to sin (numb – like the Pink Floyd song when they sing “I am comfortably numb”)

3 keys to overcoming obstacles and sin
1- Repentance: turning away
2- Confession: confronting sin, acknowledging it before God
3- Discipline: overcoming sin with instruction, correction, and training

remedies for sin are not automatic
Satan is a LIAR

Your sin is NEVER too big for God

LEADERS TO THE FRONT

focus on what it means to “dwell in Christ” in our own lives

John 15:4 – remain in Christ
Christ’s call to us: to be called to transform the world
False impressions of Christian leadership: it is not necessarily positional, just for wealthy folks, or for people talented in management or leadership

1 Timothy 3:5 you must manage your family to manage the church

Worship God through music: 1st take in the words into your heart
If you live fully as a Christian, others will be influenced by you

Hebrews 13:7
1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek God’s presence (study and pray)
Romans 15:1
Testimony: to tell your story
1 Peter 3:15 – set Christ as Lord
1 Peter 5:3 – do not lord it over, be an example

Story of a church member who dutifully prepared the elements for communion for 30 years, in the background, not in the spotlight

1 Timothy 4:12 set an example, do not feel put down because you are young

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE: THE THEME OF DAY 3

EVANGELISM: REFORMING THE WORLD

the Bible does not talk about “a river of life recirculating in me!”
– this is a how-to
Matthew 28: the great commission
Red Green Show oath of the men (story of the “man’s prayer”)

Changing doesn’t mean becoming more involved or changing the quality or quantity of our activities necessarily

1892 David Ross Boyd planted hundreds of trees and grass seeds in Norman Oklahoma
– become the symbol of the seed sower for OU

We are seed sowers, God is the gardner

“evangelism” = good news

Colossians 3:12 – clothe yourself in the fruits of the spirit

Changing your environment is being YOU in your environment
– helping people belong so they can believe is key
– before inviting someone to church, befriend them

Discussion question: What can you do to change your environment for Christ?

A HOLY VISION

Tom Thule: a successful life is to know God and to make him known

For 3 centuries when Christianity started, it grew in homes, marketplaces, even catacombs (not in church buildings or synagogues after the very early days)

“Christianity was made for the road”

“Sanctuaryism” has isolated Christianity from the world in many situations

James 2:7 – faith without works is dead

To deny oneself for the sake of others is to show grace in action
The Christian life is so much more than a formula
the key is living in surrender to Christ motivated by PASSION

Passion is the basic ingredient that enables us to live the Christian life
– it lets us let our light shine
– passion drives us to live in unity and harmony every day and everywhere, even when no one is watching

Isaiah said: Here I am, send me!
– this was said with passion, undergirded by his desire to live and serve God
– he belonged to God and nothing could separate him from God

Creativity + Passion can lead to huge transformations in our neighborhoods

passion is a fundamental Christian characteristic
– read the book of Acts to see and hear about passionate Christians: their infectious desire to know God, be on his team, and share Him with others

You will try these things and see them actualized, you will do things you never thought you’d dare to do

Belonging to God is no abstract theory
– it is not simply elevator music for your soul

We belong to God: we have experientially affirmed this belief this weekend

Sam Kiser’s formula: Attitude + Self-Discipline = Transformation
– attitude: glorify God through my life
– transformation: that others may know Him and the power of his love

this leads to elevated trust in God
– the impact of being accepted unconditionally for who you are is potentially huge and something everyone should experience

the authentic Christian life
– a life to live, not a statement to make
– it is for “between Sundays”
– it can only be lived if you belong it God

Forever God is faithful. Forever God is true. Forever God is with us. FOREVER!

Question to discuss: What does knowing you belong to God mean to you, and the Christian life you desire to live?

CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

This weekend starts with an inward look
Now our focus is on our Christian community
break down the walls
be lavished with gifts of grace
we have a community to help us
book of Acts: details an amazing time
Acts 2:42 – fellowship of believers
Remember piety / study / action = tools for us to use daily
Passion is like the train horn, energizing us for our work

Let Christ take the lead, let Jesus be the light
Accountability: remember “what would Jesus do?” (WWJD)

Question to discuss: Who is your Christian community?

REVIEW

We asked you to trust us, and you have
Seeds grow when they are attached to the true vine
Food, music and grace during this weekend is like cement binding us together

Allow God to use you in the transforming of the world

TOMORROW: HOPE AND PROMISE (What now?)

Greater purpose of pilgrimage and this weekend: transformation of the world

God is ready and working at revealing himself to you: through the church and people He’s put in your life
He created me for a purpose, to call the world to Himself

As long as we are here (living on earth) God has a purpose for us to transform the world

Individually we are small and incapable
– God is REALLY big, and really loves us

We were NOT designed to “go it alone” in life
You can’t baptize yourself or serve yourself communion (think about it)

4th day community: renewal groups
piety: seeing God, study and action
Family reunions for Pilgrimage: Altreas

in the end all these are tools to remind us of the hope we have in God to live out the purposes of God

sharing testimonies in the final worship service is NOT about pilgrimage or thanking the staff: these are mere methods for advancing God’s purposes

OTHER THOUGHTS AND IDEAS FROM THROUGHOUT THE WEEKEND I JOTTED DOWN:

Someone should make a free iPhone app for the Presbyterian Book of Order and for the Book of Confessions (this is available as a freely downloadable PDF)

We should have a family foot washing at home like we did saw this weekend: this was very powerful and meaningful
– we also should celebrate communion together at home as a family

I need to see the movies:
– Powder
– Shawshank Redemption (again)
– We Were Soldiers (Mel Gibson)

We saw the old movie “The Music Box” Saturday night. It was rather cheesy but funny and made a good point.

The purpose of Pilgrimage is to change our environments for Christ

We do and act for GOD, not for money, for school, for others, for recognition

There is a partial Biblical translation titled “The Word on the Street”

Did man say it was bad or did God say it was bad in his Word?

I want to learn to make bread from flour I grind myself

Other recommended books:
– The Shack
– AKA Lost

Dwight Mission is a nearby Presbyterian camp which offers a great Memorial Day weekend camp for families that we need to consider attending

That’s it! All my notes from Pilgrimage! This was a fantastic weekend experience and a great blessing to me as well as my wife. Maybe we’ll record a podcast sometime soon to reflect more on our experiences.

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