I have a habit of reflecting on life, especially around the end of the year. This year I evaluated my goals that I made for 2009 and set out new goals for 2010.

This year had some really exciting blessings and of course some other difficult matters. It was not a bad year for me. I take the advice of my friend and can successfully say that I had the best year of my life while still being able to look forward to an even better “best year” ahead in 2010. For me and my friend we do not want to be one of those people that are constantly living in the past to “back in the day,” remembering the “best times of old.”

A lot of it is psychological, if you want to have a good year, you can. First off plan ahead, set goals for a good future and follow through. Seek the Lord! Pray for your needs and for your next year. Stay true to your relationship with God. he loves you and wants to bless you. Although it is a relationship and it takes work. Also keep a positive outlook and don’t live in the past. Remember what God has been blessing you with. Don’t forget the help of good quality friends, they are essential. Life of materials and money will let you down, but good friends who are there for you are irreplaceable.

So how did I do in 2009? Did I accomplish my goals that I had set?

For the most part, yes. When I set out the goals for 2009, I was in a different place than I am in now. I was in a rut in many areas of my life. I was glad to be where I was, but I began to get frustrated and burnt-out. Fortunately God had plans to motivate me and He showed me a lot of new things that challenged and grew me this year!

This year in ministry, Pastor Bill began mentoring me personally. I changed my primary ministry from youth to a more broad ministry perspective. I began the process of becoming an ordained minister and may have even found a calling in Chaplaincy.

Wow, that was a lot of motivating yet challenging changes. Since I left teaching the youth, I still had a strong desire to teach. My pastor has began opening up opportunities to teach and preach but our church is small. Fortunately though a good friend of mine had a vision to start a worship night and felt the Holy Spirit directing him to ask me to preach at these events! So know I still have the opportunity to teach on a regular basis.

This group of guys that had the idea for a worship night also hold a Bible study for College and career age people. I have been able to develop deep friendships with each of them! That has been one of the best blessings and encouragements through-out this past year. I had been in a rut spiritually and socially since I left Ohio University because I left a world of fellowship and discipleship. I lived in an apartment of strong Christian buddies, I was part of the Campus Crusade movement and I loved it. After leaving campus, I was alone and my church is small and does not offer the same kind of fellowship and spiritual excitement for college age people. Now that fire, passion and fellowship is back! These friends have really helped me a lot in accomplishing my goals spiritually this year.

One of my goals was to become a better saver and plan for the future. I have invested in the stock market, money markets and CD Savings accounts. I purchased a newer, safer, better fuel efficient vehicle.

My biggest problem this past year: wasting time online: facebook, popurls, the oatmeal, etc.

For 2010:

It is all about fitness. And not just physical fitness but all-around fitness:
1. Physically – I need to get in Army shape if I am going to become an Army Chaplain. I started doing this late summer, but injured my ankle. I recovered from that and now it is cold outside. Now I am just being a wimp.
2. Mentally/Time management – less time online, more time sharping my mind doing other things.
3. Spiritually – more consistent study. I am starting a reading plan to go through the entire Bible within the year.
4. Prayer life – more often and less about me.
5. Purity
6. financially- continue saving, sorry Wafflehouse, whom I do love.

All-around fitness, tweeking myself.

Final thoughts, I desire to share my faith continually and begin discipleship and deep growth in the Word with those who will follow. Despite any of my plans, I desire to do God’s will. Amen.

Augustine as mentor review

Smither, Edward L. Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic: 2008.

Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders written by Edward Smither is a very through, well-documented undertaking that discovers what Augustine of Hippo thought about mentoring, as well as revealing who mentored him and how he mentored others. The purpose of the book is to glean methods of discipleship from Augustine and other church fathers. The book repetitively summarizes and offers clusters and nuggets of information about discipleship in the 4th and 5th Century. The book could have offered more about how Christians should apply this information in modern church.
Edward Smithers is an assistant professor of Church History and Intercultural Studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. The book originally began as a doctoral thesis. He believes “many pastors today . . . are struggling in isolation without a pastor to nurture their souls ” If this spiritual isolation impacts church leaders today then what is the solution to escape the dilemma? Augustine as Mentor attempts to address this issue looking back at the beginning of the Church (including Jesus and Paul) and focuses in on another one of its giants (Augustine) as a leader and mentor.
The book is five chapters long plus a preface, 2-page epilogue and nice index. The first two chapters deals with mentoring and discipleship in general, and specifically of mentoring in the first century among the early church. Then the book focuses in on Augustine. First by looking at who mentored him. Then looking at who and how Augustine himself mentored. This chapter was the longest, at 88 pages. It examined forty years of ministry evaluating numerous letters, books and preaching and supervisory method as examples of how Augustine discipled both subordinates and fellow bishops. Then in chapter five, looking at what Augustine thought about mentoring in both a personal and general level. The epilogue was useful, but was quite short. It is a little odd and inappropriate to have over two-hundred and fifty pages of facts and details about the matter of mentoring and discipleship then only leave two pages for reflective application. Although on Smither’s behalf, the facts do speak for themselves in many ways. The book is so detailed and well-researched clustered with so many facts about how these great men discipled and mentored, most readers find practical application through-out the book as they read. For Jesus, Paul, Augustine and his mentors and mentees all modeled the practical application through-out history. Smither is encouraging the reader to make use of their examples.
As one might assume, Smither’s greatest points deal with the principles of mentoring and discipleship. For one, Augustine believed that there was a direct correlation between sound teaching and correct living. Sound teaching is the center of discipling direction. The Word of God fits in the discipleship relationship. Smither believes that a mentor is always a learning disciple. Mentors some have a lifelong commitment to growing as a disciple through demonstrating humility and transparency. Augustine did this by his own example. While he was Bishop and a mentor; he stayed committed to ascetic living in the context of community. He demonstrated humility by inviting others’ input. His pride was continually killed.
As a theologian he was more concerned with giving others a “living faith” versus “religious propositions.” As seen in his works, Augustine had continuous theological development. A mentor must be a committed mature disciple to the Lord and committed to making the discipleship relationship a priority.
When mentoring others a key component for success is the group context. Jesus mentored primarily 12 men. Among those 12 he focused in on three in particular. The context of the group and group size will play a role in how these men should be mentored. Augustine sent letters and books to councils (a small group) of men months/weeks before the council was to meet. The material he provided gave these men a resource to engage them on the topic in advance. Other times Augustine meet with his disciples one-on-one with a personal visit. And many occasions a personal letter was an appropriate form of communication.
The selection of a disciple is usually based on an existing relationship. I agree with this point in real life application, although Jesus Christ pulled off an immediate discipleship relationship with his twelve disciples without their knowledge of any previous relationship. Only Jesus Christ could successfully defy that principle.
As suggested through-out the book another principle is that the discipler is a model fit for imitation by his disciple. Not only does the mentor model but he even should look for opportunities to involve his disciple in practical ministry this is important because the discipler is aware that he will release the disciple to lead ministry. Even after the disciple is released into ministry, the mentor is a continual resource to the released disciple.
The only part of the book that delved into any kind of emotion from Smither, was the epilogue. Smither points out that in America, Christianity is unfortunately becoming Bibleless. This country is so rushed to be productive and get everything else done that the Bible and spiritual faith is neglected. Smither is emotional here because he is passionate about this topic. This is what all of his research boils down to. He realizes that the early church and the church fathers spent time together in their process of making disciples. They spent time studying the Word together in a community setting. They prayed together and ate together. Smither realizes that Western Christians need to slow down and put emphasizes on the Body of Christ (which needs each other to survive) and the Word of God which tells us to “make disciples.” These things require time but time that must be made for discipleship.

Augustine as mentor excerpts

Augustine as Mentor is a book I reviewed written by Edward Smithers. Here are some points that really stuck out:

Mentoring or discipleship is the work of one Christian helping another (or group of them) grow in their knowledge and application of the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures to realize the fullness of their salvation.

Mentoring includes guiding and helping disciples live holy. It gets messy but it is so important.

Sound teaching is a key component to mentoring/discipleship.

This book had some very good and interesting points. Not everyone would enjoy reading it because it reads like a theological/historical thesis’s.I will post my review here in the near future.

Christ’s Mass

It is cliché to say let’s bring Christ back in Christmas but ironically that is not really the case…

This might be sermon you have heard before if you are a seasoned Christian, especially around the Christ MAS Season. Did you catch that? The word Christmas was originally known as Christ’s Mass. A phrase first recorded in 1038 AD. Which symbolizes Christ’s death as a “death sacrifice.” So by saying, “Merry Christmas”, we are literally saying “Merry death of Christ!” Although the celebration that looks exactly like the American “Christmas” was celebrated in the same way up to 2000 years BEFORE Christ’s birth!

That is right 2000 years…the traditions of this holiday (the tree, the evergreen, the holly, the mistletoe, the bells, the caroling and even the gift giving and charity) were all traditions of ancient middle eastern/ and early Roman pagan holidays. In fact there is reference to these festivities in Jeremiah 10. I could spend an hour going through all these traditions and explaining how they came about…it is so interesting! I personally spent a lot of hours recently studying these and I think that you would find much of the history fascinating. The main festivity was that of worshiping the sun. Other traditions were added as the years went on Santa Clause for instance was added in the fourth century. There actually was a St. Nicholas who was extremely generous in his gift giving especially t children who had been well-behaved.

Even the date, Dec 25th is not original to Christians. The sun god festivals ere first celebrated from Dec. 17-25. It was not until the fourth Century that Christians also adopted this date to eclipse the pagan festival and give people a good reason to celebrate, that being Jesus.
Otherwise Dec. 25th is a very interesting date to pick. We have to match up the Word of God with reality if we are going to curiously consider this date. The final answer is that God did not lay out a date of Christ’s birth for us to know. We do know that Caesar was collecting taxes and many people were traveling to their hometowns to pay their tribute and be counted while Mary was pregnant. (Prego). Taking this into consideration it is more likely that the Caesar would collect taxes closer to harvest when the weather is nicer and the food supply is more abundant than it is in the colder times of Dec.

We also see that in Luke 2:8 tells us (whatever night it was) that the shepherds were in the field that night and the angel told the m about Christ’s birth. It is not unreasonable for shepherds to be out in the field year round if the weather permitted them to be outside. The winter months can be slightly colder and could potentially offer more precipitation than the summer or fall months. Even still,, the mean December temperatures for Palestine is around 40 degrees. So a warm night in December could potentially be a nice near 50 degrees. So the weather issue could go either way. So in conclusion Dec 25th is not unreasonable. But the main point is that it is not important. My point is to disregard looking for a solid answer to the question of “what day was Jesus born” and instead focus on the reason why WE as Christians are celebrating.

At this point there are several approaches I could go with this sermon and similarly different approaches to looking at Christmas in light of all that has been pointed out. Some people will try and oppose all of the pagan traditions of these holiday times and say that Christmas is a diabolical paradox because it is not focused on Jesus Christ’s birth. In fact, there are some that say that Christmas is a blasphemous holiday and are very much against it because it is more or less mocking Jesus. Then they is the more lenient, liberal approach which suggests that it is not such a bad thing that the Church wanted to bring Christ into a pagan holiday. This blending and mixing of ideas is acceptable and legitimate. That is why the Dec. date was chosen in the first place to compete with and evangelize Jesus despite pagan tradition.

The approach I am taking is a mix of the two. I have grown up in the American materialistic version of the holiday season but I also grow up remembering the reason for the season. I enjoy both giving and receiving presents, decorating the house, singing seasonal songs, and all of those little traditions but I do not let these little things stress me out. I do not make a huge deal of them and above all of these things, I celebrate Jesus Christ as Savior. I thank God that He was born and remember what He did for me. I recall the life of Jesus Christ. It is not so much a “merry bloody death of Christ” – but it is about Christ and on the other hand it is not a huge festivity where I am focused on competing to see how many gifts I get. The traditions are not sinful in themselves. Insomuch as that we remember what Christ’s Mass is all about: It is about Jesus Christ.

At some point in time Jesus Christ was born of a virgin Mary while they were in the town of Bethlehem to pay taxes and be counted for the census. When the couple arrived to the town the inn had no room for them. He realized that she was pregnant and could offer a manger/a stable. After such a long journey to Bethlehem and a wife who is in the most painful final stages of childbirth, Joseph as got to be thinking…”really? This is where my child, one who is to be called Jesus is to be born?” But being a good godly man, he carries Mary to the most comfortable spot, clears away the animals and builds a fire while saying a prayer to the Father! The Christ child is born in the humble manger. Later that evening shepherds would come and worship him directed by an angel.

Still almost two years later, a caravan of wise men would come and bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. At this point it is likely that Mary and Joe have moved out of the manger and into a house. These wise men were directed by a star. It is also likely that there were many more than “three” wise men or “kings,” as three wise men carrying three gifts might work logically it is simply not logistically sound because of safety issues and robbery. It is likely that more than three men made the trip in a caravan. These men gave a gift and did not expect or receive any gift in return except to be graced by the presence of Christ as a child.

This is the story of Christ’s birth according to the Word of God. I encourage you to check it out this week despite all the business of the holidays take time and remember Christ! Many of us are too busy planning His party to seek His will or grieve His absence. Let’s enjoy His grace and His presence as we celebrate His birthday. Let’s celebrate Christ this Christ’s mass!

my ridiculous lifestyle

What is wrong with me? I got a seasonal first shift job so I am still making money since UPSF has put me “on call” for the winter. It works perfect when I am not called in but when I do work both jobs my life is ridiculous:

Here is an example:

4:30AM – wake up
– shower, pack lunch, eat breakfast/leftovers, start car,

5-5:45AM drive to work

6AM-2:30PM – Seasonal job

2:30-4:30 – Panera Bread napping and/or School work
(from 3:30-4:30 I am waiting for call from UPSF boss to see if I am working)

4:30-5 – eat dinner somewhere in Columbus ( if I am called into work, and depends on what I want) If not called in drive home

5-5:30 – drive to UPS Freight
If not called-in – eat dinner

6-10PM – work at UPSF
(or school work from 6-9PM if not called in and bed time at 9/9:30PM)

10-10:30PM – drive home

11PM-4:30AM – SLEEP

Monastic living

What about monks? Why did monks like Antony (anchorites) pursue the solitude of the desert? Why did the coenobites like Pachomius prefer community? What monastic principles are helpful for present day non-monks?

Some Christians wanted to escape the contamination and distractions of the church and world so they became monks. The word “monk” derives from the Greek monachos, which means ‘solitary.’ There were two approaches to the pursuit of solitude. Solo monks wished to escape the bad and evilness of the world completely and hide in the desert to pursue holiness with God completely away with God and away from sin and man. The other method was that of the Coenobites who were monks that lived in community with one another. They also sought holiness and desired to be away from the world and its worldliness.

Both approaches do have their flaws. While I respect their purist for holiness I think that the monks miss the mark in other areas. For solo monks like Anthony, where does evangelism come into light? Whom is witnessing your relationship with God? Are we not called to live as ‘salt and light?’ Are we not to live “in but not of the world?’ Where does Jesus say flee this world completely? Yes we are to die to ourselves but not die of our fellow man. Also on that note, are we not also called to have fellowship with the body of Christ? Are we called to ‘continue meeting together? Is not the body of Christ dependent upon the other parts of the body?

For the Coenobites…the same questions that I just scrutinized Anthony with apply except the last two. Instead though I have replacement questions. In light of living amongst other monks, would not pride begin to set in once monks felt that they had arrived at perfection? Once they have gone out of their way to live without evil and sin, there is pride, a sin… Ironic, huh? Also even if this group was a decent group of monks, then all you really have is a group of monks who set themselves apart from the world. Again, aren’t we called to be a light to the world and not hide our light in the darkness of the dessert?
There are some excellent concepts and principles that non-monks, even Western Christians can learn from. While these monks may have error on taking pursuit and holiness too far, we today in America are in error on not having enough purity and holiness. We walk and sometimes enjoy crude Comedy Central humor. We accept half naked people dancing and displaying themselves in our “popular music” We are entertained by rated R movies were cursing, sex and violence are the acceptable norms. I am not trying to offer a solution to all this. I admit I am clustering a lot of things together just to make this simple point, but the point is that we also are called to “be holy, just as I am holy.”

Another principle of monastic living is the idea of surrender. The monks had to give up all their goods and submit to authorities before becoming a monk. They had to die to themselves daily. They had to fast two or three days a week. They had to sacrifice all of their time. They had a lot of surrendering to do. In America, all we think about is what can we achieve? What can we gain/profit? Especially during the holidays/Christmas… American Christians are trained to be materialistic even before they are Christians ( from birth!) So this is another difficult thing we must learn to control.
The concept of time and community of monastic living is something Western Christians really need to consider! The monks had quality fellowship and quality relationships with one-another. They had quality discipleship because they invest a lot of time and effort in their discipleship practices! America is so rushed that we are becoming a Bibleless Christianity. This country is so rushed to be productive and get everything else done that the Bible and spiritual faith is neglected. The early church and the church fathers spent time together in their process of making disciples. Making disciples requires time. When quality time is spent developing a disciple if that time is sent in the Word of God, then Sound doctrine follows. No post-modernism crap!
Another great concept that you do see in great American churches that we also saw in monastic living is the idea of entrusting others with ministry. A ministry is never one person’s, except the Lord’s. Part of discipleship is encouraging and helping others to reach their full potential. They will be able to use their spiritual gifts to continue the ministry.