I promised that I would post on the topic of Christian community; however, I will postpone that topic a little bit longer due to two things:

1) I really want to have a concrete idea on what to speak of and what to speak about when it comes to Christian community and I don’t want to simply put something together quickly just to throw something up here.

2) Given this, I don’t have the amount of time necessary to focus on the topic of Christian Community. Nevertheless, I do want to continue writing on simpler (if we can call them that) topics or at least post some thoughts on what I have been reading.

I have been continuing reading “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” by Chris Hedges. Even though I don’t intend to comment much on the following quotes, I still want to post them for the sake of thought provoking. If they are in any way intriguing, I recommend you acquire or check out the book. It is a very interesting and worth read.

“War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us. And this is why for many war is so hard to discuss once it is over.” (3)

“War makes the world understandable, a black and white tableau of them and us. It suspends thought, especially self-critical thought. All bow before the supreme effort. We are one.” (10)

***However…

“The poison that is war does not free us from the ethics of responsibility. There are times when we must take this poison–just as a person with cancer accepts chemotherapy to live. We can not succumb to despair. Force is and I suspect always will be part of the human condition. There are times when the force wielded by one immoral faction must be countered by a faction that, while never moral, is perhaps less immoral.” (16)

“The only antidote to ward off self-destruction and the indiscriminate use of force is humility and, ultimately, compassion. Reinhold Niebuhr aptly reminded us that we must all act and then ask for forgiveness. This book is not a call for inaction. It is a call for repentance.” (17)

War is a Force That Gives us Meaning by Chris Hedges (2002)

Essential.

For the human being, community is an essential aspect of existence. Not only is it almost impossible to achieve some sort of satisfaction or meaning in life without community, but its also an aspect of life that as humans we look for and desire. Even the loneliest and most anti-social of individuals would happily enter into community if given the right circumstances.

Because it is a human concept and element of life, it is also a Christian element of life. Any aspect of life which is inherently human is bound to be found in The Book of Ages. Scripture speaks time and time again on the meaning of community, the importance of community, and the essential aspect of community (especially the Church) to the Christian’s walk and journey.

According to well-known 20th century philosopher, pastor, theologian, and thinker, Reinhold Niebhur:

“…survival impulse cannot be neatly disentangled from two forms of its spiritualization. The one form is the desire to fulfill the potentialities of life and not merely to maintain its existence. Man is the kind of animal who cannot merely live. If he lives at all he is bound to seek the realization of his true nature; and to his true nature belongs his fulfillment in the lives of others. The will to live is thus transmuted into the will of to self-realization; and self-realization involves self-giving in relations to others.”

The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness by Reinhold Niebhur (pg. 19)

As Niebhur states, it isn’t enough to just survive and live. It isn’t human to be simply satisfied with continuing our existence and this is something that we can see in all aspects of life. Even though we do require quite times and times of solitude, the human psyche pushes us toward some sort of social interaction and hopefully this interaction will eventually result in the creation of community–self-giving in relations to others.

Therefore, the importance in discussing this topic should be something that as humans we are driven to understand and truly capture. After all, if we are made for community and we can’t be realized without it, we should try to get at the bottom of it all.

 Disclaimer.

I don’t claim to know it all and to have all the answers. To be honest, I am looking for answers myself. Hopefully, writing here will help me work through some of the doubts, questions, and answers I am dealing with and struggling with in life–because if you aren’t, then you must not be struggling with original sin (haha).

I do know that Christian communities (most at least) run across problems, can be dysfunctional, can hurt you, can prove useless and obsolete and that they can also fulfill their role in the Kingdom of Heaven. I can never forget the comments made by a friend of mine about Christian community when this individual came to the personal conclusion that there was more of a “community” atmosphere and presence in a military (Army) setting than in a house packed with Christian living together. This thought bothered me because if the truth of the Gospel is the greatest of truths and the Church of Christ is the community which will live on forever in the Kingdom of God, then how could it prove to be dysfunctial, or at least second to the U.S. military?

The truth is that in many ways I don’t disagree and we can take a quick look at Church history and detect the few mistakes the church has made since the time of Jesus Christ’s ministry on Earth. Take a quick look and we can pick up on the bunch of lost and stranded people that Christian community has forsaken and left on the side of the road. The questions my friend asked are good questions and deserve to be (must be) discussed for Christian community to mature into what Christ intended it to be.

So please read along and comment. Help me out and help us all grow in the collective-concept that Christ intended for His church–may the gates of hell never prevail against it.

Next Topic:

Seriosuly, what is true Christian community?

 

I haven’t posted in a while, mostly because school is back in session and along with that working part-time and ROTC. However, I have had the blessing of being able to continue doing some independent reading (besides the endless pages of political science, history, and short stories I have to read for class).

In a period of a week and a half I began and finished an incredible nonfiction book by Vanity Fair editor and New York Times correspondent Sebastian Junger: War

If you asked me: what is the best book you have read this year? I would have to answer that War by Sebastian Junger is the one.

In no way ever done before, Junger lives for a 3-4 months alongside a platoon of infantryman in no-man’s land Afghanistan: the Korengal Valley. I would love to go on and write forever about this book; however, if I were to do that I would feel as if I were taking away from you the opportunity of engaging in the adventure which is reading it and the journey that Sebastian Junger takes us through.

I will, however, leave you with a quote that really grabbed hold of me while I was reading. Hopefully this isn’t much of a spoiler but it is definitely something worth sharing:

“Civilians balk at recognizing that one of the most traumatic things about combat is having to give it up. War is so obviously evil and wrong that the idea there could be anything good to it almost feels like a profanity. And yet throughout history, men like Mac and Rice and O’Byrne have come to find themselves desperately missing what should have been the worst experience of their lives. To a combat vet, the civilian world can seem frivolous and dull, with very little at stake and all the wrong people in power. These men come home and quickly find themselves getting berated by a rear-base major who’s never seen combat or arguing with their girlfriend about some domestic issues they don’t even understand. When men say they miss combat, it’s not that the actually miss getting shot at–you;d have to be deraged–it’s that they miss being in a world where everything is important and nothing is taken for granted. They miss being in a world where human relations are entirely governed by whether you can trust the other person with your life.”

War, Book Three: Love, Chapter 4

Sebastian Junger

Yes, I will be turning 21 in less than a month: on September 2nd to be precise. I have come to realize that the tradition in college is for people to hit the bars at midnight and pretty much get drunk–especially if you are blessed enough for your birthday to fall on a weekend night.

However, the truth is that as the date approaches, I don’t really feel like that’s my kinda thing to do. Maybe at some point in the past I was really excited about it and wanted to have a big party and all. But that simply isn’t the case anymore.

I want to give you an opportunity. The opportunity to either buy me a drink or save a life.

Between now (August 3rd, 2010) and my birthday (September 2nd, 2010) I invite you to make a donation to one of the following Christian charity and humanitarian work groups I follow and I am passionate about.

Here’s is my challenge to you:

1) You can buy me a drink on my birthday; however, for every drink that someone buys me on my birthday, I will donate that same amount of money to one of the following groups or charities.

2) You can donate straight to the group or charity and I will take that as a Birthday/Drink gift credited to you on my birthday.

3) Or you can both donate and also buy me drink as long as you prove to me that you have donated. Otherwise, I will follow option #1.

Here are the donation links for you:

Angels of East Africa https://www.angelsofeastafrica.org/becomeangel.asp

International Justice Mission http://www.ijm.org/give

Charity: Water http://mycharitywater.org/buymebeer_or_savealife

That’s my challenge to all of you! Buy me a beer or Save a life! Because in the end, rescuing a child from becoming a child soldier, building a water well for a needy community, and/or saving a woman from forced slavery and prostitution is more important than drinking a beer.

For more information on the charities and humanitarian groups please click on the links below:

Angels of East Africa

Charity: Water

IJM

There are days that life just sucks. And you know it really sucks when its your fault why life sucks. It’s like life sucker punches you in the face because you were too dumb to wear a face mask or even block.

Days like today I miss Basic–I miss boot camp. I miss the routine, the predictable-ness of it all. I miss the discipline I had and the determination to do better. I got back and I lost it all.

I know it is my fault. I know. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I miss it–I miss most of it.
To the brave and courageous men who went through Basic with me and who are now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I salute you.

“Finish the Fight”:

PV2 Alec Daniel

PV1 Hunter Bean

PFC Pablo Sagion

PFC Jose Nunez

PFC Michael Storie

PV2 Nate Crow

and to the rest whose names I don’t recall or can find right now. Thank you.

Save me, I’m lost
Oh Lord I’ve been waiting for you
I’ll pay any cost
To save me from being confused
Wait, I’m wrong
I can’t do better than this
I’ll pay any cost
Save me from being confused.  (Show me what I’m looking for
by Carolina Liar)

Confession.

For the Christian every day, every moment, every act of confession and redemption is a new beginning. We are still humans prone to error and mistakes called sin. Therefore, it is an essential aspect of our daily living the humbling act of confession.

For me this comes in the weirdest moments most of the time. I’ll be driving down the road and then see a homeless man asking for money, food, or just some sort of help. The Holy Spirit will move me to compassion and if I have something, or anything, I will give it to the homeless man (after all, only God can judge what they end up using for the blessings they receive). However, at the same time I will be move to recognize my own blessings in life and also my sin, the sins that we ignore and let the time go by without bringing them before the throne of the God King.

Unfortunately that was not the case in the last few months for me. The crazy thing is that even though I post about a lot of personal things in this blog, there are also a lot of things that I am still fighting and struggling with in life–there is constantly a struggle within me between the Holy Spirit and the attacks of life and world trying to demolish the throne of God in me. Nevertheless, there are periods of life in which I am blinded in one eye and I feel as if I go from day to day in defeat because my sins seem so overwhelming–the image of a homeless Elijah at the street corner is not enough to move me.

Unrepentant.

Lately this has been the case. I have been sinful, rebellious to the God King, I have cursed extensively, and I have lost a lot of my spiritual disciplines. Only God knows why He allows us to fall (maybe it is to show us a lesson or aspect of life). But in the end, the worst thing is knowing from day to day that you need to come before the Lord and confess all the evil within you, but you feel so ashamed of your sin that you are embarrassed to come before the throne of Christ in repentance–so you end up doing nothing about it.

In a way my rest from blogging was because of this. I felt too conflicted inside and too chaotic in my spirit to feel comfortable trying to edify others through writing. I have also felt as if physical life attempts to suffocate all my time and it seems as if I go from day to day trying to catch up (yes, even in the summer). Father God, save me from feeling and living like this. Show me what I am looking for!

I have sought counsel, advice, wisdom, the love of my brothers in the Kingdom of God. But it feels like, to an extent, our spiritual self (and in response our body) gets comfortable to the misery and abuse of life in rebellion. The day I realized I had accepted the brutality of an undisciplined and running-from-Jesus life was the day that I cried…forever.

I still don’t have it all together. I don’t think I ever will fully have it all together. It’s a fight and struggle but the truth is that every day, every day we have to acknowledge that in some way we are still broken inside–and we need redemption: again.

In the end, I can declare today that I feel the Holy Spirit in my life today. I pray tomorrow I feel His presence even more than today: I really do. One crazy thing of life in the arms of the Savior King is that when we trust our life unto Him, all other aspects of life become so much smaller compared to all that He is.

In Christ, life doesn’t get easier, but we realize how much smaller all other aspects of life really are compared to all He is and all He as to offer.

In Christ, be blessed.

“Waking up, waking up
In the dark
I can feel you in my sleep
In your arms I feel you breathe into me
Forever hold this heart that I will give to you
Forever I will live for you”

Awake and Alive by Skillet

Recommended Gospel-centered songs that I have been blessed by recently:

Let it Fade by Jeremy Camp

New Creation and Carried to the Table by Leeland

Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North

Indelible Grace (all their music is great)

Revelation Song by Phillips, Craig & Dean

Lead me to the Cross and Saviour King by Hillsong Music

Awake and Alive by SKILLET

One Platoon. One Valley. One Year.

The following is the link to the promotional website to a film documentary that will be released in the upcoming weeks. The film documentary is called Restrepo and it documents the life, encounters, and struggles of one platoon (from the 173rd Airborne Brigade) in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, for one year. The famous war correspondent  Sebastian Junger and British photographer Tim Hetherington, on assignment from Vanity Fair, depict through this film the uncut experience of war in Afghanistan and the fight for survival that 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne fought and continues to fight.

http://www.restrepothemovie.com

http://www.sebastianjunger.com/

To find a theatre where this film will be playing:

http://tinyurl.com/362d7qj


Distractions.

I haven’t really posted in a while due to the fact  that the summer has begun and even though that could mean less responsibilities and more free time, for me in means (1) summer PE class, (2) ROTC, and (3) summer job employment with the City of Raleigh parks and rec. Along with this, there is the great blessing of having my wonderful girlfriend back in town (or at least 15 minutes away in the other town rather than 6 hours away in another state).

Finally, it is the year 2010 and it is the year of the World Cup. Even though I never played soccer (or futbol) growing up, I do love international competition and the World Cup fills up that passion in me.  Anyway, I won’t take up much of your time but basically I have been up busy here and there and trying to make some money while keeping my head above the water.

Have a wonderful summer and be blessed.

PS: Team selections I am rooting for in this World Cup (in order of preference).

(1) Mexico

(2) Spain

(3) Germany

(4) USA

(5) Italy

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5: 16-19

Watching the news and such.

Yesterday I turned on the TV. The TV was set on CNN (or one of those cable news channels). Upon this realization I turned off the TV. I just wasn’t in the mood. Later that day, walking by one of those newspaper containers (I have no idea what they are called) I decided to grab the day’s newspaper. I made a mistake. Ten minutes into browsing the different stories and topics discussed in that issue I lost hope and threw it away (It’s okay. It was a recycling bin).

Finally, coming back towards downtown Raleigh after my first training session at work, I turned on the radio in the car–may last hope at making an interaction with the cosmopolitan world. The radio was set to NPR (a radio station which I listen to and respect) but I wasn’t in the mood, so I switched it over to G105 (mainstream music radio) but it was another mistake. I was tired of the world. I was frustrated and I didn’t know a way out.

Life: Take Two.

I feel like a lot of life is like this but on bigger and much more costly proportions. We go from place to place, phase to phase, opportunity to opportunity attempting to engage, interact, push through, be enlightened, and be illuminated. Of course, above and beyond all these reasons behind our pursuit, we desire purpose, destiny, or the mainstream way of stating this: we want to make a difference.

So in a way it’s no different from switching on the TV, and then turning it off. Switching on the radio and turning it off. Opening in the newspaper and recycling it ten minutes later. We move from moment to moment, experience to experience, looking for some sort of great fulfillment. When we look at our American lives (since I am an American and I live in the continental U.S. of A.) we realize that the marketing experts know this is exactly what the human soul is looking for and what our greatest desire  is: that one experience that will give us purpose, show us our destiny, and lead us toward great bliss and a life-long ecstasy due to the fact we are doing what the gods (not really but sure) destined us to do.

I can go on forever about examples of this in our culture; however, one example (which currently plays on TV) is pretty close to the top.

As kids we are sent to summer camps during the time off school in order to (1) do something, (2) learn something, (3) meet people, and (4) hopefully apply some of what we learn to our regular lives. Whether it may be canoeing, making a bonfire, learning how to do a ropes course, learning to interact with people, or shooting bows and arrows (plus playing some awesome kickball) summer camps help us, as children, begin to fulfill this need for experience and the desire for bliss (a sort of pleasure) that we are predispose to by our very nature.

A much less innocent and much more controversial perspective on this is presented by a new commercial on TV titled Camp Vegas. In this commercial, a group of people are sitting with notes and papers on the table in front of them as they review a number of candidates or applicants for camp counselor positions. In the end, after reviewing a number of applicants, they decide to choose another group of people not shown before. The camera turns and shows a group of good-looking young men and women in bathing suits.

After this, the scenery completely changes and the setting becomes Las Vegas, with is casinos, hotels, clubs, and endless amounts of possibilities and forms entertainment. Endless possibilities of joy and bliss–after all, what else could life be about?

Sure. The type of experiences and life journeys presented in the Camp Vegas commercial campaign are not the same as those presented in summer camp brochures by your local YMCA and Parks and Recreation department. Actually, I rather have you send your kids to summer camps (which are really good life experiences) than to Camp Vegas. I also don’t want you to think I am criticizing or condemning the experiences or the fun one may find in regular summer camps or Camp Vegas. What I trying to shine light upon is the human condition.

The Human Condition Revisited.

The human condition? A may not be 1,000 years old and be a wise sage who you should go to in order to understand life’s mysteries. I claim no more than a pursuit of wisdom and eternal truth is our socio-universal human experience. However, I believe there is a human condition that applies and expands not only in our Western thought and civilization, but one that also expands throughout our existence in this world and planet and applies to all human civilizations of the present, the past, and even the future.  This universal human condition cannot be avoided, for it is found deep within our nature and being. It cannot be escaped, at least not through conventional means (or anything you can buy through infomercials). It is corroborated by all human lifestyles, possibilities, potential decisions, and human society. The human condition is such: that our pursuit for purpose, pleasure, and fulfillment comes from a lacking of an essential part of what we were meant to be and how we were meant to exist. The present condition is the result of a wrong decision made in the past, back when time was young, and that, due to our hereditary nature, has carried on from person to person up until now–and will continue for generations to come. It was the result of pride and it’s result was sin. However, even though sin came to be, the visible outcome of it that we see in the world today is that we, as humans, go from place to place, from moment to moment, from experience to experience (like spiritual nomads) looking for a solution to this condition: looking for a cure.

Nomads.

Yes, we look for a physical cure to something that is spiritual. We look for a religious cure for something that is beyond this world. We are looking for a rational cure for something that is divine. We have been searching, without rest, for an answer to the questions and unanswered dilemmas that plague our existence.

As nomads we live our lives looking for the final piece to the puzzle. An excellent piece of evidence of this is the very fact that our movies, novels, comic books, and epic stories depict this very aspect of the human condition. However, even the great fictions and works of man conclude unfinished, because at the end of every story we must ask ourselves the question: what about tomorrow? What about the unknown and unexpected?

Yet they speak truth. The great philosophers, thinkers, writers, and heroes of the world did speak truth in humanity’s search for something: something that had either been lost or not yet found. But they were far from the answer, even though in other ways very close.

At the Garden of Eden a relationship was broken. God, who found it well to make us and place us at the head of all created creatures, had in the very beginning a relationship with man and woman. They existed in harmony with their maker and live in a relationship of Maker and Creature, Father and Children, God and Human, Eternal Lord and the stewards of creation. However, we were lied to and misled by other forces, forces not existing in order to honor the Maker of All. This evil spirit (Satan), in no way or shape a god or close to being a god, misled mankind by stating that in sinning, we would be like God–not realizing mankind had already been made in the image of the Creator.

Martin Luther and John Calvin, both leaders and theologians in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, agreed that something had been lost and that something had been changed when our forefathers sinned and turned their lives away from God. Even though this is a topic for a whole other post (actually more like a whole book), I do believe that part of what change at the fall was our status quo in our relationship with God. We became isolated in our walk and in our lives. Humanity lost an essential part to its existence and to its fulfillment. At the Fall of Mankind, falling short of the glory of God, we lost our relationship to God, a relationship so pure, loving, wonderful, and awesome that it’s very experience would overwhelm us beyond understanding.

The Ministry of Reconciliation.

Isn’t this what Jesus states in the Sermon on the Mount? Acquire treasures not on Earth where the rust and moth destroy but in Heaven where they cannot be touched by the effects of time? Didn’t He say to not worry about today for your Father who is in Heaven will provide if we believe and trust Him with our very life? Didn’t Jesus say that He was the way, the truth, and the life? The truth, yes the truth, is that as humans we were meant to find true joy, bliss, pleasure, and fulfillment in the presence of the glory of God. Our very relationship with God, founded upon the fact that He LOVES us, was so overwhelming at the beginning of mankind’s existence, that it made us unaware, or at least unashamed, of walking around naked. God’s love was (and is) so great that it overwhelmed any earthly state and condition. Adam and Eve were not ashamed of nakedness because God’s Love for them was their only necessary and essential identity and need. They needed nothing else. They were in harmony with one another and their Father God.

But at the fall we lost that relationship. At the Fall we, first of all, became ashamed of nakedness due to the fact that God’s passion for us was no longer what defined us and gave us value. We became overwhelmed by other things and aspects of life to the extent that the first thing Adam and Eve did was look for something to cover themselves with (and now we have department stores and outfitters…found at super malls near you).

However, at the cross Jesus offers us the opportunity for reconciliation. Like it states in 2 Corinthians 5, we are to no longer approach one another and the world from the world’s misled and faulty perspective. We are to work towards the world’s, people’s, reconciliation with the Father through Christ: the same way that as Christians we are transformed and reconciled to the God, through the great and sufficient atonement paid for by Jesus Christ at the cross.

Not only are we transformed into a new creation able to honor and glorify God with our lives. Because we know true fulfillment and our true purpose is with God, we are given the ministry of Reconciliation: our charge is to carry the commission given to us, believers, as we persevere in our own lives and in reconciling others to God through the truth of the Gospel.

Our Charge.

The charge given to the Body of Christ, the universal church of all the believers, is to continue the work started in us by God by pursuing that work in others. We are not to look at the rest of the world in contempt, simply because we have found the true solution to the essential question the world struggles with every day. In the words of the Christian pastor and social leader Dietrich Bonhoeffer “we must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer…God himself did not despise humanity, but became man for men’s sake” (Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison). We are, instead of contempt, to feel compassion for the world as God felt compassion for humanity. We are to live lives that honor God and depict the love of Christ to our fellow men and women who are still looking for a way to fulfillment and purpose, because the truth is that even those who think that they have found true purpose and destiny in success or some earthly pursuit, don’t realize that all earthly treasures are doomed to rust and to be plague by moth.

Ours is the ministry of reconciliation, for great is the harvest and few the workers out on the field.

—–

In conclusion, Jesus, thank you for your mercy and compassion which is new every morning. Thank you for your patience as this sinner struggles to walk in your ways and in honor of Your Name–the name above every name. Father God, Jesus: Son of God, and Holy Spirit, I am overwhelmed by a truth that convicts me and humbles me every day of my life. I am also honored and in return I worship you with prayers, songs, and godly thoughts, when I remember an essential fact of my existence. Lord, this truth is the fact that You transformed me.

Blessings.

One of my favorite pastimes has to be reading. I simply enjoy spending time increasing my knowledge of subjects I already know much of, and new subjects into which I can jump in and begin to swallow all the available information and facts to learn. Every season I have a reading list of books that I plan to finish within that period of time. My favorite time of the year for reading is the summer because I feel my schedule is not as restrictive and I am able to manage for of my time and direct it towards reading. Anyway, the purpose of this post is to share some of the books I have started and finished this summer, books I plan to read, and books I hope to purchase. Please feel free to comment and leave any recommendations. I especially enjoy theology, history, current events, social justice, some philosophy, biographies, among others.

World War One: A Short History (By Norman Stone)

STATUS: Finished

In Afghanistan: Two-Hundred Years of British, Russian, and American Occupation (By David Loyn)

STATUS: Finished

Homage to Catalonia (By George Orwell)

STATUS: Almost Finished

Rangers at Dieppe (By James DeFelice)

STATUS: Halfway Done

Letters and Papers from Prison (by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

STATUS: Recently Started

A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, The Mexican-American War, and the Conquest of the American Continent (By Robert W. Merry)

STATUS: Started

D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (By Anthony Beevor)

STATUS: Not Started

The Call (By Os Guinness)

STATUS: Not Started

Unchristian (By Kinnaman and Lyons)

STATUS: Not Started

Gone for Soldiers (By Jeff Shaara)

STATUS: Re-Reading

My Personal Library

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