Be A Window, Not A Wall

Be a window,

Not a wall.

Some stand tall,

Yet all eventually fall.

Some loom large,

While others seem small.

 

We’ve all heard the call,

But a few of us are still afraid to fall.

We’ve all failed,

But Christ has prevailed.

 

Windows let the Son shine through,

Yet walls shield people from seeing the real you.

Windows are open and transparent,

But walls are closed off and hide what sin has bent.

Windows crack and shatter,

While walls pretend to have everything together.

 

Be more like a beautiful flower,

Than this structurally unsound tower.

Let the light into every area of your life,

Before darkness hurts like an ill-intentioned knife.

If you want to grow,

Then the walls need to go.

 

There is no guilt or shame,

In the power of Christ’s name.

Be honest above all,

No one expects you to be Saint Paul.

Be a window,

Not a wall.

 

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

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The Thorns of Life | March 17th, 2018

Photo CredFelipe P. Lima Rizo on Unsplash

So in the first segment in this series on sermons, I’d like to go back and revisit sermons that I have preached in the past, in order to learn from them through self-reflection. The preparation, the prayer, the delivery, and so on for each sermon that I have given to better not only myself but possibly you as well. By learning from the past we can do better in the future and that includes improving our ability to preach.

I’d like to share a sermon that I preached in mid-March of 2018 and breakdown the process of creating that sermon. It was called The Thorns of Life and dealt with the parable of the sower as told in the Gospel of Luke. My sermon was based on Luke 8:7 and 8:14, which was about the thorn-filled soil.

Getting Started

This sermon was given to about 80 students at StudentLife‘s winter camp (i.e. The Growdown) and it was roughly 25 minutes long. I began to prepare for this sermon on February 26th, which was just over a month out from the Growdown retreat and I was pretty rusty since the last sermon that I taught was 3 years ago. Typically, I can start prepping and praying through a sermon within a week’s time, but because it had been so long I started extremely early. There was also the added pressure of this being our first winter camp as a youth group, so I didn’t want to let the other leaders or the students down with a sermon that sucked.

Before I even began to work on my sermon, the four teachers (David Margosian, John Lewis, Andrew Morrison, and myself) for that retreat met up a few times to discuss the theme and pray about what we should teach through for that winter camp. Eventually, we all felt led to teach on the parable of the sower in the Gospel of Luke for various reasons. John had just taught it to his youth group, while Andrew and David did this theme years ago as the original Growdown winter camp. We figured that this year we should go with this theme to keep things simple.

After the theme was decided upon, we went our separate ways to prepare. Since I was rusty, Andrew reviewed my outline over gmail twice to help me stay on track for the retreat. He aided in keeping my sermon the right length for a 20 to 30 minute teaching.

When I actually started, I read the text and prayed a lot about the theme for my teaching. What was going to be the main idea to explore and share with the students? What did they need to hear that afternoon on March 17th, 2018?

The Text, the Title, and the Elevator Pitch

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Anytime I prepare to teach, I always look for three things first: a basic understanding of the text, a title, and an elevator pitch. To determine the basic understanding of the text you need to comprehend the context. To accomplish this, read past the given text.

For this teaching, I wanted to pinpoint the big picture. When it was reported to Jesus that his Mother and Brothers were trying to get to him through the crowd listening to Him teach, He replies that “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. (1).” Elsewhere, we get more clarity from Jesus when He says to His disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (2).” The basic understanding of this text was identifying the true believer.

If we are true believers in Christ, then we will naturally obey him. David and Paul Watson put it perfectly when they wrote that “it appears that God spells love o-b-e-y (3).” The seed that falls on the good soil is the true believer because they obey God.

From there, I asked the opposite question: who does not obey God and why? The text I was given focused on the thorn-filled soil. What happens when we are pricked by a thorn? We are distracted by the pain. This was the basic crux for my sermon.

For my title, I took that basic understanding and distilled it. Making it brief and to the point. For me, the title has to be the main theme of the teaching. It must be the anchor that I can refer back to over and over in the sermon. So I called it “The Thorns of Life.”

Lastly, an elevator pitch is a one sentence description of a story. My elevator pitch was my basic understanding of the text summarized. That being that the thorns of life are the distractions of life. Next, I got into the bulk of sermon prep. Analogies, cross references, exegesis, research, and all that other good stuff. That’s usually my favorite part of the process.

Once my outline was complete, I moved onto revisions and verbal practice. This was roughly two weeks out from the retreat and I was really afraid it was going to flop. During this time I mostly prayed and would practice maybe a dozen times before finally delivering my sermon. I found that prayer would calm me, so I prayed before I practiced verbally delivering it.

The Day of and the Delivery

When we all left for the Growdown, I barely ate. During that Friday and Saturday I only had two meals. When I get nervous, I can’t eat because I get really sick to my stomach.

Had a long day of winter camp stuff and trying to run everything as a leader, so when it finally came to preaching I had about an hour and a half to get prepped one last time. As worship was closing, my anxiety and nervousness just kept increasing. Prayed a lot of little prayers inwardly. Too afraid I was going to forget something, I poured over my outline making last-minute changes and rehearsed a few more times.

Andrew came down and prayed over me. It helped reassure me that this teaching was put on my heart by God, so I didn’t have to rely on my own ability or talent because the Holy Spirit would guide me. Worship ended and I waited a minute intentionally before heading up. I told Jason Best, the worship pastor, that I wanted there to be an awkward moment of silence before I enter the room to set the tone.

This little stunt played into my theme of being distracted. Also, I wore a pink morph suit and did some goofy stuff to distract the students before telling the story of my best friend Zach’s car accident. This was all in the hopes of using body language, humor, and other visual cues to reinforce the effect that a good distraction can have on someone not paying attention.

The silly sermon illustrations went okay. Some landed, some hit an abrupt thud. As a public speaker, you’ll know when what you did worked or didn’t.

I think of the 25 minutes I spent, 5 to 10 minutes should have been used better. I started strong, but felt I wasted the opportunity for a strong ending. I ended up cutting out the Value of Time segment completely because I knew from practice it probably wouldn’t make the cut. I liked it, but it wasn’t necessary for this audience.

Had some obvious slip-ups and an over reliance on my outline, yet I felt positive about the delivery afterward. The students got a kick out of my ridiculous introduction and the call to action seemed to stick that night during the altar call, which resulted in praying with a student named Abe for almost an hour as we cried our eyes out before God. That was the highlight of the teaching for me: seeing a young man run back to God that night.

Overall, loved the time I spent on this teaching and it gave me confidence to return to preaching. Next time, I’ll share my sermon on Exodus from May 3rd, 2018. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Luke 8:21b
  2. John 14:15
  3. Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery, P. 45

 

 

The Thief and the Cross

Photo Cred: (1)| Updated: 4/19/2019

In light of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I wanted to take some time to write about the thief on the cross. By thief on the cross, I am referring to one of the two thieves that were crucified with Jesus. One became a believer, while the other did not. So for now, any references to the thief on the cross are towards the thief that became a believer.

Why Were People Crucified?

Bart-d-ehrman-2012-wikipedia
Bart D. Ehrman, PhD | James A. Gray Distinguished Professor University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This thief on the cross is an interesting figure in the historical account of the crucifixion of Jesus, but is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. He most likely would have been a Jewish man due to a number of factors like his belief in one God (2) and his familiarity with the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom of Heaven (3), along with his punishment. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar, points out the uniqueness of the crucifixion and why only a certain group of people would receive this form of punishment when he writes

Crucifixion was reserved for special cases. But there were lots of special cases. Two of the most common were low-life criminals and enemies of the state. These are two very different matters – they are not the same thing… This was especially the case – I reiterate – for enemies of the state. Rare exceptions might be made for low-life criminals – escaped slaves, horse thieves, general riff-raff who did not matter to anyone in power (4).”

In other words, the two thieves were most likely crucified for either stealing something very valuable like horses as their names would suggest or for being insurgents that were sworn enemies of the state. Regardless of why they were hung in the first place, these two men died alongside Jesus and witnessed His final moments before His death. This will be the bedrock for the rest of this blog-post moving forward.

Artistic Depictions of Christ’s Crucifixion

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What is also of note is how artists depict where the three men are in different works of art. For instance, Peter Paul Rubens and Titian seem to have placed the thief on the cross to the right of Christ, while the proud thief is to His left. This deliberate creative choice of putting the thief on the cross beside the right hand of God is significant.

In both Judaism and Christianity, to be on the right hand of God was a sign of God’s “ruler-ship, authority, sovereignty, blessing, and strength and is significant in Scripture (5).” We can see this in many places in the Bible such as Psalm 110:1b where it says “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” To be fair, there are other works of art like Rembrandt van Rijn’s Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses (6) that appears indifferent to where each thief is in the picture and is rightly so focused on Christ Himself.

Likewise, James the brother of Jesus once wrote “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (7).” It would seem that in the spirit of this passage and the current state of the thief on the cross, that Rubens and Titian visually depicted what was spiritually taking place inside this thief’s soul. That as the thief on the cross was up there next to Jesus, his heart and mind were radically changed. A series of events that brought this man to a point of understanding.

Things like Jesus asking for the forgiveness of His executioners (8), soldiers dividing His garments by way of casting lots, and those passing by railing blasphemous statements towards Christ in a taunting way (9) all occurred before the thief on the cross had a change of heart. In the Gospel of Matthew (10), it even records both thieves mocking Jesus until a certain point where only the proud thief is left to mock Jesus. Sometime between both thieves mutually mocking Jesus and the proud thief continuing to mock Jesus, was there a sharp change in attitude from the thief on the cross.

A Change of Heart

What happened so suddenly that a thief dying on a cross would suddenly have a complete change in how he perceived Jesus? I’d argue it is a combination of moments, but for now we will only focus in on one aspect. What Jesus said and how He acted during this whole ordeal.

Gamelin2_t01
Anatomical Crucifixion Sketch | Jacques Gamelin, 1779 (12)

Just for a little more context, their punishment by way of crucifixion was not so nice. In fact, it was one of, if not the most painful form of torture at that time. According to Maslen and Mitchell’s article written in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (11), crucifixion had many cruel ways of ending one’s life.

Some of those causes of death may have been, but are not limited to acidosis, arrhythmia plus asphyxia, cardiac rupture, hypovolemic shock, and so on. Death by crucifixion was a brutal, yet extremely prolonged way to die. For some, they died in a matter of hours. For others, they died in a matter of days.

I believe of the three events that took place before the thief on the cross had a change of heart, the moment of Jesus forgiving His executioners had the most impact on the thief. Christ’s response showed the thief a direct contrast to the way He lived His own life. A seed of regret was planted.

Jesus forgave those that were killing Him. The two thieves probably hated those that were crucifying them. Jesus was known as an exorcist and a teacher who wanted to help the poor and sick. The two thieves were most likely men that spent the majority of their lives only helping themselves.

As if the name was any indication, these thieves were probably selfish. Christ was selfless. The thieves died for crimes they committed. Jesus died for crimes we committed. For the thief on the cross and from his perspective, this man was different in almost every single way from him and the other thief. They deserved this death, but Jesus didn’t.

This strong distinction between a thief and the giver of eternal life is a drastic black-and-white difference. One died for taking that which was someone else’s, while the other died for giving all that He had for others. This I believe is what changed the thief on the cross from mocking Jesus to defending Him in front of everyone.

By everyone, I mean everyone. Gentiles and Jews. Pharisees and Roman soldiers. Family, friends, neighbors, and so on. Everyone there at the crucifixion knew of or had heard of these three crucified men and were probably shocked watching the thief on the cross have a change of heart. A thief for the first time encountering something he had never seen before: unlimited love in response to unbridled hate. The love of God in reaction to the darkest of human deeds. The Gospel happening before his very eyes.

The short story of the thief on the cross ends in a profound way. Luke chronicles the rest of that story when he writes

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise (13).””

In response to the thief’s change of heart and his humble demeanor, God gives Him grace. A grace that surpasses all understanding. This is the thief and the cross. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Luke 23:40
  3. Luke 23:42
  4. https://ehrmanblog.org/why-romans-crucified-people/
  5. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/06/13/what-does-the-right-hand-symbolize-or-mean-in-the-bible/
  6. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/41.1.31/
  7. James 4:6-8b
  8. Luke 23:34
  9. Luke 23:35-37
  10. Matthew 27:44
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1420788/
  12. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/historicalanatomies/gamelin_home.html
  13. Luke 23:40-43

Who Is Chris Cribari?

Updated: 2/17/2019

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For those of you that are new to this blog, I figured it might be time to reintroduce myself to new visitors to this site. Who am I exactly? Well, here is a little about me.

I grew up in Southern California for the first ten years of my life and then my family moved to Colorado in July of 2007 for my Dad’s job where I have lived ever since. I was raised by my parents in the Calvary Chapel Movement, along with my four siblings. My four siblings are Rachel, John, Corban, and Nathan. My parents grew up in very broken homes, which directly influenced their strong emphasis on a family established on Christ first and foremost.

I came to faith in Christ when I was 9 in the summer of 2006 and have been a Christian ever since. My parents strong belief in Christianity had a great impact on my path towards the Christian faith, but the decision was all my own. I privately accepted Christ walking home from my friend David’s house where we were watching Playboy DVD’s after school. I publicly came to Christ at Calvary Chapel Oxnard’s Summer VBS a few weeks later when my VBS group leader explained the Gospel to me after I questioned him as to whether or not it was true.

I am and always have been an avid storyteller, along with an active listener to people’s stories. I started writing my first stories in either second or third grade and continue to write to this day. At home, I have stacks of partially-written novels, poems, sermon ideas, and short stories either on flash-drives or busting out of years-old binders. Writing allows my soul to speak truthfully, in spite of my high-spectrum autism disorder.

Because I love stories, I also love watching movies! When Blockbuster was still a thing, my siblings and I would watch our VHS movie collection to death as we rewatched our favorites all the time growing up. This collection that we had as kids contained the original Star Wars trilogy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Wallace & Gromit series, a pair of Jurassic Park movies, a few Val Kilmer movies like The Ghost in the Darkness, The Saint, and The Prince of Egypt, along with a few dozen other films.

When we got a little older, we boys got the privilege of watching my Dad’s infamous movie collection that holds some of the best films I’ve ever seen. This collection consisted of mostly war movies like Braveheart, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, The Patriot (2000), and We Were Soldiers. It also had other genre movies like A Beautiful Mind, Bandits, Equilibrium, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, The Matrix, The Passion of the Christ, and the Phantom of the Opera. It might just be a box of DVD’s, but it holds some of my favorite memories with my Dad.

When I have time to train, I occasionally compete in Strongman too. I was introduced to the sport by my mentor Andrew Morrison and have loved it ever since. I have competed four times and I am preparing for future competitions as well. Through my time training, I’ve met some of the world’s strongest men like Brian Shaw, Mike Burke, Robert Oberst, and Stan Caradine. My favorite Strongman lifts are Atlas Stones, Deadlift, and Log Press.
My theological stance is Molinist, while my preference on church function leans heavily towards Anabaptist. I currently am a member and serve at LifeGate Denver as a youth pastor.

My favorite apologists are John Lennox, Ravi Zacharias, and William Lane Craig. Although some honorable influences also include Alvin Plantinga, C.S. Lewis, Hugh Ross, James White, Michael L. Brown, Nabeel Qureshi, Norman Geisler, Peter Kreeft, R. C. Sproul, and Voddie Baucham. My parents taught me the basics of Christianity when I was young and from there I have continued to develop my own systematic theology as I mature in the faith.

I attended the Colorado Film School and have an education in screenwriting, along with directing for the screen. I’m in the process of writing two books. The first book is a fictional novel that focuses on a married couple grieving a stillborn birth and the problem of suffering. The other book is like Mere Christianity, but for the modern world.

I started this blog because it gave me the opportunity to speak freely about whatever is on my mind. People have also asked and encouraged me to write, so that inspired me as well. Most importantly, I believe God put me on this planet to write for Him.

This blog started in June of 2015 and will continue to go on as long as God wills. I’m Chris Cribari and this is just a frame of my life. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Mentors That Made Me A Man: Kevin King

Updated: 4/14/2019

In life, mentors get overlooked for all of the hard work that they do in our lives. So today I want to take the time to write about a constant mentor in my life that has now become a good friend of mine. This mentor is Kevin King and he loves coffee. But more than coffee, he loves Jesus.

When trying to remember when exactly Kevin and I met is hard to say, but I do know that it was about 2007 – 2008. Growing up, some of us called him “California Kevman” since he’s native to California and is considered the spiritual uncle to most of the kids that grew up at Calvary Chapel Aurora. If the youth group was planning an event, then chances were likely that the King family was going to be there.

A lot of those events were concerts. We went to a lot of them and saw dozens of musicians like The Whosoevers, Kutless, Fireflight, TFK, KJ-52, The Letter Black, Disciple, Lecrae, and a ton more through the years. Although we always went and saw Skillet if they were in town because that was the favorite growing up. In fact, for one Skillet concert we waited hours outside in below freezing temperatures just to see them live.

As I progressed in age Kevin would become not just my Dad’s friend, but my friend as well. He also loves movies, comic books, and always memes. Whenever the latest comic book movie would arrive in theaters, we would gather together and discuss every detail for hours on end. Kevin is also known around town as the most faithful Transformers fan you may ever meet in your life and also for his theological prowess that he learned mostly from being a self-taught student in apologetics. That in itself is an impressive feat for a guy who knows so much, yet is so humble when you encounter him.

It was his influential mentoring that led to my love for apologetics as he was the one who introduced me to William Lane Craig and later on to the Christian school of thought called Molinism, which I now have adopted fully into my systematic theology. Especially in my high school years, Kevin has been there when I have wrestled and been challenged with the toughest questions I have ever encountered in my faith with Christ. And he has done the same for all those kids that he has always been the spiritual uncle to as they matured into adulthood.

Through the years, some of our best memories were when we would gather around the dinner table at one of our friends or one of those students houses, and just talk about what was on our hearts. It could be funny, it could be uncomfortable, or even depressing, but nothing was really ever left unsaid. There was always an unmatched honesty in those late night conversations that I will always treasure. It was those late nights that gave me some of the most spiritual insight into the world around me and strengthened the relationships of those I loved like family.

As a widower for several years now, Kevin has had the opportunity to be there for those who are hurting most as he can relate in a very real way to their suffering. He has suffered through the years as a single father whose children, Alex and Cassie, I grew up with in my upbringing. In another respect, he also knows the reality of isolation as he is both an apologetics man and a single father. If anyone knows anything about apologetics, it’s that the apologist is in absolute surrender to the truth in their pursuit of God. In contrast, they are surrounded by lukewarm Christians who favor comfort over Christ. Kevin always seemed to choose Christ over comfort every time.

Kevin showed me how to bring Christianity back to the intellectual powerhouse that it once was in the days of Origen or Thomas Aquinas. Due to our passion for inconvenient truths, we stand isolated from the masses that just want to hear what feels good, instead of hearing what is the only good thing: God Himself.

Above all, Kevin has a vision to reach out to foreign countries and teach apologetics to pastors who are not educated enough to suit the needs of their local congregations. His zeal for the missions field is inspiring and uplifting to all who know him as a faithful brother in the Lord. He is huge on apologetic-evangelism, active service within the local church, and investing in the youth as we are the future of the church here on Earth.

I’m thankful for the impact he has had in my life both in helping course-correct me in personal devotion to God and instructing this theologian in the making on how to be a coherent, yet caring Christian apologist. As he has repeatedly said to me over the years, “I believe God has put me in a position to train up the next William Lane Craig and I believe that Adam Brill (a mutual friend of ours) and you could be that guy.” So whether Adam, myself, or the both of us become the future of apologetics down the road, then I hope that Kevin realizes the great influence he has had on those he has mentored in his life. Those he has pointed right back to God when they came to him for answers to their puzzling questions.

Kevin, like other notable godly men of the past, is a man of prayer and this makes him an absolute sin-slayer as he can rightly divide the truth from the lies that creep in from every side. The lies that may turn one away are the very lies that Kevin cuts down with the truth of the Gospel and the Bible with the methodology of a well-skilled apologist. It’s kind of awesome just watching God use him to draw the thinker to belief and the believer to think. All in all, Thank you Kevin for being a mentor that made me a man. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Leaving So Soon?

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 3/25/2019

There is an epidemic in the church. This brewing problem has been growing exponentially since the 1950s when the youth culture truly took root in the West. It was a time of peace after WWII when the war for the hearts of the next generation flourished under the guise of prosperity and progress.

Whether that be the technological advancements, the race relations that led to the Civil Rights Movement, or the sexual revolution that changed the way we process perversity versus pleasure. This youth culture, Gen Z especially, has been in the process of a mass-exodus of sorts in fleeing the church to join the culture. According to various studies, “70 percent of youth stop attending church when they graduate from high school. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church (2).” As my good friend Andrew Morrison keeps saying, “we are on the verge of a second 1960s counterculture revolution” and this revolution is going to get ugly.

Now who exactly is leaving and why are they leaving so soon? To be precise, the youth from middle school to college are leaving the church. By ‘the church’ I mean that as both Christianity specifically and religion in general, as the youth embrace the pressures of society to conform to the inward and outward expressions of sin. This grand departure is happening primarily in the Western part of the world (i.e. North America and Europe), which is due to a number of circumstances.

From personal online investigation to public inquiry with others in this age range, I have whittled down the leading reasons as to why the youth are leaving so soon to 5 options. These 5 options include a) unable to freely question, b) not enough reason to believe in God beyond morally therapeutic deism (3), c) not challenged or tested to do otherwise in their way of thinking, d) objective truths have been exchanged for relevant subjectivism, and e) other undisclosed reasons that are specific to the individual. Regarding the last option for instance, the problem of suffering has caused a lot of people to leave because of both immense personal doubt and sorrow, along with the theological implications over any given situation of suffering (natural disaster, miscarriage, rape, etc). Another notable example for the final option would be the controversial views of the church as it is both pro-life and for traditional marriage, rather than pro-choice and in support of non-traditional forms of marriage.

This ‘generation gap’ of the youth rebelling against the truth has been an issue that has always been present within the church as it lies in direct conflict with the culture and its way of thinking. For the youthful in particular, one of the greatest choices one can make is whether to go with the flow downstream (i.e. the culture) or go against the flow upstream (i.e. the church). Once one chooses either option, they must therefore reject the other for we are to be in the world, but not of it as Christ’s church (4).

The question remains: how do we avoid leaving so soon or if we have already left, how do we come back home to Christ and in fellowship with His church? As I have thought upon this topic, I believe the answer lies in one of my favorite books in the Bible: the book of Colossians. It is here where I think the young believer, such as you or someone you know, can find solutions to this inveterate problem in the church.

Just as the prodigal in Luke chapter 15 left to indulge in sin and was still a son of his father, we too are sometimes in a state of being a prodigal, but we do have the hope of always being a child of God as believers. There is always the hope that no matter how far a believer temporarily runs away from God, they still have the opportunity to turn back and ask for forgiveness. In the book of Colossians, we find 5 factors that will guide us on the straight and narrow or for those of us who have already left so soon, a way back home. The first of these factors is a matter of the mind.

1) Protect Our Minds

“I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument… See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (5).”

In this day and age, the battle for the mind has never been a more intense struggle for the youth. Whether we acknowledge it or not the Enemy, the World, and even our own sin nature desire to corrupt our minds to the point of permanent decimation. Do not give in to those temptations. Resist and fight back by protecting your mind as you hold fast to the truth of Christ’s victory at the cross and pray for the LORD to do a work within you.

Know what Jesus died and rose again for in the first place. Know the truths of Scripture. Most importantly, stay on guard spiritually. This is where apologetics is key for personal devotion in the believers life. Apologetics is the sledgehammer of evangelism because it destroys strongholds of skepticism hiding in our hearts, but also acts as a chisel of continuous refinement as we seek to be more Christ-like as believers. Apologetics protects the mind, but prayer solidifies that defense like nothing else.

By knowing the truth and consistently learning to be better equipped mentally, the believer is that much more ready for the battle of the mind. Nothing can stop the truth and if Jesus is the truth (6), then we can have full assurance in times of doubt that what we believe is worth fighting for in the end both mentally and spiritually. Fight off the mental warfare of this world system that is intent on crushing you.

Get up and brush off those books. Be a student of God by protecting your mind with the truths of God’s Word and His glorious Creation through the avenue of apologetics, while at the same time constantly praying for God to shield your mind from what knowledge cannot protect you from. We live in the information age and we should act like it for once as the church. The best offense is a better defense. Be an apologist, not an apostate. Be informed, not uninformed.

2) Purpose In Our Minds

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (7).”

After the mind is protected, it must be redirected to the things of God. To purpose in our minds and to think upon the spiritually good, rather than the spiritually bad will ensure a sober mind for the backsliding believer seeking to please God. Be sober and be vigilant as the Apostle Peter once said (8). Think like Christ thinks. As Daniel purposed in his mind to honor the LORD by obeying the Mosaic Law (9), so too we must purpose in our minds to honor God above all else through the process of renewing our minds (10). It will take time to reconfigure the way you think, but it is a natural change as you turn back to God.

3) Purpose In Our Church Body

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (11).”

From the mental to the social, Paul lines out how we should purpose and aim as the church to live as one body of believers submitted to the authority of God’s Word. There must be a deliberate attempt to be in constant fellowship with other believers because it is what unifies the Bride of Christ in a way that glorifies God. We bear burdens, we forgive sins, we wisely teach, we wisely admonish, and most of all love because He first loved us.

As Christians, either we are one or we are none. As was said by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses (12).” Be active in both the local church you attend and the church at large. Pray with believers and seek God. Camaraderie is the key in a community, especially for us as the church. As the 1st century Christians lived (13), so we should live in fellowship with one another in Jesus name.

4) Purpose In Our Hearts

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (14).”

For most, if not all who leave so soon, it is a matter of the heart. By a matter of the heart, I mean to say a combination of internal motivations and external attitudes we may have in our day-to-day living. These things must change as we purpose in our hearts not to live like we once did, but to live according to what the LORD insists for each and every one of us. The Israelites had to purpose in their hearts as they chose to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength (15). Once you know how to love God, only then will you be able to love.

Later on in history, we find Ezra the priest and scribe displaying this fourth point in action as he “set his heart” on learning the Word of God, living out the Word of God, before teaching others in a like manner (16). Yet before any outward actions took place, Ezra had to fix his heart and aim it towards God. We must do likewise, if we intend on getting right with God before our inevitable prodigal exodus or on the way back from one. We must set both our minds and our hearts on the things above, not on the things below.

5) Purpose In Our Speech

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person (17).”

Nothing says that you are looking to change quite like the way you transform the way you speak to others. How do you communicate to people? To family? To friends? To enemies? Can you truthfully say that you speak with a courteous and tactful manner that stands out from when you chose to leave God or before you were even with God? Is there a difference in the way you talk from when you were a prodigal to now as another member of the pasture of the Good Shepherd?

Eventually, on the way back to the loving arms of the Lord you should notice a change in the way you speak. Not just in vocabulary, but most importantly the intent of your speech in the first place. Why do you talk in the first place? What is the intent in what you say when, where, why, and how you say it? Jesus put special emphasis on what we say (18) as it can lead to either our declaration of our salvation in Christ or our damnation away from His grace.

In his book, Fool’s Talk, author Os Guinness lays out the biblical pattern in which every believer should speak both publicly in social gatherings and even privately in our hearts and minds. He argues that everyone is a fool. Either you are a fool for Christ or a fool of the world. As Jesus put it when preaching on the Beatitudes, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (19), so in all things learn to speak wisdom. Like salt, speak in a way that preserves the humanity of whoever you talk to, while simultaneously expelling the hardheartedness of their sin nature. It’s about time we spoke like fools.

Final Thoughts

It’s a hard road leaving sin to seek the Savior, but is totally worth it in the end. Adjustments will be made both consciously and unconsciously as you grow more spiritually attuned to God’s liking and as the Holy Spirit does His refining work within you. If we return back to God, then we will radically change in three main ways: our thought life, our feelings, and our speech. This trifecta can be seen in the return home for the prodigal son of Luke 15 and is a pattern that has been seen in every prodigal throughout time.

Be against the flow, not with it! Return to the Lord and all His goodness! Put on the full armor of God and doing all to stand up to sin, stay standing. I pray that God would do a mighty work in you as He guides your mind, heart, and words to be in alignment with His Word.

Why are you leaving so soon? Your life with God has only just begun! Stay and see what the triune God has in store for you. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. http://www.churchleaders.com/children/childrens-ministry-articles/166129-marc-solas-10-surprising-reasons-our-kids-leave-church.htmlhttp://crossexamined.org/youth-exodus-problem/. See also Galatians 5:7-8 when Paul the Apostle address the same issue in the first century.
  3. http://www.christianpost.com/news/top-3-false-christian-beliefs-leading-americas-youth-astray-american-family-association-172100/
  4. NASB John 17:9-16
  5. NASB Colossians 2:4, 8
  6. NASB John 14:6
  7. NASB Colossians 3:2
  8. KJV 1 Peter 5:8
  9. NASB Daniel 1:8
  10. NASB Romans 12:2-3
  11. NASB Colossians 3:12-17
  12. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (P. 86)
  13. NKJV Acts 2:42, NKJV 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22, NKJV Hebrews 10:23-25
  14. NASB Colossians 3:23-24
  15. NKJV Deuteronomy 6:5-7
  16. NASB Ezra 7:10
  17. NASB Colossians 4:5-6
  18. NASB Matthew 12:36-37
  19. NLT Luke 6:45

 

 

Isolated Together

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 3/21/2019

Believe it or not, there once was a time when people had to talk in person. Face-to-face, breathing the same air, in the same space, and hold eye contact. Crazy right? It was a time where people did this crazy thing called personal communication. A blissful span of time where when one person wanted to interact socially with another person, they would actually interact with that person socially. But that all changed with one simple, yet immensely influential tool: social media.

It is the connective tissue of the 21st century. The webbing of the social spider that travels back and forth across the internet. In today’s world, it is not too hard to go about your day without being confronted by the ripple effects of social media. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Kikme, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube or the like, their presence is well known to almost everyone. Yet have we ever stepped back and asked “Just as there are good side effects to social media use, can there be bad ones as well?”

Unequivocally, the answer is yes. While social media has paved the way for great advancements in society such as the expansion of globalization, introducing us to the information age, a more-informed public, and instant communication. On the flip side, it has also brought with it negative side effects with short and long lasting impressions on modern mankind. For the sake of time, I will focus on three briefly in this blog-post: the physical effects, the sociological effects, and the spiritual effects. First let’s start with the physical effects.

The Physical Effects

If it was not apparent already, social media has over time altered human anatomy and the way we move about in life. This can be seen in how some people have severe curves in the vertebrae due to slouching over a computer desk (or a mobile device) when interacting online. This curvature is evident in their backs or necks, along with the rise in the general population being diagnosed with some form of nearsightedness. Various studies on this issue have concluded that “Between 1970 and 2000, myopia — nearsightedness — prevalence in the U.S. rose from 25 percent to nearly 42 percent among people ages 12 to 54” (2) and with the spike of online interaction via social media, the numbers have continued to climb.

Other common symptoms include, but are not limited to obesity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and even more serious addictions that are directly caused by the abuse of social media. These more serious addictions that stem from the gateway drug of the digital world range from substance abuse to an increase in anxiety related mental health issues in adolescents. This is due to such variables as the amount of information available online through hyper-networking, the brain seeking different stimulations to hit high dopamine levels, and the addictive nature of social media leading to misconstrued fantasies. Studies now show that Gen Z is one of the most depressed and least sexually active generations too, which can be indicative of the effects of social media. In the long run, social media is changing us physically.

The Sociological Effects

Allen and co. in the Australian Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology 31 [(1):1-14 · July 2014] conducted an experiment exploring the effects of social media on adolescents (i.e. Gen Z) and concluded that

Mixed findings are reported regarding the role that social media plays in fostering social connectedness, which suggests that young people may experience both positive and negative psychological outcomes. As a result, this article argues that online tools create a paradox for social connectedness. On one hand, they elevate the ease in which individuals may form and create online groups and communities, but on the other, they can create a source of alienation and ostracism (3).”

This ostracised Gen Z has formed a socio-conscious isolated togetherness where they are together, but isolated in attention and activity. Similar to how people disengage on an airplane flight, they are all heading to the same destination with the same people for a specified duration of time, but are completely removed from social interaction whatsoever with their fellow neighbors. Why?

Hard to say, but being isolated together is something we all do in certain situations like riding the bus or waiting in line at the DMV, except now Gen Z does it to friends and family. Not total strangers, but those closest to them both in culture and community. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd that they would rather stare at blue lit phones, than enjoy the company of their loved ones? For Gen Z, we are setting the example that this is normal and they are following our lead.

Regardless, social media also plays off of this “us vs. them” mentality innate in all of us by giving us an outlet to feed our egos in moments of complete social isolation. We can pretend we are together with someone we know virtually, when in reality we are alone with strangers or even with no one around. Odd how instead of expanding our social circles when introduced to new personalities in our world, we keep our small circles squares and inevitably block ourselves into our own tiny bubble castles with those we would rather talk to, instead of talking to those people.

It’s amazing how Christians still wonder why evangelism is dead in the West. We chose to preach to the church, instead of the community. We would rather exchange cute quotes with those who believe what we believe, than share worldviews with those whose beliefs delineate from our own ideas regarding what is true. A pluralistic society like America can quickly become poisonous if the bridges that bring us together are burned down in the face of filtered tolerance.

The Spiritual Effects

This is the most important effect and I see it a lot. Less praying and more posting. Although social disconnectedness is bad, along with physical deterioration from electronic overuse, nothing is worse than spiritual separation. As we spend more and more of our time online, we spend less and less with God. We prefer tweeting, rather than serious study of God’s Word. We would rather check Instagram for hearts, then check our hearts for sin.

This spiritual separation is our ultimate devolution and is yet another blockade from connecting with our great God. With all of our attention on ourselves, we blur the line between who we are and who we say we are to the world. As we jump into the matrix of the digital world, we place our masks on and dance along with the masquerade of happiness that so many of us lie about. A lot of us pretend to be content and happy, yet our “good vibes” cannot rebuild this spiritual separation.

The only cure to this disconnect with God is to disconnect from social media and all other distractions that draw us away from God. We then are able to reconnect with God when we are at a distraction-less state and ready to commune with our Maker. For the sake of our spiritual channel of relation to God, we may need to cut down on our consumption of social media and our desire to connect digitally.

Conclusion

By this point, you may think I am some sort of Amish, “technology is Satanic” types of people that completely avoids anything modern. That could not be farther from the truth. In fact, I use social media all the time! It’s my job as a content creator and I use it frequently for ministry too. The only reason I would be against social media use is when it affects me or others physically, socially, and/or spiritually. If one or all of those factors are hindered, then it is time to unplug and fix those because your body, your social circles, and our God matter more than viral videos.

Is social media bad? No, not at all. Does it have both good and bad connotations when using it excessively on a daily basis? Yes, it does.

Like fitness, the pursuit of being physically healthy and in shape is not bad at all. Indeed, it is really good for you and has lots of benefits. But when someone decides to workout every single day for hours on end they hit a point where their conventional habit turns into an addiction with negative effects. As Dr. Holly Parker, a Harvard University psychologist and certified personal trainer, once said in an article for Fox News, “The benefits you want from working out—getting leaner, stronger, healthier—reverse when you don’t take breaks” (4). Put plainly, too much good can be bad. Use social media however and whenever you want, but take a break when needed.

In short, it really is a balancing act as you use social media to touch base with loved ones and meet new people, while in the same respect getting instant news and entertainment. With that, there has to be a point where you must decide when you have had enough for one day. Take a break and do something else. There is no need to be online 24/7.

It’s not healthy to stay wired all the time. For once, take a break for not only your own sake, but for the sake of others. Learn to understand the value of life and time by taking moments throughout your day-to-day routine to appreciate the simply astounding things no app could ever capture. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. http://www.thegazette.com/subject/life/health-social-media-affects-the-teens-tweens-physical-and-mental-health-20150226
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260289323_Social_Media_Use_and_Social_Connectedness_in_Adolescents_The_Positives_and_the_Potential_Pitfalls. See both this link http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/social-networks-and-health-communicable-but-not-infectious and this link http://www.med.upenn.edu/chbr/documents/AmyGonzales-PublicHealthandSocialMediaTalk.pdf for more information regarding the effects of social media on our sociological state of being.
  4. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/09/27/how-much-working-out-is-too-much.html

Three Trees

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 3/21/2019

This is a tale of three trees.

One tree grants the beholder immortality,

While another gives knowledge of morality.

This tale begins in a garden.

At first there is only a human,

But he becomes accompanied by the mother of women.

As the two wander,

They begin to wonder,

And curiosity begets the female traveler.

For of the three trees, only one came with a warning.

The tree of life being one of the many meant for eating.

But the tree of good and evil symbolized mankind’s future erring,

With the underpinnings of sinning.

For the serpent of old has arrived,

Bringing with him his own pride,

That so happens to be why he died.

With the snake slithering past every leaf,

Is the ever encroaching presence of the prince of thieves.

As the cunning snake dangles downward,

The woman ever so slowly goes forward.

As the Devil invites her to taste and see,

She avoids her chance to run and flee.

With the slither of Satan’s lies,

Came Eve’s enraptured eyes.

As she aspires to be wise,

Her desires begin to rise.

The fruit is within Eve’s hand,

As she is one bite away from being damned.

With the very first bite,

Eve realizes that the Devil was right!

For when she ate of the fruit,

Eve soon discovered this strange compute.

From knowing only good,

The woman has only added fire to wood.

As the decay began that day,

Eve no longer had a say.

Her goodness had been tainted by sin,

And too would it be in all humans built-in.

Once sin took its foothold,

Eve did not want to stand alone in the cold.

So she gave to her man,

And suddenly took his unblemished lifespan.

Pretty soon the two were no longer good,

Yet if they could go back they would.

But it is too late now,

For man is now putting his hand to the plow.

For we are dust,

All because of lust.

To dust we shall return,

Before some will forever burn.

Although a few will get to waltz into a glorious new home,

Far more beautiful than the pinnacle of Rome.

This new home is for the Christian,

And with every fleeting moment there is a new addition,

Due to the adherence to the Great Commission.

For Adam gave life to sin in every human,

While Jesus gave His life for sin that we can be born again.

He did this so that we might be grafted into salvation,

In order to bring about the redemption of His Creation.

Since the day we brought forth this ruckus,

The Father has sought to bring about justice.

So the Father sent His Son Jesus,

To save us from the Fall in Genesis.

You see he died on the third tree,

A cross that changed history,

Jesus atoned for all on Calvary.

This all began because of a choice between two trees,

And the choice was left to Eve.

So when the snares of sin come swarming like bees,

Consider the consequences of your actions please.

Footnotes

  1. The Three Trees (1643) by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Discipled and How to Stay That Way

Photo Cred: (1)| Updated: 3/13/2019

Discipleship. It is the process where the knowledge, skills, and teachings of a person or society are passed down onto the next generation, in order to preserve the ideals of a former time. It is the evolution of information from one generation to the next that bears great significance in almost every culture. From the śrāvaka system of followers in Buddhism to knighthood in the European Middle Ages where a child would work their way from Page to Squire to Knight (1), the passing on of discipleship has always been key.
Even in modern times, academics has become a sort of discipleship, although instead of strictly studying under only one mentor there is the luxury of accumulating mass amounts of information under many mentors within a short span of time. Yet there are other ways of discipleship, such as craftsmen with a specific skill set like a woodworker or a mechanic. Regardless, discipleship is a key to human development.
So then, what is discipleship in Christianity and why is it so crucial for Christians? In simple terms, a disciple is “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another (2).” In this case, that would be the doctrines of Church Tradition, which originate with the teachings of Jesus that were rooted in Judaism. Even then, Judaism was directly instructed by God to the Hebrew people who passed it on through each and every generation. Within a Christian context, there are 5 varying levels of discipleship: the 1, the 3, the 12, the 70, and the masses. Shown below is an example of this breakdown of those that Jesus discipled:

  • The 1: Peter
  • The 3: Peter, James the son of Zebedee, and John
  • The 12: Peter, James the son of Zebedee, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot
  • The 70: the appointed 70 (or 72) sent in 35 (or 36) pairs into the cities that Jesus would eventually go
  • The Masses: The crowds that would gather during specific moments of Jesus Christ’s 3-year ministry

If we were to use this template for one of my mentors, Andrew Morrison, it would look something like this for the men he mentored at one point:

  • The 1: Bailey
  • The 3: Bailey, Chris, and David
  • The 12: Bailey, Chris, David, Zachary, John, Jeremiah, Yomar, Daniel, Jaden, Samuel, Taylor, and Jeffrey
  • The 70: the youth group of students
  • The Masses: all the students that have ever interacted or met Andrew

So what is expected of a disciple? What does a disciple of Christ do and what did the disciples do when Jesus was still on Earth? In retrospect, the disciples were expected to do a lot from Jesus such as having authority over unclean spirits (3), instructed them to feed the 5,000 (4), commanded them to not rebuke those that cast out evil spirits in His name (5), and even giving up family to follow Him (6). These are just a few examples from the Gospel of Mark, but there are numerous other instances where Jesus expects His disciples through faith in Him to do the remarkable.
But what do we do once our mentors leave us and move onto the next calling God has drawn them towards in life? In actuality it is quite simple: do what your mentor did. Now I know that can be a vague answer, so allow me to breakdown what most mentors do by using the greatest example which is Jesus.
In the few years that Jesus had a ministry, He did some distinct things that every mentor does concerning discipleship. He chose His disciples (7), He lived life with His disciples (8), and taught them all that they needed to know before it was time for Him to leave (9). Put simply, the disciples of Christ and the disciple of any mentor is a) selected, b) schooled, c) and sent (10). This third and final point is when the discipleship cycle repeats itself. When Jesus left to go to Heaven, each of the twelve took on disciples to teach what they were taught to bring about the furtherance of the Gospel message. For instance, Peter discipled John-Mark, while John discipled both Prochorus and Polycarp.
Contrary to some, the twelve didn’t choose Jesus, rather Jesus chose His twelve disciples (11). After Jesus chose them, then they chose to answer the invitation and follow Him. Likewise, when your time comes to disciple another, you must choose them first as the disciple-maker. Then that person that you choose, whoever it may be, must decide whether or not to follow you as you follow Christ.
Regarding living life together, Jesus ate with his disciples, had the twelve report back to Him regarding their mission trips and outreaches (12), along with private sermons during their travels (13). It was this intimate exposure and schooling that led to the ultimate martyrdom of 10 disciples, the suicide of Judas Iscariot due to self-inflicted condemnation, and John’s death in exile on the island of Patmos. The effect that Jesus had on those who knew Him best was extraordinary.
This same effect will be present in the relationships that a mentor and a disciple have with each other. An unbreakable bond of friendship or sadly for some, an absolutely heartbreaking end for either the mentor or the disciple. The key to the heartbreak is forgiveness because for you mentors, your disciples will fail you and for you disciples, your mentors will fail you. Forgiveness and grace must always be present in these interactions of learning. Mentors choose wisely and disciples follow discerningly.
Now one more point must be addressed and that is this: the difference between parenting and mentoring. The two are usually smashed together, but I see them as separate roles that one can have in their lifetime. A parent, whether father or mother, has the role of equipping their children with how to live in life. They teach us how to dress, how to behave, how to talk, how to eat, how to maintain personal cleanliness, how to treat others, and other skills that we all need to know. All the necessities and essentials of life, in order to properly operate in our given society or culture. Basically, our ultimate well-being during our upbringing.
A mentor is someone that chooses you to learn a specific skill or share a certain message. They are the sports coaches, the school teachers, and the managers that we all have had in our lives. They teach us how to perform in our selective sport or how to be the best that we can be at our jobs that may become careers. They may teach us mathematics, science, history, or any other academic pursuit, but nevertheless teach us the specifics of said pursuit.
Parenting is a familial, whether biological or adoptive, inherited affair that has the sole purpose of teaching the generalities in life to your child(ren). Mentoring is a non-familial, chosen affair that has the sole purpose of teaching the specifics in life to your student(s). In other words, a parent may teach you how to change the oil in your car or how to change a tire, but a mentor teaches you every facet of what the car is and how to build one to its fullest potential. How to survive versus how to thrive.
Back to the topic at hand, how does one stay discipled? You stay disciplined in the ways of your mentor by living out what was taught to you by your mentor. In this case, follow them as they follow Christ. Do what they did. What did they do? They did their best to emulate what Jesus lived. He selected His disciples, He schooled them in all that they needed to know, and once they were done being schooled were consequently sent out to select new disciples in Jesus name.
Discipleship was and never is easy. It costs a lot. A lot more than you could ever imagine. The role of a mentor is costly because you have taken the responsibility to pour everything that you know to be true into this soul that may or may not take in what you have to say. Jesus referred to discipleship as a daily dying of self (14) and this is the best description of discipleship. Die to self to give life to another. The ultimate sacrifice for there is no greater love than to lay your life down for a friend (15).
Press on and stand strong. It may be time to leave your mentor to be a mentor, but do not be afraid because you follow Jesus. Don’t become distracted with the affairs of this life. Be attentive. Don’t attend a church. Be the church. Don’t be a church goer. Be a church constructor. Above all, be a fisher of men by being a disciple-maker. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. http://www.lordsandladies.org/steps-to-knighthood.htm
  2. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/disciple?s=t
  3. Mark 6:7-13
  4. Mark 6:33-44
  5. Mark 9:38-40
  6. Mark 10:28-31
  7. Mark 1:14-20, Mark 2:14
  8. Mark 2:15-17
  9. Mark 4:33-34
  10. My Dad created this three-word description of discipleship: selected, schooled, and sent out.
  11. John 15:16
  12. Mark 6:30
  13. Mark 8:14-21
  14. Luke 9:23
  15. John 15:13

Dear Brad and Rachel

Photo Cred: Steve Martin | Updated: 3/13/2019

Dear Bradford,

When we first met, I thought you were weird. After many years of being your friend, I still think you’re weird. From our summer camp experiences in youth group to our thrift store crawls after a bustling night of vending at Coors Field, you have never seized to be instantaneously fun when the time calls for it. With that said, the attribute that I will always associate with you is diligent perseverance when it’s time to go to work. The way you buckle in and finish everything you do in life with excellence is an admirable trait that the majority of men our age sadly are severely lacking, including me.

In remembrance of this admirable trait, I am reminded of Genesis 2:15. A verse I uphold with great significance as to what it means to not only be human, but how to be a man after God’s own heart. For God created with the intent that we would take care of His Creation. If we know anything about our world and gardens in particular, it is that they require a good gardener to “cultivate it and keep it (1)” from becoming overgrown or branching away from the original design.

Every person that is of Christ has been given a garden from God to cultivate and keep together. Hence, our lives are gardens. Even those who are not of Christ have been endowed with a garden to cultivate and maintain, but those gardens bear bad fruit. We must trim and maintain these gardens. Eventually, we will present what we did with these God-given gardens to the Gardener that wept for His Creation in the Garden of Gethsemane (2) not to long ago before dying on a tree.

Brad, you’re a married man now. All that is yours is now Rachel’s too. Like all aspects of life, with the addition of time comes the addition of responsibility for the time we have lived. Be responsible and respectful of God’s garden and watch the fruits of your labor flourish as the years go by, which may include a quiver of children one day in the future.

Walk humbly before God. May this new change in the dynamics of your garden be one of challenge, yet of great gain. In all things, be the husband your wife needs, then the one she wants. Above all, “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good and abstain from every form of evil (3).”

Your brother in law and in the LORD,

Chris Cribari

 

Dear Rachel,

Your day has finally arrived. The one that you have dreamed of and prayed for fervently is finally here. Now your wedding is the past and the present is at hand. Now is the time to seize time by taking every opportunity to glorify God in all that you do, which now includes marriage. Although marriage is a new dynamic to your life, it is a new tree that must be cared for on a daily basis.

From our long nights talking about the greater good found in God to the the obscure photo shoots we would have every so often, the attribute of yours that sticks out the most to me is how eager you’re to help others. How when we were younger and my autism was much more prevalent in those days, you helped me figure out the world as I was not quite like the other kids. It was your kindness and ability to aid others that has to be your greatest attribute. When Bradford came onto the scene to sweep you off of your feet, it fit perfectly with the groove of our family’s rhythm. With Bradford’s diligent perseverance and your elegant grace in helping others, the two of you fit excellently together.

Take our father and mother’s greatest attributes, Dad’s gratitude and Mom’s grace, with you into your covenant with your knight in shinning armor. Never forget the lessons of your youth and remain in the pursuit of truth. Let each passing day with its inevitable challenges bring forth comfort as you rest in the fact that you never have to face these challenges alone. Oh, and happily ever after. Always and forever.

Your brother in blood and the blood of Christ,

Chris Cribari

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Genesis 2:15 (NASB)
  2. Matthew 26:36 (NASB)
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NASB)