20 July 2011

A Blog About Memphis.

A friend told me that I should blog about Memphis. Here it is.

Memphis (Arabic: ممفس‎; Egyptian Arabic: ممفيس; Greek: Μέμφις) was the ancient capital of Aneb-Hetch, the first nome of Lower Egypt. Its ruins are located near the town of Helwan, south of Cairo.

According to legend related by Manetho, the city was founded by the pharaoh Menes around 3000 BC. Capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, it remained an important city throughout ancient Mediterranean history.[1][2][3] It occupied a strategic position at the mouth of the Nile delta, and was home to feverish activity. Its principal port, Peru-nefer, harboured a high density of workshops, factories, and warehouses that distributed food and merchandise throughout the ancient kingdom. During its golden age, Memphis thrived as a regional centre for commerce, trade, and religion.

Memphis was believed to be under the protection of the god Ptah, the patron of craftsmen. Its great temple, Hut-ka-Ptah(meaning "Enclosure of the ka of Ptah"), was one of the most prominent structures in the city. The name of this temple, rendered in Greek as Aί γυ πτoς (Ai-gy-ptos) by the historian Manetho, is believed to be the etymological origin of the modern English name Egypt.

The history of Memphis is closely linked to that of the country itself. Its eventual downfall is believed to be due to the loss of its economical significance in late antiquity, following the rise of coastal Alexandria. Its religious significance also diminished after the abandonment of the ancient religion following the Edict of Thessalonica.

The ruins of the former capital today offer fragmented evidence of its magnificent past. They have been preserved, along with the pyramid complex at Giza, as a World Heritage Site since 1979. The site is open to the public as an open-air museum.

10 May 2011

What god drove us apart?

"What god would damn a heart?
What god drove us apart?
What god could?"

-Rise Against, "Make It Stop"

I just bought the new Rise Against album, and I wanted to write about this song called "Make It Stop." The song is about boys who have committed suicide for being teased and bullied in school for being gay.

Since I'm going to be a teacher, I will undoubtedly have to deal with these issues. Bullying is a serious problem, and words cut deeply. I'm sure I will learn a ton this next year about how to deal with kids who make fun of others who are different and to be supportive of kids who feel isolated or hated because of their same-sex attractions.

I think back to my days in middle school and high school. I remember when the words "gay" and "fag" were a forceful presence in my vocabulary of derogatory words, directed at other people who I deemed lesser than myself. I can't get those moments back. I take responsibility and the blame for the stupid and hurtful things I said.

What I can do is work to change this for future kids. I can talk about this kind of stuff with them. I can set an example by not tolerating name-calling, teasing, etc. I can show them that all people are all important in God's eyes, no matter what gender they are attracted to.

If you are a Christian, as I am, I hope you realize the need to actively fight against the hate our religion has caused to the LGBTQ community. Whether you think a homosexual lifestyle is sinful or not, it is crucial that we show love to our neighbors, and not try to change them. Love first. If someone rejects that lifestyle, great, let's help him or her with that. If not, we still love.

In the song, it says, "What god drove us apart?" Whatever god that is, that has fueled so many "Christians" to hate others, it's not the God of Abraham and Jacob that I follow. I'm sorry for the times I've rejected the one true God and decided to serve the god of hate. Let's show everyone the love and truth of our God instead.

22 April 2011


The two weeks that Brother Jed was preaching on campus, I estimate that I spent a total of at least 35 hours at Brother Jed functions, including talking to people at Speakers Circle, going to the Christian vs. Atheist Debate, and even going to Brother Jed's house for dinner with 30 or so other Christians, atheists, and agnostics. In that time, I got to talk to more people about Jesus and faith than I ever have.

So, before I get into the topic of the blog, I want to put in my Speakers Circle evangelism plug to any of the Christians who might read this who will be at Mizzou next year (or any campus where street preaching happens). When Jed is preaching, we have one of the BEST OPPORTUNITIES to talk to people about Christ. Of course, we will probably disagree with a lot of what Jed says, but WHO FREAKIN CARES. Seriously, it doesn't matter. Because there are almost always a ton of people sitting around listening to Jed and the other preachers, and all you have to do is go up to them and say, "Hey, what do you think about what these guys are talking about?" Then, you can talk about what they believe and the truth about what you believe (Jesus). It's that simple....at least it begins that simple. The conversations you will have will not be simple. But please please please please please view this not as an opportunity to argue with another Christian (maybe you don't agree that Jed is even a Christian, but it doesn't matter), but rather as a beautiful OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE YOUR FAITH. Because that's what it is. (You may have a chance coming up. I believe Jed and company will be back next week, April 25th - 29th)

Anyway, the topic of this blog is questioning. I think that I'm in somewhat of a time of questioning. Not questioning my belief in God (so don't worry too much) because I know that God always brings me back to Himself when I seek the truth. But more of a questioning of why I believe what I believe, whether that's the accuracy of the Bible, tough questions about fairness and justice, why other religions are wrong, why I am so convinced of the existent of the God of Abraham and Jacob, etc. A lot of this has been sparked by my conversations with people at Speakers Circle who think I'm crazy for following a "man in the sky who sent a Jewish man down from the sky 2000 years ago to die to save humanity from impending eternal doom." I realized how little I really know, and how important it is to have good answers....or at least better discernment about when to answer questions and when to admit what I don't know.

There are a few specific things I want to do, and I hope I'll be faithful in doing these. First, I want to read Jesus' teachings as objectively as possible without bias from what I've learned growing up in Christian community. I don't think I've been deceived by the church or anything....I just think it's better to believe things based on scripture rather than because I've been taught a certain way. There are tons of things I believe about God and spirituality that are probably biblically based....but I haven't really studied why they are biblically based. For example, the need for a "personal relationship" with God. I'm pretty sure that the personal relationship is key, but I don't know much scripture offhand to back it up....which I should have something to back it up if I'm going to tell people that they need it so badly.

Another thing I'm going to do is read Love Wins by Rob Bell. I doubt I will agree with the premise of the book, but I want to read it with an open mind to see if there is any truth in it before I write off the author of two of my favorite books (Velvet Elvis and Sex God) as a heretic. And if he is right about everyone going to heaven in the end (if that's really what he claims....I haven't read it yet), then I'm pretty okay with that. (I don't think that everyone ends up in heaven, but unlike Jonah, I wouldn't be too pissed about billions of people not ending up in Hell for eternity.)

Whatever happens, whether my beliefs change or are strengthened, I truly believe that if I seek the truth, then I will only move toward the truth. I think Matthew 7:7-8 supports this....but I might be wrong.

24 March 2011

Unity in Christ

The topic of this blog is unity in Christ. I didn't really understand that would be the topic until just now. The main idea is that we are all on the same team (pardon the metaphor) because of Christ.

My views on two specific things brought about this topic and showed me its truth.

First, I read a friend's post where she talked about what it feels like to not get recognition for something and how it's easy to compare ourselves to others who receive that recognition. I mean, we've all been there, right? We do something really well, but someone else gets commended for doing the same thing....and we think, "What the crap? What about me? I did that too!"

Second, I was basically told I wasn't doing a very good job at something a couple weeks ago, and I didn't have the best attitude about it. I wasn't completely mad and defensive, but I definitely wasn't seeing it through the proper perspective. The topic was outreach, and how I've lost focus on reaching out to people who don't know God yet. After having some time to process all this, I realized that I was being called out on it because I could be doing a better job, not because someone thinks I'm a failure or something.

In both of these, the problem stems from our pride. We want people to think we are good. But the Bible paints a different picture of what our desire should be: our desire should be that God gets the glory and recognition.

So now, the situation goes from envy that someone else gets the glory to joy that the glory is really going to God. The other situation goes from someone thinking I suck to someone showing me how I can better glorify God through my life. The person getting recognition and giving it to God is accomplishing our common goal of glorifying God. The person calling me out is helping the cause of Christ by helping me see my faults and do better.

The main point is that we are on the same side, working for the same things, serving the same Master, unifying us to do the work of God on this earth. We need to not take things so personally, and see that what matters is Christ, and not how good people think we are. We don't have to be good at everything....because God uses weak being like us and receives the glory from it.

04 March 2011

What joy?

Tonight at Canvas Group, we sang a song with the lyrics, "What joy! What joy for those whose hope in the name of the Lord!" Scanning the faces in the room, I wondered why everyone seemed so somber while we sang about this joy we have.

As for myself, the joy wasn't there either. I thought about all the people who don't have a relationship with God. I thought about the pain in the world, the hate I have for other people, how we are so often so mean to each other, and I said to God, "What joy? What joy am I supposed to have with all this?"

It's not the first time I've prayed a prayer like what I'm about to type. I have prayed it several times throughout the years that I've been trying to follow God.

"God, I don't feel this joy I'm supposed to have right now. There are so many people with no chance at a good life, no real chance for a relationship with you, so many damned to hell forever. All of us Christians talk about this plan you have for all of us, how it all works out for 'the good of those who love Him.' Well, it's worked out well for me, but for most people it's not going to work out. Most people are going to hell, and a lot of those people are good people. People better and more caring than myself. God, you plan sucks! It fucking sucks! It sucks so much that you had to wipe out almost all of humanity in Noah's time. It sucks so much you had to send Jesus to die just to....salvage the stupid system you set up in the first place. Your plan? Maybe you should have spent a little more time planning before you created people like me. All powerful? All powerful, but you still let people suffer for eternity? I don't get it. The Bible says you know about every sparrow, but you still let us make terrible decisions about our eternal future? Why do you let people make the eternally bad decision not to put their trust in you? That's not friendship...that's not love. Do you have not that ability? That power? Is free will that important that you would let so many of us be eternally condemned? Maybe you didn't want 'robots,' but is this the best you could do? God, I don't want you to be real! Wouldn't it be better if nothing happens when we die, rather than have most people in hell? I think I would give up the gift of heaven to abolish the reality of hell."

That was a bit raw, and I hope posting it online doesn't cause any trouble, but that's the truth about how I feel at the moment....how I've felt many times. That's how I felt my freshman year at Mizzou, when I thought I might stop following God altogether.

Have you felt that way before? Then, you're not alone. If I've ever given the impression that I don't have struggles with God and faith, then I apologize for my dishonesty.

That's never the end, though. God has never let me stay there. Like so many of David's psalms, where he starts off by questioning God and having doubts, he finishes with truth about God. So, here is sort of the end to the psalm of Justin:

"God, I don't understand you. I don't know how I know this, but I know it: you are real. You are here with us, you've felt our pain too, and you care. You have redeemed me from the threat of hell, and I don't know why. You've redeemed lots of your children, who have become my family. You care about me, delight in me, and want to be with me. I'm going to keep following you....I know this. I have no doubt about this because I've asked you these questions before and you've pulled me back to you every time. Though I fall, trials have produced perseverance, and I will always come back to you whenever I stray. You are good, and I put my hope and trust in you."

13 February 2011

To whom shall we go?

One of the most glorious things I have experienced is seeing someone start following God.

One of the toughest things I have experienced is seeing someone abandon God. For me, this raises questions about the legitimacy of my faith and the realness of a faithful God. It sucks, and it's hard to watch.

Because of this, I've found that my most intimate and real prayers to God are praying for people I know to stay true to God and not fall away. It happened last month at a youth group retreat I helped with at the church I grew up in. I was praying that these kids would seek after God with all they have after they graduate. I prayed that there would be crazy folks knocking on the doors of their dorm rooms in college, like Garrett Naufel and Matt Boone did for me my freshman year. I prayed that they would not forget about God and not reject Him when they left the security and familiarity of high/middle school and their home church. I prayed that God would make them good soil, give them a strong root, and protect them from thorns (see Mark 4:2-20)

I'm tearing up even as I'm writing this stupid blog post. I'm not completely sure why this issue hits me so hard.

This past Saturday at The Rock, I was praying this same prayer for people in our church who have recently started following God. The question that they and all the rest of us followers face is found in John 6, verse 67:

Jesus asked the Twelve,
"You do not want to leave too, do you?"
Jesus had just given his teaching on how his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink. Jesus' disciples didn't understand it (it is pretty confusing) or couldn't accept it, and so they "turned back and no longer followed him." That's when Jesus asks the question to the Twelve.
The longer I live and discover how the things we strive for leave us dry, the more I realize that the only source of peace, salvation, redemption, and purpose comes from Jesus. There is nothing else. Nowhere else to turn to. No other answer. This is all there is, and it's all we need.
So, I have my answer to Jesus' question. It's the same answer Peter gives in John 6, verse 68. I hope it's the same answer you and the people I've been praying for will give.
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words to eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

07 February 2011


I was just thinking about how we're all lonely.

All of us. Some more than others. But, to an extent, we all feel that emptiness, that aloneness, that only goes away when we forget about ourselves. But it always comes back.

When you feel lonely, do you ever sit back and think about how everyone else feels the same way?

I guess that helps a little. It also shows that we are not capable of making each other feel "not lonely." If we were capable of that, we'd all probably be a lot happier.

In my life, I sometimes worship the idol of "relationship." I want to be known, be loved, to be chosen. I want to not feel that emptiness of being alone and separated.

That doesn't work though. Relationship, friendship, marriage, etc. don't close the gap. They feel like they will, but they don't.

The real sadness we feel comes from our disconnect from God. Only God can fully know us and not turn away. The sin and selfishness in our lives is the cause of this divide, and most of our lives are devoted to trying to reconnect in various ways.

I realized something about a week ago that I should have figured out a long time ago. This sounds simple, but I realized that God really wants to be with me. I knew this, at least in the sense that God loves everyone...I'm part of "everyone"...therefore, God loves me. In my conceit, I think I figured that God was only really excited about new people who start following Him. I mean, he already has me. I'm old news.

So, this realization was profound. God wants to be with me, to spend time with me, to show His love to me. These are the same things I secretly wish a romantic relationship would provide.

My loneliness, and yours, can only be defeated through our relationship with the real God. Anything else leaves us dry and thirsty for more.....and it doesn't matter how much sand we put into our mouths, it will never satisfy like water.

Carpe diem. Seize the day. Aprovecha el día.

Go big or go home.