Category Archives: Religion

Passport Camp & Mission Trip 2010

Last week I had the privilege to serve as a counselor and chaperone for our church’s middle school camp/mission trip. We gathered together at Mercer College in Macon, Georgia with 18 other churches from as far away as Virginia, Texas and Florida for a week of camp and missions work at Passport. While Passport allows youth groups to bring kids from 6th grade through 12th grade, our church uses the trip as one for our younger youth, and our oldest camper had completed 9th grade. We were the largest of 19 churches, with 26 girls and 20 boys.

JCBC at group introductions

Having been to camp and having gone on mission trips during my time in youth group, Passport was a new experience for me in the fact that it combined the two aspects together into one week. Mornings and days were spent in bible study, worship and out in the mission fields while afternoons and evenings were spent playing, dancing and messing around. I understand our youth minister’s reasoning for using this week as one for younger youth, as Passport introduces middle school aged youth to missions work without completely overwhelming them with an eight-hour missions work day. It gave them a taste of missions work while incorporating the camp aspect into the week as well.

In the morning we’d eat breakfast then meet for morning worship and bible study. Around eleven we’d ship out around Macon to our individual worksites and take lunch sometime during the afternoon mission work. We headed back for the campus at two and the kids had free time during which they could go to the school store, work in a computer lab (check facebook), hit the gym or just hang out and catch up on some rest. After dinner we’d have evening worship and then some sort of organized party or event afterwards.

Annie & Rachel at the Toe-Jam Party

Monday was a 60s-themed dance and Tuesday was a Toe-Jam party in which the object of the evening was to get as dirty as humanly possible. I ran a slip n slide that coated campers in baby oil and shampoo. Wednesday had no organized activity and churches were allowed to entertain themselves. We took in a movie and then spent the evening at a local park by a lake. Thursday was the camper Variety Show in which kids showcased their talent of lack thereof. There were some pretty impressive acts, but mostly it was teenagers being teenagers.

My freshman year of college I chaperoned the high school summer camp at Awanita, but wasn’t quite a counselor of sorts as I accompanied a special needs boy to help him through the week. This year I was able to help lead the church devotional time for the younger aged boys, which was a true blessing.

Often times, I don’t see God in my life simply because I can’t be bothered to pay close enough attention. I’ve got other things going on that for some reason or another I’ve qualified as better or more important, when in reality they’re simply trivial. The week spent at Passport opened my eyes tremendously and allowed me to remind myself that God is everywhere you look. I saw it in the eyes of kids truly enjoying working in 100 degree heat for complete strangers. I saw it in the eyes of those who we were helping and were grateful for not only the assistance, but the fellowship we shared as well.

Coach Nathaniel

I saw it in myself, warming up to kids that I barely knew. Having spent four years mostly out of state at college, I had lost touch with the church youth group and the kids it comprised of. I went along on the trip initially because the youth minister needed another male chaperone, not because I felt any closeness to the kids going or a calling to help minister to youth. In fact, though people constantly tell me that I’m great with youth and kids, I’ve found myself not feeling the same way.

But I surprisingly found myself taking to the kids more quickly than I could have ever imagined. As I boarded the bus Sunday morning, I knew two of the kid’s names, one of which I had learned that morning. I felt weird ordering them around and herding them onto the bus. But by the end of the week, I could pick out each one and rattle off a laundry list of information about them. Who their parents were, where they went to school, what grade they were in, what part of me they had bumped or bruised during the week.

The week was good for developing relationships with the kids using several different settings. The mornings and afternoons were fun and exciting getting to know the kids socially, and then the evenings were quieter and more intimate, and the relationships developed on a more personal level.

Another wonderful aspect of Passport is that it enables youth from different churches to work together but also facilitates time for youth to grow as their own group. Youth are meeting new friends from different states throughout the day at meals, worship, in bible study and in the mission field. But they’re also spending time within their own church group at night, strengthening existing relationships or forging new ones.

Being a male, I spent a majority of my time with the boys from our church. And while they got up to the usual mischief that middle school aged boys will get up to—freezing someone’s shirt, pooping in a can—I was impressed with how well they all got along and how nice they treated each other. Some of the stories I heard coming from the girls side makes me glad my boys avoided such drama.

Dream Team

One example came during the camp volleyball tournament. I watched as team after team spent games snapping at each other and talking down to kids who might not be as good at volleyball as some of their fellow youth. But as our group moved through the tournament, I didn’t hear one word on the court that was negative or mean-spirited. Our kids were encouraging and uplifting throughout the whole tournament, regardless of whether a serve made it over the net or not. They worked together and enjoyed themselves, and it was extremely rewarding to be a part of. Our kids are genuinely good kids and that makes working with them all that more enjoyable and rewarding.

Leading up to the trip I was nervous and a little anxious, but as the week went by I became more comfortable and by the time the week drew to a close, I was already thinking ahead to next year and how I could make the trip even better for the kids. God used me in a way that week that I didn’t think he ever could—but I’m glad he did and I’m looking forward to him doing it again.

The WebMD Christian

My Sunday School class a few weeks back had a discussion about peace, and an analogy was brought up that I thought was perfect to apply from everyday life to the life that we live as Christians.

WebMD is a very informative website, but it’s a rather recent innovation. As a child, if I received a bump, scrape or bruise while messing around the neighborhood, a band-aid or a cool washcloth fixed whatever ailment I had right up. If it was something more severe than a childhood boo-boo, then my mother would drive me over to the doctor’s office and he would be able to set me straight again.

But in the past few years, WebMD has opened up a whole new world of explanations for whatever somebody thinks may be wrong with them. Have a headache that won’t go away? Jump on the internet and type your symptoms into WebMD, and the computer will be able to diagnose what you have, how long it’ll last and how exactly you should treat it.

It’s gotten to the point that many regular people have started to question the wisdom of trained and experienced physicians because of something they read on a website. Doctors don’t get to where they are by not having an expert grasp on their specialized area. They’ve studied and practiced for years to get to where they are and to be able to help people.

Regarding the practice of medicine, it’s best to ignore advice from well-to-doers, and trust the capabilities of a doctor. Applied to the practice of faith, it’s a very similar concept. Some Christians believe that they can gain a better diagnosis, or understanding of our faith by something they read on a website or something they see on TV.

While the Christianity faith is one that can be interpreted and applied in different ways, there’s still one guy who’s the ultimate authority on it. Take what you will from website or television evangelists, but all you need is your Bible and a personal relationship with Christ.

There will be people ranging from your cynical next-door neighbor to the nationally-recognized Richard Dawkins that will try and rebuke your faith and offer up what they believe to be better and more appropriate ways of believing what you believe.

There’s a lot of information out there, some good and some bad. But in both cases your best bet for worthwhile information comes from one source.

My Cousin – The Worship Video Star!

My cousin, JR Briggs, made an interesting discovery a while back. He was in a Michael W Smith worship video! Funny thing is, he didn’t even know it until he saw it. He talked about the whole thing here, on his blog, jrbriggs.com. It’s set to Never Been Unloved.

Here’s the video, JR shows up at the 3:18 mark.

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Merry Christmas

Christmas is one of the most enjoyable times of the year for me. There’s family, food, fellowship, rainbow cookies, and maybe most importantly, The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Christmas is a special time of year that has become marginalized be our supposed politically correct society. How dare a Christian holiday decoration be in an airport that has been forced to install foot baths for Muslim travelers?

Despite people’s attempts to dissuade me from such, I celebrate Christmas as not only a time for family and friends, but one also of religious importance. I don’t spend too much time here writing about religion because I feel that religion is strictly an individual decision. I believe what I do for personal reasons and that everybody else has the right to decide what they wish to believe.

As such, Christmas is a central part of my religious beliefs and year after year, I see it trampled on and pushed further into irrelevancy by pathological pacifiers. As a country, we’ve gotten so far away from the true meaning of Christmas, it’s unlikely many remember why Christmas is what it is.

Traditional manger scenes have been tabooed in favor of quirky elves and spectacled Santas. For those who wince at someone daring to speak the word “Christ” to them, we’ve started greeting each other with “Happy Holidays”, or even more guarded, “Season’s Greetings.” Political euthanasia has removed the joy of a religious observation to carefully craft an all-inclusive seasonal party. It’s no wonder that Christmas has become a time of pronounced loneliness, estrangement focused on material lack. By making it a party of exquisite characters, we’ve twisted the meaning, which was one of spiritual birth, love, sharing and forgiveness.

So no, I don’t find my joy at Christmas under the tree or in a shopping mall. I find it in the company of people who love me and care about me and still value and embrace the wonder, the joy and willingness to celebrate what had been considered a miracle for two thousand years.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria). And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with Child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the LORD came upon them, and the glory of the LORD shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LORD. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into Heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the LORD hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His Name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Things About Me

POLITICS
I am conservative.
I voted for John McCain.
I support a citizen’s right to own a gun.
I think people should have to pass a test to vote.
Marriage is between one man and one woman.
I think it should be harder to get a divorce.
I support the FairTax.
I am pro-life.
And pro-capital punishment.
The less the government interferes, the better.
I’m anti-terrorism.
Instead of trying to be politically correct, I prefer just being correct.
I think America sacrifices quality for equality way too often.

GIRLS
I believe that chivalry is dying, but I know it won’t be completely gone while I’m still here.
I prefer “cute and pretty” over “hot and sexy”
Most guys have the Princess Leia fantasy. I have the Lois Lane one.
I’m a legs and butt man.
I don’t mind a piercing (or tattoo) or two, but it shouldn’t be the first thing I notice.
Too much makeup is for clowns, transvestites and hookers.

ENTERTAINMENT
I love war movies, doesn’t matter which war.
My favorite non-war movie is The Prestige.
I don’t like individual artists, generally just individual songs.
Movie soundtracks are often the best albums.
My favorite TV Show is Scrubs, followed closely by Smallville.
But I also like Law & Order (all) and am getting into CSI, NCIS and House.
Hugh Jackman is my favorite actor.
And I really like Michael Caine.
I hate celebrities that make their political views known.
I hate Lindsay Lohan, but like Hilary Duff.
On that note, I need to get the new Maxim.
My favorite author is Aussie writer Matthew Reilly.
My favorite book of his is The Six Sacred Stones.
Batman movies just keep getting better, don’t they?
Pearls Before Swine is my favorite comic strip.
Followed closely by Mallard Filmore.
I enjoy bowling and mini-golf.
And I have my own bowling shoes.
I hate most commercials, and am a channel flipper.

SPORTS
I root for the Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks .. in that order.
I like UGA a little bit more than I like Tech.
I like Mizzou a lot bit more than I like Kansas.
I think Notre Dame needs to get over themselves.
I don’t think the BCS is that bad, but I do support a college football playoff.
There’s nothing in sports better than a baseball game at Yankee Stadium.
Although a packed college football stadium comes close.
I love the way a football feels tucked under my arm.
And the way a baseball glove feels on my hand.
I’m hard to tackle.
College sports are more entertaining that their professional counterparts.

FOOD & DRINK
My favorite beverage is a cold glass of milk.
I prefer hard liquor over beer.
I actually hate the taste of beer.
Coke over Pepsi.
Dr. Pepper over every other soda.
My favorite food is a thick steak.
And I’ll take it medium-rare.
Cooler Ranch are my favorite Doritos.
I like the barbeque Fritos the best.
The only coffee I’ll drink comes from Dunkin’ Donuts.
Orange Fanta is the best type of Fanta.
I’ll eat just about anything that comes off a grill.
I prefer fried rice over steamed.

NATE
I will point out palindromes when they happen in life.
I do crossword puzzles halfway then give up.
I can make fart noises with my chest.
A lot of people don’t realize that I’m actually quite a good singer.
I love drunk people. So much so that I spend hours every year driving them home.
I was born in New York, moved to Georgia and go to college in Missouri.
I love watching squirrels.
My favorite letter is Z and I love names that begin with Z.
I also like names that begin and end with the same letter.
I read blogs.
My brother and I can invent a game out of anything.
If I could be anyone in the world, it would be Indiana Jones.
I can handle the truth.
I like fire.
I mix up the words “push” and “pull” when they’re on doors.
I like dressing up and wearing hats.
I constantly check my email because I like getting emails.
I’ll talk to people with an accent if they don’t know me.

Ben Stein’s “Expelled”

I saw Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed tonight and thought it was brilliant. It considered a topic that almost painfully needed some attention and Ben Stein gave it to it, even if everyone else continued to ignore it.

There are two online movie sites, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, that I generally peruse to see what’s coming out and how movies are being reviewed. Before going to see Expelled I couldn’t find the film on the “Now Playing” feature on IMDB and it was similarly absent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Just a quick FYI: Expelled opened across America on over 1100 screens which is very close to the most ever for a documentary if it isn’t actually the record. Michael Moore’s pieces of crap open on less than 500 screens nationwide and get huge write-ups despite being filled with blatant inaccuracies and misrepresented information.

I’m struggling to remember a film with this widespread of an opening that was so soundly ignored by the top two movie review websites. And the fact that this is an issue just further proves Stein’s point.

While it’s quite evident throughout the film that Ben Stein is a staunch supporter of Intelligent Design, he isn’t arguing or contending with other views, but rather asking others that believe differently than him to explain why they believe what they do. And more often than not, they cannot. I’ll admit that my stance mirrors Stein’s in this case. I cannot believe that humans “evolved” from proteins attaching themselves to crystals, being struck by lightning and forming multi-celled organisms. Doesn’t make much sense to me and is Intelligent Design really that much more farfetched than the primordial ooze theory supported by “scientists?”

The most profound moments of the movie come at the end as Stein stands alone in a Holocaust museum with his thoughts narrated over the music.

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For far too long now, academia has force fed students theories about a big bang, or lightning hitting that aforementioned primordial ooze. But people are starting to become more appropriately, intelligent. We know that when science leaves behind repeatable and observable natural happenings and begins to rely on pure speculation and “prior philosophic postulation” to explain the origin of life, we’ve delved into the realm of what’s known as faith.

Actual physical, tangible evidence for evolution remains all but nonexistent and any that there is is suspect at best. So all that leaves to explain what took place four hundred million years ago is utterly unprovable speculation.

The stubbornness of evolutionists is compared to the Berlin Wall. The cost of fascism has always been, and always will be the loss of freedom. Expelled touches on this by comparing the constant ignoring of Intelligent Design to incarcerating intelligence rather than encouraging it.

One of my favorite parts of the film is Stein’s one-on-one interview with noted atheist Richard Dawkins. He was visually perturbed and at a loss for words. And this is a man who has probably never experienced either of those before his run-in with Stein. Dawkins even pulled a near-admission from Dawkins that some intelligent designer created everything, but that designer would have first evolved from that whole protein-crystal-lightning-ooze-bullshit thing. I’ve always been rather intrigued by Dawkins because of his unwavering confidence in what he believes, which, while I disagree with, I also respect.

I don’t rate films with numbers or stars mainly because I don’t think that what I think of a movie will necessarily be matched by anyone else. But I will say that Ben Stein’s Expelled is a definite must-see, regardless of your personal beliefs. Stein raises some very important questions that needed to be addressed in the worst way. Stein addressed them in the best way.

Today’s Idiot: CAIR

Many of you may not know what CAIR is. And that’s fine. It’s another one of those pointless organizations like ACLU or PETA. CAIR stands for Council on American-Islamic Relations. It’s main focus is to “enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice and empower American Muslims.” They’re basically Islamic Al Sharptons with Al Qaeda ties.

What CAIR does best is complain about how negatively Muslims are treated and portrayed in America. They blow smoke to America about the exorbitant amount of hate crimes made towards Muslims to make themselves feel important.

Let me talk for a moment about “hate” crimes. The only difference between a hate crime and a crime is the assailants’ process of thought. It’s gotta be directed at a group or ethnicity. To me, a crime is a crime. Criminals generally don’t commit crimes against people that they like. Apparently it’s impossible for a white male to hate another white male.

Back to CAIR. Read this article on hate crimes. CAIR would have us to believe that hate crimes against Muslims in America are higher than any other race or ethnicity, and they have repeatedly taken this stand. However, CAIR officials apparently can’t read English statistics.

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In 2006, 66% of religiously motivated attacks were on Jews. Just 11% targeted Muslims. But keep in mind that the Muslim population and Jewish population pretty much the same size. Last year there were 156 anti-Islamic crimes, which is nearly a 70% drop from 2001. There were nearly as many “hate” crimes against Christians in America than there were against Muslims.

But these number are skewed even further. CAIR includes the following crimes as “hate” crimes against their people:
-A Quran being found in a toilet
-Flowers at a mosque disturbed
Naming a teddy bear “Mohammed

Should Hispanics naming their children Jesus be offensive to me? It isn’t, because I’m not an idiot.

So while CAIR claims that prejudice against Muslims has multiplied because of the war on terror … remember what CAIR considers “hate.”

Wait .. we already know. “Hate,” to CAIR, “hate” is a United States not operating under Islamic Law.