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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Curacao '09 is here!

Hey Everybody,

Just a quick note to ask for your precious prayers for us as we attempt to display God's love in tangible ways the next 3 weeks.

July 3-11 we'll send 15 people back to Curacao. My goal was to take a group every 3 years. After taking 16 last year they wanted to go back this year. So I said, sounds good. Who's leading it? 2 stepped up and the rest is history. They have planned it almost by themselves. I'll be here in Summerville while they go. Mixed feelings abound but it's the right thing...

Among them is Curacao veteran Nancy Wright ('05 trip) and my Kelsi ('08 trip) who's paid her own way for the 2nd consecutive year (no, I'm not proud). For the first time we'll be partnering with North Shelby Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL sharing people and projects. They've been going longer than I have.

If you've been before, then you'll certainly remember Emma and Cesar. Emma's dad died this past week at 91. The funeral is Wed, Jul 1st.

It will be an emotional week for Emma. This is their 10th anniversary in the Fuik neighborhood doing VBS. So they're pulling all the stops.

July 11-20 we'll host 7 Curacao youth and adults who'll join us for a week of missions back here in Charleston. We'll do a retreat (Micah Hasty is speaking and leading worship) and then over 9 different projects (several of which repeat) all over the SC low country. For those that remember Mission: Possible 2K3 back in Wilson in 2003, you'll know what I'm talking about. It's a lot of work and there are a lot of details that have to come together still.

Add to that I have 2 teens driving, 1 close to college (can you say scholarship or bust), a 7th grader in public school, and Emma Sue who'll be double digits in Aug....well, you have quite an adventure going on down here in S'ville.

So as God brings us to mind, lift us up. It's just busy stuff unless He's making it happen.

May God love their (and our) socks off as we live to love God and love people around the corner and around the world!

Darien

www.twitter.com/dariengabriel
www.dariengabriel.com

Monday, June 29, 2009

THE QUESTION that CHANGED MY LIFE

This powerful thought should sober us as we reflect on our own heart. dg

THE QUESTION that CHANGED MY LIFE -by David Ryser.

A number of years ago, I had the privilege of teaching at a school of ministry. My students were hungry for God, and I was constantly searching for ways to challenge them to fall more in love with Jesus and to become voices for revival in the Church. I came across a quote attributed most often to Rev. Sam Pascoe. It is a short version of the history of Christianity, and it goes like this:

Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise.

Some of the students were only 18 or 19 years old--barely out of diapers--and I wanted them to understand and appreciate the import of the last line, so I clarified it by adding, "An enterprise. That's a business." After a few moments Martha, the youngest student in the class, raised her hand. I could not imagine what her question might be. I thought the little vignette was self-explanatory, and that I had performed it brilliantly. Nevertheless, I acknowledged Martha's raised hand, "Yes, Martha." She asked such a simple question, "A business? But isn't it supposed to be
a body?" I could not envision where this line of questioning was going, and the only response I could think of was, "Yes." She continued, "But when a body becomes a business, isn't that a prostitute?"

The room went dead silent. For several seconds no one moved or spoke. We were stunned, afraid to make a sound because the presence of God had flooded into the room, and we knew we were on holy ground. All I could think in those sacred moments was, "Wow, I wish I'd thought of that." I didn't dare express that thought aloud. God had taken over the class.

Martha's question changed my life. For six months, I thought about her question at least once every day. "When a body becomes a business, isn't that a prostitute?" There is only one answer to her question. The answer is "Yes." The American Church, tragically, is heavily populated by people who do not love God. How can we love Him? We don't even know Him; and I mean really know Him.

...I stand by my statement that most American Christians do not know God--much less love Him. The root of this condition originates in how we came to God. Most of us came to Him because of what we were told He would do for us. We were promised that He would bless us in life and take us to heaven after death. We married Him for His money, and we don't care if He lives or dies as long as we can get His stuff. We have made the Kingdom of God into a business, merchandising His anointing. This should not be. We are commanded to love God, and are called to be the Bride of Christ--that's pretty intimate stuff. We are supposed to be His lovers. How can we love someone we don't even know? And even if we do know someone, is that a guarantee that we truly love them? Are we lovers or prostitutes?

I was pondering Martha's question again one day, and considered the question, "What's the difference between a lover and a prostitute?" I realized that both do many of the same things, but a lover does what she does because she loves. A prostitute pretends to love, but only as long as you pay. Then I asked the question, "What would happen if God stopped paying me?"

For the next several months, I allowed God to search me to uncover my motives for loving and serving Him. Was I really a true lover of God? What would happen if He stopped blessing me? What if He never did another thing for me? Would I still love Him?

Please understand, I believe in the promises and blessings of God. The issue here is not whether God blesses His children; the issue is the condition of my heart. Why do I serve Him? Are His blessings in my life the gifts of a loving Father, or are they a wage that I have earned or a bribe/payment to love Him? Do I love God without any conditions?

It took several months to work through these questions. Even now I wonder if my desire to love God is always matched by my attitude and behavior. I still catch myself being disappointed with God and angry that He has not met some perceived need in my life. I suspect this is something which is never fully resolved, but I want more than anything else to be a true lover of God.

So what is it going to be? Which are we, lover or prostitute? There are no prostitutes in heaven, or in the Kingdom of God for that matter, but there are plenty of former prostitutes in both places. Take it from a recovering prostitute when I say there is no substitute for unconditional, intimate relationship with God. And I mean there is no palatable substitute available to us (take another look at Matthew 7:21-23 sometime). We must choose.

-Dr. David Ryser.


"Lord, help me to love you more and use you less. In Jesus' merciful name I pray, amen. dg"

Friday, June 26, 2009

if Gd txtd 10 cmmndmts...

IF GOD TEXTED THE 10 COMMANDMENTS

1. no1 b4 me. srsly.

2. dnt wrshp pix/idols

3. no omg's

4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)

5. pos ok - ur m&d r cool

6. dnt kill ppl

7. :-X only w/ m8

8. dnt steal

9. dnt lie re: bf

10. dnt ogle ur bf's m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.

M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl.

ttyl, JHWH.

ps. wwjd?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Are you seriously engaged?

As it relates to lives transformed by Christ, author and professor Dallas Willard writes,

In a recent talk here in the Chicago area, Dallas Willard made a comment on spiritual formation that haunts me. “…all this appears to the ordinary Christian today like near or distant galaxies in the night sky: visible, somehow, but inaccessible in the conditions of life as we know them. Hence you will rarely meet an individual Christian who is seriously engaged in the transformation depicted in the Bible…or who even has a hope for anything like it this side of heaven.”


God has called me to lead and influence people to love God and love people around the corner and around the world. That equals life transformation. We know we have transformed lives when those lives are transforming the world around them. That's what I'm praying for. That's what I'm living to see happen. Will you join me?

The Vanishing Sculptor

I haven't finished this creative story but I am looking forward to seeing how this fantasy world portrays God and Jesus to the children/young teen audience. Here's the summary:

Donita K. Paul’s 250,000-plus-selling DragonKeeper Chronicles series has attracted a wide spectrum of dedicated fans–and they’re sure to fall in love with the new characters and adventures in her latest superbly-crafted novel for all ages. It’s a mind-boggling fantasy that inhabits the same world as the DragonKeeper Chronicles, but in a different country and an earlier time, where the people know little of Wulder and nothing of Paladin.

In The Vanishing Sculptor, readers will meet Tipper, a young emerlindian who’s responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate during her sculptor father’s absence. Tipper soon discovers that her actions have unbalanced the whole foundation of her world, and she must act quickly to undo the calamitous threat. But how can she save her father and her world on her own? The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions–including the nearly five-foot tall parrot Beccaroon–and eventually witnesses the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder. Through Tipper’s breathtaking story, readers will discover the beauty of knowing and serving God.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Al Mohler and his latest book

While I haven't read this book yet, I look forward to it because this great theologian challenges me to think when it comes to creating and critiquing culture. Here is the official summary:

More faulty information about God swirls around us today than ever before. No wonder so many followers of Christ are unsure of what they really believe in the face of the new spiritual openness attempting to alter unchanging truth.

For centuries the church has taught and guarded the core Christian beliefs that make up the essential foundations of the faith. But in our postmodern age, sloppy teaching and outright lies create rampant confusion, and many Christians are free-falling for “feel-good” theology.

We need to know the truth to save ourselves from errors that will derail our faith.

As biblical scholar, author, and president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, writes, “The entire structure of Christian truth is now under attack.” With wit and wisdom he tackles the most important aspects of these modern issues:
Is God changing His mind about sin?
Why is hell off limits for many pastors?
What’s good or bad about the “dangerous” emergent movement?
Have Christians stopped seeing God as God?
Is the social justice movement misguided?
Could the role of beauty be critical to our theology?
Is liberal faith any less destructive than atheism?
Are churches pandering to their members to survive?

In the age-old battle to preserve the foundations of faith, it's up to a new generation to confront and disarm the contemporary shams and fight for the truth. Dr. Mohler provides the scriptural answers to show you how.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sir Dalton: More than a gentleman

I recently read Sir Dalton wondering if I could enjoy the third book of a series without having read the first two. It didn't take long for me to see that I could.

I'm a fantasy reader from back in high school so I already loved the genre. But I'm more discerning now than I was back in my Dungeon & Dragons days.

This book does more than spin a great tale of love and war. It illustrates the Story of stories in a great way.

It's hard for me to find books that my girls and I both like to read. I think I just found one. I look forward to getting the rest of this series and reading it along with my girls.

Here's the official summary:

Sir Dalton, a knight in training, seems to have everything going for him. Young, well-liked, and a natural leader, he has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow knights, and especially the beautiful Lady Brynn.

But something is amiss at the training camp. Their new trainer is popular but lacks the passion to inspire them to true service to the King and the Prince. Besides this, the knights are too busy enjoying a season of good times to be concerned with a disturbing report that many of their fellow Knights have mysteriously vanished.

When Sir Dalton is sent on a mission, he encounters strange attacks, especially when he is alone. As his commitment wanes, the attacks grow in intensity until he is captured by Lord Drox, a massive Shadow Warrior. Bruised and beaten, Dalton refuses to submit to evil and initiates a daring escape with only one of two outcomes–life or death. But what will become of the hundreds of knights he’ll leave behind? In a kingdom of peril, Dalton thinks he is on his own, but two faithful friends have not abandoned him, and neither has a strange old hermit who seems to know much about the Prince. But can Dalton face the evil Shadow Warrior again and survive?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What is faith?

Faith is believing that God is who he says he is and that he'll do all that he's promised to do...and then acting accordingly.

This definition is the combination of Andy Stanley's and Robert Jefferies' definitions on faith. See also Hebrews 11:1.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Gathering

Follow me on Twitter.com (@dariengabriel) for my tweets during "The Gathering."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I quit preaching Sunday

I've never done this before.

I was preaching along minding my own business when it hit me; people were not tracking with me.

Now I realize that I'm not the most engaging preacher in the bunch. But I usually feel like people are tracking with me.

It wasn't because the children were in with us either. They were in for the full service this past week because we use 5th Sundays as an excuse to let our children experience the full worship service. They seemed to be pretty content, actually.

No, it was the adults. It was something in their eyes...

So I stopped. I said something like, "There seems to be something distracting us today." Since I didn't really know what else to say, I prayed. And then I finished my message.

I didn't do it because I was mad or ticked off. Really. No, I thought something was generally wrong and it was affecting the whole room. It was like God lifted a veil and showed me what was really happening before me. It was a little creepy, to be honest.

Later that night, I had a couple come up to me and say, "Darien, we owe you an apology." They continued saying something like, "We weren't listening when you stopped and prayed. Our minds were somewhere else."

Wow. How often do people apologize to the preacher? Not too often in my experience.

I found out today, another person told a friend that when I stopped their mind was somewhere else too.

Now I'm not so naive as to think that doesn't happen in our church every week (no matter who's preaching). And I'm not frustrated with our people. They normally seem very engaged with what's being said.

No, I think this week was different. And I think God stopped me to pray. You know, come to think of it, we specifically prayed for the Holy Spirit to be in charge that day...

Oh, and what was I preaching on...the Lord's prayer.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Forget the Preacher

Some of you will remember a former youth of mine (once a youth of mine, always a youth of mine) Claire Smith. Well, my first wedding ceremony was marrying her and David Brown in Rocky Mount, NC.

Saturday they were blessed with their first child, Katelyn Elizabeth Brown. I found myself proud as a granddaddy and so happy for this couple I got to help along the way.

I share this to share how grateful I am to David and Claire. They live in NC and I'm in SC and our paths rarely cross. We don't email back and forth or anything like that. Our lives are full of friends and family closer to where we live. That's normal life.

But what I really appreciate is how they've keep me in the loop on the important things in life. To get an email (a personal email, not mass) from them is surprising. But it's been their pattern.

One of things I think about before and after weddings I do is, "Will this one last? Did I do all I could do to prepare them? Will they pursue Christ?" If a marriage I perform fails, I will likely feel partly responsible. In other words, I don't take it lightly. I doubt many pastors do.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised--but I really am. And very grateful that they didn't forget the preacher.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Sun & Space Shuttle...little perspective

This image comes courtesy of my bro-in-law at NASA. He writes,

During the recent Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, this picture went around.  It's rather unusual (as our MOD Director notes, you don't see this every day), and I thought it might be interesting - just the idea of what's involved to capture such an image, and then there's that whole "perspective" aspect when you consider the shuttle is a couple of hundred miles or so away and the sun is about 93 million.

I can't help but look at this and think, "Boy are we small. Boy is God big!" 

After all, our sun is an average sized star in our Milky Way Galaxy--one of over 200 billion stars!

And our average sized galaxy is one of over 350 billion galaxies. Wow. Catch your breath. 

Note: If that didn't blow your mind, you need to go back and reread that. 

God is big. I'm not. 

Yet he numbered the hairs on my head. He loves me.