Oct 16, 2010

On Running

I have been running seriously since I was nine years old. I competed in both Cross Country and Track & Field from junior high through college. Those years thoroughly shaped my life. I still run with dedication and compete occasionally. I now even spend part of my time coaching high school runners.

There is so much that I could express about running. In truth, when I began to write reflectively about it I quickly exceeded two-hundred words—and I had not yet even completed my introductory thoughts. I have, therefore, tried to limit my ideas to their most rugged and poetic form. In one way what results is quite simple. In another way it is somewhat complex. To God be all glory. Amen.


Layers of Dust
By J.D. Grubb

Running

Exposed humanity: frail body and angry thought,
Temporal distances fragmented by illusive ambitions
Cultivated by civilization, broken by wilderness: drought
Layers of dust, winter crust on skin and path; visions
Of shrill winds through frosted morning windows,
Heavy heat desiccating being: mouth and sinews.
Humbled pride—hide your face. Return?

Running

Reveals redemption: cleansing mortality,
Freeing mind, external strength bracing perspective.
Nature unveils creation: colored leaves whisper,
Layers of dust—journey—snow-white roads lit by moon;
Lark song of morning brilliance, quiet painted dusk,
Undulating hills, deep forests, mirror lakes, noble peaks.
Humbled love—lifelong race: Return

Oct 10, 2010

Manhood

Please check out this clip recently posted by Pastor Aaron Stern in his blog entry, "Do we have a Man-crisis?"

I really appreciate how the pastor speaking in the clip addresses all men of all ages. For in truth each generation is in some way connected to its predecessors and prodigy, whether each acknowledges it or not--or even likes it.

Men of every generation, let us stand for something. Let us stand for Truth. Let us stand for a Kingdom that transcends our own.

Let us stand together.

Apr 20, 2010

STAND: Bread

I recently embarked on yet another outdoor adventure without full comprehending its formidable nature. In short, I intended to ride my mountain bike from downtown Colorado Springs to Palmer Lake. I was familiar with about thirty miles of the route, but did not anticipate the additional twenty-three miles that it would wield against me. I also did not foresee the incessant headwind that would berate my mind and body.

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval (John 6:27).

Though I was already tired from an eighteen-mile ride the previous day, I set out determined to conquer the unknown. Considering the conditions, including the gradual ascent to the lake, the northbound half of the ride was quite challenging. I overcame it mentally, however, by anticipating a tail wind and gradual descent for the return trip, as well as the Nature Valley bar in my back jersey pocket waiting to be eaten. While the latter two elements did aid me in my journey, the former did not. As midmorning approached, the wind altered its course against me.

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (John 6:33)

I felt my body quickly tiring. At the point where the Santa Fe Trail meets the Pike’s Peak Greenway Trail, near the Woodman Road overpass, the last reserve of my energy dissipated. I stopped to lie down on a bench, desperately hoping that the respite would rejuvenate my body for the remaining eight miles of the journey. However, my whole upper body began to go numb. My blood sugar was very low. I asked an elderly couple if they had any food to spare, but they did not have anything accessible. Not recognizing any better option but to try to mentally push through the physical exhaustion, I got back on the bike.

I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35b).

There is a time when weariness is not rooted in psychology. It is a fascinating, humbling, and sometimes unsettling physiological limit to reach. In one sense—at least in retrospect—I welcome such circumstances. I learn from them. At a fundamental level, I learn to take certain precautions for future endeavors. Yet, at a deeper level I learn or am reminded of certain truths concerning my relationship with God. Lately, the common lesson has pertained to YHWH’s empowerment and provision.

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life (John 6:47-48).

Soon after leaving the bench, I knew I was in trouble. The “pins-and-needles” sensation overwhelmed my whole upper body. Having no phone or wallet with me, my remaining options were to solicit a ride from a stranger or finish the journey through sheer willpower. Thankfully, another solution soon presented itself as a familiar restaurant suddenly came into view. I recalled how this particular restaurant serves bread before the meal, and wondered whether an employee would be willing to give me one of those small loaves. Concentrating on my enunciation due to a half-numb face, I therefore briefly explained the situation to a kind hostess. She understood immediately, and then proceeded to offer me a warm loaf of bread along with some water. I took this manna from heaven outside then proceeded to slowly replenish my body.

But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (John 6:50-51).

Once finished, I got back on the bike—somewhat uncertainly at first—but then proceeded to ride the remaining eight miles in full strength. I even passed a young road cyclist along the way. Though certainly tired, I managed to return home with dignity. I was definitely ready for more food, and my legs and digestive track were a bit worn the following four days; yet by God’s grace I completed what I set out to do. I overcame the trail, and I overcame my human limitations. Without YHWH’s provision, I am not sure that I would have made it. Without His empowering, I would have likely succumbed to defeat.

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever (John 6:57-58).


Though I initially thought of Jesus’ “I am the bread of life” statement with a sense of reverent irony, the empowering implications of the Word in John 6 quickly extended beyond my morning trial to other areas of my life. Before making any personal application, though, I would first like to provide some brief context. The main issue in John 6 is unbelief: the crowd’s failure to truly understand the deeper significance of the Torah, Moses, and the exodus. Jesus speaks not only of fulfilling the Law, but also of his purpose in leading Israel and the world out of spiritual bondage (1). The crowd does not struggle as much with the possibility of persecution—they were already living in a state of Roman repression—but with the very words of Jesus. This leads many to abandon him at this point in his ministry. "Abiding and abandoning are both responses to Jesus’ words . . . Most of the disciples were willing to accept Jesus as a worker of wonders but not as the logos of God, His authorized emissary, the revealer. This is the real test of the disciple: 'If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples' (8:31)" (2).

One of the fundamental ways the enemy seeks to inhibit the progress of the Kingdom is to compromise the confidence of its emissaries. When too much doubt or fear arises, an individual or community is more likely to retreat, divert its course, or simply stop moving. In the face of such attacks, the challenge is to persevere in faith and hope. There are some instances when doubt or fear can be beneficial to the Believer’s growth; however, if doubt or fear presses against the course that God has clearly set before him or her then the better response may be to find the means to overcome such barriers and press on.

Culpepper goes on to write that “In the economy of the Fourth Gospel true bread cannot be bought, it can only be given and received. After the feeding, the fragments are collected in twelve baskets, perhaps indicating that unlike the manna, which was perishable, the bread which Jesus gives does not perish” (3). There is nothing people can do to warrant such nourishment. It is simply a blessed gift to receive and then share with others. Bread is, therefore, an important metaphor for understanding Jesus’ identity. “The theme of bread from heaven is used to affirm Jesus’ origin from above and the superiority of the bread Jesus offers (grace and truth) over the bread Moses gave (Law)” (4).

Having experience the power that even a small loaf of bread can give, let alone the eternal life-giving bread that Jesus offers daily through his Word, Spirit, and Body (the Church), this truth encourages me to continue in the direction I now follow. The direction involves various facets that I have discussed in brief or at great length during the last few years. I do not know how far the road will go before the nature of the destination will become clearer, but I trust that YHWH will continue to provide the means necessary to reach it. I do not know how many barriers or landmarks there will be along the way, but I find solace and confidence in what is already known. In other words, though tomorrow wields numerous uncertainties, I seek to live thankful for the certainties of today. I wonder if this is the best that any of us can do. While the Kingdom of Heaven will one day arrive in full, its standard has already been given and its boundaries expanded for nearly two millennia. How we as Believers live with such truth is an important choice to consider. To God be all glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Sincerely,
JOSHUA

Some Manna

Thank you for your prayers regarding the team leader who is undergoing cancer treatment. Though he struggles with weariness at times, he maintains an enthusiastic and hopeful attitude as his body continues to heal and the Berlin trip approaches. Another blessing is that his community has provided the means necessary for his support to reach 100% for the trip. Praise God.

Another blessing is that nearly every MILL team—of which there are seventeen (5 Egypt teams, 4 Germany teams, 4 India teams, and 4 Peru teams)—has reached the 50% mark for funds raised. A few teams have even reached the 68-70% margin. Though the 75% deadline approaches this Friday, April 23, everyone is encouraged by such progress. We all trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in theMILL Missions and will provide for all its needs. Nonetheless, we value your prayers; for they serve to strengthen what can be done in the Kingdom, including fundraising.

Thank you also for your support. I am blessed to have such a community behind me. Through your prayers and generous giving, 67% of my funds have been raised. Your spiritual and practical support plays a significant role in making my involvement in theMILL Missions possible. Thank you so very much. May God bless you and keep you. May His face shine down upon you, and give you peace. Now and forevermore, Amen.

If you wish to give financially, please go to www.newlifechurch.org and follow the link on the bottom right titled “Giving.” You will then need to create an account. Once that is complete, select “Germany Missions 2010—theMILL” for Fund, and “Joshua Grubb” for Sub Fund.

You can also write a check to New Life Church. Please include “Joshua Grubb, theMILL Missions: Germany” on the subject line. The mailing address is below:

Global Ministries
11025 Voyager Pkwy
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
(719) 594-6602
global@newlifechurch.org


_______

1. Culpepper, Alan R. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design. Fortress Press: Philadelphia (1983), 91-92.
2. -----, 117. It is interesting to note that there is no mention of Jesus actually teaching the crowd until later in chapter six when he arrives at the synagogue in Capernaum. What is important to note, then, is that the crowds had mostly gathered around Jesus because of the signs or miracles he had performed. Chapter six, therefore, is an important shift in Jesus’ engagement with his followers as he begins to explain the significance of those signs (see 131).
3. -----, 195.
4. -----, 196.

Mar 30, 2010

The Great Campaign


Every year, before the culmination of Easter, I seek to very consciously remember the holistic cost YHWH paid on behalf of His Creation. One means by which I have chosen to do so is through the brutally realistic and tearfully humbling portrayal of Jesus’ final twelve hours in Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ.” It always reminds me of how unworthy I am of such love, how I really have nothing to complain about. Praise God for His Love that deems us worthy.

Reviewing the history of Israel and the covenant offered to it by YHWH, the Lord of Creation, one comes to understand that God’s holiness does not allow Him to be in true fellowship with anything marred by sin. Israel’s incessant choice of things other than God shapes much of the Old Testament narrative. Fortunately, YHWH never tires of lovingly offering Israel the means by which it could return to complete relationship with Him and the presence of His Spirit. This is evident in how God continues to further define the Law given to Moses, formally beginning in Exodus 20:1-17, until that understanding culminates in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Unfortunately, the fellowship between YHWH and Israel never remained truly permanent. It was not that YHWH’s character was lacking or changed. It was that Israel’s character was lacking, too easily influenced by the rebellious lies of the fallen angel Lucifer and his followers. Thus, Israel was often pressed away from the light toward the darkness, to which judgment had to ensue so that the Lord’s holy integrity might be upheld. Israel, YHWH’s chosen people, along with the rest of humanity, was clearly too frail to maintain what was required of them by the Law. They needed liberation from their corrupted nature and the influences of the great deceiver. They needed a savior, or as the ancient prophets of Israel foretold: a messiah.

“Enemy-occupied territory,” writes C.S. Lewis, “that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage” (Mere Christianity). Hallelujah that YHWH answered humanity’s need and invaded the world as a man (Philippians 2:6-11). Jesus was the only one pure enough to fulfill that which God’s holy justice required. Praise God that it did not end with mere death, but rather continues on with the promise of life everlasting. He has risen. Relationship with our Creator, the King of Heaven, has not only been permanently restored, and continues every moment of every day through the indwelling of YHWH’s Holy Spirit, but it is offered to any who would receive it.

Yet, the war for the world has not yet ended. The rebellion of Lucifer and his angels has been raging since the beginning of time, and we are caught amidst it: the target of YWHW’s love against that of Satan’s jealousy. But by his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has reasserted his Father’s lordship over Creation. The Enemy’s stronghold has been breached. Its collapse is imminent. We have but to take up arms (Ephesians 6:10-18) and join in the “great campaign” of the Kingdom of God as more than conquerors, with faithful confidence in the promise that Jesus will one day return to end the war and establish his complete and unchallenged authority over the earth as it is in Heaven. Hence we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). In it there is empowered hope. In it there is purposeful life. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20b).

Mar 28, 2010

Articles on the Bible and Liturgy

Firstly, Aaron Stern's blog "What the Bible is not" professes a great reminder of the importance of the broad Biblical narrative; that it is about the history (past, present, and future) of God seeking relationship with mankind.

Secondly, Glenn Packiam's blog "Why We Incorporate Historical Liturgy at NewLifeSundayNight" offers some great insight into the value of liturgy in worship and life.

Feb 11, 2010

Koinonia vs. Ecclesia

For those of you who have ever been part of a debate concerning the koinonia church model (e.g. home church) versus the ecclesia church model (e.g. the mega church), I recommend Aaron Stern's recent blog post, "Half Church: there's more to it". It offers some helpful insights regarding this subject.

As a sub point, I particularly appreciate when he writes, "What if differences in biblical interpretation is a reminder to focus on the absolutes of Scripture and embrace unity?"

Jan 21, 2010

God's Mysterious Will

I am beginning to believe that the debate between scholars such as John Piper and Gregory Boyd, regarding the definition of God's will, will never be concluded in this life. Perhaps that is the fundamental idea that all Christians must acknowledge: that we will never fully comprehend what God's will actually is. How many lives have been turned away from the Church because it members value certain theological doctrines more than relationship? Perhaps YHWH is less interested in our understanding of every facet of His "I am"-ness, but more interested in our active relationship with Him. Do a husband and wife ever come to a point where they know and understand everything about each other? As a young single adult, I cannot really answer that; but I imagine that there are unsolved mysterious at the end of their lives. But is not the essential purpose of marriage less about complete understanding of one another and more about complete love of one another (and the heavy load that Love entails—embodied by God—which itself bears untold mysteries)? Love in part seems to be about surrender our need to fully understand; that we will serve one another no matter our limitations.

Anyway, I believe Ed Gungor's article, "God's Mysterious Will", provides some valuable insights to reflect upon. (Note: if you are interested in knowing more about Gungor, you can visit www.edgungor.com. I always believe that it is helpful to know a little about the author). I believe that, perhaps more than anything else I have ever read, Gugnor presents a very tactful outline for us to begin understanding God’s will as comprised of: 1. His sovereign will, 2. His pursued will, and 3. His challenged will.

I challenge everyone, including myself, to engage with such thoughts with open minds. Other theologians aside, there is validity in his Scriptural assessment (at least from my own reading of the Word). Surely, others will interpret such passages differently because they already think they understand what is really true. Thus, I challenge us all to read and re-read carefully; to really examine the Scriptures with humble and open attentiveness to the Holy Spirit's stirring.

I am sure there is much more that could be written, but I would probably have to address every single aspect of theology to adequately do so. I do not have that kind of energy. Besides, in a way, I do not think our understanding of Truth is as important as our attempts to actually live according to Truth every day. Please know that I believe that understanding is very important. The writers of Proverbs often speak of the value of both knowledge and wisdom. I begin to think that wisdom ultimately comes from the Holy Spirit. Thus, we must faithfully pursue both. But amidst that journey we must also live as best and graciously as we can with the maturing knowledge and understanding that we have, as well as the awareness that we will never fully know and understand everything (i.e. be perfect). Praise God for His grace, that despite our frailties He has pursued relationship with us since the beginning of time.

Jan 19, 2010

STAND: A New Year . . . A New Season


The following are some highlights from this past holiday season, which are by no means exhaustive. My journey began on December 21 as I flew to CA. My parents, uncle, and I stayed with my grandparents at their house in San Jose. It was a time of warmth and celebration as we enjoyed scrumptious meals, baked goods, activities, as well as a festive Christmas Day with most of the extended family. A day in San Francisco with our friend Scot Boyd at LucasArts where he works, and snowboarding at Lake Tahoe with my cousin Jordan and extended family, were also very memorable. Not long after Christmas, my parents left for Kentucky to be with my sister, brother-in-law, and new nephew. In the meantime, those of us who remained enjoyed a fun New Year’s together with family. On January 5, I departed by plane to Wheaton, IL where I spent the next few days supporting my friend Andrew Tebbe as a groomsman in his wedding. He and Laura are both BFA alumni as well as part of the OC family. During that time, I was also blessed to connect with four other BFA classmates: Amy Bristol, Sarah Drake, Andi Custer, and Dan Gorrell. There, I also got to reconnect with my parents, sister, and 7-week old nephew, Daniel (a.k.a. “Little-D”). After the wedding festivities, we drove from West Chicago—where we had stayed with my Uncle Tim and Aunt Cleia’s family—to Fort Mitchell, KY. It was great to stay with Tab and Ryan, and to get a sense of their daily lives. It was also great to get to know Daniel more, a definite character. Finally, on January 13, my parents drove me to the Indianapolis, IN airport where I flew back to CO. I feel blessed to have been able to spend such rich weeks with my family. Back in CO, I immediately returned to my work at theMILL, part of which included a leadership retreat this last weekend. Overall, I perceive that this year will be composed of important, possibly life-changing, events in my life. I pray that it be so for all of us. I look forward to hearing about your own lives, and to sharing more from mine as it progresses. Please be praying for theMILL missions, e.g. that every need is met. . . . For to stand is certainly a journey.

* * *

It is in untamed nature where I often find the greatest clarity; for it is there that YHWH often reminds me of my true self. Journeying into the wild is full of risks, and some are perhaps seemingly unnecessary; but there is liberation in such ventures, and I cannot live without it. Thus, I recently assailed a small mountain in Arapahoe National Park, CO. With only old running shoes and basic long socks on my feet (a bit foolish, I admit), I left a well-groomed cross-country skiing trail to trudge through 3-4ft deep snow up a very steep forested mountainside. Though there was no visible trail, the hope of a majestic panorama was too much to ignore. Yet, such a goal can be illusive. It may look reasonable from a distance; but the closer we approach, the larger it becomes until its true form makes itself known. Now, some of the challenges were a result of my own relative insanity (e.g. hiking alone without telling anyone, no snow shoes, no water, a possible sprained ankle from a past run), but I am used to such limitations. Sometimes they are deliberate, and sometimes they are not. Then, I knew what I was risking; but, I did not anticipate the extent to which my will—and to some degree my body—would be tested. Two or three times I considered turning around. Numerous tracks crossed my intended path, yet none of them were human. My feet eventually lost half their feeling, and I did not know how far I still had to climb. I knew I would be in serious trouble if I got injured. Snow covered rocks and branches could be my undoing, and dusk was approaching with swiftly dropping temperatures. Yet, I could not help but wonder whether the summit was just beyond sight? It has been written that many give up without realizing how close they are to the end, and that many victories have been won on the verge of utter disaster. Therefore, with stubborn resolve I pressed on, praying that God would graciously sustain my mind and body by His strength. I was prepared to face the consequences. As my energy progressively decreased, each step required incredible willpower. Due to the angle of the incline, it was as though I was actually wading through waist-deep snow. I am actually surprised that I never fully lost my balance and fell. Commandeering two dry sticks helped in that regard. Much of my weariness was eventually overlooked, however, as the terrain finally leveled out to reveal a bronze sky radiating through the trees. It was as though I was witnessing the aura of Heaven’s gates. My eyes could not see beyond the light; yet I perceived that within it resided the Holy. It was beautiful. A landscape of snow-capped mountain ranges that descended to valleys of alpine forests surrounded my mountain view. It was glorious. Reaching the pinnacle, I was reminded of YHWH’s faithfulness. Certain dreams are still shrouded in uncertainty, but I sense that I must continue following the path before me—one that I believe has been offered by my LORD. The journey does not necessarily end there—my descent was still difficult, and there are likely other peaks or valleys to eventually tread. However, I know that YHWH is with me. I may stumble and fall along the way, but He is faithful. His Kingdom is near. Therefore, we can all stand together by His grace. We can hope that what is now unseen will one day be seen. Soli Deo Gloria—to God alone be the glory. AMEN.