Posted by: pna4266 | June 5, 2010

Matthew Charles Foster: 12/30/87-6/1/10

You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone, as Joni Mitchell sang.

I didn’t know him well. But now, now that he’s gone, I wish I did. How I would have done things differently. We saw each other a few times over the past 22 years, when his family would come to visit, or mine would go down. But the distance from Washington to California was long, so we mostly heard about each other through our grandmothers, who are sisters.

As I sat in his funeral today, I had moments of welling tears. Tears because I wish, over the past 5 years, I would have made more of an effort to spend time with him and that side of the family. Tears because a father and a mother are without their only son.  Tears because 3 sisters are without their oldest and only brother. Tears because a beautiful and adoring girlfriend is without the man she loves. Tears because he was only 22. He had so much life ahead of him.

I praise Jesus for him. He touched many people, as was evidenced by the number of people who came. The testimony of his life through the others who spoke showed how deeply he manifested the love of Jesus to those around him. And although we never got to have conversations about the Lord, I saw the impact his love for Christ had on those around him.

Matthew’s funeral made me long for heaven. He is there now, no longer held back by the cancerous cells eating away at his flesh. Standing before the throne of Almighty God, worshiping Him with a perfect, Christ-filled body. Because here, in the stain of sin, we wait for redemption, groaning. What it must be like to live in perfect worship, to really see Jesus in perfect clarity! I long for the day when sin no longer crouches at my doorstep, and death and suffering are nowhere to be found. But until then, may I be found faithful.

So I pray, that when I go home to glory, at 23, or 35, or 89, that I will be able to say that I reflected Christ well. That I lived like today is my last, and with an extreme urgency for the Gospel. I am not guaranteed tomorrow; so may I live today in light of my resurrected savior. Oh, what a shame to die saying that I will be serious about the Gospel later! I have been given here, now, to make Jesus known and magnified.

So dance and sing with the angels, Matthew. Bow before the throne of the God of the universe. Wallow in the presence of the one who created you and loves you and purchased you. Rejoice that you are no longer suffering. Worship with uninhibited praise. For He who bought you has brought you home. And what a home that is.

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Posted by: pna4266 | May 28, 2010

Blogging as an Act of Worship

People blog for many reasons. Some have godly motives; others do not. (A sidenote: for those of you reading this on Facebook, it is actually forwarded from www.philipanderson.wordpress.com). For Christians, blogging should be just as much an act of worship as the other areas of our life. Bob Kauflin has some wisdom for bloggers:

“Christians might blog on a variety of topics and for a number of reasons, but they share one common goal:

‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ (1 Cor. 10:31)

If God wants us to eat and drink for his glory, He certainly wants us to blog for the same reason. That means God has something to say about our content, attitude, and motive in blogging.

It’s not hard to find blogs that are filled with foul language, pornographic material, and useless information. But as Christians, we’re commanded to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). That includes quite a bit. What it doesn’t include is saying whatever I feel like saying, rehearsing how lousy I feel, wallowing in self-pity, or stirring up unnecessary controversy. God says we’ll be held accountable for every word we speak — and blog.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

Posted by: pna4266 | May 17, 2010

Letter to my Father

Dear Dad,

Solomon spent many words cautioning and guiding his son in the Proverbs. Over and over he called to him, pleading with him to pursue the lasting attraction of wisdom over the fleeting pleasure of sin.  Many times he described the value of following and fearing the Lord. And although the adulterous woman may have looked delightful with her bed of Egyptian colored linens and lips of honey, but her path led straight to the grave. And although the fool may have lived a life of perceived ease, his life always ended in destruction.

I wonder if Solomon’s son listened to his father’s advice.  I wonder if he walked in integrity his whole life. Or perhaps he followed in the footsteps of his father, falling after the very temptations his father warned against. Certainly Solomon’s more famous children did not walk faithfully with the Lord. Yet despite his eventual failures, his words ring true even today.

His proverbs were personal. He writes in Proverbs 23:24, “The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him.” He wanted his son to walk in the fear of the Lord, and he found great joy in it. I suppose I will never fully understand the joy of a father watching his son walk faithfully with the Lord until I am father myself. But I think as an adult, I may understand it a little better.

I was not a faithful son. I still am not. Yet through the grace of Jesus, I pray that I am more faithful than I once was, and will one day be more faithful than I am. Oh the hours you patiently spent with me, teaching me, training me, discipling me. You consistently point me to the cross. You walk with me through sin, struggle, and defiance. You pick me up again, dust me off, and turn my face once again to the God I so often look away from. And maybe, if even only a little, I understand why. You want me to love Jesus. You want me to fight for joy in Christ with every part of me. You find great joy in seeing your own son walk with Jesus.

One of my greatest fears is that I will have children that walk away from the Lord. Yet if you could parent me, I suppose I could parent just about anyone. I want to trust Jesus like you do that he will do a work in my children. I want to trust that after 18 years of diapers, basketball games, piano lessons, and sleepovers, I can let go of my son knowing that he is in the hands of my heavenly Father. I’m never promised a perfect son, or even a son at all. But the Lord grants me one, I pray for that patience that you had with me. And someday, Lord willing, he’ll walk with his own son. May my son be my joy. And may I bring you greater joy as I find my joy in Christ.

I love you, Dad.

Philip

Posted by: pna4266 | May 11, 2010

One Year Later

As I was driving with a dear friend the other day, I was telling him of my reflections on the past year. It was a year ago that day that I had graduated from college. And as I was at TMC’s graduation Friday, I could not help but think about where the Lord has brought me. In many ways the year has gone by fast; it seems like yesterday that I was walking across that stage, wondering more about what lie ahead than about getting my diploma. It was a bit anticlimactic, picking up a piece of paper that summarized four hard, wonderful years of academia and ministry. It was after that graduation that the hardest year of my life began. I certainly don’t anticipate it being the hardest year of my entire life, but it certainly was thus far.

Graduation brought something scary into my life with all its sharp, pointy teeth: the unknown.  For 22 years prior, I knew what I was doing. After all, after Kindergarten came first grade, after high school came college, and so on. I didn’t really have to plan anything, because it was all planned for me. The biggest decisions I had to make were things like my major and a summer job.

All of a sudden, I felt that weight of the unknown sitting on top of me. Was now the time to decide what to do with the rest of my life? Because I don’t know. I had three long, somewhat boring weeks to think about it before I headed off to Africa.

They were a hard six and half weeks. It was hot, humid, and foreign. My team did not have the best attitudes nor the best outlook as we were there, and for reasons I won’t go into, tension and frustration escalated. I left Tanzania feeling more burnt out than anything else, and with less direction than ever.

At the end of August, I was left with no job in southern California, where I wanted to be. It came down to my last day, after which I was going to drive off with my dad to who knows what or even where or when (my family was moving at the time). Miraculously, I got a job that night, and my dad drove off the next day without me.

That job disintegrated before me at the beginning of this year. I was left with just as many bills, only less and less work. I didn’t know how I was going to pay them, or where I was going to be. It was a long couple months.

They say hindsight is 20/20. It’s true. And although I may never see the full reasoning or hand of the Lord behind the last year, he certainly gives spiritual glasses to see his grace more clearly.

For the first time in my life, I had no idea what I was doing. No idea. That meant that in many ways, I had to learn to trust the Lord with a new-found grip. Faith took on a clearer meaning: I really had to trust what I couldn’t see. And I spent many hours, many late nights, many conversations with my dad, all wondering what was going on. I wanted to throw in the towel at times. Yet despite my unfaithfulness, the Lord allowed me to see himself more and more clearly.

And now, looking back over the year, I’m overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed how the Lord provided. I’m overwhelmed how the Lord consistently, faithfully, and carefully provided for me needs and showed me more and more of himself. I couldn’t see the road ahead, but he could. He gave me direction, purpose, and trust. Trust that trial is not only okay, it develops perseverance. Purpose that as a child of Jesus I was hopeful. The cross has made me new.

I’ve put below a few lessons the Lord has taught me. This list is by no means exhaustive. But above all, I want to give testimony to Jesus’ amazing faithfulness in my life:

1. Trials develop character. I don’t think I understood this at the time. I still think I don’t fully understand. But what I pray I see better and better is that the Lord uses all circumstances for our good. And the times we grow closest to the Lord are the times we see him the most clearly.

2. Prayer transforms. This year totally changed the way I see prayer. Never before had I really seen that God does hear and answer prayer. And not only that, but my own heart was humbled and forced into dependence as I got to trust Him in a whole new way.

3. God provides through his people. Being unemployed gives others the opportunity to serve. And although it made me a bit uncomfortable (in my own pride) to have people give me free things, I was completely blessed and blown away. My I be as faithful the men and women who sacrificed for me. The body of Christ is so humbling.

4. The timing of the Lord is perfect. My friend told me, “God is seldom early and never late.” His timing is absolutely perfect. It was hard to believe that when I didn’t know when my next paycheck is coming from. Yet he provided a job at exactly the right time.

5. Heaven is glorious. I’ve never really been one to long for heaven, to my immense regret. It has always scared me; eternal anything just sounds too long. But as I’m realizing more and more, if Jesus is the only thing that satisfies, then he will be the only thing worth spending eternity over. Of course we can’t spend eternity on perpetual vacation, or hanging out with friends. The glorious reality if heaven is that Jesus will be there, and we will never tire of praising his name. I pray that I long for heaven more.

The Lord has proved himself faithful. He has done so, and he will continue to do so. May Christ be sweeter, greater, and more satisfying through the fire of trials.

Posted by: pna4266 | April 6, 2010

The Blessings of Sharing Trials

As many know, I am currently unemployed. I’ve had an extremely hard time finding a job, and naturally, no job means no money. However, the unexpected blessing of it all is that I’ve got to see the Lord’s work in my and others’ lives. It’s a blessing I wouldn’t trade for every job in the world.

Trials force us into extreme dependence. People will go one of two ways: bitter and angry with God, hating him for what he has or hasn’t done, or humble and broken, knowing that there is no way to survive apart from the grace of the Lord. I pray for a heart that is the latter, but I certainly have my days.

One of the biggest blessings, and one that I don’t think I fully expected, is the generosity and blessing of the fellowship of believers. I have been given gift cards, free meals, and even a place to stay. I deserve none of it. And yet I the Lord continues to pour blessing upon blessing through those around me. What a privilege it is to see the mercy of God at work through the hearts of other people!

Another huge opportunity is the blessing of talking with others. Inevitably the subject of my trial comes up often, and by God’s grace I’ve been given so many opportunities to proclaim his faithfulness and provision. I’m not the only one who gets to taste and see that the Lord is good.

And the Lord is good. He says he will provide, and he does. I don’t know where, when, or how, but I know that the Lord’s faithfulness is proven time and time again through the heavy hand of trials. And in a place where I don’t know where my next check will come from, I have never felt the hand of the Lord so close or working so much. If this is what it takes to grow my heart closer to the Lord, then may I lose my job every day.

“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.  My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.  Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” Psalm 34:1

Posted by: pna4266 | March 10, 2010

If my Class Were an SNL Skit

I have many kinds of kids in my classes. Today’s Kindergarten Edible Geography class is always my favorite. Let me introduce some of the characters:
1. The “hungry-chubby” kid: As SOON as we walk into the classroom, he’s hungry. You would have thought he has never eaten before. But believe you me, his physique tells otherwise.
2. The “Let’s-pretend-we’re-riding-ponies-over-rainbows” kid: She’s pretty cute- and has quite the imagination. Always thinking up something new. And always giving me parts of her lunch.
3. The “From-another-planet kid”: He can’t sit still. He can’t even sit. Whatever we’re doing, he’s not doing it. Guaranteed. But not in that naughty, rebellious kind of way. Just in that “I haven’t landed yet” kind of way.
4. The “non-eater” kid: Whatever we’re making, he won’t eat it. It doesn’t matter if I’m handing out Ho-Hos and Cheetos. He simply won’t partake. Maybe he and “hungry-chubby” need to be better friends.
5. The “taste-of-India” kid: Love this guy. Today he wore a hoodie that said, “Good in the hood.” He throws a little Indian flavor into everything.
6. The “my-name-is-India” kid: You can tell she comes from a health-conscious family, with the almond milk plenty of organic foods. Sorry I fed your kid Rice Krispie treats again, mom.
7. The “hygiene-is-not-my-first-priority kid:” Yes, I like your Stawberry shorcake pants. But maybe you oughtta give them a wash every week or two. Or three.

Maybe I ought to sell tickets to this bad boy.

Posted by: pna4266 | December 24, 2009

God With Us

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height
In ancient times did’st give the Law
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Posted by: pna4266 | December 21, 2009

All Growed-Up

And I thought the transition out of high school would be hard.

I knew post-college life would present its challenges.  All of a sudden, I had to face bills, groceries, full-time work, and a host of other obstacles I’ve never had to face. Even through college, Mom and Dad would help me cover things. But no longer. It’s a steady rotation of cooking, laundry, work, exercise, friends, paying bills, running errands, and making sure the house doesn’t fall apart.

I have to admit, it’s a difficult transition. I got to live in relative relational gluttony among wonderful friends and mentors. I got to hear God’s Word preached almost every day, and I was constantly encouraged and nurtured. Even though I was far from home, the college provided a wonderful place to be.  But it’s a different place now that I live. Not bad by any means. But different. Instead of coming back for a nap at 2pm, I have to stay at work all eight hours. And I don’t get 6 work misses to use at my leisure.

Throughout all of it, Jesus takes on a new sweetness. I feel a new sense of urgency to embrace the cross. Amidst the life of chapels, Bible classes, small groups and one-on-ones, Jesus is sometimes added to the long spiritual t0-do list. But when I have to go to work every day, when I’m tired because it seems there’s no end in sight, when there’s so much to do besides crash, he sustains. I feel like the kid in the pool with his water wings who is just learning to swim. Jesus is right there, holding my frail body up in a giant sea.

I’ve been told the transition gets easier as time goes on. That I’ll find my rhythm. And I certainly believe that’s true. But in the mean time, while I live in what seems like an adult purgatory, I’m learning to trust the Lord and his faithfulness. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s the same God that brought me to college and gave me four amazing and stretching years. And he’s the God who leads me onto the rest of my life.

Posted by: pna4266 | November 24, 2009

The Patience of God

I’ve started reading through the Bible in a year. I’ve realized that I really need a bigger picture of God’s Word, and I need to see how it interelates to itself. I read something this morning that really struck me. But first, some background.

The other day in Bible study, we were talking about God’s judgment on Israel for not trusting him to bring them into the promise land. Since only Caleb and Joshua believed, only they would get to go. The rest of the nation would be punished by wandering in the desert for 40 years until everyone 20 years and older was dead. God minced no words with his people:

“But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness.  And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.  According to the number of days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure” (Numbers 14:32-32).

A long time later, Israel returns to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.  They are humbled and humiliated, having been taken off to exile and nearly destroyed as a people. And they come before the Lord, confessing their sin. It is one of the most moving confessions I have ever read:

“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments.  They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness.  The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them where they should go.  You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst.  Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing.  Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”

Israel failed completely. God provided a way out, a promised land, and the means to acquire it, but they would not listen. Yet even then, God was gracious and merciful to them. He was merciful and gracious and ready to forgive despited the heinous sins of his people.  And even though they wandered for forty years and punishment, God never stopped providing for their needs.

Look at them together: “And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing.  Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”

Is God really that patient? I am really humbled that God would still forgive even after all that. And even in the midst of consequence, he doesn’t forget about or stop providing for his people. I am so thankful that God’s provision for me and forgiveness of me is not dependent on my performance. Praise God for his patience and grace.

Posted by: pna4266 | November 8, 2009

November 8 Life Update

I know, it’s been a while. Awhile. But I’m back. And I say that often, and am not really back. I’m not making any promises, but I’m starting to think the practice of blogging could be really beneficial. For me at least, if not anyone else.

I’ve been pondering lately why people blog. And the conclusion I’ve come to, at least for myself, is that blogging should be real. That is to say, I want my blog to reflect where I am, who I am, and what I’m thinking. Meaning that sometimes it can be spiritual, sometimes it can be ridiculous; but I hope that it’s at all times beneficial.

It’s been quite a whirlwind of activity since I posted last. I took a little trip to Eastern Africa. Due to the sensitive nature of that trip, I’m not going to share the details here, but if you know me personally and would like to hear more, feel free to ask me. I’d love to share what I did.

I also had a fantastic time in the UK this summer! I got to spend time with friends, hang out with my family, and see beautiful Scotland. If you’ve never been to Scotland, go. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The people are nice, the scenery is breathtaking, the history is fascinating, and the haggis is…not as bad as I thought it would be, although a little mushy.

Post-college has been, well, interesting. The Lord has blessed me with a great (and large) living situation and a wonderful church. I am working for an after-school enrichment company, which means I teach little kids things like Secret Agent and Edible Geography. No, you can’t join my class. Sorry.

In other news, I am studying to get my real estate broker’s license. So come March/April, if you’re in the market for a home, give me a call or shoot me an email! I hope get things rolling by then. In the meantime, studying is tedious and sometimes slow work (given California’s ridiculous RE laws). But I trudge along.

This is the goal: pursue real estate, at least right now. A few years down the road, I still want to go to seminary/grad school. I am a teacher at heart, and I would love to teach bible to college students- but we’ll see.

This guy needs to start his own band.

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