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Author Archives: thomaslhodges

About thomaslhodges

I'm a Christ follower, I'm a young dad, I'm a Youth Pastor, I like to ride bicycles. This blog is to talk about how I see the world, the role of my faith, and how that intersects in the way I live...

Perspective

It’s interesting that I have now, once again, found the urge to write again. I have spent many months with the idea of writing, or for that matter, letting others know what I really think. For those of you who know me, you know that I have been in a state of flux for the past several months.

I have been slightly wayward, especially after being let go from something that I studied long and hard to do. On that same note, I would not have been able to write anything like this post at any time in the past four months. The only way I can write this now is because of one thing, perspective.

I have now had four jobs in he last four months, and now am doing something completely outside my field of devotion and study. I do still work in a church, but it is in a part time and limited capacity. I am once again doing something that I love, which is music, but my day to day job is something vastly different. I spent seven years studying religion, and have now spent the last four months outside of this field. It’s been a wild ride.

I can say now, something I couldn’t say at the beginning of this journey, God has a plan. I’m reminded of the passage of scripture in Malachi 3:2 which says, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap” God sometimes has to put us into situations so that we move ourselves out of the way. God has to put a little pressure on us at times so that we can see what he is pushing us towards.

Now throughout this experience my heart has picked up a lot of scars, there has been hurt by people being used at cross purposes from God’s. I have seen both the best and the worst of people and this experience will make me more useful to God. I know that God will take my experience and as I move towards what’s next, He’s prepared me to face adversity and difficulty.

God’s plan is becoming more clear to me on a day to day basis. I know where I want to eventually be, but I’m not sure how I will get there quite yet. Another thing that this newly found perspective has given me is this: be a light where you are. I’m daily surrounded by a group of people who do not know God. It is funny to me that these men attempt to moderate how they act or speak as soon as they know a little bit about my past. I know that I have the opportunity to be an influence for good on these guys, it may merely be that no one has taken the time to care about them, or that God put me there for a reason.

I have had many friends encourage me over the last few months, and still others who have no idea the struggle I’ve come through. But I sincerely hope that if you are in the midst of some struggle, although I know it’s hard to hear in the midst of turmoil, that maybe my words may be marginally comforting.

 

Daring and Emboldened

This morning I was working with Acts during my daily time here at the office, and I was once again stopped in my tracks by God. I read something that I have read many times, especially in the last couple of years. I read about the conversion of Saul, who becomes one our most famous evangelist in Paul.

But I read the story about Saul’s blinding on the road, and how for three days he ate nothing. Then Ananias being told to go and explain the gospel to Saul, but there were two things that really struck me this morning. Ananias was so comfortable in talking with God that he registered his objections and actually had his mind changed by God. When was the last time that truly happened for us? Probably less often that it really should be.

Also the other thing that really struck was me was just how quick, bold, and daring the early actions of Paul are. Here is a guy who just a couple of weeks before who was trying to kill “followers of The Way” now preaching. That must have seemed so schizophrenic to the people in the synagogues, and let’s not even start with the reactions of the chief priests. It also says that Paul was so bold that some in the synagogue were trying very often to kill him.

But Paul has a reputation of saying things that get him into trouble, but often that is because he has no filter between heart (or brain) and mouth. I know many people like this, but I do not know many people who channel their lack of filter to speaking boldly for God. I think the amazing thing about Paul is that he dives in headlong. He does not worry about the consequences of the things he’ll do.

When I think about my own faith life, and how I am about sharing my faith with others I wish I was a bit more like Paul. I think many of us know the way it goes when we attempt to not step on toes with our convictions. Paul did not care, and he probably turned some people off from “The Way,” but he also brought in thousands.

I don’t want my faith to become like that of Westboro Baptist Church, or other groups who spread hate and call it religion. What I want is the strength and integrity to speak love to teenagers and others whose life could be impacted by the love of Christ. Amen.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Incognito

I read the story this morning of the walk to Emmaus, but two previously anonymous disciples of Jesus. And something really jumped out at me. The story is of two of Jesus close disciples walking to Emmaus  a town that was approximately 7 miles away (according to my translation). They meet a man who seems to be clueless about what has been happening just up the road in Jerusalem.

While talking to this man, one of the disciples says “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21.) Now I think this phrase alone probably made Jesus pretty mad. I believe he had to be thinking, Did they get it at all? Did I not make it really, explicitly clear what I was doing? How could they spend so much time with and yet understand so little of what I was doing? Can’t they see the bigger picture? This is so much bigger than Israel!

But Jesus couldn’t just stop and give them both a good face palm. Jesus was incognito remember, the disciples did not get it, so what does Jesus do? He explains it all to them. From Genesis to his resurrection. And still they don’t see that it’s him. Eventually Jesus breaks bread and that opens their eyes to the fact that it is Jesus that has been with them. Their reaction, “weren’t our hearts burning within us?”

Maybe Jesus often comes to us incognito also. Maybe we miss Jesus because he doesn’t come with a huge flashing neon sign that says, “Son of God, Right Here” with a big arrow. But don’t we often have that sensation of our hearts burning within us, with our hearts being set ablaze with Jesus zeal. The disciples saw Jesus, but they did not see how big the plan actually was.

When they say they had hope for Jesus redeeming Israel I think Jesus was screaming inside his mind. Jesus was saying, “WHY MUST YOU PUT ME IN SUCH A SMALL BOX!” My plan is not just for Israel, but for the whole world! We often miss Jesus because he’s incognito, but we feel the tug and burn of our hearts. When Jesus finally reveals himself we have that face palm experience that Jesus was dying to give the two disciples.

This week lets pay a little more attention to our burning hearts, so that we end up exactly where Jesus wants us to go.

 

 

Inspiration in Weird Places

Recently a new show began on Fox and my wife and I have begun to watch it and follow it pretty closely. It’s called Terra Nova, and although I’m not huge on sci-fi or futuristic stuff this show is pretty cool. The show begins in the year 2149 with an earth so polluted that the sun cannot be seen and the air outside cannot be breathed. Somehow these future people have discovered and created a portal to an earth millions of years prior.

So (this is the big sci-fi leap) they send people back into the past to create a new society, to hopefully help correct the mistakes of the future. Terra Nova is full of dinosaurs and other animals that like to prey on the new tasty humans who have taken up residence in Terra Nova. Now I have to also admit that the special effects and explosions on this show also excite that young boy who is still inside of me.

The colony at Terra Nova is led by Captain Nathaniel Taylor, who was the first man to go through the portal, who survived 118 days in this jungle by himself, which we see was an incredible accomplishment. When the new recruits who are the 10th pilgrimage (notice the religious tinged language) he walks out on the front of his command center hutch.

Captain Taylor introduces himself and tells these people that they have come to a new place and have been entrusted with a second chance to create a new society. The world they came from had fallen victim to the “baser” natures of greed, pollution, and the degradation wrought by human mistreatment of the world.

This speech got my mind rolling from the moment I heard it, and I have since watched it several times again. But I was struck by the idea of grace that is woven throughout the speech. Even the family that the show focuses on, that broke population control laws in 2149, are given a second chance in Terra Nova. The father of the family was an escapee from a maximum security prison, and also brought their third (breaking the strict population control of two children per family) daughter to Terra Nova with them.

The idea of second chances is something that I think we often miss. We get the second chances, but we are not lining up to give them to others. God is constantly giving us opportunities to live out our faith in substantive ways, and we are constantly failing. I hope that today I will be more willing to give the second chances to all of those around me. I pray that God will help me to be the person he has called me to be. What are you praying that you might get a second chance at today?

 

 

Control

This Sunday morning as I sat in the sanctuary here at Mulberry and listened to our Senior Pastor speak my mind latched on to something he said. Now this was particularly the point of his sermon, but this is what God had me hear. My mind began to turn over and over the idea of control.

We (myself included here) all like to be in control of our situation. We like to feel like we are on top of the situations in our lives. I don’t know many, if any, people who like to feel out of control of their situations or their lives. But is this what we are called to? Are we told to live neat, well managed lives?

I think Jesus finds the illusion we have of being in some sort of control as laughable. We only have the illusion of being in control of ourselves and the world around us. I have been listening to a worship song that I was introduced to a while back called “We are the Free” By Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin.

The chorus for this song is, “We are the free, the freedom generation/ singing of mercy/ You are the One who set us all in motion.” I love this because it speaks of us being free from the world around us, but it does not forget that God is the one who put us all in motion. It talks about how we need to relinquish our control so that we can follow as God intends.

We all have an illusion of control, but we need to get past that misguided view of the world around us. We need to truly see our surrender as freedom to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We need to stop thinking of ourselves in control and fully abandon ourselves to the pursuit of God.

 

Getting Your Gait

So this is my second week in a row inserting a video into my post, but this song has played several times in my office in the last week and I just had to post it.

Those of you who know me well, know that I am a huge fan of the Dave Matthews Band. I have been a fan since high school where I think I watched “Listener Supported” at least 1000 times from the couch in my family’s couch. Then I remember sitting in my room for hours learning to play anything I could get tabs for from Dave, and even had some roommates in college that loved (possibly hated) my rendition of “Long Black Veil.”

This song is off of Dave Matthews Band 2004 release “Stand Up” and quickly made it in to my top 5 of all time favorite songs. The lyrics are so simple yet profound. “To change the world/ you start with one step/ however small/ first step is hardest of all.” This is the first verse from the song and I keep coming back to these words.

The more times I listen to this song the more sense it truly makes to me. We spend much of our lives dreaming up what we could do, what would be possible, if only this or only that. What we truly need to do is to just start walking. I am the king of this, I sit in my office dreaming, scheming or planning, but the follow through on these plans is lacking.

I also think about this song in light of all the bad things I see in the world around me. Maybe if we stop sitting and discussing these issues and actually put ourselves out there things will begin to change. “Once you get your gait/ You will walk in tall” we have to start getting our gait. We have to start working instead of bemoaning the world.

God is calling us to action through this unlikely source. We have to stop worrying if we’ll die trying, and begin to think about the fact that if we succeed things will be so much better.

 

 

Rolling Away Our Heart of Stone

The video at the beginning of this post is from one of my favorite bands I’ve discovered in the last few months. Mumford and Sons are from England and play a country/bluegrass type of fusion music. But this song “Roll Away Your Stone” has been on a constant loop in my office lately.

This morning while working on my life journal I read Ezekiel 36:26, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.” NRSV. I thought it was poignant juxtaposition with the opening lines of this song, “Roll away your stone I’ll roll away mine/ Together we can see what we will find/ Don’t leave me along at this time/ For I am afraid what I will discover inside.”

While the song speaks to another person, there is an important idea of community between the two people.  But these lyrics also resonated with the idea of God helping us by removing our hardened hearts and placing the new one within us. Also the idea of what we find when we finally have a soft, warm, beating heart; the idea of being fully alive and feeling the pain of the world around us.

I have written and spoken a great deal about the ugliness, pain, and hurt we see in the world around us. I personally get to the point, quite often, that when I see all of the things around me that fill me with pain I return to my heart of stone. It is so much easier to not empathize or truly see those around us. There is so much pain around us, and many times it is easier to just shut down than to truly deal with the world around us.

But God is calling us to something more, something vastly different. We are not to be desensitized to the world around us, much like I think TV news and the media cause us to be; because, they sensationalize and play upon the bad news of the world around us. If we were to truly hurt for all of the pain we see around we would be paralyzed and unable to truly work for any good.

But that is not why God promises to give us His spirit and the heart of flesh. God promises this because without truly seeing the world around us as His world that we are trying to bring the Kingdom of God to, then we are not working for the Kingdom. We have to switch our point of view, we have to take the pain we see and work for transformation. We have to work for transformation of not only our own hearts, but also the transformation of the pain we see in the world around us.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Uncategorized