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Category Archives: change

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.

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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.

 

 

A Systematic Nature

Recently it seems like I have been writing a lot about the attempt at living a devotional life. Posts about living life in a way that becomes a devotion to God. And about living our lives as prayers and hearing the pregnant pause that we often live in. This week I am going to write living our lives in a systematic kind of way.

Now any of my seminary friends may have gone into full brain lock-down at seeing anything with a title of Systematic, but please do not worry. Moltmann will not be quoted, neither will Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth. But the idea of how to do Systematic Theology is near and dear to this post. The idea being that you start with the most basic building blocks, and then moving towards greater things.

When I took Systematic Theology in seminary it was honestly one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The thick and dry tomes of Theology are just not really my thing, although reading and at least minimally understanding these books was an incredible stretching experience.

Maybe what I’m getting at in this post is that maybe we need to live our lives in a way that is recognizable to the methodology of Systematic Theology. We need to begin in a place where we live the life of a Christian in small things, and that we can move forward from those places.

We have begun our new small group schedule here at the church and we are using Life Journals (put out by http://www.lifejournal.cc) and this morning my verse from this morning was this. “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” Jeremiah 24:7.

Maybe the most basic place we can begin from is our hearts, maybe we can start by at least attempting to put our hearts in the right place. Placing our hearts in the right place will if not immediately, then eventually mean that the rest of us will follow suit. So let us try living systematically and putting our hearts in the place where it can be used by God.

 

The Hunger Games

I am a reader. I love to read books, and for some reason I don’t like thick Theological volumes. I do however love a good book with a lot of suspense, or a one of those crazy thriller books (see Dan Brown or Gregg Loomis). So recently my wife’s book club read The Hunger Games, and with all of the talk from my youth I became interested.

Needless to say this is one of those books that devoured my life while I devoured it. It took something like three and a half days, and it really has gotten me to thinking.  The games themselves in the book are really a kind of character study on the human condition. The books are so interesting, they have literally caught me from the beginning, and I can be a very fickle reader.

But how do The Hunger Games square with the ideas of faith, and I know that the book is set in a fictional world after a world altering rebellion and consequent brutal oppression. I am focusing a bit more on the games themselves than the extra information that we are given throughout the book. How does our ideas of people humiliating themselves for our entertainment sound to our culture today. I think that The Hunger Games depicts what many of us would characterize as barbarism, and I think you would be correct.

The games put 24 young people against each other in a fight to death scenario in an arena full of hidden dangers and nightmarish creatures. I look at the ideas of the games and I cannot help but think about the way we are enculturated into an idea of the American dream. I know I have fallen prey to the American dream many, many times. But how are we taught that we are to get what we think we “ought” to have no matter the expense to others. How is our cultural viewpoint that of me getting mine no matter what?

I think Christ draws a drastic distinction between The Hunger Games where only one person is able to prevail (I won’t spoil the book if you haven’t read it) and changes the language.  Instead of only one can survive, Jesus calls to live a life where there is plenty for all. We may not have a huge house or two brand new cars, but we will live in plenty. I talked a little bit about the Kingdom of God during Youth on Sunday night, and it is something that is really difficult to explain in a coherent way for teenagers. But I think the gist is this, we can all have enough, although we may not have all we want.

If we look at our world and try to step outside of our own hunger games and strive to make sure that there is plenty for all, maybe we can finally escape this perpetual rebellion we all live with.