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Category Archives: Point of View

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.

 

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.

 

261 (the random name generated by the machine)

Today I feel like I have absolutely nothing to add to the conversation of the world. I am living in a distracted state of mind and I feel like there is not much useful getting done. How often do you feel this way? I know there are many days in which I sit down in my office and I just don’t know which pile to begin working on.

There are many piles on my desk currently, with the current worship series we’re doing piling up and the next series on Christian Theology also piling up. I just feel like things just move too quickly at times. Now I personally have a natural response to this kind of situation, and it’s probably not like it should be.

When I get overwhelmed my natural response is to find something else to waste time on, but my job does not give me that luxury. There are things that I have to get done, and also things that I have to move on to when those things get finished. But one of the things that helps me to push through and deal with these kinds of days is the longer term perspective.

God has given us the long view to help us to forget the troubles or lack of focus for the day. So if you have a difficult day of focus, just remember God has given us a long term perspective of working for His kingdom. Now try to push through.

 

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.

 

A Measure of Judgment

Let me preface this post by saying that my heart cries out for Caylee Anthony, her suffering makes me want to sit down and cry.  However, I am writing about the response that I see, and what our response as Christ’s followers should.

I woke up this morning and turned on my television. This is an unusual occurrence for me, but after I saw what was on I sat down and ate my cereal on the couch. What was on? It was the Today show, and what were they talking about? The Casey Anthony trial, and gauging reactions from people all over the place, even a former member of her defense team.

Yesterday all I saw, in my daily life as a social media addict, was reaction to the verdict, and at times the crying out for Casey Anthony’s demise. I had a single friend on facebook who called for Christian’s to act in a graceful way towards Casey Anthony.

When I sat down in my office for my quiet time this morning I read this, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Matthew 7:1-2. I myself as a follower of Christ know that I have been forgiven for all of the sins I have ever committed.

When I read this it really hit me at the gut level in seeing the response that I have seen to this verdict, I had to wonder at how many of those people would qualify themselves as Christian. I am not questions their faith or faithfulness, merely how well their responses are integrated with their faith.

My view of the human condition is that I am a fallen creature, that I sin and fall short of the glory of God, but I am forgiven. My status as being forgiven is to guide everything that I do, and especially to my interactions with other people. As a follower of Christ we have to extend grace to others, because if we do not we are not truly following in the way we should.

Seeing the acrimony, anger, and hate that I have seen poured out makes me wonder at how well we are integrating and communicating our faith to the world around us. I know that the ones who yell loudest often get heard, but we as Christians can mount a quiet, strong and graceful response to the world around us.

 

Black Beard’s Wisdom

So in the last week I have been to see “The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” twice, and have had one particular scene stuck in my head for a good bit of this week. I will not give away too much about the movie, but Jack Sparrow is in Blackbeard’s cabin. Then Blackbeard looks at Jack and says, “Your words surround you like cloud, make you hard to see.”

This line has stuck with me this week, it has just kept coming back over and over again. After the movie Sunday night I thought about this quote and it kind of struck me. How often do my words surround me like a cloud, and make Christ hard to see in me. We, as people claiming to follow Christ, are to be representations of God in the world around us.

I think a lot on how not only to teach how to be a Christ follower in the world, but also on how my own life can become much more like Christ.  How do I represent and re- present God to the world that to a great extent has become apathetic to His existence. We are surrounded everyday by people who either believe or live as if God does not exist.

We are surrounded by people who also have been hurt by so called Christians, and people espousing hateful views and ascribing them to their faith. The idea of Christ being someone that these people would want to get to know is laughable. How can we as people of faith, compassion, and love combat these things in our world.

I like to talk about living faith in an authentic way, and I like to think that living an authentic life will lead others to the source of our life.  When we live in ways that are not consistent with our faith we become like Jack Sparrow, our words surround us and make us hard to see.

We are all bound to be poor examples for Christ at times, in truth there are days where I just do not feel up to the pressure I put on myself to be a real representation of Christ. When does it become something I don’t have to think about and I truly master myself to the point of being a disciple is not a struggle.

I have a new idea to add to my prayers and it is that we will all not be surrounded by a cloud of words that do not represent Christ. I hope that if we do have a cloud it would be full like a gray storm cloud with the words of Christian love and the affirmation of the divine worth of all the people around us.