RSS

Category Archives: Religion

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.

 

 

Another Timely Message

So I think this may become a trend on my blog, and it will be the timely nature of God. Even through something static and man made, God will speak if we merely take time to hear it.

This morning I was doing a bit of catching up, and part of that was Psalm 143. I have a confession to make before I go any further, I’m a Psalms addict.  I know my favorite is supposed to be somewhere between Matthew and John, but I cannot help myself.

I love the Psalms because of the beauty of the language, and there is incredible power in the different types of Psalms. From praise to lament to calling out to God in absolute desperation I feel that the Psalms give us a picture of the lives of the writers and how they interacted with God.

So this morning I read, “Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I life up my soul.” Psalm 143:8 NRSV.  This verse was really something I needed to hear, after some stress and stupidity I needed to be reminded of God’s steadfast love.

I also needed to be reminded as I am daily or more often of God’s steadfast love. I love how timely scripture is. No matter where you are reading or what you are reading God can order our chaos. I see the chaos in our world, and it is a constant reminder of how God ordered the tehom. The nothingness, also often called chaos, and brought forth the order of creation.

When we see these words we need to be reminded that God’s action did not end at the creation of the world. He is constantly recreating and sustaining the world, a constant reordering of the cosmos. Let us all sear for the way we should go with God, and even if we do not know exactly where we are headed, that we lift our souls to the one who gives us chaos and order.

 

The Truth Will Out

I am an unabashed Harry Potter fan, and this phrase come from the fifth book when Harry is going down to the courtrooms to face charges of underaged wizardry. The line is spoken by Arthur Weasley as he escorts Harry down to the courtrooms, and before Dumbledore comes to save the day.

I was talking with my Tuesday morning Bible study group about Matthew 14:18 this morning,”But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.” This comes after the Pharisees accuse Jesus and his disciples of not following the elaborate hand washing rituals that they followed.  And this is part of Jesus response to the Pharisees. The implication is that yes they wash their hands elaborately, but the inner parts, their hearts, were truly the dirtiest part of their lives.

When I read this passage during my devotional time the other morning it got to me thinking about the fight we often have to fight against ourselves to put a Christ-like face out there. A lot of times the Christian life feels like “fake it til’ we make it.” And that is exactly the way is most of the time, we are trying to truly follow Jesus until we truly do follow him. But we always have those “truth will out” moments, those moments that our weak spots and tender spots still remain.

I see this in my own life when something happens and my initial reaction has nothing to do with the love of Christ, but everything to do with the way culture has conditioned me to react. When a neighbor says something that upsets me I do not mount a gracious response, but instead a heated or angry one. I know that we all fall, I count myself as chief of sinners as Paul wrote, but we have to try and mount a truly Christian response.

One of my professors in college David Zerkel had a quote in his office, “Practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect.” He called my attention to that quote many times throughout my time studying music under him. I can now freely admit now that my practice was not always perfect, nor was there always enough of it. We will have those truth will out moments, but the true test of our faith is what we do after we have fallen.

Do we just take ourselves out of the game, or do we dust ourselves off and try again the next time? I think perfect practice is how we react when we fail to truly live to our convictions. Living into our convictions in this world is extremely tough, especially when those convictions are counter to the world around us. But I really think that if we eventually practice truly following Christ, then as we, to cop a Wesleyan term, move towards perfection in our response to the world. And eventually the truth will out that we are truly seeking after God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and body.

 

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.

 

Transitions

This week has been a pretty cool week around here, we had a great boost to the membership of the church on Sunday morning with our 12 new confirmands joining, and now a part of our youth ministry. But it is a reminder of transitions getting ready to happen, and the almost constant transitions of life.

Here at Mulberry we are getting ready to welcome a new Senior Pastor next month, and say goodbye to our current Senior Pastor as he moves into a new role within the church. But this Sunday made me reflect and think about transition and all that it entails. Many people hate transition or change, while other welcome it with open arms and a sense of excitement.

For me change is not always easy, and the process is almost always difficult and hard. There are many things that impede change, our selves often being one of those things that impedes change.  Humans are creatures of habit, whether be a good or bad thing I will let others decide, but it is a fact.

Sometimes change comes in one catastrophic, cataclysmic event, and other times it takes the time table that feels reminiscent of tectonic plates. One of the things I have found hardest about change is the fact that it is always in God’s time, and his clock often does not match our clock.

How we deal with transition and change shows a great deal about our character, and about our ability to “deal” with life. Especially when the cataclysmic change hits us we reveal a lot about ourselves. For me the hardest change is not the instantaneous, but the tectonic change that takes months or years.  Often that change does not feel like change at all, but more like being stuck in the mud with no way out.

How we deal with change can often define us, how will you and I be defined? How will we embrace the things that God has in store for us so that we may be the best for God? I don’t know about you, but I am in a constant state of striving to live my life ever more fully into the purpose that God has for me. How are you coming along? Frustrated? Fulfilled? Or just fair to middling?