The Rest of the Story

 

 
Have you even been in the middle of a good book?  The characters are captivating, the dialog is snappy, the plot is as thick as ever.  It’s so good it’s tough to put it down.  But, of course, life calls and you must insert your bookmark and turn your attention elsewhere.  Finally, at the end of a long day you decide to finish up the chapter you’ve been working on.  You head to your favorite chair in the living room right next to your reading table.  Confusingly enough, the book is not there.  You are not sure where you left it.  You check the bedroom, the kitchen counter, even the backseat of the car.  Still nowhere to be found. 
 
Your book is gone.  You were smack dab in the middle and now your book is gone.  As much as you would love to finish the story, you are now unable.  You feel frustrated and uncomfortable leaving something so great incomplete.
 
What if we were to look at our faith life as a book? How far along in the story are you?  Do you find it to be riveting or does the story of your faith put you to sleep?  How often do you put time into reading?  How much do you look forward to getting through another chapter?
 
God is writing his story upon our lives.  But what he has written we need to read and engage with and make a part of our lives.  For so many Christians, faith is an intellectual decision to believe in Jesus.  Our conversion becomes the end of our journey.  The truth is, once we are saved and trust in Jesus as our Savior, we are only halfway through the book!  God is inviting us to live into the rest of the story. 


The Reality of Easter

The Reality of Easter   This past Easter Sunday was a glorious celebration of new life and victory.  We left our churches inspired and re-energized in our faith.  Then we turned on the TV or listened to the radio.  News of what had occurred in Sri Lanka stunned our sense of joy. Three churches were targeted and nearly three hundred innocent Christians were killed.  The coordinated attack involved six suicide bombers.  David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA said that the attacks were “planned on Easter to strike fear in the hearts of Christians.”
 
But you see, the main problem for a terrorist is that Easter and fear do not mix.
 
Like light in a dark room, the victory of Easter drives out all fear.  It is not just a fairy tale that we perpetuate, or some kind of wishful thinking.  In the first century a real man was crucified on a real cross and really buried in a tomb.  On that first Easter, that same man really rose from the grave as an unadulterated act of divine authority and power!


Kingdom Politics

 
Yes, I used that word…a word charged with division and laden with opinions.  But, in all honesty, there are many such words in our current cultural lexicon.  The beauty of it, for Americans, is that no matter our opinions or positions, we are allowed to make our voice heard.  We can cast a vote, we can protest, we can freely speak our convictions and beliefs.
 
As with any freedoms afforded to us, responsibility follows directly behind.  The fact is, our political process carries with it consequences.  But we are not always willing to accept responsibility for the outcomes, intended or not.
 
There is an often used phrase, “Politics is downstream from the culture.”  In other words, our cultural milieu, our shared values and mores dictate the flavor and direction of our political realm.  People embedded in the culture elect leaders to represent them in government.  In theory then, these elected leaders write and pass laws that in turn reflect what the culture esteems.
 
But there is yet a higher tier.  Religion.  In the end, culture is downstream from religion.  It all begins with what we believe.  You see this truth reflected around the world.  The religious beliefs of the people form a culture that in turn creates some from of governance.  As the Judeo-Christian worldview wanes in the United States, other religions have cropped up to fill in the void.  These other worldviews then compete with Christianity in the arena of ideas for influence in the culture.  We can all feel the tension of this tussle.  We sense it all around us and see it plainly in the political world as opposing ideas seek representation. 


Created in the Image of God

“How could you think that?”
 
“Don’t get me started!”
 
“Are you an idiot?”
 
“Aaaaargh!”
 
Our current political climate can make it difficult to communicate.  One must choose one’s words very carefully for fear of offending.  We live in an era where complete strangers dig through the archives of one’s life in order to find the smallest of antisocial morsels in order to be flaunted.  The tension in the public square is prone to make many clam-up.  Standing for what one believes is becoming harder than ever.
 
Of course, our stance on political issues reflects greatly on our worldview and what we believe.  There are certain topics that transcend the bounds of pure political rhetoric and spill over into the world of right and wrong.
 
Abortion is one such issue.
 
We can debate over the way in which government operates.  We can quibble about tax rates.  We can differ when it comes to immigration policy.  But to hash out the value of human life right at the outset?  This, to me, smacks of something unalienable, something basic, something self-evident. Of course, we ought to value life.  Of course, we ought to protect the most vulnerable among us…right?
 
Nobody claims to be pro-abortion.  It is seen as a last option.  A way out of a tough situation.  We re-categorize the child as a “fetus”.  We say it is not viable.  We question their quality of life. We say it is a woman’s choice.
 


The Art of Discipleship

 
Humans are creative.  We like design.  We like to express ourselves.  We like to make cool things.  Just take a stroll around your neighborhood.  Notice the way people decorate their lawns.  Notice the various uses of colors and shapes.  We even try to make our front doors look aesthetically pleasing. Even in a complex of town homes, each tenant has added their own flair somehow.  Why do we do this?  Why do we feel the need to create?
           
Personally, when it comes to decorating, I could function just fine in a cinder block room.  I have very little desire to “spruce up the place.”  At the same time, in such an environment, I would spend my time reading books and writing songs and be otherwise engaged in creating and enjoying the creations of others.
 
I believe this incessant drive to create is a direct reflection of the image of God within us.  We are created in the image of our Creator and therefore, we create!   
 
Certainly, God has gifted each of us with some amount of “natural” talent.  Some develop these talents and hone their skill to the point where they can make a career for themselves.  Others prefer to create as a hobby.  Wherever you might fall on this spectrum, it is important to keep one thing in mind: You are called to create.
        Read more…


Holy Humiliation

 

Usually when we think of humiliation, we equate the experience with embarrassment.  Embarrassment is not typically something we would choose.  Unlucky circumstances or the ploy of another person conspire to make us the object of ridicule.  This is to be avoided.  In likewise fashion we do not want to become too acquainted with humility.  It is better to be assertive, to make our will known, to demand respect! And then Christmastime rolls around and we come face to face with the example of our Savior.

I love how Paul describes what is going on in Philippians 2:
 
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal
with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself
in the form of a human,
he humbled himself by becoming
obedient to the point of death
even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honored him
and gave him a name above all names,
so that at the name of Jesus, everyone
in heaven, on earth
and under the earth might bow
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.


It is Good to Tell the Truth

I love being a worship leader. I love to worship, I love God and I love music. It’s a triple win!  However, while I always love God, I do not always love all worship music. Sometimes the melody is so simplistic it can hardly be categorized as music. Sometimes the lyrics seem like the writers were just randomly flipping through the Bible to pick out “Christian” words.  And honestly, how many versions of the same song do we really need???
 
The modern-day worship music industry can be a frustrating trip down an aisle filled with cookie-cutter song structures and shallow lyrical content. However, do not give up hope! There will always be a new song just around the bend that touches the heart of God, that inspires the soul, that magnifies the Lord and that draws us deeper into the depths of his love.  You might say this is all subjective and you’d be right.  Certainly, two different people do not appreciate songs in the same way.  However, I believe that God is still at work inspiring his church to pen new, relevant songs that glorify His name while drawing us, His people, together.


Making Halloween Meaningful

Halloween is coming up and I hope you already have all the decorations and costumes you want because the stores have switched to Christmas gear.  I myself am a bit of a curmudgeon.  I don’t put up a fake cemetery in my yard. I don’t buy spooky knick-knacks or display carved pumpkins. In fact, if it weren’t for trunk or treat, I wouldn’t even dress up!  I like candy as much as the next person, but I can get that all year long! Despite my reluctance, people will dress up in ghastly garb and spend an untold amount of money (actually Forbes puts the price tag at about $9 billion!)  on lawn décor and bric-a-brac all for the sake of an amusing night of gathering candy from your neighbors under threat of trickery.    It’s fun.  It’s tradition.  It’s good for the economy.  But is there a way for your family to inject some meaning into the practice of Halloween? Read more…



Marriage is Good

Recently, I have been officially licensed within the United Methodist Church.  This allows me to fulfill certain duties that I could not before.  One of those duties is presiding over weddings.
 
To be candid, I was perfectly fine existing in a world where I would never have to perform a wedding ceremony.  So often weddings are full of fluff and nervous concern about things that do not really matter.  It’s the “big day”.  Months of preparation and thousands of dollars have been poured into one ceremony.  There is also the drastic rate of fallout.  Divorce is not only commonplace, in some ways it is expected, almost as though it is a life stage everyone goes through.  Statistics on divorce are everywhere and our culture no longer mourns the loss of intact families…it is now an accepted element within the landscape. So, for me, the whole idea of being part of a wedding is tough to swallow.  In my jaded view a wedding ceremony is a pre-divorce hearing. It’s not something in which I want to involve myself.


The Top of the List

                                                                    Life is nothing more than a series of decisions.  We decide what to eat and where we go and what we take along the way.  It’s true, we can’t always determine what hand we are dealt or how the plans of others may conspire to thwart our own, but despite these intrusions, we still get to decide how we react to such events. 

We realize that here are not enough hours in the day to belabor every single decision.  We have ways for streamlining the process, of taking shortcuts.  One of our main strategies is a listing of things we value most.  We call them priorities.

All the decisions that come our way are automatically filtered through this list of priorities.  The way we vote, the way we eat, the way we dress, the state of our homes, the cars we drive and the way we raise our kids.  Our priorities are so powerful that they actually shape our lives and if we are really committed to them, they will eventually define the way we live.   

This next question is natural: What are your priorities?  What lies at the top of your list?  When it comes to your children, what are your priorities for them?  Many people would hope that their kids would be successful, achieve good grades, excel in sports or music.  Amid these hopes and dreams, sitting there at the top of the list, many parents would simply site “happiness” as their top priority. Read more…