Apr 28, 2011

Soul Surfer--Spoiler Free Movie Review

        I saw Soul Surfer yesterday and was pleasantly surprised. It is the true story of Bethany Hamilton's fight to get back into surfing after a shark attack. Her arm is completely severed yet she has the courage and faith to keep going.
        There are a lot of movies about couragous people, but very few where people rely on faith. In the beginning they are singing "Blessed be the Name of the Lord" by the Newsboys. The line "the Lord gave the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord" is straight out of the book of Job.
        It is very powerful to see a young girl trust in God in the face of such pain and loss. What makes it even better is that it is a true story. It is essentially a film about faith without the cheese factor provided by most "Christian" movies. Very often the story is great and the acting is lame. This is not the case with a cast  containing Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Kevin Sorbo (Hercules), Carrie Underwood, and Craig T. Nelson.
        I went with just over 20 teens and parents. We laughed, some cried, and everyone enjoyed it. If you have some extra cash and a couple of hours this weekend Soul Surfer does not dissapoint.

The REAL Royal Wedding!

        There is a lot of talk today about the royal wedding. It is even a trending topic on Twitter. The funny thing is the the royal family have only been figureheads for years. Are you really ruling if you have no power? It is the equivalent of acting as if Ronald McDonald is the CEO of McDonalds.

        The church in scripture is called the bride of Christ. There will one day be a marriage dinner in heaven with all who have turned to God through his Son. Jesus told this parable (story with a meaning) to illustrate God's invitation to this royal wedding is like.

Luke 14:16-24 ... “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. 17When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ 18But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’
 21 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. 24 For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”

        Have you accepted His invitation? It is even more like a proposal. The royal wedding of all time is going to happen with or without you. God's desire is that you choose with. 

Apr 26, 2011

A Prayer Lesson from the Crazy Irishman in Braveheart

        I watched Braveheart again a couple of weeks ago for the first time in a while (It was definitely not the first time ever). It is one of my favorite movies of all-time. I love it for the leadership and sense of justice that is present in the character of William Wallace.

        I realize that it is not historically accurate at times and I really don't care. So any comments to this effect will be read but slightly overlooked. What struck me upon watching it again for the umpteenth time was Stephen the Irishman. He is portrayed as being a little crazy but extremely loyal. He talked to God directly for everything and in front of anyone.

        I must admit that seeing his interaction with God really made me reevaluate my ongoing God conversation. What about you? Has your walk with God become stale or formulaic? Are your talks with Him relegated to Sundays, meals, or even devotional time. When was the last time you had a real conversation with Him as if He were physically in the room with you?

        I've had some conversations like this in the past couple of weeks, and oddly enough I do not feel crazy. However, I do feel that I would be crazy to go back to the way things were.

Read this post as well:
Braveheart: A Lesson in Politics

Apr 22, 2011

Good Friday--The First Earth Day

        Today is Earth Day as well as Good Friday. What do these two days have in common? Well more than you may think.

        Earth Day encourages us to look around at our human made mess and take active steps to clean it up. We urge others to reduce waste, reuse items, and recycle our trash. In all it is a worthwhile effort reminding us to be good stewards of God's creation.

         There is another human made mess called sin (choosing our way over God's way). Good Friday marks the day that God sent his son Jesus to reduce the amount of people living apart from Him. Through Christ's death on the cross He can reuse those who were once serving sin. Jesus started the ultimate recycling project when He not only beat sin on the cross but He defeated death by raising from the dead. The recycling continues today whenever someone turns from their sin to God through what Jesus did for the entire world. He makes us brand new with an entirely new purpose.

        So I would like to wish a Happy Earth Day to everyone in the world that God loved so much that He would give His only son to save from ourselves.

Apr 19, 2011

Do You Soar Like an Eagle or Fall Like a Brick?

        I went to a park the other day with my son's kindergarten class. The park has a small wildlife section that includes two bald eagles.

        After seeing a couple of moms enjoying nachos, with a huge pile of cheese and jalapenos, I decided it was time for a snack. I left the kids with my wife and the other moms and headed for the concession building and the cheesy goodness that awaited me.

        The eagle cage was on the way to the concessions. I was admiring the eagles when a nearby worker started using a drill. The eagle left its perch and began to soar right towards me. That is until it went about five feet. He tumbled awkwardly to the ground hitting a log on the way down.

        The eagle is a prisoner. The enclosure is too small for him to fly. In his moment of panic he forgot the limitations placed on him by his captors.

        If you have not submitted your life to Jesus then you are in captivity to sin. Only Christ can give you freedom from your sin. This is a sad place that everyone finds themselves in. However, what is truly sad is when a believer who has been freed from sin chooses to live in captivity. Unbelievers continually crash due to their lack of freedom and some believers chooses to sit and watch, not realizing that they could actually soar above it all.

        Isaiah 40:31 says, "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Are you soaring in freedom, living in captivity, or choosing to voluntarily go back into the cage? 

Apr 16, 2011

Unevangelism: A Different Kind of Invitation

        I have been frustrated with a lot that goes on in modern evangelical circles for some time now, especially in the south. One thing that particularly saddens me is the invitation given at many Christian events.

        It seems that many people who "accept" Christ at Christian events are in one of two disturbing groups. The first ones are believers who are feeling convicted about sin and will pray "the prayer" again and again seeking solace from their doubts. The second group is the ones who have prayed a prayer at one time to get to Heaven. These individuals are often looking for a get-out-of-Hell-free-card, yet they have never given their LIFE to Him.

        This frustration has led me to investigate a different approach. So I thought I would see what Jesus did. His invitation was simply "follow me". Many people asked Him for eternal life who did not receive it (4 specific people in the Gospels). Why did Jesus turn people like the rich young man away? Because they would not follow Him with their entire being. People were instructed to count the cost, take up their cross and follow Him.

        Count the cost? We do not even let people open their eyes so that we can save a new believer the embarrassment of others seeing his/her "private" commitment. Are you kidding me?

        I recently spoke at an event where close to 25 people raised their hands to repent and turn to Jesus. I then asked them if they were already believers who just feel that sin has gotten in the way of their relationship with God to put their hand down. They were then instructed to talk to God about it in their seat. Over half of the hands went down.

        I spoke at an event last night where seven teens raised their hands to follow Christ. I told them of the trouble Jesus promises and the suffering that Paul said accompanies a believer. I told them that Jesus said that if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before His Father. I told them that I was going to let everyone open their eyes in a moment and to count the cost before keeping their hands up. Two hands went down. I pulled the five aside and began asking questions. It turns out three were already believers who just needed to start fresh. I prayed for them and dismissed them to pray with other believers about where they had strayed.

        The last two were serious. They were pastor's kids. They had never really followed Christ. An event that could have boasted seven souls now had two. In fact one tweet escaped that said five had accepted Christ. In the end though, I went to bed with peace in my heart. Knowing that I had no doubts about the two that had endured the most awkward invitation of their lives (especially as pastor's kids with members of their youth groups present).

        Christ has done ALL of the work needed for salvation, but lets not sugar coat the life that Jesus offers. It is tough, not for wimps, and at times all uphill. The good news of the Great commission is that He will be with us even until the end of the world.

        I know in ministry that there is a pressure for numbers. It is easy to start viewing people as numbers. My challenge to you is to present the Gospel, but also define the cost, so that one can "count it" before picking up his/her own cross to die to their old way of life.

Apr 9, 2011

Are You Spiritually Constipated?

        Everyone needs to eat and drink. We do it every day. However there are certain times that our hunger or thirst is masked by something else.

        At the risk of sounding gross I will say that the something in question is the need to relieve ourselves. Stay with me and I will make my point. When you have to go badly you would never think of guzzling down a glass of water. The same goes for eating a meal when you know that an extended stay in the facilities is required. We cannot enjoy a meal when our body needs to relieve itself of waste.

        Even though we would not miss a meal purposely (let alone for a day), many try to go a whole week on one meal spiritually. We sit at church gorging ourselves with what is offered, only to return with a empty stomach (spirit) the following Sunday.

        We should pay close attention to the physical needs of our body to understand the spiritual needs of our true selves. Our walk with Christ should be an ongoing time with a close friend that lasts throughout the day.  Meals are intimate. No one sits with strangers at a restaurant. We eat with those we are close to. To sell God short by meeting with him once a week is a tragedy. It is also a shame to box him into a small section of each day (devotions). We should be seeking him throughout the day, just as we eat when we are hungry.

        This brings me to the waste. When we have sin in our lives it is difficult to fellowship with God. Our bodies give us a clue as to how we should deal with sin. Flush it! There is no way to enjoy a meal (interaction with God) with sin in the way. My advise is simple: Relieve the waste and enjoy the meal. There is simply no room for spiritual constipation in a relationship with God.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

        How long has God been waiting for you to acknowledge him throughout the day. He doesn't want your Sunday, or five minutes--He wants you, yielded and open. He desires the intimacy of the meal to be shared between friends. Jesus said, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20).

Apr 4, 2011

Similar but Not the Same

        On Sunday my family and I went to visit Steele Creek Church in Charlotte, NC. It has been eye opening to visit other churches since I have been on sabbatical. The address that we put into our GPS was West Arrowood. The GPS gave us the option of Drive or Road. We both believed that they were probably one and the same so we chose Drive.

        We could not have been more wrong. Initially we would have been 45 minutes early so we could sign in, drop off our kids, and enjoy a stress free Sunday morning worshipping God. Soon the illusion of punctuality began to unravel. When we got close to West Arrowood Drive the exit was no longer open. We had to take a detour on new roads that our GPS didn't recognize. We finally found a street that it knew. We followed all of the "right" directions until we ended up at a dead end. Oddly enough there was a church there, but not the one we were looking for.

        We decided to try it with Road instead of Drive. We were 20 minutes out of the way and ended up 5 minutes late to the service.

        There are so many belief systems in this world claiming to be a way to God. Some even use the name of Jesus. It is politically correct to say that all roads lead to God. This is not the case according to the Bible.  John 14:6  says, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." 

        Just because a path looks similar or even bears a close name does not mean that the destination will be the same. We all have an inward navigation system pointing us toward spiritual truth. The Bible calls this the law of God written on our hearts.  Just because the navigation system is good does not mean that we have entered the correct address. Jesus is the only way to God--Not our works, sincere beliefs, or fulfilled religious duties. Just Him. Period.


Apr 1, 2011

The Theology of a Kindergartner

I did an audio interview with my five year old son Luke, on his understanding of the Christian faith. Here is a transcript of our interview.

Me: Luke, who made the world?
Luke: God
Me: Can you tell me what happened when God made the world?
Luke: He made grass, He made trees, and He made water, and He made animals, and He made dolphins, and He made every single fishy, and He made the sky, and He made birds, and He made people, and He made trees and grass.
Me: Were the people good? 
Luke: A little bit and then the devil turned into a snake and tricked them, that they could eat the apple and they got sent out of the garden.

Me: What is it called when people do bad things?
Luke: Sin.
Me: Is there anyway to stop sin?
Luke: Um . . . um.
Me: Do you sin?
Luke: Yes.
Me: Do I?
Luke: Yes.
Me: Well, how can we stop it?
Luke: By . . . um, fighting it
Me: Fighting it?
Luke: Yes.
Me: And if I try really really hard, I won't be a sinner anymore?
Luke: You still will be.
Me: Well, then who could stop it?
Luke: God.
Me: How would He do that?
Luke: By dying on the cross for us.
Me: Why did He need to do that?
Luke: To ... um ... take our sins away.
Me: How does that take away our sins?
Luke: Because He's powerful.
Me: Right, but why did He have to die? Can't He just forgive us?
Luke: Yes.
Me: Without dying?
Luke: But He forgived us and died.

Me: Did Jesus stay dead?
Luke: No. He came back alive.
Me: Where did He go after that?
Luke: To Heaven.
Me: What's He doing?
Luke: Watching us and . . . listening to us.
Me: Why?
Luke: Because He is watching over us.
Me: What do you mean listening to us? Does He like to listen to us?
Luke: Yes. When we speak to God.
Me: How do we do that?
Luke: By praying and singing songs about Him.
Me: You can talk to Him by singing songs?
Luke: Uh huh, singing songs about  Him.

Me: Why do we go to church?
Luke: To learn about God.
Me: Can't you learn about God at home?
Luke: Yes, in the Bible and you can read the Bible wherever you want.
Me: Then why do we need to go to church? What is different about going to church than reading the Bible at home?
Luke: There are more people at church than at home.

Me: Do we sometimes give at church?
Luke: Yes.
Me: What is that called?
Luke: Um . . . Giving to God.
Me: Offering?
Luke: Yes.
Me: What do you think they do with the money?
Luke: God takes it.
Me: Why would God need our money?
Luke: . . . I don't know.
Me: They use it to pay for the building and the lights and . . .
Luke: No! It's up in heaven when God gets it.
Me: The money?
Luke: Yeah.
Me: Why would He need money in heaven? The streets are made out of gold.
Luke: Because . . . the money is for the streets. 
Me: So, He uses our money to make more roads?
Luke: Yes.

Me: What should people who follow Jesus do when they see someone who is hurt?
Luke: Help them.
Me: What if we see someone who is homeless?
Luke: You give them a home.
Me: What if we don't have enough money to buy a new house for them.
Luke: Then we should chop down trees to make a little house for them. 
Me: But you would have to own the land that you put the house on. What could we do instead of giving them a house?
Luke: We could let them stay at our house.
Me: For how long?
Luke: Until they have enough money to buy a home.

Me: If you are a follower of Jesus and someone is mean to you, what should you do?
Luke: If you don't like what they are saying then just walk away.
Me: What if they hit you?
Luke: Then just ask them to stop.
Me: What if they don't?
Luke: Then go get a grownup.
Me: What if they are hurting someone else?
Luke: Then I would stop them.

Me: What do you think the worst sin is?
Luke: To kill.
Me: Why?
Luke: Because that's very very very bad. 
Me: Why is it worse than lying?
Luke: Because killing is making people die.

Me: Why should we read the Bible?
Luke: To learn more about God.
Me: Why do we need to learn more about God?
Luke: 'Cause if you don't know much about Him, then read the Bible.
Me: What if someone doesn't want to know about God?
Luke: Then you just . . . um . . . tell them about God.
Me: Why do we need to tell them?
Luke: Because if they don't know about God and they don't know about any other gods, then tell them about our God.
Me: What if they do know about other gods? should we still tell them about our God.
Luke: Yes.
Me: Why?
Luke: Because, there gods are fake and our God is real!

Thanks for doing the interview buddy.