Easter, Windex, and gym memberships

So we end the story, God’s story, and his story of interaction with us, with a meal, an arrest, a cross, and a tomb. But it’s no cosmic secret that there is a Sunday. Christians for thousands of years have reflected on this, if at no other time, once a year, on a Friday in the spring we call “good.” Jesus has the most recognizable name on earth and most everyone knows the story. Although no one has a picture of him, no one living has met him, not everyone believes in who he claimed to be, speak his name in any country on earth, and anyone will know exactly whom you are talking about. Yet as Friday turns to Sunday, on this previously mentioned weekend in the spring, people around the world who do believe in who this Jesus said he was, celebrate Sunday, the Sunday, Easter Sunday. I have celebrated a number of Easters. My family would always do egg hunts, and Easter baskets, and big meals, and Easter bunnies. And as we are on the back end of yet another Easter, a question I have been asking and perhaps one worthwhile to give thought to is this, “so what now?” What do we do now? I get that that happened. But what is supposed to happen now? And that question makes me think of gym memberships.

I don’t spend an overwhelming amount of time in the gym. Honestly, even that is an understatement. I barely spend any amount of time at the gym. I don’t do protein shakes and I am not one of those guys walking around carrying a gallon of water. When I do go to the gym many times I am in awe of how in shape people actually are. That is not me. They are in a level of shape that I was unaware was possible. Why I bring this up is that I actually have a gym membership, even though I rarely attend. You sign up to get fit, you don’t get fit so then you can sign up. Its not a club for the fit, it’s a club for those who want to get fit, be fit, live a fit lifestyle. Imagine you go to the gym and you decide you want to be a member (this is likely after a shortsighted and ambitious New Years resolution). Imagine the employee welcomes you into his office and sits you at his desk. Now imagine if he said, “I am sorry, you are not in shape enough to be part of our gym. I am betting you don’t run enough miles a week, you don’t lift weights, and it doesn’t look like you drink any protein shakes. I don’t see you carrying a gallon of water. Get in shape then come and talk to me.” You would likely be a little floored. That is because gyms are there to help you get into shape. The perquisite is not that you have to be in shape, it’s that you want to get in shape. The requirement is not that you have transformed your body, it’s that you want your body transformed.

This is the problem with many people’s perspectives of God, it’s that God want’s you healthy before he wants you. We make God into some new years resolution that we never follow through on. There is always next year. Actuality the inverse is true, he wants you so you can be in healthy. He want’s to be in relationship with you so you can start the process of transformation He wants to start now. The more in you think you have it all together without him, the likelihood that you need him all the more.

Think of it this way. You have a glass of water and it is your only possible means of getting anything to drink. Imagine I came by an added a few drops of Windex to it, how would you get the Windex out? You could pour out as much of the water as you wanted, but not matter what you do, you can never be sure if you go it all out. You can’t get it all out. You might die of poising, or die of thirst from not drinking it. You can’t filter out the Windex. You need a new glass of water.

And so the story ends on Friday. It ends because it had to end. Before Friday, we all sit with a glass with chemicals in it. Some have more than others, but it doesn’t really matter, the water is contaminated, we need different water. We walk around with these things that poison us every day. We harbor the guilt and the shame and the pain and the fear left over from the way we have poisoned others, or the way we have poisoned ourselves. This is sin. Sin is the way we separate ourselves from God. It’s the way we poison ourselves. You don’t need to believe in God to have sinned. Sin poisons the life that we were given weather you believe in God or not; A life that was supposed to be pure and right and healthy.

No reasonable person would look at a glass with chemicals in it and say, “oh its not a big deal, maybe they aren’t that bad to drink, its not that bad.” Even if you didn’t know the chemicals were there, it doesn’t mean they magically won’t poison you all the same. They are bad to drink, they might even kill you, and it doesn’t have to be that way. We try to purify, try to clean, try to do our best, but it isn’t enough.

That is the beauty of Sunday. God ends his story on Friday, so he can begin a new story on Sunday. God absorbed all that we could not, he took on the sin of the world and emptied himself, so that we might experience life. Death on Friday, leads to life on Sunday. He took our cup, he took our poison, he took it all. And so we are left with an empty cup. No more poison, but no more water… until Sunday.

In the final book of the Bible, the author has a vision of a holy encounter with Jesus. As the author looked up he heard Jesus say, “I am making everything new.” He didn’t say, I am tuning things up. Or I am dusting things off. I am making everything new. It starts with Jesus, on Sunday. Rose to new life, so that he might raise us to new life as well. He is making everything new. This is what Sunday is all about.

What do we do with that? What we do is start. I am often asked how it all works, what can this do, what is this God thing all about. I respond by saying that God wants to transform all things about us, he wants to make everything new and right. He wants to give us a new, pure cup of water. But we have to begin somewhere. Transformation doesn’t happen instantaneously most of the time. Transformation happens when you acknowledge there is a starting point and you see where you want to go. We can’t be transformed if we don’t want to be transformed. We can’t be transformed outside of God. Try as we might, we could empty our cup till the last drop of water and in that last drop of water will be a last drop of Windex.

God doesn’t look to you and say, go get your act together then come and see me. He looks to you and says, “It’s Sunday, and I am making all things new. If you want to be made new, it’s not going to happen out there. It is going to happen with me.”

 

 

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

Revelation 21:5

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Shallow waters and bacteria get people sick

When I met my wife, one of the biggest changes that I made was that I became a boater. I call myself a boater by association because, while I enjoy boating and wake boarding and being out on the water, my wife and her family live for it. Every summer for the last 8 has been consumed by boating. No joke, if you are looking for my wife’s family and I on a nice day, the likelihood that w would be out on the boat is near 100%. We boat on a stretch of the Fox River that flows from the boarder of Wisconsin down to Algonquin, IL. It is to my understanding one of the most crowded inland waterways for boaters, as well as one of the most polluted. They have done a great deal to clean it but all growing up I always swore, as we drove over the bridge that joined East and West Algonquin over the river, that I would never go in the Fox. Low and behold, the last eight years has seen me in that river countless times.

This summer however has been different however. It started well, being one of the hottest Junes in history. But the hottest June quickly turned into the driest June. The river depth continuously lowered and more and more boats were bottoming out proving to be costly for boaters and making it only possible to only boat in certain sections of the river. Those sections only proved useful for a short time however. As the rains held off, not only did the water level remain low but also the water flow was weakened and slowed. This provided an optimal habitat for dangerous bacteria, which began to get people sick when they ingested it inadvertently from being in the water.

Its crazy, what started as such optimal boating conditions turned into the same reasons we were prevented from going into the water.

One of my favorite stories from the Bible also has some epic boating scenes. It is the story of Jonah. We don’t get the backstory, we don’t get the surrounding details, and we simply get God getting down to business. His word comes to Jonah, who we find out to be a prophet. Not only was Jonah supposed to be someone who proclaimed to follow God, he was supposed to be sort of a model for those who would follow God. Being a prophet meant that he was someone God was going to use specifically to speak through. So already by the end of verse one, if you were to guess what this story would be about, you might assume it has a lot to do with this guy Jonah following whatever God told him to do.

By verse two however you realize how had the task is going to be for Jonah. He is instructed to go speak against Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria, because their wickedness had come up against God. He was not the only one who had experienced their wickedness. Jonah would have known the Assyrians all too well. They were ruthless warriors and killers. Historical accounts of the Assyrians discuss how they beheaded their foes bodies and hung the heads from trees outside their cities. Other accounts discuss how they would kill women and children at leisure. Still others discuss how they would burry their opponents bodies in the sand and put a stake through their tongue into the ground and let them die slowly.

So wait, why should Jonah go speak to them? It doesn’t mater. We read that Jonah ran. He bailed. He is supposed to be this guy who others are supposed to look to as a model for following God and instead he boards a boat for a city literally in the opposite direction of where he is supposed to go. And what transpires in the next scene is perhaps one of the best-known biblical stories. The boat Jonah jumped on finds itself in the midst of a violent storm. The sailors all do what they can to bring the vessel through, including praying to their gods, but we read that Jonah was fast asleep below deck. The one that was the cause of the impending destruction just wanted a nap! When Jonah comes back up he requests to be thrown overboard and killed before asking God to save the boat, a prayer he likely knows would have led him back towards Nineveh and his task at hand. The sailors do as he asks and Jonah, instead of meeting his demise, is swallowed by what Scripture says was a large fish.

Within the fish, Jonah has a bit of a change of heart, asking God to save him and low and behold. God answers Jonah. He shortly after finds himself in Nineveh proclaiming that God will soon destroy the city should they not repent of their evil ways and turn toward God. They were probably the most unlikely candidates to respond to such a message. In every military campaign they were accustomed to victory after victory, how could they even comprehend that this God might destroy one of the world’s superpowers? And yet they did respond. We read that the ruler of Nineveh encouraged his people to turn towards God, and in turn, God spared the city of over one hundred thousand.

Jonah, after his proclamation duties were completed headed to a hill to watch and see what God would do. Remember asking, why would God want Jonah to go speak to Nineveh? It wasn’t so God could gloat before their destruction; it was because God wanted to remind them that the doors of salvation were still open.

It is often assumed that Jonah didn’t not want to go to Nineveh out of fear; perhaps. But given what we read toward the end of the book, Jonah’s anger was not because God made him go, it was because God saved his enemies. Jonah wanted God to destroy the city. He didn’t want them to hear of God, he didn’t care if they repented. This was a people who had slaughtered thousands and Jonah wanted them to get what was coming. They were not worthy of his God. And as he watched with frustration, God relented from the city of once unbelievers.

It’s a dangerous thing when we start to stake claims of God, what he cares about, and whom he cares for. John, one of Jesus’ followers, and author of some of the New Testament wrote of Jesus described his presence in a person’s life as water. “Who ever believed in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them,” (John 7:38).  Two things start happening when we begin to stake claims over God. First, our faith begins to shallow. What may have once been great depth of love and compassion becomes a small puddle of concern. What was once deep pursuit of God becomes a fleeting thought of spiritual growth. Second, bacteria begin to grow that isn’t only harmful for you but to those you come in contact with. It actually gets people sick.

What we see in the story of Jonah is the trite but true reality that something is either growing or dying. It is perhaps best represented within our faith. Here is a man who God had called upon who would rather journey across country, risk shipwreck, prefer drowning, and spend three days inside the gut of a large water dwelling creature than follow where God was calling him. He would rather gloat in the destruction of a people than contribute to their salvation.

Spiritual vitality is dependent upon our outpouring of who God is unto the world. Another prophet reflected that the thoughts of God are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways. I have heard so many times from the students I have worked with that they don’t want to invite certain people because this church is their church. I remind them that the church is the only place that exists for its non-members. Are we more concerned about what we want, or what God might be willing to do in the lives around us?

When we choose to pursue his thoughts and his ways we pour deep clean waters into a hurting world. When we pursue our ways, we get people sick. We poison ourselves and the world around us. All too often we don’t even know it. Before we would think of putting the boat back on the river this summer we would want to know the depth is sufficient, and certainly we would want to know that the water is safe. I pray that those are our thoughts as we seek to pour out the love of God upon the world. They need to be reminded that God is still open to them, still calling to them. They don’t need to be getting sick.

 

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Does God Call Us Anymore?

When I was working on my graduate degree, my classes were comprised half by students who intended to pursue Ph.D. degrees in theology or history or philosophy, and half of whom who would pursue other things, some of which ministry, upon matriculation. On more than one occasion I remember professors offering council with I am sure the best intention, “Graduate study is difficult work, and it isn’t for everyone, but if it doesn’t work out there are plenty of ministries that need pastors.”

I remember being surprised by that “advice” every time it was offered. As if those of us who are incapable of study can fall back on a far easier profession. I’m not sure this was their intent but at the same time I cannot imagine how else this counsel could have been taken. It just served to broaden the great cloud of mystery that surrounds this notion of calling. It is far to often said and misunderstood with the same frequency.

Does God actually call us to do anything?

This is a question I have struggled with in recent months. I remember my first true conviction that I should become a pastor. I didn’t listen. I remember the conversations with mentors and friends who encouraged me to go into ministry; I didn’t listen. After a few years, I finally got the message. It’s a hard thing to describe, but there is a certain peace you feel when you know that what you are doing with written within, as if you have just a part in the story where you finally understand the character’s motivation, or you now know how the rest of the book will play out.

 Truth is, God doesn’t force us into our calling. He allows us to follow or remain, he lets us play the role we want, but he wants us to know that there are options, and there is a best option. I have heard the church so often misuse the idea of calling. We hear of someone being called away from our church and we wonder, why does God not care about our church? We hear of someone called to leave the ministry field to work in the public sector and with that we wonder why that public sector job is more important than the ministry job. And lets face it, we secretly wonder what the real reason was for the departure. Was it problems on the staff team? Was it a crisis of faith? We hear this word calling and we just don’t trust it.

God doesn’t hold a gun to our heads. He doesn’t force our hand nor push us through any doors. It wouldn’t be very loving if he did. Instead he has a way of affirming or denying options in our life. We hear “calling” and we think, “how does this most benefit the person?” but in actuality when God offers a new calling he says, “are you ready to be part of the next chapter in this story?” And as God calls one of us, he calls all of us. I have recently felt confirmation from God towards a transition from the current ministry role I am in. There are a whole lot of factors at play however at the end of the day it is clear that God affirms that calling. Likewise, I truly believe he is calling the ministry I have led over the last two years to new things as well. As he has confirmed my call he has simultaneously confirmed the call of others to step up, of students to claim ownership, of the ministry to reshape its identity and so on.

At the same time you have to deal with doubters. Typically those who have not found the same sense of peace or calling in their own work or mission. Now this is a very different thing than those around you offering wise counsel that may be contrary to what you feel is your calling. These are the people who cannot fathom how one would give up money, or comfort, or notoriety, or any other essential social currency that the majority of the world pursues. The reality is that these doubts are understandable but misinformed. Although things like money or comfort are nice, they are irrelevant to the story God is writing.

 We are all too often our biggest doubter. We want comfort, we want money, we want fame. We wonder if God will ever give us these things, we also wonder if he ants to deny us of them as well. In the end however, we can do no more than remember that God loves us more than we can ever know and his plan for us is better than we can ever imagine. The truth is, money doesn’t care about us, comfort can freely come and go; our pursuit of things results in nothing more than a perpetual pursuit of things. God however wants to journey with us, he wants to work through us, and he wants to continue to invite us into the next stage of his story.

There is a typical model those who are called in the Bible follow. (1) They have an authentic moment of realization to what God desires them to do. (2) They try everything in their power to offer excuses as to why they are wrong for the job, Moses couldn’t speak well, among other things, Saul wasn’t the right kind of person, Jeremiah was too young, etc. (3) They eventually agree. And in that we don’t watch these people as they grow towards riches and fame. We don’t remember them because of all they amassed on earth.  We instead look to them as people who relentlessly pursued God, and we se how God was faithful in their pursuit.

 Are we called today?

It is interesting that in all the major biblical accounts of direct calls form God are initially met with resistance by the one who is called. In the time I have worked and studied in a ministry context I have seen people called to a variety of things, sometimes within, sometimes outside the church. One thing that has been made evident is that when there is no internal resistance, no seed of doubt, no moment of pause, it is seldom God calling us to it. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t call us to things we are excited about, but rather, I don’t think God wastes his time calling us to things that don’t require faith in him. Why would he? His plan requires us to rely on him; the story he has authored requires the author to continue to pen the next chapter.

I think God is relentlessly pursuing us, constantly calling us to be part of his story, to continue to flip to the next page even though we have grown comfortable with the characters and settings on this one. It isn’t in his plan to end the story half way through, and it’s not in our plan either. If you have ever read or written a story, or seen a movie or a play, you would know that no one ever creates a character who serves no purpose. Why waste the time? Anyone who is part of the story is important to the story. And at the same time, it is not our role to determine our importance; it is our role to follow the story. We are not living a story about money or fame, or comfort. Our story is about love. His story is about love.

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God is in the business of reminding

In my first Chapel at Judson University during my undergrad work the University’s president issued a challenge. It was simple: memorize the Sermon on the Mount. For those of you not familiar with the Sermon, it is found in Matthew Chapters 5 – 7. Three chapters! It is one hundred and eleven verses. Immediately I decided that would be a challenge I would not be taking. That was five years ago.

If you were to ask my wife, she would probably tell you that I have trouble remembering anything. (Wives are often the most reliable source of information when it comes to husbands)

“Hey can you grab me a glass of water when you come back upstairs?” I reply, “Yes,“ however return with no water.

“Could you please change the laundry in thirty minutes?” I reply, “of course babe,” and a day later we are rewashing the same clothes because they sat in a moist washing machine for over twenty-four hours.

My wife knows this about me, and although I imagine it could be more than a point of frustration, she shows me a great amount of grace and love despite my forgetfulness.

I am not however terrible at remembering things, I am just terrible at memorizing meaningful things. While I had trouble with test taking because I couldn’t remember what I studied, I could still recite to you the song I learned at fourteen that names all of the helping verbs. I have trouble remembering what my wife may ask me to do, or important vocabulary for my job, or a specific schedule, but I can recite to you thousands of song lyrics and movie lines. When my wife’s family first downloaded iTunes, they had a bunch of music that they did not know the name or band to. We went through song after song to where I could name the band and song often within the first few bars.

As human beings, it is in our nature to either remember or forget. Although I have just stated what we have all known to be obvious, I mean this as more than forgetting an item at the grocery store or remembering an anniversary. I am talking about remembering the very truth of who we are, or instead, all to often, forgetting it.

If you have ever read through any portion of the Old Testament following the second chapter, we see this theme over and over again. As humans we forget. We forget the begging of our story, we forget who we are, we don’t remember how we were created and more importantly, who created us. The first story we read of highlights two people who forget the one rule they are supposed to follow. The initial group of people God identifies as his people continuously forgets him in pursuit of other “gods” of the day. God frees a nation from slavery in Egypt, ending the brilliant saga with the splitting of a sea and the drowning of there Israelites enemies. How ridiculously impressive! It isn’t more than a few sentences later that we read of how the Israelites have forgotten God, they have forgotten how miserable they were in slavery, and they even muse at going back to their wrenched bondage.

It is not that God can’t stand us forgetting him simply because he feels like some neglected five-year old child needed to be recognized. God would be just fine on his own. He however, cannot stand that when we forget who he is, we become less of who we are. By forgetting God we become less human. To truly be human is to embrace all of who we were created to be and who created us to be that. Do we not fully appreciate art only when we look all the way from the picture to the inspiration to the artist? When we sever ourselves from the memory of who created us, we remove a part of who we truly are from our existence. There is no motivation for inception, no inspiration for creation. We are just as we are yet we were created to be more than we are.

What is our difficulty with remembering? I think it is simply that life is filled with distractions. Everyday is suffocated by thousands of different avenues all leading towards something we see meaningful at the time, but all the while leading away from where we can find true meaning. The pursuit of money, the pursuit of fun, the pursuit of sex, the pursuit of respect, power, popularity, success, comfort, etc, are all roads that lead from the God who promises us more than just fun, or just comfort, or just success. None of these are bad individually, but they can only be understood in the context of who created all of them. Success is fruitless unless we realize who has given it to us. Sex can be damaging unless experienced within the context in which it was intended. Power can be dangerous if we forget the one who has power over all things. We remember meaningless things, we make smaller gods into bigger Gods and so we get hurt and we forget.

And yet the God of the universe, who has every right to just throw in the towel and leave us to our own devices knows us so well because he created us that time after time in the narrative of scripture we see that God is in the business of reminding.

He reminds who we truly are. He calls us back to him. God knows that we forget, and so he reminds us.

That’s what love is isn’t it? That despite forgetting time and time again, he has not given up on us. Instead of conceding that we are too broken to remember a God who has given us all things, he refuses to relent from calling us to remember.

Our history chronicles thousands or people who engage in trying to remember God, it is the very process of becoming more of a child of God. Or perhaps if you are uncomfortable with that language we could simply say that the process of remembering God and hearing the reminding of God is the process of being made more human.

And it’s with that reflection that I have decided to pursue hearing God’s reminding in greater clarity. I am half way through memorizing Matthew 5-7, 111 verses. My goal is to complete this by Easter, the greatest opportunity we have each year to pause and remember God, who his is, and just how much he loves us and wants to remind us of who we truly are.

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Mourning the Perfect Family Part II

If we are to ever break free from the hurts and disappointments that can and are common to every family, we must mourn the idea of the perfect family.  I am suggesting the term mourn because I don’t want to pretend we can simply just accept that the world is imperfect so we just need to deal with it. That sort of thinking is only denial. Lets admit it, we wish it was perfect. We pretend it is perfect. We re always comparing our lives to a “perfect  life.” We want the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect kids. You ever notice how no one has those things? And it is if no one has those things that I wonder if the actually exist.

We can’t just abandon our pursuit of perfect. Instead I think we need to struggle with the realization that God has greater purposes for you than simply create for you the perfect family. That perfect family doesn’t exist. Lets accept that it isn’t possible. Only then can we move from comparing what we have to what doesn’t exist and look toward how God is moving and working in the context we are in right now. We need to wrestle and process the anger that accompanies that realization. It is ok to be angry that there is pain in your life, it is ok to be angry about what has happened as a result of your broken family. It’s a healthy thing to process that. Instead of harboring that pain and frustration or manifesting it in other areas of our life, what if we too tie to come to terms that we were are not perfect, therefore nothing we do will be perfect.

We need to look toward the truth that God is good, he has created us as part of his story, his great story, and although his purpose is not to just give us a simple pleasant a perfect life, his purpose is great, and powerful, and unique.  God offers some astounding promises in his word, but I challenge you to find one that promises an easy perfect life. Sure Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” but its still a yoke and its still a burden. And that is OK.

When we think the world is perfect, we see no need for our brokenness, as if it is a waste. It is a malfunctioning of an otherwise perfect system. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t seek healthy relationships in and out of our family, but in that we need to be prepared of the reality that is an imperfect world. Our brokenness isn’t a malfunction of  perfect system, it is a product ofa world that is not fully restored, and a humanity that, when given the freedom to pursue other gods, often does.

But what if we encounter the world as God see’s it, the creation broken since the beginning of time. Inhabited by imperfect people from imperfect families, our we can begin to shift our disposition of asking, “why has God not made this better? To, “how is God calling me to use this?” It is not simply something that began with your family. You are not the first person to experience brokenness in your life. You join in solidarity with ancestors throughout history who have hit the strak realization that the world is not as it should be and who have experienced that first hand. It is a continual story we are part of as we read in the pages of scripture from the begging of time. I don’t know much but I do know these two things to be true: Human beings hurt people and are hurt by people. Although that may be obvious, it doesn’t remove the harsh reality and the even harsher sting of that hurt.

The Apostle Paul likely knew what it was like to have brokenness in his life. Growing up a devout Jew who all of the sudden abandoned his life’s work to perpetuate the Christian movement, I have a feeling Paul knew well what it was to have pain from a family. Yet in his letter to the Romans, he reminds his readers, of the truth of family.

When we open to Romans 8, we are struck with an understanding of family so countercultural to our society today, we have a tendency to brush over it as a trite Christian nicety, not a profound promise of God.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[h] And by him we cry, “Abba,[i] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

We must look toward what God does in fact have in store for us, how is God calling us out of our brokenness, our broken family, to help redeem a world that is in fact broken.

When we accept our adoption into the perfect family, we participate with the loving Father God in being Co-heirs of the Kingdom. What we must remember, what we can’t skip over from that verse is the final statement, “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  That is not a contingency, to participate in his sufferings. When we continue to question how we can avoid the pain, how we can avoid the suffering, how we can avoid the brokenness, we remain setup to be letdown. But what if instead we ask how can I be redeemed from this brokenness?

I want to conclude by saying that I know nothing I have said or could say could take away from broken relationships or pain you have had from your family, but I do want to say this. You are loved and cherished and valued by God. The very God who created the universe wants to meet you in that brokenness into his eternal family. He wants to call you out of it. And he wants to use your transformation to transform a broken world.  What I have found so freeing in my story is not that everything has been patched up but that when I let go of the brokenness that has taken place in my life and embrace the God who calls me into adoption, I am no longer bound by those chains. My brokenness becomes a means to make myself and other whole. It is typically in times of pain and areas of brokenness that we see God clearly. When we are confident that our life is going well we see little use for a God to fix what we don’t see as broken. It is when we feel powerless over our weakness however that he shows himself to be the God of all things. Life is no longer dictated by the hurt one may have been caused but instead is dictated by the redemption one has received.

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Overcoming the Silence

I love to watch movies. In all honesty, have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like movies? I am not sure that person exists. Perhaps they only like a type of movie, but if someone were to swear off movies altogether I would have some real concerns in judgment.

Easily one of my favorite movies of all time is Batman the Dark Knight. I could watch it on repeat and on one occasion did just that. The late Heath Ledger played the Joker and many have said it was the defining moment of his career. It shortly after that Ledger passed away, however the Dark Knight was not his final film.

If you saw the movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus you were not among a majority. The movie, debuting in 2009 was actually Heath Ledger’s final film. Ledger passed away halfway through the filming. The Imaginarium follows a traveling theater troupe throughout London sort of like a traveling sideshow offering viewers participation in an exploration of their dreams and imagination. The movie itself was not overly compelling however the specific scene that sets the trajectory for the entire plot stands as an interesting theological commentary.

The storyline is driven by an initial exchange between Dr. Parnassus and the Devil. The two meet within an ancient monastery where Dr. Parnassus is head of a monastic group commissioned with telling “the eternal story… the story that sustains the universe, the story without which there is nothing.” The Devil challenges Parnassus, “how can you believe something that can be so easily disproved?” following which he silences the storytellers. In the silence, the devil jests that the universe is still in motion. Parnassus insists that it is simply because others are still telling stories elsewhere within the world. The two proceed to wager who can “win more souls,” Parnassus, by telling and commissioning others to tell stories of imagination, or the Devil, by encouraging humanity to pursue feeble and carnal desires.

That’s really the problem with the world isn’t it? We are commissioned to listen to God’s story and continue its telling by the living of our own. All the while, the world is pulled astray, us included toward the feeblest of desires. To summarize C.S. Lewis, it is not that we make God to big, to powerful, but instead we make him to small, not powerful enough. We place God on a scale opposite all the world can offer us, money, sex, fame, power, and we in our falleness believe the scales to be of move value toward things that are fleeting, fading, and in the end will leave us still searching for ourselves and our story.

It is the sin of humanity that God continuously seeks us as we continuously seek for someone or something to take his place. The power of the Christian story is to disprove this cosmic untruth; by meeting God as he calls us, and living a life in pursuit of him, we turn the world on its head. Our story is part of an epic revolution of truth, commissioned to show that God does not indeed belong on the scales in the first place. Our story is the story that sustains the universe and although the darkness that envelops creation would have us convinced otherwise, it cannot be disproved.  The proof however is not in the telling but in the living, one is not merely convinced simply by observation, but rather in participation.

While there is a mission to silence the Christian story, whether the reason is antiquation, lack of intelligibility or otherwise, God’s mission is and always has been to prove his love for the world and his power to overcome the falleness of creation by divine subversive intervention: inviting humanity to participate in the suffering of Christ and in doing so, allowing humanity to become co-heirs to a new world, one of hope and not of sadness, one focused on a redemptive future not a painful past, on the resounding story of God not the silence of falseness of empty desires (Romans 8). It is our mission to overcome the silence, not by who can yell the loudest, but who can live

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