Monday, October 28, 2013

The Journey Part 3: Movable Temples

Posted by Michael

As I wrote in the last Journey blog post, the Israelites had a movable temple that reminded them that God would remain with them, no matter where their journey led. The story of God being in the midst of His people was just the beginning of a much larger story that God was weaving. Approximately 1500 years later, God stepped into human history in a much different way than He ever had before. God’s story of rescue and redemption climaxed as He stepped onto earth as a human with human emotions, challenges, and limitations. When Jesus came to earth, the dynamics of the temple changed. He taught that when we follow Him, he lives inside of us, giving us hope and direction. Individuals would now carry the presence of God from place to place, much like the Israelites carried their movable temple. The brick and mortar temple in Jerusalem has in many ways been replaced. You are now a movable temple that can bring the hope of God to the world. You are God’s answer to a world in need. Everywhere you go you carry God’s presence with you. Every person you encounter also encounters the God living in you, expressed in your love and your words. God has woven us into His amazing story of rescue and redemption. Having been rescued, we now seek to offer hope to those who are confused, hurting, and alone. You may feel insignificant, but those feelings are far from the truth. Your journey is far more significant that you have ever realized...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Words Worth Your Time

Posted by Michael

I love words.

I love the power they have to inspire, challenge,and motivate. Well chosen words have the power to bring clarity to our brains and hope to our hearts, or maybe just offer us a well needed chuckle. I am constantly running across authors who use words well, and felt it might be a good thing to share. If you are like me, you don't always have time to read through a more lengthy blog post, but a simple quote or thought to think over can be a welcomed part of a busy day. So, from time to time I will be posting Words Worth Your Time. Mostly it will be just a quote or phrase, and I will rarely add my thoughts. The quotes are simply something to take with you through the day. Feel free to comment on the blog about them if you like. So, here's the first installment of Words Worth Your Time......

          "A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others                         have thrown at him."
                                                                   -David Brinkley

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Journey Part 2: God In The Midst

Posted by Michael

The topic of identity has become a buzzword in Christian circles in the past few years.Your identity describes who you are, where you have been, and can often help give you direction about where to go next.  Identity is what makes you, you. It is what sets you apart from others.

Nations, like people have their own identity.The Israelite people that walked out of Egypt and into the unknown had a serious identity problem. All they had ever known as a people was slavery. Everything in their lives had been dictated to them by their Egyptian masters. What time they woke up, how they spent their day, where they could travel to, what they would eat, all of it was defined by the Egyptians. So, standing in the desert heat, the people experienced freedom for the first time in hundreds of years, and they were overwhelmed. It was at this point that God stepped in and helped the people understand who they were.

They were His children.

To remind them of all that it meant to have God as father, He instructed them to build a movable temple to remain in the midst of the people. The temple would represent the presence of God. This was to remind them that no matter where they went, God would be with them. To be God’s child means that you are never alone, because God is always in your midst.  You are protected, because the God who is with you, loves you. There is a plan for your life that’s bigger than you or your circumstances,  and it's better than your dreams could ever imagine.

Life leaves us all battered and bruised and unsure of who we are or why we matter. We dive into our work, relationships, or hobbies, hoping to define ourselves by our accomplishments, but it never works. Every day starts with something else to prove and someone else to impress. It’s into that empty space that God steps and declares, “I am yours and you are mine, there is nothing left to prove and no one to impress”. The daily discipline of believing Him, is the heart of the Christian life. We now know who we are, and it’s far better than we had ever hoped.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Guest Post at Give Her Wings

Posted by Michael

I recently had the privilege of guest blogging at Give Her Wings, an amazing ministry that cares for people who are recovering from abusive relationships. Give it a look....

Give Her Wings: Committing to the Journey

The series I began earlier this week here on FaithFilmandFood  will continue in the next few days. Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Journey Part 1: The Things We Can Control

Posted by Michael

This is the first installment of a series of posts entitled The Journey.

When the people of Israel escaped their slave existence in Egypt, their challenges had just begun. There had been 70 people who initially travelled to Egypt to escape the ravages of a seven year long famine. Those were the sons of the man Israel (Jacob) and their families. Now after four hundred years of slavery, the nation that bore Israel’s name were numbered at well over a million. Imagine a million slaves stumbling into the desert with no clear destination!  The plan for what was to happen next wasn’t very clear. What was clear was that there was no plan B. The only thing behind them was the Red Sea and thousands of dead Egyptian soldiers. The only options available to them were Moses, the road ahead, and a God they thought had forgotten them. Where do you begin when everything you have ever known has been swept away? How do you move forward to a future than isn’t clear at all?

Those questions sound pretty familiar don't they? 

Our present is spent up a moment at a time. Each moment gets shoved back into the past whether we are ready to let it go or not. Our past is a collection of successes and failures, laughter and tears, and while there is encouragement to be had and lessons to be learned by looking at our past, just like the people of Israel, going back to live there isn’t really an option. So, what do we do? We plod forward into our own deserts, toward a future that often seems unclear and just out of reach. How do we survive those days of doubt and uncertainty? What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

The first step in any journey is to make sure that you are thinking productive thoughts. The thoughts we think drive everything we do and everything we feel. The very first step in dealing with our thoughts is to focus on what we have and not on whatever it is that we don’t currently have.  For the people of Israel this meant forgetting the predictability they had in Egypt. It also meant that it was not going to be helpful to obsess over the fact that they didn’t really know where they were going. There was no use in worrying about the desert terrain or anything else they couldn’t predict or control. Their journey started with focusing on what they did have, freedom (after 400 years, they were no longer slaves), hope (God was promising to give them a home), and the presence of God in their midst. The more they soaked in thoughts of their freedom, and the hope they had, and that God was with them, the more clearly they would be able to think, and the better they would feel. Being stripped of worry also made them ready for whatever action might be required of them in the future.

I spend way too much time thinking about things I don't have, or that I don't know, or that I can't control. How about you?

What thoughts are you thinking that aren’t taking you anywhere? What thoughts only bring worry and confusion? What are you trying to control, that is uncontrollable. What unknown things are you trying to predict? Life becomes brutal when we only think about what we don’t currently have, especially when the things that we do have are so amazing. Like the Israelites, we have freedom, hope, and the presence of God with us on the journey. This is where our journey begins….

Friday, October 11, 2013

Film Review: Fill the Void

Posted by Michael

The beauty of foreign movies (in general) is that they don’t feel the need to think for you. They simply lay out a story in all of it’s complexities and messiness and allow you to think (and feel) for yourself.  Fill The Void by director Rama Burshtein is a great example. It’s the story of a woman torn between her duty to faith and family, and her desire for passion and independence. It unfolds in the center of a close knit Hasidic community that is driven by it’s unswerving commitment to God and family. Burshtein unapologetically presents each character in an honest and unadorned manner.  The themes of loyalty, love, and devotion play across several of the characters throughout the movie. It was an emotionally moving and intensely thought provoking glimpse at love, marriage, and the things that often conspire to keep us from both. If you are not a fan of subtitles or have a deep need for constant explosions in your movies, then avoid this film. If, however, you are in the mood for something a little more complex and a little less neat, then Fill the Void is an excellent way to spend an evening. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Trust Issues

Posted by Michael

If only we all had health insurance…

If only we could be rid of all of the terrorists….

If only everyone could have a quality education….

If only the Lifetime channel didn’t exist….

We all have things that we worry about and leave us feeling unsafe and uncertain. And we all have things that we think would make it all better.  Better education, social reform, political/military power, a new relationship, a new job, better finances, and the list goes on and on. It’s not that these things are bad, they aren’t. It’s just that they will never make us feel more safe or ok in our skin. They were never meant to function in that capacity. 

Three thousand years ago, the second king of the nation of Israel, David, noticed the same sort of trust problems that we encounter today. His people were counting on military power to make everything alright. David knew better. His answer to the trust problem was simple: we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). David wasn’t saying that we can trust that God will protect our nation (because sometimes he won’t), or that God will keep us financially secure (God never promised that either). God can’t be trusted to always make our loved ones well when they get sick, or to keep people from letting us down or breaking our hearts. David isn’t telling us to trust what God will do, but rather to trust who He is. Most of the problems in the history of our faith have come through people who were preoccupied with what they thought God was supposed to do, rather that contenting themselves with who He is. Thinking that we have God’s plans figured out doesn’t make us feel more safe, it makes us arrogant. God’s promises are less about how and more about who. God promises to be the one person in our life who will never change. He won’t change his mind about us or change his commitment to forgiveness, grace, and mercy. God will never leave us in the midst of our broken hearts and bankruptcies. His love is unchanging no matter what the bad guys do, and is steady even when we find that we have become the bad guys (which happens more than we like to admit). God will not change his plans which are to free us from the brokenness of this world, and the brokenness inside of ourselves. Knowing who is much more satisfying to our hearts than knowing how. In the end, God alone is worthy of our complete trust.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Two Stories, Two Promises

Posted by Michael

Most organized religions seem to hand our promises from God like fliers from a discount furniture store that is “going out of business” for the third time this year. Oftentimes, the promises come with a string attached. If you will do this, God will do that. These promises offer comfort and relief for a while, but underneath the short lived comfort lies tons of anxiety. “What if I can’t do this, will God still do that? “What if I get 80% of my this done, will God still deliver 100% of that, or will he only give me 80%, or will he punish me and give me 0%?” For the most part these sorts of promises have very little to do with what Jesus said or did during his short time on this planet. The story that Jesus told about who God is and what He desires is much different than what we often hear.  Jesus didn’t make a million promises, but there are two that kept coming up in his teachings. That brings me to the second story…

Less than a week ago, I went through an eight day stretch where I attended three funerals, and officiated two weddings. The week felt schizophrenic to say the least. The emotional ups and downs had begun to weigh on me until one of the stories told at one of the funerals stopped me in my tracks.The woman had died in her late 70’s after battling illness for several years. She had been married to her high school sweetheart for over 50 years. The story goes that her future husband drove a school bus when he was a student (student drivers were common in high schools “back in the day”). She would ride his bus to school and sat behind his seat to talk to him on the way to pick up the students in the mornings. At the beginning of her senior year, the doors of the big yellow bus swung open along a country road to let on a trembling five year old. It was his first day of school,and he was terrified. The five year old recounted the story as an adult, and remembered clearly what the girl said to him that day. She saw how afraid he was and simply said, “Don’t worry, it’s all going to work out. Come sit by me.” Just typing those words now causes me to tremble a bit. These were the promises of Jesus! Jesus never promised new cars (or camels?) or a heartbreak-free existence. In fact, he constantly reminded his listeners of the brutality of the world they lived in. We will fail and others will fail us. Jesus taught that a life lived in relationship with him would face the same pain and doubt as everyone else, maybe even more so.  The amazing promise, however,  is that those dark days and daunting challenges are somehow transformed into character and hope. God brings beauty even out of the darkest places in our lives. Our story doesn’t end in the muck and misery, it extends past all of that to a time of peace and fulfillment. The fact that our story ends well is encouraging, but Jesus went beyond that by promising to stay close to us on the journey from here to there. Even the meaning of the name he was given as a child, Immanuel,  promises what our heart longs for most, that God is indeed with us. That seventeen year old girl on an old county school bus summed up life with God perfectly. "Hang in there, even though it may not seem like it, we are going someplace good, and I will be with you 'til we get there."