Sunday, October 26, 2008


I've often wondered what makes Christianity so appealing to some people and not to others. Why is it so exciting for me, yet others can think it boring, outdated, and even silly?

I remember as a child reading great stories. I loved reading the Hardy Boys. In elementary school I spent countless hours reading during class when I should have been listening. It all seemed so exciting to me, full of mystery and meaning. All stories were exciting. I remember thinking after every movie I saw as a child, "That was the best movie I've ever seen."

Most of us love stories. It must be somehow hard-wired into us to love them. At church I love to watch the audience during a sermon instead of the preacher (sorry). People get distracted, look around, talk, and even sleep when the preacher talks about abstract concepts and ideas. But when he tells a story... well, that's different. Everyone perks up. Just this last Sunday I watched as every face in the audience was glued to the preacher as he was telling a story. Weird. It's not like people are bad Christians because they love stories rather than ideas.

I'm not sure I completely understand why God built this in us. But read the Bible. How much is told in story? Almost all of it. Each Gospel is a recording of Jesus' life, and we can all connect to that.

In Blue Like Jazz Donald Miller points out that we all have the elements of story built into us as making sense. In every story there's an introduction where the characters are introduced: in the Bible it's God, Satan, and man. Then the conflict is brought in early: Satan perverts good into badness and thus the protagonist (man) is thrown into an eternal struggle of whether He will follow the invisible God rather than his visible pleasures.

After this comes the rising of the conflict which rises until the ultimate climax. In this case the rising is the Old Testament with nations rising and falling in trusting God or not trusting Him. All the while God is teaching them that this isn't working, that something else must be done. A price must be paid.

Then, in the midst of great expectation, the author surprises everybody. God Himself comes down from Heaven as a human being, born in a feed trough. This God is called Jesus and lives among them as a brother, perfectly. He is the Great Picture. Unknown to most who see Him, He shows them what real love looks like in every move He makes. And then another surprise: Tragedy strikes.

The hero is tortured and killed. Everyone thinks the hero has lost, including the Enemy. But with a great twist the hero rises again, starting a New World Order which is to be followed until the end of time. This is the resolution of the Great Story, and we're all living in it. It has the promise of the main characters living "happily ever after" with the hero if they choose to, or the opposite if they refuse.

I love this Story. It makes sense to me, down in my bones it makes sense. Every good story has these elements in it. Why? Because they point to the bigger story: reality.

The Bible isn't a law book with formulas, while laws are contained within it. It's story describing Life as God made it. He wants us heart, mind and all. I love that. It excites me more than Lord of the Rings or any other story, because I get to take part in it. This great plot intercedes with my own. I wish so badly that others understood it for it's beauty, and I pray God may open their eyes before their own story ends.

So many things in this Earth can serve as distractions, but we should instead turn them into shadows. Shadows always point to something else. Something bigger. Everything good in this life points us to God, His love, beauty, and His perfection, because He is the author of it all.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


What qualities do you admire in other people? For me, there's two qualities that always impress me in another person, regardless of other parts of this person's personality. Maybe these two things impress me so much because I wish I had them.

1. Honesty - I love being around people who don't try to be someone they're not. Maybe some better adjectives would be "transparent" or "genuine". I don't mean people who are sort of prideful about how "real" they are, and others aren't. And I don't mean people who are genuine, yet they passively brag on themselves every chance they get. But when someone has truly come to terms with who they are as a person... when they're willing to admit their weaknesses and even their accomplishments without seeking any attention, I love that. I love being around those people. My grandfather is like that. He is who he is, and that never changes no matter who he's around.

2. Integrity - I love it when someone holds a high standard when they don't have to, even if it costs a lot. I tend to run people down sometimes, but it's refreshing to be around people who just can't imagine saying something negative about one of their friends. Also, as people we tend to cheat and cut corners all the time, even without thinking. But I love being around people who will stay true and constant regardless of how small the situation is. They don't do commonly accepted things like downloading illegal music or breaking traffic laws - and they would never make themselves feel superior over others because they have a higher standard. It's just who they are. I want to be around these people too, because they have character that means something.

Noble character is something so rare today. When I see any real nobility in another person I tend to sit back in awe, wanting to be around them as much as I can hoping that somehow a little bit would rub off on me.

What qualities do you admire in other people?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Glamorous poison


What is it?

I'm always challenged in my faith when I'm asked to define it. Yesterday I was studying with someone and explaining the gospel, first trying to explain sin. We all do it. Every day, every person in this world makes willingly selfish and stupid decisions, including myself. And in the end sin, our own choices, kills us. We're committing suicide on our own well-being every single day.

Why? When you get to the heart of it sin is just us trusting ourselves rather than our Creator. Nobody ever really thinks this drug will hurt anybody, or that they didn't have the right to be angry that one time, or that "just a little fun" is such a big deal before marriage. We always think we're right, or we wouldn't do what we do. Or at least, we think what we're doing isn't as bad as what some of those 'other people' do.
God probably just wants us to be happy, right? Sure He does, but we don't really know what that means. We screw up happiness with idiocy.

It's no secret that sin kills. Ask any family torn apart by divorce, adultery, or abuse if they like it that way. Gossip, adultery, lies, lust, pride, getting drunk, hatred... it's all poison. It all destroys any chance of meaning or goodness in our lives. Yet there's this odd and quite arrogant idea within us that God wants to spoil our fun, that He just wants us to make us live by some unattainable standard for the fun of it. We act on what we personally think is best. But it never really works out, does it?

For some reason the word "righteousness" has become a bad word. I automatically have this image in my head of some self-righteous religious guy yelling at everybody on a street corner.
But righteousness is goodness. Everything full of love and truth and meaning is righteous. It's good. And the word "sin" has become something laughable. A number of shows now even have it in their name, as though it's something cool. But sin is poison.

Sin is kind of like candy. It tastes really good, but in the end it gives you cavities and an upset stomach. As a kid I thought it would have been amazing to eat nothing but candy. Halloween all-year-round sounded like Heaven to me. But imagine if my parents had actually let me do that? Not only would I have been sick, I would have died. Vegetables didn't always taste good, but they gave strength to my bones, immune system, emotions, and mind.

Every day each of us drinks the poison of sin. It looks so good at first. And it's so easy. I guess that's the catch of it all, isn't it? At the time it seems more appealing and fun to sin than to do good. We're all addicted to poison, and on top of that... we love it. We're addicted to the very thing that kills us.

In the end the key to doing good is trusting God. Do I really believe Him when He says he came to bring life to the fullest? What about when that means turning the tv off to something everyone else thinks is harmless? What about when righteousness makes me look stupid? What if it really doesn't seem so bad as that Bible makes it out to be? It's at those times that "trusting God" has to become more than something we sing about on Sundays. It's more than some theoretical belief about a God far away and some man named Jesus. I'm hit with choices every day where I decide if I really do trust God like I say I do... or I don't.

I pray that morality would become more than just do's and don'ts to us. I pray that when our own selfish desires come rushing on us during the day we would see it for what it is: an issue of faith.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I'm preaching today.

At the Bible School I go to ( we have preaching labs where we practice speaking. I enjoy it, but I always get so nervous beforehand. I don't think nervous thoughts, but my gut starts turning and I can't stop shaking my leg. Oh well.

I've really enjoyed this term of school. It's hard being inside one room all day long Monday through Friday, but I do enjoy the privilege of studying God's Word every day. Still, sometimes it's easy for me to "leave school at school". I love Bible school, but sometimes I don't take it home into my everyday actions. Why do we do that? It's stupid, whatever the reason.

Sometimes I feel like I struggle more with following Jesus being a minister or Bible student than I would just working at a normal job. That's probably not true, but it feels that way. I can be impatient or just plain mean sometimes. And then I stop and think, "Did my 8 hours of Bible do nothing to me today?"

It's so easy to have a theoretical faith, I think.

I hate this more than anything else in my spiritual life. I can teach great lessons, pray heartfelt prayers, and be so passionate about living for Jesus... but still act like a jerk. I know God's working on me, but sometimes it feels like I'm regressing or something. How I wish godliness were more than a word I studied or taught, that it was a characteristic of who I am as a person.

I think, though, this is a good place to be because it makes me humble. If only I would stay here a little while and stop getting big-headed my life might just turn out alright. I love this state, because here I don't pray because I should but because I need to. I need God so very desperately, but life distracts me and I get to focusing on myself a little bit. I praise God for down days that teach me I'm not God but He is.